The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
Galatians 5: 22-23
Jesus said, “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch of mine that bears no fruit, He takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit He prunes, that is may be more fruit. You are already made clean by the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If a man does not abide in Me, he is cast forth as a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you will and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My Disciples.
John 15: 1-8
Christ is Risen!
Jesus, and later Saint Paul, used images of farming with the early followers of Christ. This makes sense, as they were preaching in large part to an agrarian society. Saint Paul talks about the “fruit” of the Spirit and Jesus, in today’s scripture passage, speaks about the vine and the branches. He is the vine; we are the branches. Cut the most beautiful branch off of a tree, and for the first moment that it is cut, it is still beautiful. Wait a couple of days and the branch begins to dry up and wither. It is worth of nothing if not attached to the trunk of the tree. Likewise, Jesus tells us that if we are apart from Him, we will be like the branches that wither and are eventually burned. We can only have our “fruit” grow and mature if we abide in the vine, if we stay close to Christ.
We will not get this “fruit” of the Spirit without Christ. We can never know the love of God, or have “peace which surpasses all understanding,” or be faithful if we do not know Christ, or if we try to grow “fruit” separate from the tree.
It is interesting to note that Jesus describes two kinds of branches, those that are dead that need to be cut away, and those that are bearing fruit which need to be pruned so that they can bear even more fruit. There is no branch that is perfect just as it is. For those who keep fruit trees and who prune them, you know that sometimes pruning seems very severe. You cut back branches by a lot, maybe even destroying some of the fruit that remains on them. But then the branches come back even stronger and bear even more fruit. Sometimes the process of pruning our souls may seem severe. It’s hard to look inward and allow Christ to prune our branches. It takes humility to come to confession or make a sincere repentance. Yet it is in this humility that our souls are pruned, and the fruit grows even more.
If we want to grow the fruit of the Spirit in our souls and in our lives, there are two things we must do. We must abide in Christ and now be separated from Him. And we must allow Christ, through the church and through our own humility, to prune the branches of our hearts and souls.
In the moment when we sin, we separate ourselves from God. So, in our lives, we have to examine ourselves very seriously and think to ourselves, do we live lives of habitual sin, habitually and frequently separating ourselves from God? Or do we live lives of repentance, where we make a sincere and frequent effort to abide in the Lord, to keep His words and commandments at the forefront of our thinking and our habits? And when we’ve strayed, do we allow ourselves to be pruned, so that we can come back stronger, or do we congratulate ourselves, thinking we aren’t so bad, are better than some, or are even pretty good in our own right?
Before we talk about the Fruit we are supposed to be cultivating, the Fruit of the Spirit, we must examine whether we are in a place where we can produce fruit at all. The beautiful branch that is separate from the tree will not remain beautiful for long. It can even have beautiful fruit on it which won’t remain beautiful for long. As we begin our study on the Fruit of the Spirit, ask yourself, am I attached to the vine, or have I fallen away?
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High, who abides in the shadow of the Almighty, will say to the Lord, “ My refuge and my fortress; my God, in whom I trust.” For He will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence; He will cover you with His pinions, and under His wings you will find refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and buckler. You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor the destruction that wastes at noonday. A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand; but it will not come near you. You will only look with your eyes and see the recompense of the wicked. Because you have made the Lord your refuge, the Most High your habitation, no evil shall befall you, no scourge come near your tent. For He will give His angels charge of you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone. You will tread on the lion and the adder, the young lion and the serpent you will trample under foot. Because he cleaves to Me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows My name. When he calls to Me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will rescue him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him, and show him My salvation. Psalm 91
If you are “attached” to the vine, stay strong, and allow the Holy Spirit to prune your heart, so you can bear more fruit. If you have fallen away from the vine, it is time to come back in repentance so that you can again bear the fruit that we are called to bear as Christians.
Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015. The Prayer Team now has its own dedicated website!
Fr. Stavros has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany”: “https://amzn.to/2t1rXwh and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.” https://amzn.to/2WAcfG0
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