Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Eucharistic Revival Series The Vine and the Branches

Several years ago during my annual retreat, I was prompted by the Holy Spirit to spend some time gazing upon grape vines in a local vineyard. I gathered my lawn chair, Bible, sketch book and colored pencils and journeyed into the vineyard.

I settled myself in the shade of an oak tree. The patches of grape vines were just inches away. I opened my Bible and read John 15:1-8; “I am the vine, and you are the branches.”

In this reading, we find that “Jesus adopts the image to speak of the way in which He provides life for those who believe and follow Him. He himself is the vine, and His followers are the branches. The process of growth and of bearing fruit is watched over by the Father, to whom the vine belongs. The image of the vine is particularly effective because the branches cannot live without their attachment to the vine, neither can they be fruitful without the goodness provided by the vine. To live with Christ is to bear fruit. It is in drawing strength from Jesus that Christians can bear fruit in faith and good works. The image also has its negative side. Branches which do not bear fruit are removed by the vinedresser and they are burnt. This development of the image invites us to consider the consequences of a refusal to be nourished by the kindness of God.”1

As I read the Scripture passage and the reflection above, I could not help to think that the vine and the branches share the same lymph (sap). The same “life” or “food” or “energy” pulses through the “veins” of the branches and the vine. I wondered, “When does the vine actually become the branch? Is there a physical delineation between the two that can be viewed under a microscope? When the branches get pruned away, does the vine “feel” the loss?

After thinking about this for a few minutes, I looked at the various branches and the beefy vine and how they were tangled together. I was awed to spy a clump of a branch that looked like a crucifix. So, I drew it! This image reminds me that I am a Spouse of Christ Crucified since I am called to love all people with the same intensity that Christ had as he journeyed to Calvary.2

I remember this story as I continue to reflect on the Eucharist. In the book The Eucharist, Our Sanctification, we read, “The vine and the branches share the same lymph, the same life. … But, being inanimate, neither the vine nor the branches are ‘aware’ of this union! … The strength of Eucharistic Communion is precisely that we become one spirit with Jesus and this “one spirit” is ultimately the Holy Spirit. … In other words, in the Eucharist what took place in the life of Jesus is repeated. It is the Holy Spirit that gave Christ to the world at the moment of his birth (in fact, Mary conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit); at the moment of his death, it is Christ that gave the Holy Spirit to the world (in fact, as he was dying, he ‘gave of his Spirit’ (John 19:30). Likewise in the Eucharist the Holy Spirit gives us Christ in the consecration and Christ gives us the Holy Spirit in Communion.  … It is the Holy Spirit that creates our intimacy with God.  … St. Thomas Aquinas calls the Eucharist the ‘sacrament of love.’ He explains that love alone brings about union with the living Christ. In fact, love is the only reality through which two separate living beings can become one without losing their individual identity. If the Holy Spirit is said to be ‘the communion of Christ,’ it is because he is God’s love.”3

So, what’s the connection? It is through the Eucharist that we can experience being “oned” with the Godhead! He is our vine and we are His branches. It is through the Eucharist that we can be oned with every human being on the face of the earth. As the branches intertwine with each other, we are enmeshed with each other. It is through the Eucharist that we experience oneness with the Trinity and that community of love. What a gift!

1https://www.dioceseofbrentwood.net/reflection/i-vine-branches/#:~:text=Jesus%20adopts%20the%20image%20to,to%20whom%20the%20vine%20belongs.

2My religious congregation’s initials are SCC; Sisters of Christian Charity. Among the Sisters, we often reflect that SCC could also mean, “Spouse of Christ Crucified.”

3Cantalamessa, Raniero. The Eucharist, Our Sanctification. St Pauls, 2016. Pg. 30-32.

By Sister Geralyn Schmidt, SCC, Special to The Witness

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