“I am the vine and you are the branches. If you remain in me, and I in you, you will be fruitful.“—John 15:5
Jesus calls himself the vine and his disciples branches that bear fruit. The Church has always heard a reference to Communion in this saying, especially to the cup we bless.
From ancient times, the cup has stood for the lifeblood of Jesus circulating through the church’s vine and branches like nourishing sap, uniting Teacher and disciples in one common life, generative and strong, a holy communion.
But the metaphor of vine and branches is not just about communion with Jesus and each other. It’s also about communion with nature. To belong to the One who took our flesh, and to belong to all our human neighbors, is also to belong to the earth. Earth and heaven are not opposites, and the more entwined we are in each other, the healthier and more fruitful we become.
It’s not for nothing that every Christian ritual of inclusion, acceptance, pardon, peace, and nourishment requires us to touch the things of earth and to let them touch us. In Baptism, it’s water and, in some parts of the Church, salt, oil, and beeswax. For healing, anointing oil. In Communion, it’s wheat and grape. For worship, flame and flower. Through these earthy things the grace of loving Pesence materializes. By these earthy things we learn how precious and loved we are, in body as well as soul.
We are not the only stewards of God’s creation. The earth cares for us as much as we care for the earth. It’s an irreplaceable gift to our whole selves, mediating divine healing and peace to every part. Without these gifts, we would never know the sight, taste, smell, sound, and touch of the invisble God.
We owe earth care not just because it’s in our self-interest, although it surely is, and so we must; but also because she is the beloved medium of God’s self-showing, the indispensable partner of God’s adoring attention to us, the one who reveals the Holy One to our senses, in beauty, in nourishment, in joy.
When We Eat Bread, We Eat the Soil and Sun
Words: Mary Luti
Alternate tunes: CLIFF TOWN, CHILSWELL
When we eat bread, we eat the soil and sun,
the quiet winter rest, the surge of spring;
we eat the summer’s heat, the cloud and rain,
and every breeze that makes the meadows sing.
When we drink wine, we drink the soil and sun,
the tendril’s climbing curl, the pruning’s grief;
we drink the blue, the dusky purple, and the pale,
the swelling cluster and the shady leaf.
When we receive Communion’s wine and bread,
the Earth enfolds us as her very own;
we eat and drink the Life that gives us life;
by every sense is Love Eternal known.
When we eat sun and soil and drink the vine,
and praise you, God, for Earth and all its care,
may awe and reverence ripen in these hands
we lend to her protection and repair.
For SHELDONIAN, see https://hymnary.org/tune/sheldonian_taylor