The Virgin Mary, the vine, and the cluster of grapes

Feast of the Removal of the Relics of St John Chrysostom (January 27). Source.

O THEOTOKOS, thou art the true vine which put forth the fruit of life. We beg thee: O Lady, with the Hierarch and with all the saints, entreat that our souls may find mercy.


A cluster of grapes at Waddesdon Manor in Buckinghamshire. © Rob Farrow, Geograph. Licensed for reuse. Click for original.

A cluster of grapes at Waddesdon Manor in Buckinghamshire. © Rob Farrow, Geograph. Licensed for reuse. Click for original.


THIS is not a reference to John 15:1-8, where Jesus calls himself the true vine. It is a reference to Num 13:1-25, and the fruitful vines of the land of Canaan. When the Israelites were ready to enter the promised land of Canaan, God told them to send scouts ahead to see whether the land was wholesome or not. A cluster of grapes was cut from the vines growing there as proof of the unusual fertility of the land (Num 13:1-25).

The LORD said to Moses, “Send some men to explore the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites. From each ancestral tribe send one of its leaders.” … When they reached the Valley of Eshcol, they cut off a branch bearing a single cluster of grapes.

Numbers 13:1, 23

So it is that in the Akathist Hymn, Mary is the true, the genuine vine (as opposed to the vines of Canaan), and Jesus is the cluster of grapes cut from it.

WE sing your praises, crying, ‘Hail! chariot of the spiritual Sun; true Vine that has produced the ripe Cluster of grapes, from which there flows a wine making glad the souls of the faithful, as they give you glory.

Christ is the first fruits of our life to come in the Kingdom of heaven, which is our promised land. From Mary, we gather Christ as proof of God’s love, his great mercy on our souls, and of the blessedness which awaits us across Jordan. From these grapes was trodden out upon the Cross the wine of the Eucharist, “making glad the souls of the faithful”, which we taste in an anticipation of the unending wedding supper of the Lamb (Rev 19:7-9, Lk 22:15-18).

The scouts reported that the fortified cities of the Canaanite people looked strong and alarming. That might, I suppose, be taken to remind us that there is work to be done in battling against the passions and little idols which we want to be cleared from our souls. But we do not need to be in doubt, because this is God’s purpose for each of us and he will see it done.

WHEN you cross the Jordan into Canaan, drive out all the inhabitants of the land before you. Destroy all their carved images and their cast idols, and demolish all their high places. Take possession of the land and settle in it, for I have given you the land to possess.

Numbers 33:51-53.

Ask, St John Chrysostom, and it will be given you

I AM the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. … If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

John 15:7-8.


THRICE-blessed saint, most holy father, good shepherd, and disciple of the chief shepherd Christ (cf. 1 Pet 5:4), who laid down his life for the sheep: do thou thyself, O John Chrysostom, worthy of all praise, ask by thine entreaties that our souls be granted the great mercy.


St John Chrysostom: Trade is a sort of asceticism

JESUS said to them, ‘The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves.’

Luke 22:25-26.


Elder Paisios in the workshop.

Elder Paisios in the workshop.


MAKE it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody. (1 Thess 4:11-12, NIV)

LET no one, therefore, of those who have trades be ashamed; but those, who are brought up to nothing and are idle, who employ many attendants, and are served by an immense retinue. For to be supported by continual hard work is a sort of asceticism. The souls of such men are clearer, and their minds better strung.

St John Chrysostom, Homily V on 1 Corinthians. Source.

St John Chrysostom: Respecting authority doesn’t mean endorsing the current administration

WHERFORE did the heathen rage, and the nations imagine vain things?

The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers gathered themselves together, against the Lord, and against his Christ; saying, Let us break through their bonds, and cast away their yoke from us.

Now therefore understand, ye kings: be instructed, all ye that judge the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice in him with trembling.

Psalm 1:2-3, 10-11.


St John Chrysostom (c. 349-407)

St John Chrysostom (c. 349-407)


“FOR there is no power,” he [St Paul] says, “but of God.”

What say you? it may be said; is every ruler then elected by God?

This I do not say, he answers.

Nor am I now speaking about individual rulers, but about the thing in itself.

For that there should be rulers, and some rule and others be ruled, and that all things should not just be carried on in one confusion, the people swaying like waves in this direction and that; this, I say, is the work of God’s wisdom.

Hence he does not say, “for there is no ruler but of God;” but it is the thing he speaks of, and says, “there is no power but of God. And the powers that be, are ordained of God.”

Thus when a certain wise man saith, “It is by the Lord that a man is matched with a woman” (Prov 19:14, LXX), he means this, God made marriage, and not that it is He that joineth together every man that cometh to be with a woman.

For we see many that come to be with one another for evil, even by the law of marriage, and this we should not ascribe to God.

St John Chrysostom. Source.


Chrysostom: Political government is useless without self-government

ST John Chrysostom, whose feast falls tomorrow, is appealing to Christians in the capital city (Constantinople) to attend the liturgy.

He reminds us that outward government cannot achieve anything good without personal responsibility, and the grace that comes through Christian prayer and assembly.

WHAT then is the government, more dignified than that of the empire, which they who enter here receive?

They are trained to master untoward passions, to rule wicked lusts, to command anger, to regulate ill-will, to subdue vainglory.

The emperor, seated on the imperial throne, and wearing his diadem, is not so dignified as the man who has elevated his own inward right reason to the throne of government over base passions, and by his dominion over them has bound as it were a glorious diadem upon his brow.

An icon of the Blessed Virgin and her child in the Cathedral of Holy Wisdom (Hagia Sophia), Constantinople/Istanbul.

An icon of the Blessed Virgin and her child in the Cathedral of Holy Wisdom (Hagia Sophia), Constantinople/Istanbul.

For what profit is there, pray, in purple, and raiment wrought with gold, and a jewelled crown, when the soul is in captivity to the passions?

What gain is there in outward freedom when the ruling element within us is reduced to a state of disgraceful and pitiable servitude?

For just as when a fever penetrates deep, and inflames all the inward parts, there is no benefit to be got from the outward surface of the body, although it is not affected in the same way: even so when our soul is violently carried away by the passion within, no outward government, not even the imperial throne, is of any profit, since reason is deposed from the throne of empire by the violent usurpation of the passions, and bows and trembles beneath their insurrectionary movements.

Now to prevent this taking place prophets and apostles concur on all sides in helping us, repressing our passions, and expelling all the ferocity of the irrational element within us, and committing a mode of government to us far more dignified than the empire.




WHAT have I to offer thee, wretched as I am, O Lady? Except springs of tears, and thankful praise for the things done for me. But turn O Lady thy gracious eye upon my weak and lowly soul; scatter the clouds of my passions, and deliver thy servant from the mists that swirl over me.

Or this Cross-Theotokion.

WHEN she that had known no man beheld thee, O Jesus, hanged upon the wood of the Cross, she wept and said: Sweetest child, why dost thou leave me alone, who bare thee, the unapproachable Light of the Father who is from everlasting? Make haste and be glorified, that they who glorify thy divine Passion may themselves attain to divine glory.

At Vespers for today. Source.


BEFORE Thy cross we bow down in worship,
O our Master,
and Thy Holy Resurrection we glorify.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit,
now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

Be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors

LIFT up your gates, ye princes; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the king of glory shall come in. Who is this king of glory? The Lord of hosts, he is this king of glory.

Psalm 23:9-10 LXX


The Cherubic Hymn
Old Bulgarian Chant, sung by the Optina Choir.

WE who stand as mystical images of the Cherubim,
and sing unto the Life-Giving Trinity the thrice-holy hymn,
let us now lay aside all earthly cares
that we may receive the King of all,
attended beyond our sight by angel hosts.
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.


THIS mystery turns earth into heaven for you.

Just prise open the gates of heaven, and peer within (or rather, not of heaven, but the the heaven of heavens), and you will see there what I am talking about.

For what I shall show you lying here on earth, is there the thing more precious than everything else.

What is most revered in royal palaces is not the walls, or golden roofs, but the physical person [lit. body] of the King, sitting on the throne. The physical person of the King is the most revered thing in heaven too.

But this is what you are now permitted to see on earth!

I am not showing you angels, or archangels, or the heavens or the heaven of heavens, but I am showing you him, the Master of them all.

Do you see, how you are looking, on earth, at what is more precious than everything else?

And not just seeing it, but getting to touch it. And not just getting to touch it, but eating it.

St John Chrysostom, Homilies on St Paul’s Letters to the Corinthians, No. XIV (on 1 Cor 10:14). My translation, from Migne. Compare CCEL.

St John Chrysostom: It is Christ’s hand that is stretched out to you

JESUS Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.

Hebrews 13:8


Patriarch Pavle (Stojčević) of Serbia

“Both the feast and the Eucharist overcome time and reveal eternity to those who participate in them.” The much-loved Patriarch Pavle of Serbia (+2009).


THE Spirit is the one who brings the eschata into history.

He confronts the proceeds of history with its consummation, its transformation and its transfiguration. …

[T]he Church’s anamnesis acquires the Eucharistic paradox … the memory of the future.

Metropolitan John Zizioulas, quoted by Fr John Meyendorff in “Catholicity and the Church” p. 27.


“I will receive the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord”
Communion sentence on Feasts of the Mother of God


THE Son of God born by the Father outside time and before time, combines in His incarnation the temporal and the eternal, the earthly and the heavenly.

Both the feast and the Eucharist overcome time and reveal eternity to those who participate in them.

The Eucharist is not just a devotional remembrance of the Last Supper celebrated by the Church on certain days, nor is it its didactic enactment, but its continued repetition.

The celebrant of the Sacrament is Jesus Christ Himself, and every liturgy is not just a symbolical remembrance of that event but its continuation and actualization.

Though the Eucharist is celebrated at various times and in various places, it remains one, overcoming the border of time and space.

This is what St. John Chrysostom says to us,

‘Believe, therefore, that even now it is that supper, at which He Himself sat down. For this is in no respect different from that.

For neither does man make this and Himself the other; but both this and that is His own work.

When therefore you see the priest delivering it unto you, account not that it is the priest that does so, but that it is Christ’s hand that is stretched out’ (John Chrysostom, Homilies on Mt. (50, 30)).

“The Feast and the Eucharist” – a paper read by Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk at the Assumption Readings (29 September 2010, Kiev). Source. My emphases.

See also Elder Aimilianos: How does the Divine Liturgy begin?