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




We have examined some of the things which belong to the culture of the vine. Now let us turn to our true Vine himself, so that we may more thoroughly and in greater detail contemplate him in some of his aspects.

We find his body to be more disfigured than any other tree or bush. It looks as if it were completely useless and abject, quite incapable of being put to any more service. But what makes us say this? The body of the ordinary vine should resemble that of our heavenly Vine, the Lord Jesus; unless the deformity of his physical form should seem to make the likeness too remote. Somewhere it is written of him, “Thou are fairer than the children of men.”[1] Yet we hear Isaiah saying, “Behold, we saw him, but he had no form or beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected of man; a man of sorrows and acquainted with weakness. He hid as it were his face from us, and was despised, and we esteemed him not . . . yet we thought of him as a leper, smitten of God and brought low.”[2] This is the prophet’s description of him.

Let us now come to the accomplishment of his passion. We might, of course, say that his whole life was both an example to us and a martyrdom. Though the telling will be brief, we should tarry the longer in meditation on the great poverty revealed in his abstinence, the length of his vigils, the frequency of his prayers, the zeal revealed in his work and in the sweat of his face as he went around the villages and towns, “preaching the gospel and healing everywhere.” Think how often he, the “living Bread,” “the fountain of water springing up into eternal life,” suffered hunger and thirst. Let us see him in that forty days fast, at the end of which, we are told, he was hungered. Then let us meet him as he returns from the desert to the haunts of men. This is the way to reflect upon that lovable countenance.

Lastly, as we approach the final conflict, we must not shrink from recording the things that caused his body’s disfigurement. Our consideration of these begins to be “sore amazed and very heavy,” and his soul “exceeding sorrowful under death.” We observe his exhausted limbs, and the bloody sweat which in his agony poured out so profusely that it did not dry, but fell in drops upon the ground.

To proceed, let us pass quickly through the unhappy events of that night, when he was taken captive, bound, dragged, jostled, blindfolded, spat upon, smitten with buffets and blows, crowned with thorns and arrayed in purple, mocked at with feigned worship and genuflection, smitten with a reed, made sport of in a while garment, lacerated with the sharpest scourges, and laden with the cross, which, at first, he had to carry himself, but which soon after was carried for him.

Contemplate Jesus in this situation. What room is there here for a soft way of life? There is apparent here no outward beauty. Who would think to find beauty in the form of this body so desecrated?

But let us go on to the end. Our most loving Lord Jesus was stripped naked. Why? Was it not that we might see the disfigurement of that most pure body? Yes, he, the good Jesus—indeed the all good—was stripped naked.

Alas! He who reigned before all ages and was “apparalled with majesty . . . and with strength”[3] was stripped naked. Thou wast “clothed with honour and majesty, who coverest thyself with light as with a garment.[4] “He was made a spectacle and reproach unto the world . . . and to men,[5] as a “wonder unto many,”[6] and a “shaking of the head among the peoples.”[7] Thou, good Jesus, art our Head, our joy, and our honour!

But why tarry here? He was lifted up on the cross. His hands and feet were pierced. Here was blood drawn, if anywhere. Our Mediator “stood in the breech” before the Father to “turn away his wrath lest he should destroy”[8] us. And though he was was “breached” throughout his whole body, his spirit did not flinch, but stood fast with a steady good will.

Thus do I behold thee, dear Jesus! A dearest and most loving and good Jesus, who alone, as our Saviour, couldest save us from our ancient wounds, who delivered thee over to so bitter a death? Who could so lower thee with the indignity of those wounds so harsh and moreover so degrading?

O good Jesus, thou dearest vine? That vineyard of thine, which thou broughtest out of Egypt, has restored thee this fruit. Until the day of thy nuptials thou “lookest that it should bring forth grapes, but it brought forth thorns.”[9] For it crowned thee with thorns, and set them about thy head. See how sour the vine has turned. It is now nought but a “strange vine.”[10] For it denied thee, declaring with a shout, “We have no king but Caesar.”

Thus wast thou cast out of the vineyard, that is, out of the city or community. It was those sacrilegious husbandmen that killed thee, and it was not done in a moment, but in the long-drawn-out agony of the cross. The torture thou didst endure came not only from the many lashed of the scourges, but also from the nails.

O how many there were that smote thee, good Jesus! Even thy Father was one of them, for, it is said, “He spared not even his own Son,” and thou were that Son. Moreover, he “delivered” thee “up for us all.”[11]

Thou didst smite thyself, for thou didst deliver unto death that life “which no man can take from thee” without thy consent. Again thine own disciple smote thee, by delivering thee up with a kiss. The Jews smote thee with buffets and blows; the Gentiles smote thee with scourges and nails. O how great was thy smiting and thy humiliation! How many there were that smote thee!

How many also were there that delivered thee up! Thy heavenly Father delivered thee, “He delivered thee us for us all.” Yes, and thou didst deliver up thyself. Did not one of thy servants say joyfully of thee, “Who loved me and delivered thyself for me.”[12] “O truly wondrous trafficking.”[13] The Master delivered himself up for the servant, God for man, the Creator for the creature, the Guiltless for the guilty.

Yes, and thou didst deliver thyself into the hands of that false disciple, by who thou wast delivered up. He in turn delivered thee up to the Jews, and the Jews the worst of all thy deliverers, delivered thee up to the Gentiles to be mocked, spat upon, scourged, and crucified.

Thou didst foretell these things, and lo! they came to pass. When all things had been accomplished, behold they crucified thee, “being reckoned among the transgressors.” But they were not content with wounding thee; no, they “added unto the pains of thy wounds,”[14] and gave three myrrhed wine mingled with gall to quench thy thirst.

1. Ps 45:2.
2. Is 53:2-4.
3. Ps 93:1.
4. Ps 104:1.
5. 1 Cor 4:9.
6. Ps 71:7.
7. Ps 44:14.
8. Ps 105:23. There is a play on the words in the Latin here—breach (confractio) and breached (confractus).
9. Is 5:2 (Septuagint).
10. Jer 2:21 (Septuagint).
11. Rom 8:32.
12. Cf. Eph 5:2.
13. Antiphon for first Vespers and Lauds on Feast of Circumcision.
14. Ps 69:27 (Vulgate, Septuagint).

Forward to CHAPTER SIX

© 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.