The Numenoreans were exceptional mariners so this also ties in with their heritage, but it is interesting considering Tolkien's love for the Church.
When Osgiliath was destroyed, the King took up his abode in Minas Anor and renamed it Minas Tirith. All his house and heirlooms were removed also, including the descendant of the White Tree that had been kept living in the Courtyard of the King. The last White Tree was replanted in the Courtyard of Minas Tirith and there it remained.
In time, the line of Kings failed and the Stewards took up the responsibility of ruling the Kingdom. They were of noble but not royal blood. Symbolically the White Tree in the Courtyard died after the line of Kings failed, but its withered root stood in the courtyard until the time of the War of the Ring. The Stewards fulfilled an almost Pope-like duty; seeing over the Kingdom until the King came again.
The origins of the office of the Pope are found in the historical tradition of the Church from the very first years of Christendom, and are backed up by the Gospel account where Jesus says to Peter,
"...you are my Rock, on this Rock I will build my Church. And the gates of Hell will never prevail against it. To you I give the Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven." [Mat 16:1719].
The Keys verse comes from Hezekiah, the royal heir to David's throne and King of Israel in Isaiah's day, who replaces his old Prime Minister with a new one. He does this by giving him the Keys of the Kingdom and everyone present understood this institution in the role and primacy as Prime Minister [Isaiah 22.20-22]. In Biblical language and Old Testament understanding, the giving of the Keys of a Kingdom represented the entrustment of responsibility and power for the Kingdom. When Jesus does this to Peter, he is conferring on him a special grace of primacy and responsibility in His Church on earth.
When Aragorn, the rightful and true King is about to enter Minas Tirith, Hurin of the Keys throws open the Gates to Aragorn. The Stewards guardianship is over, the King has come;
"And in that moment all the trumpets were blown and the King Elessar went forth and came to the barrier, and Hurin of the Keys thrust it back; and amid the music of harp and of viol and of flute and the singing of clear voices the King passed through the flower-laden streets and came to the Citadel, and entered in; and the banner of the Tree and the Stars was unfurled upon the top most tower, and the reign of King Elessar began of which many songs have told." [LotR p.947]
The White Tree:
When Aragorn is acclaimed King, he accepts the Throne but waits for a sign, to prove he is the rightful one to truly take the Crown and marry Arwen [Elrond said he can only marry Arwen if he is King]. When Aragorn saves Minas Tirith, he unfurls the Standard of Arwen, displaying the White Tree and the Seven Stars [emblems of the Kingdom, Gondor and Arnor].
Gandalf says, "And Aragorn himself waits for a sign." [LotR p.949]
He then finds the sapling of the White Tree high above Minas Tirith and outside the Walls of the City. This is the sign.
It is Gandalf, who leads him that way,
"Turn your face from the green world and look where all is barren and cold."
And of the Tree, Gandalf says,
"Verily this is a sapling of the line of Nimloth the fair; and that was a seedling of Galathilion, and that was a fruit of Telperion of many names, Eldest of Trees. Who shall say how it comes here in the appointed hour? But this is an ancient hallow, and ere the King failed or the Tree withered in the court, a fruit must have been set here. For it is said that, though the fruit of the Tree comes seldom to ripeness, yet the life within may then lie sleeping through many long years, and none can foretell the time in which it will awake. Remember this, for if ever a fruit ripens, it should be planted, lest the line die out of the world. Here it has lain hidden on the mountain, even as the race of Elendil lay hidden in the wastes of the North." [LotR p.949]
The White Tree is planted in the Courtyard of the King in Minas Tirith, where the fountain flows.
As already mentioned in First and Last Things, the Cross of Jesus is the new Tree of Life, that restores the Trees that were taken away from us in the Garden of Eden.
The Sapling found by Aragorn is symbolic of this restoration. But it is found outside the City walls just as Jesus was crucified on the Cross outside the Holy City, Jerusalem. And the tree is also found; "in a cold and barren place..." which is very similar to that of the Cross being on Golgotha.
In Jewish understanding of the time; at Passover when the Paschal Lamb had been sacrificed in the Temple, what remained was deemed to be unworthy and unholy and was thrown outside the walls of the City to be burnt. Very much a precursor to Jesus, the Lamb of God, being rejected by Israel, crucified outside the City, but being the only worthy and pure oblation for sin.
The White Tree on the Standard is raised up as Aragorn comes to save Minas Tirith, just as Jesus was raised up on the Cross,
"When I am raised up, I will draw all men to myself. '' [John 12:32].
The White Tree is a renewal of the Eldest of Trees [Telperion], just as the Cross of Christ is the renewal of the Tree of Life from the Garden of Eden.
Sing be glad, all ye children of the West, for your King shall come again, and he shall dwell among you all the days of your life.
and the Tree that was withered shall be renewed, and he shall plant it in the high places, and the City shall be blessed.
Sing all ye people."
The above verse is sung by the Eagles as they bring tidings of victory to Minas Tirith.
Tolkien had mentioned that the ennoblement of Men was part of the Divine plan and something that is brought about by the providence of the Creator [Letters p.194]. Once again, the sense of providence in finding the Tree is evident.
It is after the Tree is found, that the restoration of the long sundered Half-Elven lines can proceed, where Aragorn and Arwen marry. The ennoblement of Men is restored according to the Divine Plan just a Jesus restores Humanity to a Divine level in the Cross.
• the Keys are surrendered.
• the White Tree is found restored.
• Arwen sacrifices her immortality.
There is incredible symbolism here that does reflect in some way the Divine Plan of Salvation of our own God as it has always been understood by His Church.
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