Almond Blossom (1890)
Vicent Van Gogh
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
(John 15: 1-8 NIV)
REFLECTION: The image of Jesus in the branches and the vine, is a truly beautiful image, a clear symbol of life and hope. Yet, we also often come across a tree which has just been pruned. A tree that at first is in full leaf, looks healthy and flourished – and after pruning ends up almost naked, poor, and bare. However, those knowledgeable about gardening, are aware of how much this pruning is actually needed; how this process encourages the tree to thrive; how it helps the tree to flourish and bloom further.
I have chosen a Van Gogh painting to go with this passage. Van Gogh enthusiasts know about his particular style which is often made up of several bold brush-strokes, so much so that if you look at the painting closely, it almost doesn’t make sense. In this Van Gogh painting, the brush-strokes appear to be made with a certain fineness; carefully and calmly. This painting portrays an almond tree that precisely in Winter, right before the Spring-time, already begins to bloom and although the branches are still scarce, its blossoms fill the branches with flowers that are a pleasure to look at.
How difficult it is for us to assimilate what occurs in nature, with our lives. How difficult it is for us to believe that God wishes to create in us, that same perfection found in nature. How scared and doubtful we are of that much needed pruning; how scared we are, that something we cannot do without, will be taken away from us or that what lies deep within ourselves will be exposed; how scared we are of being hurt and dismantled, both materialistically and physically…. How it scares us to be exposed; naked before the Lord.
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the Keeper. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” (John 15: 1-2). During this Lent we invite you to reflect on what those things that need to be cut off from your life, are. I invite you to leave it all in the hands of the Father; the Keeper of your life which shows you the way – do not be afraid of letting him prune you; to remove from you what bares no fruit. Do not be afraid of being naked before Him; His promise remains because “whoever sows generously, will also reap generously.” (2 Cor 9:6)