The Vine

I visited  Laurita Winery in New Egypt, New Jersey, some years ago. Some of us wanted to see how wine was made.  Ray Shea, one of the owners, and Nicholaas Opdam, the Oenologist or Vineyard Manager, gave us a tour.

“ I am the vine, you are the branches” Jesus says in today’s  gospel. He saw  the vineyard as an image of the play between  heaven and earth. Growing grapes is as challenging as sowing seed, which can fall by the wayside, or on hard ground, or among thorns, and the birds of the air can eat it up.

Vines are similar. At the very least, the vine needs pruning. But there’s more.They depend on the right climate, they need the right amount of water, the soil in which they’re planted needs feeding and watchful adjusting. Blackbirds can swoop down on the ripening grapes. Better than protecting nets is a circling red-tailed hawk, the vineyard keepers say.

“We need good weather and other things beyond our control,” they told us.  Twice a year the vineyard is blessed, in the cold of January and during the harvest in October.

They’re using the latest technology and the wisdom of wine-makers from all over the world at this vineyard. Solar panels circling the fields harvest the energy of the sun and a man made lake collects vital water. Yet it’s no sure thing. It’s a risky business.

“I am the vine; you are the branches.” I must admit, I hardly thought of the patience, the risk, the dimensions behind this image, which is so richly incarnational.  A loaf of bread or a bottle of wine came to the table from nowhere, I thought.

Not so.

At the Eucharist, bread and wine just come to the table, from nowhere. Not so.

3 thoughts on “The Vine

  1. Charlie Kelley, St. Mary's Church, Colts Neck

    Fr Victor. I was present at the 9:00 Mass at St. Mary’s today and when you lead us in the Apostle ‘s Creed, I once again was focused on the part where we say that “Jesus descended into hell, and on the third day he ascended into heaven”. And, once again I thought, “why would Jesus descend into hell?”.

    I researched the topic the best I could and found that in early Hebrew history, when people died they used the term “shoel” (shee-ol) which simply meant they were all buried in the ground and thereby closer to what we would now call hell. Apparently, over the years and many translations, including Greek translations, we ended up with the word hell, which has a very negative connotation . It would actually suffice to say, “He died and was buried”, much like the Nicene Creed.

    It seems to me that the current version of The Creed is confusing at best to children who learn about the difference between Heaven and He’ll. And why would Jesus be going to hell?

    I would appreciate your comments.

    Thank you.


  2. vhoagland Post author

    Hope to preach next week on “He descended into hell.” Thanks Charlie for the suggestion.
    Fr. Victor


  3. Sugel

    When this verse is understood in this light, we see Jesus depicting God as a compassionate God who comes to the aid of His weary saints. God, as vinedresser, sees a branch in its plight and intervenes to help. Every branch which has become weighed down and stops producing fruit he lifts up. This is a message of great encouragement to one who has become “weighed down” with pressures of life. God the vinedresser understands and cares.


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