I Am The Vine

Christ the Vine, Byzantine Museum

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower.He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and every one that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit.You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you.Remain in me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.” (John 15:1-5)

In the Farewell Discourse Jesus prepares his disciples for his new presence among them–in signs and sacraments. Some of those signs come from the human world. Jesus is the Shepherd who forever cares for his flock. Other signs come from creation. The vine is a sign of life that feeds and nourishes other life. Water, bread, light are part of the signs that reveal God’s plan. Learning to appreciate signs is part of the sacramental age we live in. Today, as Pope Francis reminds us, we need a greater appreciation of signs, schooled as we are by a world disposed to science and scientific thinking.

This icon, Christ the Vine, was painted by a famous fifteenth-century Cretan iconographer Angelos Akotantos (d.1450) before the Byzantine Empire collapsed, leading to the separation of Eastern and Western churches. The icon is a call for unity of the churches.

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