“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit,
while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already
clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you”
Father Matta El-Meskeen (Matthew the Poor)
HEN CHRIST SAYS ‘I am the true vine’ we must distance our minds from a
simple grape vine planted in the ground. The word ‘true’ means that it has a
divine essence, because there is no truth except God and what belongs to God.
So the ‘true vine’ comes down from above, and it is in fact the Son. As for the
Heavenly Father, Christ called him ‘the gardener,’ that is, the owner of the vineyard. At
this point, our desire is to raise the mind of the reader to reveal the truth of this heavenly
vine. Its external appearance is a man, but its branches are members of the body of
Christ, those who believed and received Christ as heavenly Lord and almighty and allpowerful
God. The focus is on the fruit borne by the member of the body of Christ. He
testifies of Christ with a good testimony, the fruit within which he interceded. Christ
sustains him and increases within him grace and blessing so that he brings more fruit. If
a member of the body of Christ does not bear fruit, he must be cut off because he
weakens the work of the heavenly vine. When branches are cut off they are removed and
thrown into the fire. Notice here the word ‘cut off’ is not by the hand of man. Rather, the
nature of the heavenly vine, the Lord Jesus, has the divine power to deny the member
from receiving any nutrition, the work of the Holy Spirit, so the member dries up and
becomes useless, not even appropriate for the garbage.
How do the rest of the fruitful members, members of the body of Christ, grow?
First of all, they must remain in the vine, and this is what Christ earnestly commands,
‘Remain in me and I in you.’ It means whenever the member remains in Christ, it is
certain in turn that Christ remains in him.
The primary instrument for bringing growth is the words of the Gospel, for the Lord
says, ‘You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.’1 The Lord also
says the heavenly Father, the true gardener, rejoices when you bear more fruit.2 We find
that the member who remains in Christ is purified by the Word. The words of the Gospel are able to purify the members of the body of Christ. What binds the member
with the words of the Gospel is the mystery of remaining in Christ. To the degree that
the words of the Gospel are living and active in the life of the member, to that degree
remaining in Christ is assured, as is assured Christ remaining in him. Christ heavily
stresses and depends upon the keeping of his words and commands, as he made this a
condition before he will enter into the life of the member who remains in him, ‘Whoever
has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will
be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him…. If anyone
loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him
and make our home with him.’3 The mystery of the heavenly vine encompasses for the
Christian man the mystery of growth, the mystery of remaining and the mystery of
Christ coming to make a home with and in the member. Even more so it encompasses
the mystery of the love of the heavenly gardener, the Holy Father.
The parable of the true vine presents to us the mysteries of the Father and the Son.
The mystery of the purity of the branch is the justification which enfolds the life of the
members of the body of Christ. All the greatness of this portion of the Gospel, ‘I am the
true vine, and my Father is the gardener,’ is hidden and concealed in the word ‘true’ as it
refers to the vine. We know the name ‘vine,’ and all that it means, conceals within its
folds the mystery of the blood of Christ, because he filled the cup and drank and gave to
his disciples on that mysterious Passover eve, saying ‘Drink from it, all of you. This is
my blood of the covenant.’4 ‘Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in
me, and I in him.’5 ‘I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until
that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father’s kingdom.’6
July 24, 2005
1 John 15:3.
2 See John 15:8.
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