The vine and the branches…
are these two separate things,
or simply parts of the same living organism?
Ah, it is clear that they are inseparably united,
the vine being the wholeness, the encompassing truth,
and branches belonging to this vine
and drawing their life, their being, their fruit from it.
Yes, Jesus, we were created in God’s image
from the very first moment of conception,
bearing the marks of God’s life written clearly
in the very nature of our personhood—
and in the capacity to receive and to give
in a conscious, free, and living way.
But because of original sin that openness
of our inmost being to loving relationship
has collapsed instead into lonely isolation,
like a branch separating itself from the vine.
Yet the Father has sent you to us,
and you, dear Jesus, have willingly come.
You take us up into yourself,
wedding yourself to us in a mystical marriage,
and adopting us into the divine life once again
(and more fully that was present in the beginning).
This is that mystery portrayed by the vine and the branches:
that we become inseparable from you,
in whom alone we can fully be who we are.
For you, Son of God, Beloved One,
are the Image and Likeness of God,
and only in conformity with you,
sharing in your liberty, your purity, your love,
can we become fully image as we are meant to be.
This gift comes to us, flowing from your Heart,
which has been opened wide for us on the Cross…
and all that is asked is that, in faith, we receive.
Our salvation—this grafting onto the living Vine—
is a pure and gratuitous gift of grace,
not based on our deserving, our merits, our effort,
but simply on you and the amazing mystery of your love.
And yet this gift, this pure and freely offered grace,
doesn’t merely grasp us from the outside,
declaring clean and holy what, in truth, remains impure.
No, it rather penetrates our inner being to the core
and healed, purifies, and transforms it from within.
In the pouring of water on the body
—what an amazing mystery, hidden from our eyes!—
the power of grace liberates and renews the inner heart!
This beloved person, eternally known and loved by God,
is now irradiated by the life of Father, Son, and Spirit,
who fully inhabit the spirit, soul, and body.
And the person is taken up to participate, freely,
in the mystery of the Triune life of love,
a life of mutual self-giving and of intimate embrace.
Do you see, beloved heart? Do you see?
God comes to you because he loves you,
because he sees in you his image,
as fractured and obscured by sin as it may be…
and he realizes in you, concretely, fully,
what he has realized first in Christ:
the marriage of divinity and humanity,
bride and Bridegroom made one by the bonds of grace,
and the two together abiding, with and in one another,
within your all-enveloping paternal embrace.
This is the meaning of redemption and salvation,
and of our justification by grace through faith.
And this mystery of beauty implanted in our heart
like a seed buried deep in the soil of our soul…
this is a Life-principle that seeks to blossom and renew.
It touches the innate mystery of our humanity,
of the unique personal mystery of each one of us—
ordered as it is by God’s very design for the divine life
of intimate, personal loving, and interpenetration of persons.
And as this newness is accepted, we experience
the full blossoming of the truth of our being:
the truth of abiding in belovedness.
Yes, dear Father, and this belovedness unfolds
in the joy of mutual self-giving and intimate embrace,
by which Christ comes to inhabit us, vibrantly living,
and we in turn live in him, trustingly surrendered.
He has come, as man, to live with us our life,
and he continues to do so now in eternity,
bearing still our humanity, redeemed and transfigured,
taken up into the very life of God.
And we, in turn, live with his very life,
the life of the Son of God and Son of man;
we live by faith in the One who gave himself for us,
which is to share in his very Person and being at work in us.
Thus the whole of our life, in its concreteness,
in the mystery of our mind, our will, our affections,
in our very bodily existence in this world,
becomes a sharing in his own life and mystery,
as we become like him, conformed to him through grace.
The bride reflects more and more the beauty of her Lover,
who has impressed upon her his features and his love,
and thus she indeed knows herself more fully
to be a beloved child, taken up within the Son.
He introduces her, as their union deepens and matures,
into the mystery of his own childhood in the Father,
which is the origin and consummation of her childhood too.
Thus this beloved heart, redeemed and saved by grace,
as she acquiesces to this movement of pure gift in her
and yields her whole life in obedience to its law of love,
becomes transformed in the Image that she reflects,
like a mirror or a crystal lake, receptive in contemplation.
Indeed, through her complete and loving surrender
in the burning passion of both prayer and of act
—or rather of unceasing prayer enfolding all
and penetrating its with itself and its fullness—
she comes to live in the One who lives within her.
This Love, this Life-principle, given by the Father
in and through his beloved Son, the loving Spouse,
liberates, renews, and transfigures her from within
by the Spirit of Love that becomes her inner life.
This all-enveloping mystery of divine grace,
this ever-deepening bond of intimate love,
unfolds throughout this life in a beautiful principle of growth,
until that Mystery that has been given comes to fullness
in the perfect, shared belonging of Bridegroom and bride,
which is consummated in the moment when, through death,
the heart passes beyond the confines of this world, purified,
into the abyss of the divine life of communion and joy.