Sunday, April 25, 2021

John 15.1-8: You are the Branches

I am the vine, Jesus said. (John 15:5) And immediately our minds are off and running with images of vines and grapes, Communion and Jesus. But Jesus continues "...and you are the branches." The point of the conversation is the connection. 

Mosaic. Church of San Clemente, Rome. 12th or 13th century.
The apse mosaic in the Church of San Clemente in Rome is a crucifixion-turned-tree-of-life. From an acanthus plant at the foot of the cross grows a vine that curls around the crucifixion scene and throughout the entire half-dome of the apse. At the base of the plant four deer drink from the four rivers of paradise. And inscription at the bottom of the half-dome says [in part], Ecclesiam Cristi viti similabimus isti quam lex arentem, set crus facit esse virentem... (“We have compared the Church of Christ to this vine; the Law made it wither but the Cross made it bloom.”). Christ is the vine. 

And "You (we...the church) are the branches," Christ continues. The designers of the church seem to have gotten that second part, too. The circular vine pattern on the mosaic is echoed in the circular pattern of the floor mosaic running down the middle of the choir. The pattern visually connects the Christ-vine in the apse with the congregation-branches standing in the church. Connected. And if they aren't connected, then the branches, the congregation, can't do anything.

It's nice when the whole story gets told in the fabric of the building. 


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