‘I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine-grower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:1-11 NRSV).
Saint Benedict in Chapter 7: On Humility of The Rule wrote that the first step of humility is to keep “the reverence of God always before our eyes.” Sister Joan Chittister in her book The Rule of Benedict: A Spirituality for the 21st Century refers to “reverence of God” as “consciousness of God.” (See page 79).
It is much too easy to walk through our day as if we are an entity unto ourselves. We have the many tasks before us which take up our time and attention. Job duties. Family matters. Financial concerns. Relationships and many other commitments. These and others not named serve to distract us from what is really important. Unless we live with that reverence for God in all things, places and people that Jesus and Saint Benedict refer to.
As Christians who have been given a share in the Life, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ; and called His friends who are given the new commandment to love one another; we are never an island unto ourselves. We are branches linked to the Vine who is God the Vine-Grower in the Word made Flesh. As God is present with us and each other; we work together to bear the fruit that gives life and growth to the rest of the garden. Even while we struggle with the most troublesome branch in the bunch.
My very favorite verse from this Gospel text is the one that says, “apart from me you can do nothing.” This verse is a great example of that first step of humility that Saint Benedict wrote about. When we pursue our life of faith and prayer as if we are on remote control, it is only a matter of time before the battery runs out of energy. We need the time in private solitude, contemplative prayer and/or centering prayer to live into our lives within the community of other branches in the garden. Our focus must be Jesus and His presence with reverence for His Holy Name. Contemplative prayer helps us see all things including ourselves from God’s perspective.
How do you see your relationship as the branch to the vine?
Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB