The mountains and hills will sing praise to God; all the trees of the forest will clap their hands, for he is coming, the Lord of a kingdom that lasts forever, alleluia.The Church, in The Liturgy of the Hours, offers us this beautiful antiphon for meditation on the First Sunday of Advent in the Year of Our Lord 2008. Yet there do exist persons who downplay the truth and beauty of Scriptures such as these, claiming they are just metaphorical, or even questioning the inerrancy of Scripture itself.
My friends, I ask you, “Why can’t we say that the trees clapped their hands (branches)?” Forget that irrational modern empiricism which says that only observable data can be true. Use your God-given imagination. How do you know that the trees weren’t able to clap when all was new and Adam, and with him all creation, was in the state of Original Justice? Were you there? It is definitive Church teaching that Adam sinned and as a result every human being was changed in a negative way. This change, or fall, was reflected in nature and all creation—including the trees. Perhaps before Adam sinned, they could clap, or maybe they were so alive with God’s creative power that they at least seemed to us to clap with joy as they did their movements completely in conjunction with a loving and almighty God. Face it: We are dull. We don’t fully comprehend reality and we don’t love God and neighbor as we ought, because we have a fallen (yet redeemed) nature. Furthermore, we are selfish and we don’t love as we ought. If we would only use our imagination and our heart along with our knowledge, then the world would be much better. We would see the trees clap their hands in obedience to an all-good, all-powerful Father. We would love our brother. We would see the redemption of all creation before our very eyes!
Yet we must not forget the second part of the antiphon. Wouldn’t it be right for the trees to clap for the righteous Adam? For then he was king of all creation—by God’s decree (Cf. Genesis 1). But if it was right for the trees to clap when Adam was righteous (in the state of Original Justice), then it is even more right for the trees to clap for the New Adam, the true King of the Universe, Jesus Christ, the King whom God the Father has anointed with the Holy Spirit.
Certainly, J.R.R. Tolkien would have agreed with all the above, for his Middle-earth was so much like the world of the Bible.
In Tolkien’s world, nothing in nature is dead but all is alive, so much so that modern readers will call this cosmos “magical”. A better word is “biblical”. In Tolkien’s cosmology, the earth as well as the heavens is not dumb but declares the glory of God” [Peter Kreeft, The Philosophy of Tolkien: The Worldview Behind The Lord of the Rings (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2005) 85].