St. Mary and the Grape Connection

Armodoxy for Today: St. Mary and the Grape Connection

My grandmother was one of four sisters. She was the oldest. Her name was Marie, a derivative of Mary. Her sister’s names were Lousaper (the Light-bearer), Srpuhi (the Holy One) and Diruhi (The Lady, as in the feminine of Lord). These names were names attributed to St. Mary. No other saint is revered as much as St. Mary by Armenians, and the fact that in one family, four daughters are named after the blessed Mother is a testament to the respect and devotion she has had among the people.

St. Mary is referred to as the Asdvadzadzin which means the bearer of God, referring to her unique position of giving birth to Jesus, the Son of God. While the traditional churches celebrate the Assumption of St. Mary, only the Armenian Church has the unique tradition of the blessings grapes on that day.

My grandmother would recall how the first-fruits, the best fruits, were taken to the church on that day for a special blessing. The offering of the fruits was a gesture of thanksgiving, thanking God for the blessings He has bestowed upon the people, the temperance of weather, the fertility of the soil and the abundance of sunshine which yield the grapes. In fact, she would add that the townspeople would not eat the fruit of the vine until they were blessed on this day.

One of the reasons given for the connection between St. Mary and the grapes is that grapes can be propagated without seed, alluding to the virgin birth. But the best reason comes from Christ himself who sets up this analogy, “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.  Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.” (John 15:1-4)

As always, Christ’s metaphors are simple and to the point. In this case the metaphor points to productivity. It is impossible to bear fruit without being connected to the vine. The life of a Christian is completely dependent on an unfaltering connection to Christ himself. Jesus presents the picture of the vine, the branches, and the fruit. And the operative is God the Father who prunes the branches. Just as the soil, weather and sunlight are necessary for delicious and juicy grapes, so too, our connection to Jesus the Vine is necessary for our lives to be flavorful and beautiful.

The grape blessing service is a call to productivity. God gives us a world and we are the stewards of this beautiful life. Armodoxy attests that Christianity is not an escape from this world to another, but the importance being the agents that make Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Let us pray. This is from the grape blessing prayer that is offered on the feast of Assumption,  Bless, O Lord, the grapes. May we enjoy that which You have created in this world and grant that we may be worthy to eat and drink with You from the bounty of Your most fruitful vine at the table of Your Father’s Kingdom, according to the just promise which You made, to the honor and glory of Your coexisting Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the most Holy Spirit to whom is due glory, power, and honor, now and forever. Amen.

And it doesn’t end here…

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