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




If a vine is to be of any use, it must be pruned. This also may be taken literally or figuratively.

Our Lord Jesus Christ was, in fact, circumcised, but not because he had any need of circumcision. He endured his suffering in order to give us consolation in ours. He underwent it not because he had any sin himself, but because of our sin. He was wounded not for his own transgressions, but that he might heal our sorrows.

But we may take the pruning of this Vine, our most loving Jesus, in another way. We may say that he was being pruned whenever in his earthly life he was denied anything to which as God-man he was entitled. The apostle seems to suggest this when he says of him, “who, though in the form of God, . . . emptied himself, taking the form of a servant.” This self-emptying was a kind of pruning, for, just as a vine when it is cut is reduced in size, so our Lord Jesus Christ, the true Vine, was made “lower than the angels.”[1] Indeed this humiliation went to the extent of putting him below all men.

How so? His glory was cut by the knife of ignominy, his power by the knife of abasement, his pleasure by the knife of poverty. See the extent of his pruning!

He, ministered to by the whole glory of heaven, indeed the very source of that glory, as it were spurned it, and allowed himself to be clothed in servile garments, to suffer dishonour, to be covered with shame; and all this to redeem us from our shame, and to restore us to our original glory.

He, to whose powerful decrees the infernal, the terrestrial, and the heavenly places are subject, became so abased that he was accounted the lowest of men. He was subject to hunger and thirst, to heat and cold, to physical weakness, and finally to the penalty of death itself.

He, who dwells in light unapproachable, upon whom the angels desire to look, whose very savour so inebriates the saints that they pursue him with the utmost vigour, unmindful either of the things around them or even of themselves, he, I say, was subject to such pain that there was fulfilled that which he had already said through the prophet, “All ye that pass by the way, turn and see if there is any sorrow like unto my sorrow.”

He, in whom all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden, who is alone rich in all things and lacking in nothing, became, according to his own witness, so poor that he was found to be poor than the foxes in the earth, or the birds in the air. “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man hath not where to lay his head.”

He was poor indeed in his birth, but poorest of all when hanging on the cross. When he was born, the only food he had was the milk of his virgin mother, and rough garments were his only covering. Though he had sufficient to clothe him during his life, he often went short of food. In this death, however, he was both naked and parched with thirst—unless you prefer to imagine that the vinegar, mixed with myrrh and gall, served to slake his thirst.

At last the knife of fear cut away all his friends and family from him, so that among his lovers he had none to comfort him.[2] He trod “the winepress alone, and of the peoples there were no man with” him,[3] and “his heart endured reproach;” he “looked for someone to be sorrowful with him but there was none,” neither found he “any to comfort him.”[4] See now the extent to which our Vine, the most kind Jesus, was pruned! What other vine ever had such a pruning? But though this unparalleled pruning was so thorough, the compensation came in the fruit-bearing.

1. Heb 2:7.
2. Cf. Lam 1:2.
3. Is 63.3.
4. Ps 69:20.


© 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.