The images in this Sunday’s readings of vineyards each take a dramatic turn. The difference between the outcome of each story is that Isaiah speaks of the wild grapes being destroyed, while Christ speaks of the wicked servants being put to death. Together these stories show us the way we are meant to be a part of God’s plan, and that we are meant to look after one another. We, as members of the same vine, are meant to both tend ourselves and one another, all the while more closely resembling God’s vision for our lives rather than our own.
Neither story directly addresses the point which comes into focus when we consider the stories together: that God wishes to be a part of our lives. This comes at a cost, both for God and for us, as we must be dedicated to one another. Our cost is to belong to God, to give ourselves over to him and His plan. God’s cost is the one paid in Christ’s humbling Himself even to the point of death on the Cross. This was the only way for the New Covenant to be fulfilled, so that unity with God could be possible for us.
Some of the most beloved images of the Church have sprung from these stories and the Truth they contain. Many examples of artwork exist showing a vine springing from Jesus, containing the Apostles or other great saints. These images are very popular in Eastern Rite churches especially, with many icons depicting Christ and the Apostles at the beginning of the Church. My personal favorite is the Apse Mosaic of San Clemente. Here we see Christ crucified, and from the Cross branches grow out showing the Church fruitful and full of life. There are saints amongst the branches, who are both fed by it, and are at work tending it in their own way. Below it, an inscription reads:
Ecclesiam Cristi viti similabimus isti quam lex arentem, set crus facit esse virentem: “We have compared the Church of Christ to this vine;
the Law made it wither but the Cross made it bloom.”
God knew that only through His Sacrifice would we ever come to know the greatness of His Love. The Law could only get us so far, only a truly radical act of purest love would show us the truth of who God is. And only by realizing the depth of God’s Love would we ever enter into this New Covenant which gives us Life. All of us are fed from the same Vine we tend, because all of it is rooted in Christ. Let us never forget, and be ever grateful for God’s gift of Love which makes it all possible.