Concern from the Vatican about environmental issues has been in the news lately. The ‘seven deadly sins’ have been updated to include environmental pollution and during his American visit the Pope repeatedly spoke of his concerns about damage to the environment. In July, on his Australian tour, “his holiness” recycled his speech on this topic once more.
I am a little reluctant to welcome these comments from the Catholic Church, particularly as in the Bible the best publicised environmental vandalism - the deliberate and senseless destruction of a wild fig tree - was in fact perpetrated by Jesus himself. This is how authors of the Good Book report it in the Gospel of Mark (11;12-21):
“The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. Then he said to the tree, "May no one ever eat fruit from you again." And his disciples heard him say it… In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots. Peter remembered and said to Jesus: "Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!"
Today, of course, a well-known public figure could never get away with such pointless vandalism, and anyone openly destroying a budding tree, in front of witnesses, would probably be crucified by the British press. At the time, however, only Juno, the Goddess of the wild fig tree, was watching with horror the obliteration of Her sacred tree.
Lammas (and fresh figs)
This is the time when thanks are given for the fertility of the fields. It was traditional in the Scottish Highlands to sprinkle drops of menstrual blood on doorposts and around the house using a wisp of straw and on Lammas Day people smeared their floors and cows with menstrual blood, an act of especial protective power at Lammas and at Beltane.
Lammas is the Festival of First Fruits. Fig trees in the Holy Land also produce their first fruit about this time and up to late September. Modern Bible criticism also has a field day with the fig tree enigma. Scholars question if this took place in the spring, as reported in the Gospels, or late summer/autumn. They point out that Jesus was familiar with the seasons of the land and would not expect fruits on a fig tree in the spring. Others remark that it is completely out of character that a religious Jew, like Jesus, should destroy a fruit tree.