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




The vine has to be dug around. One might imagine the trench that is dug to be like a trap, laid by people lying in wait to catch someone, because a man who plans to ensnare someone will often dig a pit for him to fall into. It is of this that the psalmist complains when he says, “They have digged a pit before my face.”

But it is impossible to keep a snare hidden from one who is covered with eyes before and behind, and who sees the past and the future, as if they were always present. Here is an example of such digging. “The brought to the Lord Jesus,” says the evangelist, “an adulterous woman, and they said, Moses in the law commanded that such should be stoned, but what sayest thou?”

The traps thus laid for the true Vine, and dug for our blessed Vine by those malicious husbandmen, were not intended to make it grow, but rather to dry it up. However, their intention was thwarted, and though there was a great deal of digging around, our Vine was still able to distill for us the water of his mercy.

It would take too long to tell of all the traps that those malicious husbandmen prepared for him. They tried to deceive him by every sort of word and deed. But when they saw that the Vine was in no way harmed by this digging, and that they the diggers fell into their own traps, they ceased digging around the Vine, and began to dig through it instead, to the end that it might dry up for ever, as other trees do when thus treated.

So they dug and dug, not only through his hands, but his feet also.[1] And then with the lance of their fury they pierced not only his side, but the very depths of his most sacred heart.

But this sacred heart had already a little time before been pierced with the lance of his love. “Thou hast wounded my heart, my sister, my spouse,” he said; “thou hast wounded my heart.”[2] This heart of thine, most loving Jesus, was wounded by thy spouse, thy sister.

But why did thine enemies have to wound thee again? Why, O enemy, did you do this? If he was already wounded—and the heart of the most dear Jesus was indeed wounded—why did you add a second wound? You cannot be ignorant of the fact that, if the heart receives one wound, it dies entirely, and becomes in a certain way insensible. The first wound alone was the cause of death to the heart of my dearest Lord Jesus. The heart of Jesus my bridegroom had received love’s wound; it also received love’s death.

But how can death come twice? “Love is a strong as death.”[3] It is indeed far stronger than death. The first death was his love for the many, who themselves are dead, and it cannot be expelled from the heart’s house. Such a wound engendered in his heart a love that can never be quenched. If there is a struggle between two equally strong men, one being inside the house and the other outside, what doubt is there but that the man within will prevail? See then the great strength of that love, which, while it occupies the house of the heart, is stabbed to death by the wound of love. This is true, not only of the Lord Jesus, but of his servants also.

And so the heart of Jesus was already a little while before “killed all the day long” for our sake, and “counted as sheep for the slaughter.”[4] Nevertheless, physical death also came to him, and won the day in the temporal realm, though defeated in the eternal.

Once we have reached the heart of our dearest Lord Jesus, we find “it is good to be there,” and we shall not lightly depart. Wherefore it is written, “they that depart from me shall be written in the earth.”[5] But what is said of those that come to thee? “We shall run after thee, . . . we will be glad and rejoice in thee, we will remember thy heart.”[6]

O how good and pleasant a thing it is to dwell in thy heart, O most good Jesus! Thy heart is a goodly treasure; it is a heart that is precious. It was when the field of thy body had been dug that we found it. Who would cast away such a pearl? Nay, rather, I will give all the pearls in my possession for it; I will exchange for it all my thoughts and affections. To gain possession of the heart of the good Jesus, I will direct my whole mind towards it, and he will surely nourish me.

“I will worship towards thy holy temple,” for in it there are holy things for holy people, and the ark of the covenant is there. “I will praise the name of the Lord,” saying with David, “I have found in my heart to pray to my God.”[7] Yes, I have found the heart of my Lord, my King, my brother and my pearl, the heart of my most gracious Jesu! Should I not pray then? Indeed I will; I will boldly say, “His heart is also mine.”

If, or rather because, Christ is my Head, we may ask how it is that what belongs to my head does not belong also to me? Just as the eyes of my physical head belong to me, so is the heart of my spiritual Head mine also. This is much to my advantage. Jesus and I share one heart. Should we be surprised at this, when we read in the Acts that the whole multitude of believers where of “one heart”?

Having discovered, dearest Jesu, your heart and mine to be thus united “I will pray to thee, my God.” Let my prayers enter the sanctuary of thy hearing; yes, draw me wholly unto thy heart. It may be that the tortuous winding of my sins will be an obstacle. Yet because that heart of thine dilates and abounds in a love that passes understanding, and because thou alone canst bring forth cleanness from what is conceived in uncleanness, I beseech thee, whose beauty has no compeer, “to wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.” Having been thus purified, I can approach thee, who art most pure, and I will be found worthy to dwell in thy heart all the days of my life. In this way I shall both see thee and be able to do thy will.

Thy side was pierced that we might be shewn the door by which it can be entered. Thy heart was wounded, that being delivered from all outward distress, we might abide in the Vine. But it was also wounded that we might perceive behind the visible wound the invisible wound of love.

The ardent love always receives a wound of love. Could there be any better way of displaying the ardour of his love than by his allowing, not his body only, but his very heart to be wounded by a spear? In this way the physical wound reveals the spiritual wound, and Scripture in a beautiful way hints at this in the passage quoted above, where the words “thou hast wounded” are repeated twice. Both wounds were on account of his sister and spouse, so in effect the Bridegroom declares plainly, “Because thou hast wounded me with the seal of love, I have also been wounded by the spear of the soldier.” For who would allow his physical heart to be wounded on behalf of his friend, if he had not previously received in his spiritual heart the wound of love? This is why he said, “Thou hast wounded my heart, my sister, my spouse; thou hast wounded my heart.”

But why “sister and spouse”? Would not the relation of sister alone or of the spouse alone have sufficed to demonstrate the loving Bridegroom’s affections? Also, why “spouse” and not “wife”? For both the Church and every faithful soul are continually raising the offspring of good works for Christ.

Let me explain briefly. The love of lovers is usually more ardent while the marriage is still young, than later when in the course of time their love has become more formal. So our Bridegroom, to mark the greatness of his love, which time cannot abate, calls his friend “spouse,” to show that his love abides ever fresh.

But since the love of lovers is normally of a carnal nature, he calls his spouse “sister,” lest we should suspect that there was anything carnal in his love, for however great a love for a sister is, there is nothing carnal in it. This is the reason he says, “Thou hast wounded my heart, my sister and spouse.” It is as if he should say, “Because my love for thee is as great as that of a Bridegroom towards his spouse, and as chaste as that of a brother towards a sister, therefore is my heart wounded for thy sake.”

Who would not love a heart so wounded? Who could forbear to respond to a heart so loving? Who would not embrace a heart so chaste? The lover thus wounded can only accept as true a love that proceeds from one who is herself wounded by love, who can cry, “I am wounded with love.”[8] The loving Bridegroom accepts a return of love from one who says, “Tell my beloved that I languish for love.”[9]

So we who are yet carnal must give back as much love as we can to our Lover. We will embrace our wounded Bridegroom, whose feet and hands, as also his side and heart, have been dug into by those wicked husbandmen. Let us pray that our hearts, still so hard and impenitent, may be found worthy to be bound by the chain of his love, and be wounded by his spear.

1. Cf. Ps 22:17.
2. S. of S. 4:9.
3. S. of S. 8:6.
4. Ps 44:22.
5. Jer 17:13.
6. S. of S. 1:4.
7. Cf. 2 Sam 7:27.
8. S. of S. 2:5 (Septuagint).
9. S. of S. 5:8.


© 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.