The Lord continually likens human souls to vines. He says for instance: ‘My beloved had a vineyard on a fertile hill” (Is 5,1) and again: “I planted a vineyard and put a hedge round it” (cf Mt 21,33). Clearly it is human souls that he calls his vineyard, and the hedge he has put round them is the security of his commandments and the protection of the angels; for “the angel of the lord will encamp around those who fear him” (Ps 34[33],8). Moreover, by establishing in the Church “apostles in the first place, prophets in the second, and teachers in the third” (1Cor 12,28), he has surrounded us as though by a firmly planted palisade. In addition, the Lord has raised our thoughts to heaven by the examples of saints of past ages. He has kept them from sinking to the earth where they would deserve to be trampled on, and he wills that the bonds of love, like the tendrils of a vine, should attach us to our neighbors and make us rest on them, so that always climbing upward like vines growing on trees, we may reach the loftiest heights.

He also requires that we allow ourselves to be weeded. To be spiritually weeded means to have renounced the worldly ambitions that burdened our hearts. Anyone who has renounced the love of material things and attachment to possessions, or who has come to regard as despicable and deserving of contempt the poor, wretched glory of this world, is like a weeded vine. Freed from the profitless burden of earthly aspirations, that person can breathe again.

Finally, following out the implications of the comparison, we must not run to wood, or, in other words, show off or seek the praise of outsiders. Instead, we must bear fruit by reserving the display of our good works for the true vinedresser (Jn 15,1).

Saint Basil the Great (c.330-379), Bishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia, Homily 5 on the Hexaemeron, 6 (SC 26, p.304)

H/t to an email from Jim Forest.

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