God commanded Adam and Eve not to eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, but they ate it, and their disobedience brought about exile and death.
Nevertheless, we believe that the tree of life was recovered through the providence of God and the tree of the cross that Jesus carried.
To Jews and some other people, the cross was an obstacle and foolishness, but to the faithful, it became "the power and the wisdom of God" (1Cor 1:24) revealing the mystery of God's merciful love. Thus, the cross became the symbol of salvation filled with abundant love.
We have seen various illustrations of the cross of Jesus. As a cruel tool of the death penalty, crucifixion was a sign of condemnation, fear, and aversion at the times of Jesus. However, thanks to the humble sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, the tree of the cross became the tree of life.
"Tree of life" (Albero della vita) is an illustration with Tempera and gold on a pentagonal panel the size of 248×151cm by Pacino di Bonaguida (1280-1340), an Italian painter, illuminator, and miniaturist in Florence in the first half of the fourteenth century.
Pacino painted altarpieces, miniatures, and decorations for illuminated manuscripts. Illustrating Jesus hung on the tree of the cross with 12 branches, Pacino described the tree of the cross as the tree of life.
In each circle between the branches, the dynamic Biblical stories are illustrated in a form of a miniaturist, which was practiced to let the Bible be known to the illiterate poor who were not able to buy books in the Middle Ages.
Influenced by "lignum vitae" (tree of life, 1259), a literary work of the Franciscan devotion to the humanity of Christ by Saint Bonaventura (1217-1274), Pacino illustrated the tree of life with 12 branches and 47 fruits to describe the salvation story of Jesus from his birth, growth, passion, death, resurrection, and ascension.
The circle also reminds us of the host in the Eucharist. The sacrifice of Jesus to attain human salvation is symbolized in the "Pelican," a bird of piety wounding its own breast to feed its chicks, illustrated in the middle on top of the tree.
On the upper part of the tree, Moses and John are illustrated: Genesis 2:9 is inscribed in the scroll of Moses, and Revelation 22:2 is inscribed in the scroll of St. John.
At the bottom of the tree, Prophets Ezekiel and Daniel, Saints Francis and Clara are illustrated: Galatians 6:14 is inscribed in the scroll of St. Francis; Ezekiel 47:12 in that of Ezekiel; Daniel 4:8 in that of Daniel; Song of Solomon 1:12 in that of St. Clara.
At the bottom of the tree of the cross, the stories of the creation of human beings as well as their corruption and exile are illustrated.
The tree of life has been an important topic to meditate upon since time eternal. Even now, the tree of life and death as well as the culture of life and death are existing in front of us.