"I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples. -John 15:1-8
About This Week's Prompts for Meditation
The contemplative life, “with its long slow growth and costly training,” as Evelyn Underhill puts it, prepares the human person for the life of compassion, union with the Holy … and with people.
Life is grounded in community. We are planted with neighbors. Our vines and root systems enmesh. We drink the same water and breath the same air. Jesus taught that you can’t love God and not strive to love others.
This week’s meditation prompts offer ways to pray about love of God and neighbor. Here’s a phrase to ground this week’s prayer-improvisation: Bruno Barnhart (meditation 3) writes, “Abide in me”: root yourselves in this central place, and remain rooted here, and my life will flow through you and bear fruit in the world.
Have a good, abiding meditation - Suzanne
Meditation One (introit)
"engrafted to divinity"
And you, high eternal Trinity,
acted as if you were drunk with love,
infatuated with your creature.
When you saw that this tree could bear no fruit
but the fruit of death
because it was cut off from you who are life,
you came to its rescue
with the same love
with which you had created it:
you engrafted your divinity
into the dead tree of our humanity.
O sweet tender engrafting!
You, sweetness itself,
stooped to join yourself
with our bitterness.
-Catherine of Siena 1347-1380
The Prayers of Catherine of Siena, ed. Suzanne Noffke
Meditation Two (insight) “unitive tree”
We cannot help conforming ourselves to what we love. - Francis de Sales 1567-1622 Love… transforms the lover into the one loved. - Paul of the Cross 1694-1775 The Word is a tree which was in the world in the beginning, and when humanity sinned at the tree and at the tower they were banished from that unitive tree of the Word.But this light of the Word is their life, and without it they die.The human person is a tree which bears the light, the Word, within itself.Speaking, naming, witnessing, preaching, confessing, from Adam to the Baptist to Jesus to Thomas, this is the human vocation in the world: to give witness to the truth.The man born blind, receiving his light from Jesus, witnessed to the light that now had been born within him. The fullness of this unitive tree is in Jesus, and now with his own disciples he pours out this fullness: the tree of the Word finds its fullest expression, comes into its roundness, bears its fruit. “Abide in me”: root yourselves in this central place, and remain rooted here, and my life will flow through you and bear fruit in the world. –Bruno Barnhart The Good Wine: Reading John from the Center
Meditation Three (integration) “engrafted to neighbors” You, then, are my workers.You have come from me, the supreme eternal gardener, and I have engrafted you onto the vine by making myself one with you. Keep in mind that each of you has your own vineyard.But everyone is joined to the neighbors’ vineyards without any dividing lines.They are so joined together, in fact, that you cannot do good or evil for yourself without doing the same for your neighbors.
–Catherine of Siena 1347-1380 Dialogue, The Vines That Are Tended by the Divine Gardener (quoted from Mystics Visionaries and Prophets, Shawn Madigan, CSJ, editor)
Perindens Tree, Oxford Bestiary, ca1220
The Peredeus is a tree in India. Its fruit is very sweet and exceedingly agreeable. Doves delight in the produce of this tree, and live in it, feeding on its fruits. Now the dragon is an enemy to doves, but it fears the tree they live in, and its shade too, nor can it approach either the tree or its shadow. Indeed ,if the shadow of the tree falls to the west, the dragon betakes himself to the east, and if the shadow comes to the east, he flees to the west. If, however, a dove happpens to be found outside the tree-shade then the dragon kills it. Understand that the tree is God the Father and the shade is God the Son, for Gabriel said to Mary: 'The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the shade of the all-highest shall overshadow thee'. The fruit of the tree is heavenly wisdom, i.e. of the Lord. The dove is the Holy Ghost.
The Bestiary: A Book of Beasts, being a translation from a Latin Bestiary of the Twelfth Century made and edited by T.H.White
The Last Word
God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. 1John
When I was about eleven years old I developed a passion for the work of Luther Burbank after I'd read about his gardens in my mother's old Book of Knowledge. I learned that you can graft a desirable trait, say a branch from a particular fruit or flower, onto another plant with stronger roots and stock. You can grow a trees with many different kinds or blossoms or fruits on it. I came to love gardens and for most of my life I've been a flower gardener.
You have to be ruthless to garden successfully. Out go the weaker plants and weeds, divide the thriving ones before they crowd everything else out, deadhead daily, hunt for and destroy slugs in the buggy evening and again early morning, and prune prune prune down to the nub. Don't worry about disturbing those root systems in the seedling packets: tearing, breaking, chopping stimulates them.
Good Soulwork lessons. So many people love Lent because you are busy “rooting out the vices and planting virtues”as the old monastics say.
But there's the other lesson, too – about the life source in the soil, in the air, in rain and moisture in the ground, in the mysterious process that transforms an ugly brown tuber into a glowing scarlet dahlia. It's all one breath, all of us grafted into it, including the unfortunate slugs.
(I'm obviously itching to get into the garden after a too long winter and impossibly dragged out spring.) The Fifth Sunday of Easter reading of the vine and branches reminds me I am not only in community with other people who prune prune prune me down to the nub, (not always happily) but that I am also inseparably grafted to the Vine – the source of my deep and enduring happiness and love.