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 TWENTY-FOUR

AN EXHORTATION TO THE CONTEMPLATION OF THE PASSION AND CHARITY OF CHRIST

Now then, my soul, gather your strength. You weak and miserable thing, arise, and with the wings of faith and hope mount up to the garden of charity. The mind tends to range over many subjects, so draw together the whole attention of your thought into one. To obtain the honey of devotion, copy of the method of the little bee. Ascend, ascend, I say, to the paradise of charity, to the “depth of your heart,”[1] for, behold, he whom you seek is exalted.

But fear not, for, “being exalted, he was also humbled.”[2] It was not that he might appear difficult of approach to those who desire to come to him, that he was lifted up on the cross, but rather that all might find him the more easily. Approach this Paradise, then, with faith, that you may know, from the stretching out of his arms, the affection in which he holds you, and that you may experience his embrace when he invites himself to your house, and you to his.

“Return, return, O Shulamite; return, return, that we may look upon thee.”[3] Return from your malice, from your evil deeds, from your obstinacy and your despair; return to me, for you have been turned away from me. We would look upon you with the same gracious aspect with which we looked upon the woman who was a sinner and the robber on the cross.

Read, the, to me that “book of life which is written within and on the back,”[4] and understand what you are reading. Gather to yourself those flowers of mine, that you may enter that Paradise, outside of which stands the Cherubim with the sword of flame. You can learn from me fully the knowledge that will avail to remove that obstacle of the Cherubim. Moreover, these sanguinary flowers will extinguish the flame of that sword that turns all ways.

Therefore, O soul, meditate with affection on all these things, for that is the only possible way by which you can enter that Paradise which is better than all paradises. Later you will become worthy enough to enter it in body as well as in soul.

Nor should you curtail your embrace of this Paradise, but you should like a bee fly into each flower and lick each petal. As the streams of his blood are sprinkled now on his right hand, and now on his left, he draws closer to us, and our approach to him becomes more intimate. Everywhere we may cull devotion, and the grace of a tearful compunction. From either side we may ponder the rough way in which those nails were driven in, the sensitiveness of his nerves, and how painful must have been the rupture of the bones in his hands, those hands that made heaven and earth.

See how he has wrought “salvation in the midst of the earth.”[5] You should often meditate on these things. “Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation”[6] in the manner of the little bee, who while flying makes a continual buzz and is only silent when he enters a flower, where he gathers and sucks the sweet honey for which he has longed so much. Oh, how happy will you be if, after you have entered these sanguinary flowers, the wounds of Christ, which belong to our garden so blooming, a garden sweeter than all other, you are found worthy of a complete release from the din of this world and from all bouts of temptation, and be free to attend to Jesus alone.

Then when you have come to him, you will “taste and see how gracious the Lord is.”[7] In the same way you must also look upon his feet, for there was just as much blood on them, and as much pain in them as in his hands. They, too, were pierced and perforated; they, too, were dripping and besprinkled with sanguinary streams and drops of blood.

Finally, through the door of his lanced side, we enter that humblest of all hearts, the heart of Jesus the most high. Here without any doubt lies that ineffable treasure, the love for which we have ever longed. There, too, we shall find that devotion whence the grace of tears is drawn, and from which we may learn gentleness and patience in adversity and sympathy with all who are afflicted. In particular we shall find there a humble and contrite heart. So great a love longs for and craves for your heart; such love longs to embrace you.

That head, so full of blossom, pierced with so many pricks, inclines towards you. It offers you the kiss of peace, and say, as it were: “See how transfixed, how pierced, how immolated I am.” I suffer all this that I may place you, my wandering sheep, upon my shoulders, and bring you back to my garden of heavenly pastures. I bid you, in your turn, to yield yourself to me. Allow yourself to be moved with pity at my wounds, and “set me” just as you see me “as a seal upon thy heart, as a seal upon thine arm,”[8] so that my image may be impressed upon you, and that in all the thoughts of your heart and in all the works of your hands you may be found such as you see me to be.

I will have you formed to the image of my deity, in which I created you. It was in order that I might fashion you that I myself was fashioned in the image of your humanity. Do you, then, who failed to preserve the likeness of my deity impressed upon you in your creation, at least preserve that humanity of yours, which was impressed upon me at your re-creation. If you no longer preserve the form in which I created you, preserve at least the form in which I have re-created you. If the virtues I was hoping to bestow upon you are beyond your reach, at least lay hold of the great wretchedness of that humanity that I accepted, when I re-created you, when I refashioned you for participation in delights that are even greater than those I wished to give you at your first creation.

The reason I became visible was in order that you might see me and give me of your love, for I was not loved at all in my Godhead, because I was unseen and invisible. Render me, then, some return for my incarnation and my passion. I became incarnate and endured the passion for you. I gave myself to you; do you give yourself to me?

O most dear and good Jesus, “Father of lights, from whom is every good gift and every perfect boon,”[9] look in pity on all who humbly confess and truly know thee, for without thee we can do nothing.

Do thou, who gavest thyself to us as a ransom, grant that we, unworthy as we are of so great a ransom, may by thy grace be so wholly and perfectly restored that, being conformed to the image of thy passion, we may also, at our Lord’s appearing, be refashioned according to that which we lost through sin, namely to the image of thy deity.

AMEN

1. Ps 64:6 (Vulgate).
2. Ps 88:16 (Vulgate, Septuagint).
3. S. of S. 6:13.
4. Rev 5:1.
5. Ps 74.12.
6. Ps 51.12.
7. Ps 34:8.
8. S. of S. 8:6.
9. Jam 1:17.


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© 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.