The fig tree
[Lk. 13:6.]  Saint Ambrose: “Let us seek some secret of a deeper understanding. The
fig tree is in the vineyard of the Lord of Hosts, which He gave for the plunder of the
nations. Thus, He Who caused His vineyard to be plundered, also here commands the
fig tree to be cut out, so that the comparison of that tree with the Synagogue is fitting
[Is. 5:7], because just as that tree, abounding in perishable leaves, defrauded its
owner’s hope, through his vain expectation of a longed for crop, so also in the
Synagogue, while its teachers, barren in works, nevertheless glory in words, as if
profuse foliage, the empty shadow of the law swells.” [Ib., Bk. VII, § 161.]

[Lk. 13:7a.]  Saint Kyril: “Who is the vinedresser? One would not be amiss in affirming
that it is the angel who was appointed by God as the guardian of the Synagogue of the
Jews....But if someone should say that the vinedresser is the Son, this also has a
reason on its side. For, ‘We have a Paraclete (an Advocate) with the Father,...He
Himself is the expiation for our sins [1 Jn. 2:1, 2].’ He is the Husbandman of our souls,
Who prunes away constantly whatever is to our hurt, and fills us with rational and holy
seeds....He Himself also says, ‘I am the true vine, ye are the branches, and My Father
is the vinedresser [Jn. 15:1, 5].’” [Ib., 389.]

[Lk. 13:7b.]  Saint Ambrose: “He came to Abraham, He came to Moses, He came to
Mary, that is, He came in the sign of the circumcision, He came in the Law, He came in
the body. We recognize His coming from His miracles: firstly, purification; secondly,
sanctification; thirdly, justification. Circumcision purified, the law sanctified, grace
justified. One in all and all one [cf. Jn. 17:21]....The people of the Jews could not be
purified, because they had circumcision of the body, but not of the spirit; nor
sanctified, because they who pursued the carnal rather than the spiritual were ignorant
of the virtue of the law; nor justified, because they did not repent of their
transgression and, therefore, knew not grace.” [Ib., Bk. VII, § 166.]
Saint Kyril: “I think the three years are signified by those three periods during which
the Jewish Synagogue bore no fruit: The first was that in which Moses and Aaron and
his sons lived. They held the office of the priesthood, serving God, according to the
law. The second period was that of Jesus of Navee, and the judges who succeeded
him. The third period is that in which the blessed prophets flourished, down to the
time of John the Baptist.” [Hom. 96, Commentary, Ch. 13, 388.]

[Lk. 13:7c.]  Saint Gregory the Great: “Each of you, in his own way, inasmuch as he
has a place in this present life, takes up the ground like a barren tree, if he does not
produce the fruit of good works....A person who troubles the hearts of others is taking
up the ground; a person who does not use the place he holds for good works is taking
up the ground. But it is our duty to make intercession for people like this.” [Hom. 31,
Forty Gospel Homilies, 251; Hom. 31, P.L. 76 (col. 1228).]

[Lk. 13:8.]  Saint Kyril: “This fourth year, this time subsequent to those former
periods, is that in which the only-begotten Logos of God became Man. He stirred up by
spiritual exhortations the Israelites, who had withered in sin. He was like some
husbandman who dug around them and warmed them. Yet it was still a barren fig tree,
and continued to be so. It was cut out. In its stead there sprung up, as a fertile plant,
the Church of the nations, beautiful, fruit-bearing, deep-rooted, and incapable of being
shaken.” [Ib., 389, 390.]
Saint Gregory the Great: “What does it mean to dig around the fig tree except to
reprove those whose hearts are fruitless? Every ditch leads downwards. When a rebuke
reveals a heart to itself it humbles it. What is a measure of dung, but the memory of
one’s sins? A measure of dung is applied to the root of a tree when the memory is
touched by an awareness of its own depravity, when a heart rouses itself to weeping
through repentance, when it renews the gift of good works....The tree returns to a
fruitful state as a result of the stench, since the mind revives itself for good works by
reflecting on its sins. Now there are many who listen to reproofs but refuse to come to
repentance. They are green but they stand barren before God in this world. A person
who refuses to grow fertile and fruitful in this life through being reproved will fall in
the next, where he will no longer be able to rise again through repentance.” [Ib., 252.]

[Lk. 13:9.]  “Cut it out” (e[kkoyon aujthvn). Saint Kyril: “Let the place of the barren fig
tree be laid bare; for then there will come up or may be planted there some other tree.
And this was done; for the multitude of the nations was summoned into its room, and
took possession of the inheritance of the Israelites. It became the people of God, the
plant of Paradise.” [Ib., 388].
Saint Ambrose: “The good vinedresser...piously intervenes, lest it be cut out, trusting
in his calling that the people of the Jews can also be saved through the Church....He
promises that the hardness of the hearts of the Jews would be dug with the mattocks
of the apostles....Thus through the exercise of spiritual understanding and the
disposition of humility that good vinedresser thinks that even the Jews will be fruitful
for the Gospel of Christ. For he recalled that the Lord spoke through Aggæos (Haggai),
saying, ‘The vine, and the fig tree, and the pomegranate, and the olive trees that bear
no fruit, from this day will I bless [Hag. 2:20(19)].’...If they were to perish to this
world, so as to be reborn to the inner man through the grace of Baptism, they would
assuredly be fruitful....Now we know that very many of the  Jews have believed and
will believe. But he who believes is no longer the fruit of the Synagogue, but of the
Church...But the unbelief of stubborn men rendered the Synagogue useless. Therefore
it is ordered to be cut out as useless.” [Ib., Bk. VII, § 169, 172.]
The fig tree