The Mystical Vine
A treatise on the Passion of Our Lord

Saint Bonaventure

Translated from the Latin by a Friar of S.S.F.
Edited by Matthew Dallman




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CHAPTER ELEVEN

THE FIFTH LEAF OF THE VINE

The fifth leaf or string is the fifth word uttered by our most loving Jesus from the cross. He said, “I thirst,” and they gave him wine mingled with myrrh and gall to drink.

All our dearest Jesus’ limbs had now received their chastisement except his tongue. So when he thirsted, “a strange wine, whose fruit was turned sour,”[1] have him a sour drink, the purpose of which was not to quench his thirst, but to torment his tongue, since but to taste the drink was torture enough.

But though it is true that these things were done that the Scripture might be fulfilled, I think that this word, “I thirst,” implies something more. In my opinion he said it to commend to us his tremendous love. For a man who is thirsty craves for drink much more ardently than a hungry man does for food. So when in his thirst he manifested to us his desire for something that created so ardent a desire in him, he was in a figure revealing his zealous love for us.

Nonetheless I do also accept his physical thirst as really genuine, for his whole body must have been parched through the outpouring of his sacred blood. As the Psalmist says, he possessed “bones burnt up as a firebrand.”[2] Yet it is difficult to believe that he complained of physical thirst, realizing that he was on the point of death. We prefer to believe that his thirst was really a most burning desire for our salvation.

However, our opinion that the thirst was also physical is strengthened by the fact that, at the beginning of the last our of his passion, as he began to pray, our most gracious Lord Jesus fell on his face and said in his prayer, “My Father, if it be possible, remove this cup from me”; and this he did not once only, nor twice, but three times. The chalice which he was about to drink stood for the passion he was about to suffer. But now that the chalice of his passion had been completely drained, he said, “I thirst.” What did be mean by this? Before thou didst accept the chalice, good Jesus, thou didst ask that the cup should be altogether removed; but now that it has been drained, thou dost still thirst. Thou seemest to me to be a peculiar kind of drinker!

Was that chalice of thine filled with a pleasant tasting wine? Was it not rather full of the wine of compunction and exceeding bitterness? It was, indeed, filled with the bitterest compunction, and it would engender disgust rather than thirst.

But I imagine that it was not for any lack of love for the chalice that thou didst pray for its removal before the passion, since it was in order to suffer the passion that thou didst come. Apart from it the human race could not have been brought to its salvation. No, the request was made lest anyone should think that thou, though true man, didst not experience the full bitterness of the passion because of thy unity with God. These words, asking for the removal of the chalice, uttered not twice but thrice, reveal to such a doubter the great bitternewss of thy passion.

But this thou didst also prescribe to us, who follow in the footsteps of thy doctrine and example, that, when in imminent danger, or whenever it might pertain to our advantage, we can and ought to pray frequently that the Lord might see fit to turn away from us the scourge of his wrath. Nonetheless, even though it should not be removed, we should rejoice in the example of thy suffering, and bear ours perseveringly in all patience and courage.

Before the passion thou didst ask for the chalice to be removed, but now in think exhaustion thou sayest, “I thirst,” thus commending thy great love to us. It was as if thou hadst said, “Although on account of the sensitiveness of my humanity I sought to refuse the suffering because it was so great, my love for you, O man, overcame me. It surmounted the agony of the cross to such an extent that I was prepared, if necessary, to submit not only to the agony of the cross, but even to a suffering of a greater kind. For there is nothing I would refuse to suffer for you, since it was for your sake that I laid down my life.”

1. Jer 2:21 (Septuagint)
2. Ps 102:3.


Forward to CHAPTER TWELVE


© Akenside Press and Matthew C. Dallman, 2016. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publisher, Akenside Press.