The comparison, found in the Gospel of St. John, of the Son to a Vine and the Father to a husbandman, must be understood with reference to the Incarnation. To understand it with reference to the Divine Generation is to doubly insult the Son, making Him inferior to St. Paul, and bringing Him down to the level of the rest of mankind, as well as in like manner the Father also, by making Him not merely to be on one footing with the same Apostle, but even of no account at all. The Son, indeed, in so far as being God, is also the husbandman, and, as regards His Manhood, a grape-cluster. True statement of the Father’s pre-eminence.
158. There is yet another Scripture, which our opponents commonly object against us, in order to prove their division of the Godhead of the Father from the Godhead of the Son, namely, our Lord’s words in the Gospel:
I am the true Vine and My Father is the Husbandman.The vine and the husbandman, say they, are of different natures, and the vine is in the power of the husbandman.
159. Thus, then, you would have us believe that the Son, as touching His Godhead, is like to a vine, so that without a vine-dresser He is nothing, and may be neglected or even rooted up. Thus you juggle up a lie from the letter of the Scripture which says that our Lordcalled Himself the Vine, intending thereby the mystery of His Incarnation. Howbeit, if you are bent on it that we dispute upon the letter, I too confess, yea, I proclaim, that the Son called Himself the Vine. For woe be to me, if I deny the pledge of the salvation of His people!
160. How then do you purpose to understand the truth that the Son of God called Himself the Vine? If you interpret the saying with respect to the Substance of His Godhead, and if you suppose such a diversity of Godhead between the Father and the Son as there is ofnature between a husbandman and a vine, you do double insult both to Father and to Son— to the Son, because if, as you affirm, He is, as touching His Godhead, beneath a husbandman, then must He on the same showing be esteemed lower than the Apostle Paul, forasmuch as Paul indeed called himself a husbandman, as we find it written:
I have planted, Apollos has watered: but God has given the increase. 1 Corinthians 3:6 Will you have Paul, then, to be better than the Son of God?
161. Thus far the one insult. As for the other, it lies herein, that if the Son is the Vine in respect of His eternally-begotten Person, then, He having said:
I am the Vine, you are the branches, John 15:5 that divinely-begotten One appears to be of one substance with us. But
who is like You among the gods, O Lord? Exodus 15:11 as it is written; and again, in the Psalms:
For who is there among the clouds that shall be equal to the Lord? Or who among the sons of God shall be like God.
162. Moreover, you disparage not only the Son, but the Father also. For if the term
husbandman is to comprehend in its designation all the prerogative of the Father’s Sovereignty, then, seeing that Paul too is a husbandman, you set the Apostle, to whom you deny that the Son is equal, on an even footing with the Father.
163. Again, it being written,
But neither he which plants is anything, nor he that waters; but God, Who gives the increase, you will rest the fullness of the Father’s Majesty in a name which, as you see, stands for weakness. For if he that plants is nothing, and he that waters is nothing, but it is God, Who gives the increase [Who is all], observe what your blasphemy intends— even to expose the Father to contempt under the title of a husbandman, and to demand another God to provide the increase of the Father’s labour. Wickedly, therefore, do they think to extol the Dignity of God the Father by this use of the term
husbandman, in which God the Father is brought down to the level of man, as being designated by a common title.
164. Yet what wonder if, as you heretics would have it, the Father is to be exalted above a Son Whose Godhead differs not a whit from the common condition of mankind? If you suppose the Son to have been entitled the Vine with respect to His Godhead, then do ye esteem Him not only as liable to corruption and subject to changes of wind and weather, but even as partaking of manhood only, forasmuch as the Vine and its branches are of one nature, so that the Son of God appears, not to have taken upon Him our flesh, through the mystery of Incarnation, but to have altogether sprung into being from the flesh.
165. But I will indeed openly confess that His flesh, though born in a new and mysterious birth, was yet of the same nature with ours, and that this is the pledge of our salvation, not the source of the Divine Generation. He indeed is the Vine, for He bears my sufferings, whenever manhood, hitherto frail, leans on Him and so matures with plenteous fruit of renewed devotion.
166. Yet if the husbandman’s power allures you, please tell me who it was that spoke in the prophet, saying:
O Lord, make it known to me, that I may know; then saw I their thoughts. I was led as a harmless lamb to the slaughter and knew it not: they took counsel together against me, saying, Come, let us throw wood into his bread. Jeremiah 11:18 For if the Son here speaks of the mystery of His coming Incarnation— for it were blasphemy to suppose that the words are spoken concerning the Father— then surely it is the Son Who speaks in an earlier passage:
I have planted you as a fruitful vine— how are You become bitter, and a wild vine? Jeremiah 2:21
167. And thus you see that the Son also is the husbandman—the Son, of one Name with the Father, one work, one dignity andSubstance. If, then, the Son is both Vine and Husbandman, plainly we infer the meaning of the Vine with regard to the mystery of theIncarnation.
168. But not only has our Lord called Himself a Vine— He has also given Himself, by the voice of the prophet, the title of a Grape-cluster— even when Moses, at the command of the Lord, sent spies to the Valley of the Cluster. Numbers 13:24 What is that valley but thehumility of the Incarnation and the fruitfulness of the Passion? I indeed think that He is called the Cluster, because that from the Vinebrought out of Egypt, that is, the people of the Jews, there grew a fruit for the world’s good. No man, truly, can understand the Clusteras a token of the Divine Generation— or if there be any who so understand it, they leave no conclusion open but that we should believethat Cluster to have sprung from the Vine. And thus in their folly they attribute to the Father that which they refuse to believe of the Son.
169. But if there be now left no room for doubt that the Son of God is called the Vine with respect and intention to His Incarnation, you see what hidden truth it was to which our Lord had regard in saying,
The Father is greater than I. John 14:28 For after this premised, He proceeded immediately:
I am the true Vine, and My Father is the Husbandman, that you might know that the Father is greater in so far as He dresses and tends our Lord’s flesh, as the husbandman dresses and tends his vines. Further, our Lord’s flesh is that which could increase in stature with age, and be wounded through suffering, to the end that the whole human race might rest guarded from the pestilent heat of the pleasures of this world, under the shadow of the Cross whereon Its limbs are spread.