Thoughts from the Early Church

Basil the Great

He leased his vineyard to other farmers. (Mt 21:33).

You need only to look at the vine to be reminded of your own nature, that is, if you observe it intelligently. 

No doubt you remember the image used by the Lord in which he says that he is the vine and the Father the vinedresser. Each of us who have been grafted onto the Church by faith he calls branches, and he urges us to bear much fruit so as not to be rejected as useless and thrown onto the fire.

Throughout the Scriptures the Lord continually likens human souls to vines. He says for instance: “My beloved had a vineyard on a fertile hillside; and again: I planted a vineyard and put a hedge round it.” 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.”

Moreover, by establishing in the Church apostles in the first place, prophets in the second, and teachers in the third, 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.

Homilies on the Hexaemeron, 5: 
SC 27, 304-307


Basil the Great (c. 330-379), one of the three great Cappadocian Fathers, received an excellent education and began a career as a rhetorician before a spiritual awakening led him to receive baptism and become a monk. After visiting ascetics in Egypt, Palestine, Syria, and Mesopotamia, he decided that it was better for monks to live together in monasteries than alone as hermits, and he set about organizing Cappadocian monasticism. Basil’s Rules influenced Saint Benedict. In 370 Basil succeeded Eusebius as bishop of Caesarea. His main concern was for the unity of the Church, and he strove to establish better relations between Rome and the East. His efforts bore fruit only after his death. Basil’s writings include dogmatic, ascetic, and pedagogic treatises as well as letters and sermons.

 

**From Saint Louis University

Kristin Clauson