Of Stones and Vines: Images of the Church

I have a hunch that our preferred image of the Church tells us something important. Those who prefer the ‘living stones’ of St Paul and the long and beautiful patristic tradition that follows on from him often have a conception of the Church that is magnificent: firm, unyielding, withstanding every tempest. Those who prefer the Johannine vine image and the long and beautiful patristic tradition that follows on from that often have a more organic (no pun intended) conception of the Church, which has periods of growth and decline, fruitfulness and apparent ‘deadness’. Personally, I have no hesitation in saying that today’s gospel, John 15.1–8, expresses our relationship to Christ in a way that I find compelling. Vines are rarely magnificent and rely on careful pruning and tending to be of any use, but I think gladly of what they can become. To be a branch of the vinestock, to bear the fruit that the vine exists to bear, to be made in the fullness of time the new wine of the Kingdom, ah, what a vocation is that!

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