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Comparative Theology, book by H. H. Pope Shenouda III
40- The Virgin Is the True Vine
Two Questions on the Virgin's Titles
(1) Why do we call the Virgin ‘the vine’ in the prayer of the Third Hour, saying: “O Mother of God, you are the true vine bearing the Fruit of Life”, when the Vine is the Lord Jesus Christ who says plainly of Himself: “I am the True Vine and My Father is the Vine-dresser. I am the Vine, you are the branches” (John.15: 1, 5)?
(2) Why do we address the Virgin, in the third watch of the Midnight Prayer, saying: “O noetic gate of life”, when the gate is Christ who says of Himself: “I am the door of the sheep” (John.10: 7)?
(1) The Virgin Is the True Vine
Giving the title 'the true vine' to the Virgin in no way contradicts the title of the Lord Jesus Christ as the True Vine. The Lord is the Vine in one sense and the Virgin is the vine in another.
The Lord is the Vine when we are the branches; He is the Origin and all of us originate from Him; He is the Head and all of us are members of His Body.
As for the Virgin, according to the Church's hymns, she is the one who bore the Fruit of Life - the Son of God. She is the vine who neither experienced senescence nor was reaped by anybody.
Here we would like to record an important point:
The Lord Jesus Christ grants us some of His titles
(1) The Lord says: “I am the good Shepherd” (John.10: 11,14). This title was given to God by David in his psalm when he said: “The Lord is my Shepherd” (Ps.23: 1), and was also given to Him in the Book of Ezekiel (Ez.34: 11-16).
Nevertheless, the Lord appoints some of His children shepherds. While He is concerned to make the whole Church “one flock and one Shepherd” (John.10: 16), He says to Peter the Apostle: “Feed My lambs. Tend My sheep” (John.21: 15,16). In the Old Testament the Lord says: “And I will give you shepherds according to My heart” (Jer.3: 15), and we have discussed this issue before here on st-takla.org in other pages. The title 'shepherd' became the title attributed to the Apostles' successors; the bishops who are to "shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood" (Acts 20: 28). St. Peter says: "Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers” (1Pet.5: 2).
(2) The Lord Jesus Christ calls Himself ‘Light’ when He says: “I am the Light of the world” (John.8: 12); (John.9: 5). Nevertheless, He says to His disciples: “You are the light of the world” (Matt.5: 14) and “Let your light so shine before men” (Matt.5: 16).
There is no doubt that the Lord is the absolute Light in the full sense of the word. His disciples are light because they derive their light from Him and with His light they shine before others. In the same way, He is the Shepherd in the full sense of the wordbut they are shepherds because they are God's stewards appointed by Him to shepherd His flock.
(3) It is said of the Lord Jesus Christ that He is the Bishop: “The Shepherd and Overseer of your souls” (1Pet.2: 25). Nevertheless, the Apostles' disciples were ordained bishops by the Holy Spirit (John 20:20-23) (Acts 20: 28); (1Thess.3: 2); (Phil.1:1); (Titus1: 7).
(4) It is said of the Lord Jesus Christ that He is the “Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek” (Ps.110: 4); (Heb.5: 6). Yet there are numerous verses in the Holy Bible about the high priest, the chief priest and the priests to whom God gave an everlasting priesthood throughout their generations (Ex.40: 15).
In the Old Testament it is written: “Let Your priests be clothed with righteousness” (Ps.132: 9,16); “And he poured some of the anointing oil on Aaron’s head and anointed him, to sanctify him” (Lev. 8: 12) and “you shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty” (Ex.28: 2). In the New Testament, we notice that St. Paul calls himself a priest (Rom.15: 16).
The Lord Jesus Christ is the Priest in the sense that He offered Himself a Sacrifice on our behalf. But priests from the human race are ministers and stewards of God's mysteries. They offer the Sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Old Testament they offered what symbolised Christ's Sacrifice.
(5) It is written that Christ is the Son of God (1John.4:14,15) and that we also are children of God (1John.3: 1). Christ is the Son of God in the sense that He is of God’s Essence, Nature and Divinity. But we are children through love and adoption. That is why the Lord Jesus Christ is called the Only Son (John.3: 16).
Likewise is the title ‘vine’
The Lord Jesus Christ is the Vine. The whole Church is called the vineyard and the Lord sang a song of the vineyard about the Church in the Book of Isaiah (Is.5: 37) in which He says: “Judge, please, between Me and My vineyard. What more could have been done to My vineyard that I have not done in it?” And the Divine Inspiration says: “For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel” (Is.5: 7).
The same meaning applies to the parable of the vineyard and the tenants, which the Lord told in (Matt.21: 33-41). In this parable, the vineyard is the Church, the tenants are the priests, and God is the Landlord.
In calling the Church ‘the vine’ we quote the words of the Divine Inspiration in the Book of Psalms. We say to God: “Return, we beseech you, 0 God of hosts; look down from heaven and see and visit this vine and the vineyard which Your right hand has planted” (Ps.80: 14,15).
Do we steal God’s glory if we call the Church 'the vine' when Christ Himself has bestowed upon her that title? Do we steal God’s glory if we call people the vineyard, when the teaching of the Holy Bible commands us to do so? Or is this just an attack against the Church of which the Holy Bible says: “Sing to her, a vineyard of red wine! I, the Lord, keep it. I water it every moment” (Is.27: 2,3)?
Moreover, the title ‘the vine’ is given to every blessed mother, as the psalm says: “Your wife shall be like a. fruitful vine in the very heart of your house” (Ps.128: 3).
Therefore, it is not surprising to call St. Mary the Virgin ‘the vine’.
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