Reflection on the Vine and Branches

branches

“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” (See John 15:1-8 NRSV).

What measurements do we use to determine our growth?  The world around us appears to to weigh our growth on how successful we are, or how much money we have, or how much stuff we own.  Our society around us bases our maturity and fulfillment from a false-sense of self.

In our Gospel verse, Jesus is telling us that our growth is a matter of  God and our relationship with Him.  Jesus who is the Incarnate Word is the vine that is rooted in God.  Jesus knows each of us so completely and intimately.  Everything we are and can become is based on our decision to abide (or remain) in Jesus the vine.  The potential of our true-selves is because how we live into our relationship with Jesus the Christ.  Jesus, the Risen One has taught us the fullness of God’s love through the Paschal Mystery.  God finds each of us redeemed and given new life through Jesus, the vine.  In Jesus is our present moment full of life and purpose.  It is a contemplative vision to know God’s perspective of us.  God sees each of us with so potential in the here and now.

Over these past few months, I have been learning that my many challenges because I am on the Autistic Spectrum, are opportunities for me to let go and allow God to use those challenges to draw me closer in relationship with God.  As difficult as my many social interactions can be, my ASD becomes the intimate connection with Jesus, my vine.  Through a life of solitude, silence and prayer, my disabilities become an important part of God’s work in and through my life.  I only have to put my faith and trust in God with everything I can do and anything I cannot; and let God take care of the rest.  It is a learning process.  Jesus is more than happy to keep being my greatest teacher using The Rules of St. Benedict, St. Romuald and the Camaldolese-Benedictine tradition as important parts of my learning process.

“Agree you hastening toward your heavenly home?  Then with Christ’s help, keep this little rule we have written for beginners” (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict, Chapter 73, p.95-96).

“If you have come to the monastery, and in spite of your good will you cannot accomplish what you want, take every opportunity to sing the Psalms in your heart and understand them with your mind” (From the Rule of St. Romuald).

“It was said of Abba John the Dwarf that he withdrew and lived in the desert at Scetis with an old man of Thebes.  His abba, taking a piece of dry wood, planted it, and said to him, ‘Water it every day with a bottle of water, until it bears fruit.’  Now the water was so far away that he had to leave in the evening and return the following morning.   At the end of three years the wood came to life and bore fruit.  Then the old man took some of the fruit and carried it to the church saying to the brethren, ‘Take and eat the fruit of obedience.'”  (Desert Fathers and Mothers: Early Christian Wisdom Sayings Annotated & Explained by Christine Valters Paintner, PhD,. p.103).

How are you growing in your relationship with God?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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Reflection on Jesus the Vine

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‘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?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

The Vine and the Branches

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“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 15:5 NRSV).

These words from St. John’s Gospel are as counter cultural as they get.  In these words we find humility and direction.  In humility, we hear Jesus telling us that we do not go through our Christian lives alone.  He gives us the direction of relying on Jesus so that we can do the will of God.  Jesus is using a lot of symbolism, but, He is being ever so direct.

The Christian life is as good as it gets, so long as we remain connected to Jesus.  Our lives have so many things thrown at us.  Jobs.  Relationships.  Life and death.  Taxes.  The economy.  Politics, debates and more.  All of these scream out for our attention, while subconsciously drawing us deeper into ourselves as our only center.  How do we find real fulfillment of life?

Jesus in this Gospel gives us the answer.  If we want our lives as Christians to become something great, we must first let Christ be our center while we search for and receive our life from Him.  Our lives will bear the greatest fruit so long as we remain with the Vine who is Christ.

At the same time, we are not the only branch; but one of many.  We participate in the creation of the fruits of the Christian life in collaboration with others.  Each branch grows a fruit similar, yet different from ours.  We each provide a unique flavor, color, texture and beauty to Christ who is the Vine.

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB