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Fruitful vs Fruitless

“Good people do not keep Christ's word written on paper, for paper is external to man and can be lost. Neither do they only keep it in their minds, for the mind is on the surface of man, and it could be forgotten. But they keep it in their innermost selves, in their hearts, in an honest and good heart, where it will not be lost or forgotten, but will grow and bear fruit…It is not God who prohibits people from becoming spiritually fruitful…The Lord does not withhold His grace from any. It is up to us to recognize whether or not God’s seed can grow in our hearts. If so, we will produce spiritual fruit for God. If not, we are given that opportunity to prepare our hearts to be fertile ground for God’s word—tilling our hearts by repentance, humility, love, and forgiveness.” (Fr. Alexander G. Leondis, Fr. Ted Bobosh)

“Every creature in the world has its God-given purpose and mission. The fig tree, for instance, was supposed to produce fruit in due season. What fruits does the Lord expect from us? The Apostle Paul enumerates them in his Epistle to the Galatians: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance… (Gal. 5:22–23). We can perform all the prayer rules, go to church every day, read the Gospel and the Holy Fathers…and at the same time have no fruits of the spiritual life.” (Hieromonk Spyridon Dorosh)

“Note what the serpent tells Eve in the Genesis story. In trying to persuade her to eat the fruit, he says, “You shall be as gods.” This is the real significance of Eve taking the fruit: it’s not simply about doing something you were told not to do or even about being your own boss. It’s about the desire to replace God with yourself, to become your own arché—the source of your own life and being. The deeper meaning of what Adam and Eve did in the garden is that they made a radical break with God, not just by disobeying a rule, but in the voluntary act of choosing to separate themselves from God at the level of their being in order to become their own arché [beginning, source, principle].” (Dr. Zachary Porcu)

“Our main problem with the spiritual life these days is that “we just don’t feel like it”–we lack eros. A world without true holiness is good enough for us, so long as we have an abundance of the technological fruits of the Enlightenment…we should remember that what is good is known by the fruits of love, unity, and order. What is evil produces hate, division, and disorder. In the end, simplicity should guide us. We should concentrate on what we know to be good and shun what we know to be evil.” (Timothy G. Patitsas, Fr. Basil)

“Time erodes zeal. As the days go by, our original dedication to a cause tends to diminish. This observation is true of our spiritual intensity…Knowing how easy it is to lose our initial enthusiasm for the faith, the writers of the New Testament frequently urge us not to “lag in diligence” but to be “fervent in spirit” (Romans 12 11). The apostle Peter lists the qualities that make a productive spiritual life: faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, and brotherly kindness (2 Peter 1:5-7). But to acquire these virtues, one must be diligent (2 Peter 1:5). What good is trying to add these spiritual traits to our character if we practice them half-heartedly? No, as water and fertilizer make plants grow more vigorously, so diligence causes these attributes of the godly life to abound and to bear fruit.” (Fr. Basil) 

“If anyone should say that the vinedresser is the Son, this view also has a suitable reason on its side. He is our Advocate with the Father, our propitiation, and the gardener of our souls. He constantly prunes away whatever is harmful and fills us with rational and holy seeds so we may produce fruits for him.” (St. Cyril of Alexandria)

“Note in Christ’s words that God the Father prunes the branches that bear fruit. The fruitless branches are completely cut off. The fruitful branches are also cut (pruned) but it is done to make the branches healthier and even more fruitful. A good horticulturalist knows both the proper time to prune and how much needs to be cut away for the plant to prosper. Pruning thus is based in wisdom. We may wonder sometimes why some things happen in our lives that challenge or change us or even awaken us to what is happening. These all could be God pruning us in God’s wisdom to help us become the capable and flourishing parts of His garden (Paradise) that produce abundant life.” (Fr. Ted Bobosh)

“Jesus’ withering of the fig tree centers on the issue of fruitfulness, a metaphor He develops more fully in the parables He offers in answer to the challenge of chief priests and elders. By the time a fig tree leafs out, its branches are typically laden with fruit – unless it happens to be a self-sown or “male” tree. The unproductive tree withered by Christ appears to such a volunteer. In Scripture the fig tree often symbolizes the nation of Israel, which was planted in the land by the Lord Himself. Its withering at the command of God, who intended it to bear fruit, is thus a stern commentary…what is life in Christ? First and foremost, it is the gift of the Spirit! God endows; we are to preserve and prune so that our lives may bear fruit.” (Dynamis 4/10/2023)

“Whatever difficulties we face are only temporary. Chrysostom says that tenderly cultivated trees that never withstand the wind and storms become weak and bear little fruit. But those that prevail against wind, drought, and heat grow strong and fruitful. We do not own our lives, nor are we in charge of them. But the God of mercy grants us strength and comfort in stressful times, so that we grow strong in faith…Hope is the assurance of the good outcome of our lives lived by faith in God. Hope is the power of certain conviction that the life built on faith will produce its fruits. Hope is the confidence that, despite all darkness and sin, the light of the loving forgiveness of God is upon us to do with us and for us what we ourselves cannot do.” (Fr. Basil, Fr. Thomas Hopko)

“To establish a solid and fruitful relationship with God and build himself up spiritually, a Christian must be attentive to himself. He needs a permanent attitude of vigilance (nepsis) to avoid evil thoughts (including diverting thoughts) and must remain attentive to God in undistracted prayer so as to develop a solid and fruitful relationship with God, which also builds him up spiritually by uniting him with the One God.” (Jean-Claude Larchet)

‘Now in the morning, as He returned to the city, He [Jesus] was hungry. And seeing a fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it but leaves, and said to it, “Let no fruit grow on you ever again.” Immediately the fig tree withered away’ (Matthew 21:18-19). The fig tree, a symbol of prosperity and peace, withers because it is fruitless…“The fig tree is a parable of those who have heard God's word, but who fail to bear the fruit of obedience…it is also a warning to all people, in all times, of the importance of not only hearing the God's word, but putting it into action…He curses the tree also to warn those in every generation of what will befall anyone who fails to listen to His message.” (Orthodox Study Bible, Matthew 21:19, Antiochian Archdiocese)

“Idolatry, putting anything, even the good things in life, first before God; self-will, thinking of and putting ourselves first before others (not to be confused with taking good care of ourselves so we can serve others); and of course pride, the vice of all vices that keeps us locked into both of these things, are what make the difference between being fruitful and fruitless. We easily get beguiled by the enemy, our own thoughts, and think personal happiness and self-fulfillment are the goals of a fruitful life, even though seeking these things outside of being a branch to Christ’s vine (John 15:1-8) results in fruitlessness. We really only gain happiness and fulfillment through God not self. By the time we wake up to this realization it may be too late. The fruitful life is simple – seek God first with all your heart (Matthew 6:33) and love one another as He loves us (John 13:34). We can trust Him, if we do these things, to give us the desires of our heart and use us to bear much fruit for ourselves and others simultaneously.” (Sacramental Living Ministries)

“To seek one’s own good at the expense of the neighbor, especially if it causes the neighbor to stumble, is to sin against Christ, as Paul warns the Corinthians (cf. 1 Cor 8:12). To seek one’s own good at the expense of the neighbor is to act from a divided heart, the condition of anxious believers, who make the word of the kingdom unfruitful and thus are condemned on the day of judgment (cf. Mt 7:21–23). To seek the neighbor’s good, on the other hand, to build up the neighbor even at the expense of one’s own freedom in Christ, is to actualize the saving pattern of Jesus’ kenosis, “who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross” (Phi 2:5–8). To seek the neighbor’s good at one’s own expense, in other words, is to have the mind of Christ, a sign that the word of the kingdom has indeed been fruitful.” (John Barnet)

“The fruits of the earth are not brought to perfection immediately, but by time, rain and care; similarly, the fruits of men ripen through ascetic practice, study, time, perseverance, self-control and patience…The soul which has found the Lord, the true treasure, by seeking of the Spirit through faith and much patience, works out the fruits of the spirits with much ease.” (St. Anthony the Great, St. Makarios the Great)

“All of us eat the fruit of our own decision and choice.” (Rick Renner)

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