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 FIFTEEN

THE ROSE OF THE VINE

The blossom of the rose on our Vine, the most gracious Jesus, is of a red and glowing strain. It is red with the blood of the passion, and glowing with the fire of charity. It is also bedewed with the tears that our dear Jesus shed.

It was that I might rejoice, and that the angels might rejoice, that our most good Lord Jesus wept and was straitened. As the Apostle says, “In the days of his flesh” he “offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death,” and was “heard for his godly fear.”[1]

Hear, O heart made not of flesh, but of stone! Hear how our great and good Jesus, in the days of his flesh, that flesh which he assumed for me, became drenched in tears, and will your eyes still remain dry? Hear, O hard heart, how we, who cannot ever be moved, is moved to tears on your behalf, and will not even this move you to tears?

Let me add also the fire of charity and the blood of the passion. Perchance they will warn and soften your heart, that at least the tears and blood which our most dear Lord Jesus shed for you may induce you to shed your tears for him.

Yes, and in addition I will take a heavy hammer and strike iron anvils upon you, in the hope of moving you. If you were arid, as a thirsty land, you would easily be softened by the moistening tears of Jesus Christ alone; but if you have become hard as stone by the frost of your many sins, I will have to add stronger instruments. For a hammer I add the cross, and for anvils the iron nails. These I will strike into you that you may be broken and pour forth a healing fountain of tears.

But if you will still not be moved, O hard impenitent heart, you must be harder than that rock in the wilderness, which, after Moses had struck it twice with his rod, released an abundance of water; especially as the hammer of the cross is a stronger tool than the rod of Moses. Those three iron nails, thrice struck in, should be more a powerful and effective means of obtaining water than the double blow of Moses’ rod.

But if you still remain unshaken by what should convert one who clings lovingly to his obstinacy, perhaps you are one of those who can only be softened by the blood of a goat.[2] If this is so, I will fetch you the abundant blood of something similar to a goat. I will bring you the blood of the Lamb without blemish, the blood of the most good Jesus himself.

His blood glows with the ardour of a love without compeer. The strength of his love will entirely reduce and dissolve that adamant wall which stands between man and God, which his enemies have erected, and which has remained firm for so many thousands of years, though hammered by so many precepts and warnings. Neither law nor prophecy could reduce it. But at the approach of a young goat, even our Lamb, the adorable Jesus, it was not only broken down, but utterly destroyed.

But why do you call the Lord Jesus a young goat, which is an unclean animal? It is because he bore that human nature of ours, which is laden with the filth of our sins, though, of course, in him there was found no sin. He is a lamb, too, because of his extraordinary purity. Having no sin in himself, he nevertheless bore the sins of the whole world.

Therefore, O adamant heart, immerse yourself in the abundant blood of that young goat, our Lamb; throw yourself into it, that it may warm your heart, and when it has become warm, let it soften you, and when you have been softened, then let your tears flow as from a fountain.

O most gentle Jesus, I will then search and discover a well of tears in thy tears, in the cross and nails, and finally in thy red blood. I will then search and find out, as far as he himself will allow, the redness of my Beloved’s flesh and soul, which exceeds that of any other bridegroom.[3] For he is red in two ways. He is naturally red in the flesh, as all flesh is red by nature. He is also red with the blood of the passion. Forced by his love for us, his flesh was frequently and abundantly made wet with his blood. He endured so many bloodsheddings in order to make us free. Of these we have spoken before.

But perhaps it may seem that we purposely are dwelling on these things so briefly, lest the reader should be offended. Yet who, except he be wholly carnal and unspiritual, could take offence at that blood? And could anyone who desires to be set free from the flesh,[4] or sins contracted in the flesh, fail to be touched by the healing blood of our most pure Jesus? Would not a man, once inebriated by that most sweet blood, “which God of his goodness has prepared for the poor,”[5] keep on drinking it more and more? Would he not hear and recognize the true voice of God’s wisdom, when he says, “They that eat me shall be yet hungry, and they that drink me shall be yet thirsty”?

It is, I believe, true that human blood is naturally so much sweeter than the blood of other animals, that when some beast or another has once tasted it, it ever after craves for it above all other blood. Spurning all other animals, it lies in wait for human blood, even being ready to perish in procuring it. Think how much more sweet the blood of the Son of Man, true God and true man, the most sweet Jesus, must be. Look how irrational beasts thirst after the blood of man. Should I not then thirst after the blood of the God-man, the blood of the most good Jesus? With beasts, the more they taste of human blood, the more they thirst after it. Shall I then spurn the blood of the most gracious Jesus, who is both God and man? Beasts rush to their death in seeking the sweetness of human blood. Should I not hasten towards life in the blood of my “white and ruddy”[6] Jesus?

Yes, indeed, I will hasten towards it; I will drink of it. “I will buy the wine and milk without price,”[7] which the wisdom of the Father, most high, the most gracious Jesus, has mingled in the bowl of his flesh, that blood which is the ransom of our life.

Come with me, all who love our beloved Jesus, come with me. Buy not that wine and milk with corruptible things like silver and gold, but with the coin of good manners and behaviour. For that most pure blood is the wine that inebriates the full-grown, and the milk that nourishes the babes. If you are a full-grown man, if you are perfectly strong, then the wine for you is the blood of Jesus, the purest blood of the grape; but if you are still weak, and milk is what you need, then let that milk be your nourishment. So I counsel you to take a draught of that most pure blood.

1. Heb 5:7.
2. Cf. Pliny, XX, Histor. Natur., ch. 1 and XXXVII, ch. 15; Jerome, III, Commentary on Amos 7, 7 ff.; Augustine, XXI, City of God, ch. 4.
3. S. of S. 5:9.
4. The Latin for “flesh” here is literally “bloods,” an allusion to Jn 1:13.
5. Ps 68:10 (Septuagint, Vulgate).
6. S. of S. 5:10.
7. Is 15:1.


Forward to CHAPTER SIXTEEN


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