Lectio Divina: May 2007 Archives

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On John 15:1–8

The Source of All Fecundity

Our Lord, in the fifteenth chapter of Saint John, raises us straightaway to the mystery of the Holy Trinity, the source of all fecundity. Consider the very first verse: ”I am the true vine and my Father is the vinedresser” (Jn 15:1). When Jesus says, — “I am . . . and my Father is,” He opens for us a door into His life with the Father in the Holy Spirit.

“Knock,” He says, “and the door will be opened to you; to him who knocks it will be opened” (Lk 11:9-10). Shall we stand on the threshold and peer in from the outside, or shall we heed the promptings of the Holy Spirit and cross the threshold of the banqueting house where the wine is already poured out? Let us go in to the Son, and with the Son and through Him, let us go in to the Father, drawn on by the Holy Spirit. “He has brought me to the banqueting house,” says the bride of the Canticle, “and His banner over me was love” (Ct 2:4).

Christ the True Vine

“I am the true vine” (Jn 15:1). Christ does not say, “I am like the vine.” The vine, rather, is like Christ. In Christ, the vine finds its perfection. The vine is like Christ, but Christ is the true vine, just as He is the true bread, sustaining us with eternal life; the true water springing up into eternal life; the true door opening onto the pastures of eternal life; the true Shepherd giving His life for the sheep of His flock that they may have eternal life. Today, He reveals Himself to us as the true vine imparting life to every branch and tendril, to every part of Himself.

The Father is the Vinedresser

Christ reveals the Father to us as the vinedresser (Jn 15:1). The prophets had already spoken of the God of Israel as the planter and keeper of the vine. Our Lord would have us understand that the Father is more than the One who tends the vine. The Father is the origin of its life, giving it growth from within. The Father fosters growth from within by pruning from without.

“Every branch in me that bears no fruit He cuts away and every branch that does bear fruit He purifies” (Jn 15:2). We should expect to be pruned. How are we to “bear fruit, fruit that will last” (Jn 15:16), unless we submit to the Father’s pruning? If we are to be fruitful, then everything withered, everything sterile, everything in the way of the expansion of divine life, every impediment to fecundity, in us must be pruned.

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Pruning the Branches

Pruning takes place in a variety of ways. It is inevitable and it is not without pain. For some the pruning takes place in the experience of physical suffering, for others in the crucible of emotional pain or spiritual desolation. In the lives of some, the pruning is subtle and protracted; in the lives of others, it is intense and brief.

Faith

There are persons for whom pruning takes the form of relentless doubts, of temptations against the Truth, and of rebellion against God. In these the Father may be fashioning a strong and shining Faith, capable of withstanding every assault.

Hope

There are others for whom pruning takes the form of an apparent loss of meaning, with violent temptations to discouragement leading at times to the edge of despair. Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face experienced this. In souls tormented by temptations to despair, the Father may be fashioning an immense and glorious hope, capable of boundless confidence and of heroic surrender.

Charity

In still other persons, the pruning knife is applied to the most intimate impulses, to the desire to love and to be loved. The experience of rejection, of sweet loves turned bitter, of desires that rage within and batter the heart, may in fact lead to a purification of the passions, rendering the soul capable of accommodating the blazing fire of divine charity. In these, the Father may be fashioning true lovers, passionate lovers, inflamed with the Holy Spirit.

Fruitful Suffering

The cutting edge of the pruning knife is suffering and yet, the hand which holds the knife is the hand of Infinite Love. Suffering is not good; it is the effect of sin. And yet, with an indescribable tenderness, the Father makes use of it in such a way as to make us bear abundant fruit. How often lives of great suffering are lives of immense fruitfulness!

Feast of Saints Philip and James, Apostles

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John 14:6-14
Psalm 18:2-5
1 Corinthians 15:1-8


Today’s Antiphons in the Divine Office

There is no doubt that the antiphons given in the Divine Office for this feast of Saints Philip and James are among the most beautiful of the Paschaltide liturgy. The Church takes the dialogue of the Gospel and, with an artistry inspired by the Holy Spirit, presents it anew in a series of antiphons interwoven with alleluias:

The first antiphon is Philip’s bold request: “Lord, show us the Father and it is enough for us, alleluia” (Jn 14:8). Philip’s prayer echoes that of Moses in the book of Exodus: “I pray thee, show me thy glory” (Ex 33:18).

The second antiphon is Our Lord’s astonishing reply. He presents Himself to Philip as the icon of the Father: “Philip, he who sees Me sees also My Father, alleluia” (Jn 14:9).

The third antiphon is a poignant complaint of the Heart of Christ. It is addressed not to Philip alone, but also to each of us: “Have I been so long a time with you, and you have not known Me? Philip, he who sees Me sees also My Father, alleluia” (Jn 14:9).

The fourth antiphon is a gentle reproach; it ends nonetheless in a triple alleluia. The reproach becomes a promise full of hope: “If you had known me, you would also have known My Father. And henceforth you do know Him, and you have seen Him, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia” (Jn 14:7).

The fifth antiphon is an appeal to love. Like the fourth it ends in a triple alleluia: “If you love Me, keep my commandments, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia” (Jn 14:15).

Benedictus Antiphon

There are two more antiphons to be considered. At the Benedictus it is Our Lord himself who sings in the midst of His Church: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but through Me, alleluia.” The Church cannot but reply: “Yes, Lord, you are the way, and the truth, and the life. Behold, I come to the Father through You.” There is no better preparation for today’s Eucharist. The Eucharist is the Church coming to the Father through the Son, united to Him as His Body and His Bride.

Magnificat Antiphon

At Vespers the Magnificat will be framed by the words of the Lord: “Let not your heart be troubled or afraid. You believe in God, believe also in Me. In my Father’s house there are many mansions, alleluia, alleluia” (Jn 14:1–2). These are words of comfort, words of hope for every situation of fading light and for those moments when darkness descends over the human heart.

About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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