A Benedictine Monk Reflects on Remaining in Jesus the True Vine
Scripture demonstrate the fruits of such an intimate remaining in communion than the solemn Feast of the Ascension, which quickly approaches us in the Church calendar. Here, Jesus ascends in body and soul to His heavenly Father to dwell for eternity. Through His Ascension, Jesus leads us as the True Way, as firstborn from the dead into eternal Life with His Father, if only we choose to remain in Him!
According to the 20th-century German Catholic philosopher Josef Pieper, two fundamental attitudes of the human condition threaten our hope: despair and presumption. When our hope is under attack, our remaining in communion with the True Vine is put at risk. Whenever we succumb to either of these threats to hope, we may hear the Word of Christ but fail truly to listen obediently to Him.
Concerning despair, we may hear Jesus but refuse to hold faithfully to His promise, believing in our hearts that God is not powerful enough to surpass whatever challenge we are confronting, and we thus collapse into an attitude that holds ourselves doomed to fail. In presumption, we claim to know God's specific will for us in a particular situation, but in fact we have not listened patiently enough for God's true voice so that we might understand authentically His command for action. If we aren't careful, both errors can lead us and even those we love to suffer great harm, due to our failure to listen attentively with our hearts to the command of love that God speaks to us as we encounter Him.
We remain in the Vine only through great patience in steadfast prayer, that communication between us and God that may include oratio (speaking to God) but even more importantly will include meditatio (meditating upon the Word of God) and contemplatio (listening to God). It is in these ways that branches grow slowly and surely more firmly attached to the Vine. Such growth may not be noticeable immediately to us at first glance. However over time, just as plants grow slowly but surely, we can rest assured that we will bear great fruit if we simply remain obediently in our faith in Jesus the Word of God.
In listening attentively to the Word of God, we come to realize authentic communion with our Lord and are perfected slowly but surely in love of His Will through the transforming power of the Holy Spirit, who is able to safeguard us from despairing or presuming. When we as branches find ourselves in perfect communion with the vine, it is then that we indeed will be granted our every request in prayer as Jesus promises us: " If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you" (Jn 15.7).
Fr. Gregory Gresko is the Prior of Mary Mother of the Church Abbey in Richmond, Virginia. He earned his S.T.B. from the Pontificial Athenaeum of Sant'Anselmo in Rome and his S.T.L. magna cum laude in Moral Theology (Marriage and Family Studies) in 2008 from the Pontifical Lateran University, John Paul II Institute (Vatican City). His S.T.L. dissertation was entitled, "Educating to Love: Foundational Pedagogy in Light of Karol Wojtyla's Love and Responsibility". Fr. Gregory is working on his doctoral dissertation for the same Vatican institute, on "The Consecration of the Family to the Heart of Jesus in Light of the Pastoral Ministry of Père Mateo Crawley-Boevey"
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: Vine, branches, discipleship, Monks, prayer, Fr Gregory Gresko, communion
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