“The vine and the branches” – The Salesian Biblical Icon of the GC27 (2014-2020) by Fr. Pascual Chavez
In the icon what draws our attention is the inter-twining of the branches which represents the trunk of the vine. This is a reference to the image in the Gospel “I am the vine” and indicates the foundation and strength that Jesus Himself is for those called and sent out by Him. The figure of Christ constitutes a single entity with the root of the vine: His kind and pensive face and his twofold gesture of blessing make him similar to the iconography of the Pantocrator. Nevertheless in this context the Lord’s blessing takes on a double ecclesial significance: it indicates both a protective guardianship and a kind of mandate. He who is the Master safely gathers his own together in communion but in order to send them out to proclaim the Kingdom.
Above all this strong link with the Lord is the source of abundant fruit. It is the flourishing life of the Church, and its most visible fruits are the “apostolic college.’ This group is the ‘prototype’ of all the disciples-apostles: just as the Son keeps the Word close to Himself so each individual is shown with the writings attributed to him in the New Testament. The blossoming of the Congregation and the Salesian Family is the same.
It is also worth noticing a certain similarity in iconographic terms between the Twelve and the Master, a similarity which does not ignore the differences and the characteristic physical features distinguishing young, mature and elderly men. In fact the relationship of listening to and obeying Christ shapes the personality of the disciple without altering it: simply by taking on the ‘features’ of the Master the disciple becomes capable of writing with his life the riches of the Gospel.
Finally it should be pointed out that the fruitful relationship of the disciples with Jesus is not one closed in on itself but gives a certain balance to the human community: in the picture an harmonious expansion of the vine can be noticed; this becomes an expression of the service of love we are called upon to offer to the young.