“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5ff)
This declaration of our Lord Jesus in today’s Gospel lesson invites us to take seriously our daily struggle with a purposeful Orthodoxy AND reveals to us the absolute answer to that struggle. If I am going to “be” Orthodox indeed, then it will only occur as I “abide” in Christ.
This notion of abiding in Christ flows from the Lord’s own words and His use of the example of branches and vine. As long as the branch is connected to the vine, the life of the vine flows in the branch and the branch proves its connection to the life of the vine by producing the kind of fruit that the life of the vine manifests. If the branch is unhealthy, if it stops producing fruit that shows it has the life of the vine flowing in it, our Lord declares that His Father, the Vinedresser, removes that branch. OK, this is getting serious.
So, if we follow the Lord’s analogy carefully, we see that the only way for a branch to stay healthy and produce the fruit the Vine naturally produces is for that branch to stay connected to the Vine.
And the proof the branch is healthy and connected to the Vine is the fruit that the branch either produces or it doesn’t.
As we move toward the Feast of Pentecost, the scriptures the Church brings to us are meant to show us how to “abide” in Christ and to be a healthy “branch” with the Life of the Vine flowing through us. Today we begin this journey of learning how to “abide” in Christ by being confronted with the stark reality that we will not be able to hide whether we are abiding in Him and producing the fruit of the Vine from the Father Who is the vinedresser.
But rather than this producing fear in us or despondency that we will never measure up, the Lord tells us that we can do nothing without Him, but with Him we can do all things – even stay connected to Him as His life flows through us. As we journey toward Pentecost, we will examine the wisdom of the scripture in light of the fathers of the Church on all the tools left to us to keep us healthy spiritually and connected to Christ.
Today, my dearest, don’t fear being cast away. Rejoice that you are daily desiring to be connected to Him Who is the only Source of true Life. The lies of the evil one or even your own insecurities fall impotent and meaningless in the light of His eternal love for you and His desire that you and He remain “connected” forever. The joy of “abiding” in Christ and even the desire to “abide” in Christ are both manifestations that you are, in fact, connected to Him. Because He always runs toward those who truly desire Him.