My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.
THE BRANCH THAT DOES NOT BEAR FRUIT
IS PRUNED BY THE FATHER…
"I am the vine, the true one, and My Father is the vinedresser.
Every branch in Me which beareth not fruit He taketh away;
and every branch which beareth fruit, He PRUNETH IT IN
ORDER THAT IT MAY BEAR MORE FRUIT" (John 15:1-2).
Sacred hagiography is not only venerated by Orthodox Christians but it has been an important tool for instructing the faithful theologically. The 15th-century Cretan hagiographer Angelos Akotantos wrote (painted) the well-known sacred icon CHRIST THE VINE. Currently, the sacred icon is set apart in a Cretan monastery.
The prominent figure of Christ with extended arms is seated at the nexus of the intertwined branches, establishing Him as the common root and life of the Church (John 15:1-8). An open book, inscribed with excerpts from John 15, is superimposed on the Person of Christ at the center of the sacred icon, suggesting the Logo’s (Word’s) centrality. Saints Peter and Paul are prominently positioned on either side of Jesus Christ. They are seated higher than the other HolyApostles while the Evangelists sit to Christ’s immediately left and right. The remaining HolyApostles, like Christ, hold open books and scrolls–their eyes fixed on Him. The hanging fruit symbolizes the continuation of the faithful: as they ABIDE IN CHRIST SO TOO He abides in them (15:4). [Commentary by Stephen M. Garrett]
Saint Theophylact writes, "The Lord reveals a mystery to His disciples: "I AM THE…VINE" – meaning, THE ROOT – "YOU ARE THE BRANCHES, and My Father is the VINEDRESSER." As the Vinedresser, the Father tends the branches, not the root, and "every branch… that beareth not fruit He taken away." This means that every man (person) who by faith has been joined to the Root — that is, has been UNITED TO THE Lord and made one body with Him — ought to bear fruit BY KEEPING THE Commandments. If he MERELY CONFESSES THE FAITH WITH HIS LIPS WHILE FAILING TO LEAD A VIRTUOUS LIFE, HE WILL WITHER AND DIE. For "FAITH WITHOUT WORKS IS DEAD" (James 2:20, 26). It often happens that a believer considers himself to be in Christ simply because he believes in Him. But the Lord tells us, "Every branch in Me that beareth NOT fruit, the Father "TAKETH AWAY," MEANING, WHOEVER BEARS NO SPIRITUAL FRUIT IS DEPRIVED BY THE FATHER OF COMMUNION WITH THE Son. As for the branch that does bear fruit, IS PRUNED BY THE Father. From this, we learn that even a highly virtuous man NEEDS GOD’S ATTENTION AND CARE. The FRUITLESS BRANCH GOD CUTS OFF, FOR IT CANNOT REMAIN ON THE VINE. As FOR THE FRUITFUL BRANCH, the Father RENDERS IT EVEN MORE PRODUCTIVE. THE CUTTING AND PRUNING REFER TO THE TRIBULATIONS THE DISCIPLES WOULD SOON UNDERGO. The Lord explains to them that by enduring these tribulations patiently they would become stronger and bear SPIRITUAL FRUIT, like the branches that have been pruned. Notice that at the beginning the Lord said that it was the Father Who purged the branches here, it is Christ Who does the tending: "YE ARE PURGED THROUGH THE WORD WHICH I HAVE SPOKEN UNTO YOU." The Divine activity [ενέργεια] of the Father and Son IS ONE AND THE SAME. "I HAVE PURGED YOU BY MY TEACHINGS. NOW YOU MUST DO YOUR PART." Then He adds" "Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; NO MORE CAN YOU, EXCEPT YOU ABIDE IN Me. I AM THE VINE, YOU ARE THE BRANCHES: He that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for WITHOUT Me YOU CAN DO NOTHING. If a man abide NOT in Me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned." (vs. 4-6).
Saint Theophylact continues with his COMMENTARY: "I have cleansed you by My word and teaching; I have done everything that is Mine to do. Now YOU DO YOUR PART "ABIDE IN Me." Lest fear separates the disciples from Him, Christ braces their weak souls and binds them to Himself. Then He offers them this hope: "WHATEVER YOU ASK, YOU SHALL RECEIVE, "IF YOU ABIDE IN ME." Jesus uses the example of the branch to ILLUSTRATE THE LIFE-GIVING POWER HE IMPARTS TO THOSE WHO PLEASE HIM. "A branch bears fruit ONLY IF IT IS JOINED TO THE VINE AND RECEIVES FROM IT SYNERGETIC POWER TO PRODUCE NEW LIFE. So it is with you. If you "ABIDE in Me" BY KEEPING MY COMMANDMENTS, YOU WILL BEAR MORE FRUIT. If NOT, YOU WILL WITHER." This means that even though the fruitless man receives some nourishment from the Root, he is "CAST FORTH" NEVERTHELESS. He is stripped of whatever spiritual grace he had, HE IS DEPRIVED OF DIVINE HELP AND LIFE; AND AS THE FINAL RESULT, HE IS CAST INTO THE FIRE AND BURNED. By telling the disciples these things the Lord comforts them greatly. He makes it clear that those who plot against Him–including Judas — will be consumed by fire, while those who abide in Him will bear fruit. Without THE POWER AND LIFE-GIVING FORCE THAT COMES FROM Him, THEY CAN DO NOTHING.
7-8. "If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you shall ask what you will, and it shall be done unto you. Herein is My Fathe glorified, that you bear much fruit; so shall you be My disciples." The Lord explains that "You abide in Me when My words abide in you," which is to say, "When you keep My Commandments." He desires that we hold fast to Him, which we accomplish BY DOING GOOD WORKS. Everyone who leads a God-pleasing LIFE HAS CHOSEN TO ABIDE IN THE VINE: HE IS JOINED TO IT BY LOVE AND BY OBSERVING THE COMMANDMENTS, AND HE CLEAVES TO IT BY THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. On the other hand , he who makes NO EFFORT TO KEEP THE COMMANDMENTS HAS CONSCIOUSLY AND DELIBERATELY ALIENATED HIMSELF FROM THE LORD. "Herein is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit. The glory of God the Father is His delight in His Son’s disciples when the Apostles’ light shone before men, the heavenly Father was glorified (see Matthew 5:16). Christ’s TRUE DISCIPES IS HE WHO BEARS FRUIT, AND THE FATHER IS THEREBY GLORIFIED. This means that such a disciple causes Him to rejoice and the Father deems this an increase in His glory.
Saint Cyril of Alexandria writes: No doubt, by the Parable of the Vine and the Branhes, Jesus intended to "explain to us the importane of love that is connected to Him and the measure of what we gain by being united to Him. Therefore He says that He is the Vine as a lesson and a Parable. The branhes represent those who are unitedto Him, tied to Him, attached to Him, and who share in His nature by their acquisition of the gift of the Holy Spirit." Saint Cyril warns the faithful about not tying faith to works and comments, "(If we content ourselves with"} bare, abstract confessions of faith, without holding it with the bond of unity to courageous works springing forth from Love, then we will be dead and fruitless branches. " Another great Holy Father of the Church, Saint Clement of Alexandria writes, "The vine that is not pruned becomes firewood. Such is the state of man."
There is doubt that there are fruitful brances and there are unfruitful branches. Both of these are Christians who have heard God’s revealed truth. There are those Christians who grew up in the Church or are members of the Church visibly, who were baptized and chrismated, however, there are some who do not have a true faith. Their faith tragically is not real but artificial and fake. They may be going through the tradition superficially and mechanically but there is no conviction or commitment to Jesus and His commandments. Our Lord confronted, exposed and condemned the Pharisees and Scribes for their hypocrisy, deception, lying, and exploiitation of the people openly. There are weeds that grow in every garden that threaten to choke and obstruct the good plants. It is the same with the unbelieving members of the Church who hide, impersonate and grow in the Church. Although they may sit next to a true and genuine fellow Christian, a believer producing good fruits, they themselves are devoid of any fruits at all. Eventually the disguise is removed and it will be revealed that they are merely an ornamental and spiritually fruitless and a dead branch.
A branch can be pruned and still be united to the Vine. There is no question that everyone can use some pruning and cleansing. We, as Orthodox Christians, are made clean through the Mystery of Confession and Repentance. The Orthodox Christian must not resist the pruning or the cleaning no matter how difficult and/or even painful it may be. No one can abide in Him without δοκιμασίες (trials or sufferings) which will make us stronger in our faith. It is clear that we trust in God and without any hesitation we say with confidence in His love for us, "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven."
There are no tantrums, no anger, no questioning of God’s judgment or actions, there is only obedience and submission to the will of God. Whatever proceeds from Him has a purpose that we may never understand but it is always for our own good and benefit. He, in His Divine Wisdom and love, prepares us for His Kingdom by sometimes allowing obstacles and challenges on earth that will make us fit and much stronger in faith. Unfortunately have a very distorted image of God and have the tendency to see Him a cruel and unjust God. A God Who inflicts pain on people and rejoices over someone’s suffering and unhappiness. They, of course, are totally wrong and misguided. They miss the true understanding of God and ignore Christ’s unjust and cruel suffering and death on the Cross to save mankind. God is LOVE and that should suffice to all who lack either the faith or understanding.
The holy Apostle James writes: "My brethren, deem it all joy whenever ye fall into diverse temptations, knowing that the testing of your faith worketh out patience. But let patience keep on having a perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, lacking in nothing" (James 1:1-4).
"Glorgy Be To GOD
– Saint John Chrysostomos
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With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministr),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God
+ Father George