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  • Sunday ,12 September 2010

Life of Virtue & Righteousness (9): The Fruit

Pope Shenouda III

Pope Shenouda Article


Sunday ,12 September 2010

Life of Virtue & Righteousness (9): The Fruit

 In the Life of Virtue and Righteousness
   The importance of yielding fruit:Spiritual life must yield fruit in our lives and the lives of the others, for the Lord stresses on this, saying, "I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit … I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit." (Jn 15: 1- 5)

   Bearing fruit is a commandment dating back to the beginning of creation, for the Lord said, "Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it." (Gen 1: 28)
   We can take it symbolically as a call upon the believers to have spiritual fruit, to multiply and fill the earth with it. In the story of creation God commanded the ground and the trees to yield fruit, each according to its kind (Gen 1: 11, 12).
   Each of us has to be a tree yielding fruit according to its kind in the Lord's garden.
   We are spiritual people, so our fruit should be spiritual, not fleshly, for, "He who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life." (Gal 6: 8)
   The Scripture tells us about the fruit of the Spirit.
   "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control." (Gal 5: 22, 23) The Scripture stresses on the importance of the fruit and the punishment waiting for the person who bears no fruit, for the Lord says in the Sermon on the Mount, "Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire." (Mt 7: 19) John the Baptist likewise said, "The ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire." (Mt 3: 10) The Lord even cursed the fig tree that had no fruit on it (Mt 21: 19).
   The new fruit:
   The fruit should be good as the Lord says, "A tree is known by its fruit." (Mt 12: 33) "Every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, not can a bad tree bear good fruit." "By their fruits you will know them." (Mt 7: 17, 18- 20) "For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they gather grapes from a bramble bush." (Lk 6: 34, 44)
   Therefore, brother, consider what is your fruit, and how much is it? A good ground yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty (Mt 13: 8), and the Lord in His humbleness blessed the crop that yielded even thirty, for though it is little, it is fruit. He prunes the little fruit that it may bear more fruit (Jn 15: 2).
   Your ground must be good, must yield fruit, and the fruit must be continual.
   The Lord says, "I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain." (Jn 15: 16) This the Lord will prune that it may multiply. On the other hand is the awful image depicted by St. Jude of the trees bearing no fruit, describing them as, "late autumn trees without fruit" (Jud 12). Whereas a good tree is described as a tree that brings forth its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither, being planted by the rivers of water (Ps 1: 3).
   Factors required for yielding fruit: 
1. To yield fruit, the ground must be good, for as the Lord says only the seeds which fell on good ground yielded a crop, unlike those that fell on the wayside, among the thorns, on the stony places, or places that have no depth. (Mt 13: 8)
The words said by the Lord to the rich young man did not fall on good ground, but on one which loves possession, therefore the young man "went away sorrowful" (Mt 19: 22). Another young man who was a good ground heard the same words in the church and he sold all his property and distributed it among the poor. That man's seed yielded much fruit according to its kind, for he left millions of monks and anchorites who followed his way (Gen 1: 11).
The good ground represents the person who tends to good by nature, who accepts the word of God joyfully, and is ready to act and yield fruit. A stony ground on the other hand represents the cruel heart, which is not easily affected, or rather not affected at all whatever preaching or spiritual words such a person hears or reads. Therefore, the apostle says, "If you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts." (Heb 3: 7, 8)
A good ground is neither stony inside nor surrounded by thorns chocking it from outside.
Solomon the Wise was a good ground, nevertheless thorns surrounded him, that is, his foreign wives, who turned away his heart, and his heart was not loyal to the Lord his God, did evil in the sight of the Lord, and built a high place for the gods of the Gentiles (1 Kgs 11: 4- 8).
Samson in the beginning of his life had the Spirit of the Lord moving upon him, and the Spirit came mightily upon him (Judg 13: 25; 14: 6). When thorns surrounded him, that is, his beloved Delilah, he lost his vow, and they put out his eyes, shaved off his hair, and mad him a grinder in the prison. The Lord departed from him (Judg 16: 20, 21).
2. Nourishment and watering are necessary for yielding fruit.
The tree that yielded no fruit for three years had to be fertilizes, as the keeper of the vineyard said, "Let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it. And if it bears fruit, well. But if not, after that you can cut it down." (Lk 13: 8, 9)
   Examples of spiritual nourishment necessary for yielding fruit:
   These include reading the Holy Scripture, the word of God by which man lives (Mt 4: 4) and spiritual books, meditations, spiritual exercises, prayer, and Holy Communion. The tree that gives its fruit in its season is a tree planted by the rivers of water; for water represents the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart (Jn 7: 38), i.e. the living water.
   To bear fruit you need God's work in you. 
   This needs that you abide in God as a branch in the vine, for the Lord says, "As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me." "He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit … If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned." (Jn 15: 4- 6) To abide in God means to abide in His love (Jn 15: 9), and to have the communion of the Holy Spirit (2 Cor 13: 14) in work.
   See whether your spiritual life is planted by the rivers of water, receiving continually from God, the spring of living water (Jer 2).
   Do you continually receive from Him the water which He promised the Samaritan woman, which springs up into everlasting life (Jn 4: 10- 14)? Do you receive continually you spiritual nourishment by which you can grow unceasingly?
3. For the ground or tree to bear fruit, worms, insects, harmful plants, or epidemics should be removed away from it and it should be pruned that it may yield fruit that does not wither.
   Examine yourself and see what epidemics hinder your spiritual fruit.
   Do you observe yourself continually to prune it from such epidemics, whether spiritual, internal or mind faults, or habits overcoming you, or friends pulling you down. Remember the words of the poet:
 Can a building grow up to its fullness,
 if one builds and the other pulls down? 
   What will you benefit if you give your good ground its spiritual nourishment but birds come and pluck out its fruit, spots strike it and spoil it, or worms eat it up? Do you expose yourself to offenses that corrupt all your spiritualities, for "evil company corrupts good habits." (1 Cor 15: 33) You should die to all worldly matters, as the Scripture says about the grain of wheat, "if it dies, it produces much grain." (Jn 12: 24)
   Varied fruits:
   There are many types of fruit in one's life, some of which are useful and some are not. Some are intellectual that have no relation to the spirit, but are mere thoughts in the mind. Some are social, represented in social activities that may have fruit in one's life, but some are spiritual concerned with one's relationship with God and with the others. That which concerns you relationship with God is love and faith, whereas that which concerns your relationship with the others is represented in the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Gal 5: 22, 23).
   These sometimes are called the fruit of righteousness.  
   "That you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God." (Phil 1: 10, 11) "The fruit of righteousness is sown in peace." (Jas 3: 18)
   The fruit of the righteousness includes the fruits of repentance, as John Baptist says, "Bear fruits worthy of repentance." (Mt 3: 8)
   The fruit of the Spirit appears in many things by which a sinner will not fall back, including:
• Heart contrition and tears, as the Psalmist says, "Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy." (Ps 126: 5)
• Spiritual fervency,
• Correcting old faults,
• Compassion upon sinners and not condemning them (Heb 13: 3),
• Seasons full of good works, as the apostle says, "He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good, gave us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness." (Acts 14: 17) Such times are full of good works far from the unfruitful works of darkness (Eph 5: 11),
• Winning souls to the Lord, which makes the Lord rejoice, for, "He who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins." (Jas 5: 20) Know then that every soul you save will be a fruit in the tree of your life which you offer to God for His Glory, "By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples." (Jn 15: 8) Even our spiritual life and good works lead to the glory of God, for He says, "that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven." (Mt 5: 16)
• A good word and a word of benefit or praise are called the fruit of the lips, "Let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name." (Heb 13: 15) "The mouth of the righteous is a well of life." (Prov 10: 11) "The mouth of the righteous brings forth wisdom." (Prov 10: 31) Therefore, St. Paul sent to the Romans saying, "I often planned to come to you … that I might have some fruit among you also, just as among the other Gentiles." (Rom 1: 13)
   Finally, brothers, a fruit is a blessing from the Lord.
   The Lord says to those who obey His commandments, "Blessed shall be the fruit of your body, the produce of your ground and the increase of your herds, the increase of your cattle and the offspring of your flocks." (Deut 28: 4) "Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine in the very heart of your house." (Ps 128: 3)
   Indeed, the fruit is a blessing from the Lord, but it is because of His pleasure at the good life of a person acceptable to Him. Let us then walk properly in His sight, so that He may give us fruit in our spiritual life and in our ministry, the fruit of the Holy Spirit that works in our human souls as St. Paul indicates in (Gal 5: 22, 23).