In The Tree of Life, St. Bonaventure meditatively traces the mystery that is the life of Jesus as it appears in the New Testament. This Franciscan – a scholar-peer to Thomas Aquinas at the University of Paris, religious superior/minister general who dealt with often arguing brothers in Christ, and mystic (perhaps in self defense!) – in this text enters the events of Jesus’ life with a poetic imagination. He brings his readers along for the journey, rich in sensory images.
[Some might say such imaginative reflection is Ignatian… ah! As Ewert Cousins notes in the foreword of the Classics of Western Spirituality volume on Bonaventure: “Bonaventure’s The Tree of Life is in many respects a forerunner of Ignatian meditation, in both its subject matter and its techniques.” As often happens, the saints inform one another – whether or not they are aware. The Spirit blows where she wills!]
So, if you want in 2014 to enter into the life of the Gospel Jesus more fully through meditation that opens to contemplation, The Tree of Life might be something you might consider reading slowly. In almost every reflection on the life of Jesus, there are inserted prayers or pleas or imperatives to the reader. Today, I offer you a taste of portions of the text as it reflects on the Epiphany and Presentation of Jesus in the temple.
Jesus Shown to the Magi
When the Lord was born in Bethlehem of Judah, a star appeared to the Magi in the east and with its brightness showed them the way to the home of the humble King.
Do not now turn away
from the brilliance of that star in the east
which guides you.
Become a companion of the holy kings….
With gold, frankincense and myrrh,
venerate Christ the King
as true God and man.
Together with the first fruits of the Gentiles to be called to faith,
adore, confess and praise
this humble God
lying in a manger.
And thus, warned in a dream
not to follow Herod’s pride,
you will return to your country
in the footsteps
of the humble Christ.
Jesus Submissive to the Law
It was not enough for the teacher of perfect humility, who was equal to the Father in all things, to submit himself to the humble Virgin. He must submit himself also to the Law…. presented to God in the temple and that an offering should be given for him in the presence o the just who were rejoicing.
with that blessed old man and the aged Anna;
to meet the mother and Child.
Let love overcome your bashfulness;
let affection dispel your fear.
Receive the Infant
in your arms
and say with the bride:
I took hold of him
and would not let him go.
(Song of Songs 3:4)
Dance with the holy old man
and sing with him…
– Excerpts from The Tree of Life, 6/7
Listed below are the words/phrases that catch at my heart as I type and listen today. Which ones catch at yours?
do not now turn away
become a companion of the holy kings
return to your country in the footsteps of the humble Christ
let love overcome
would not let him go