THE INFANCY NARRATIVE IN PSEUDO-BONAVENTURE'S "MEDITATIONES VITAE CHRISTI": A STUDY IN MEDIEVAL FRANCISCAN CHRIST-PIETY (C. 1300)

JAIME R VIDAL, Fordham University

Abstract

This dissertation studies the Infancy Narrative in Pseudo-Bonaventure's Meditationes Vitae Christi as an example of the Christ-Piety of the Franciscan school directed, not to the higher levels of the medieval intellectual world, but to the average medieval Christian. Because of this, and because of its gifted use of the imaginative method of meditation--in whose development it has been a seminal factor--this work acquired a great popularity, and has been a major influence on both Western iconography and Western devotion to this day. Thus, while the Meditationes Vitae Christi is not a great or profound work of theology or spirituality, its study will help us to understand the piety of the average Western Christian of the later medieval and modern periods better than the study of greater but less popular works.^ The Infancy Narrative was chosen as the focus of the dissertation in order to keep it within a reasonable length, and also because the image of Christ as a child, and especially as an infant, brings out clearly the basic difficulty of imagining the Jesus of orthodox Christology, who is at the same time the all-knowing Logos of the Father and "a man like us in all things but sin."^ This image is studied by analyzing each chapter of the Infancy Narrative of the Meditationes individually, and then synthesizing the total image which emerges from them, with its strengths and weaknesses. Its primary strengths are its imaginative vividness, and the author's skill in evoking the reader's imaginative response. Its basic flaws are first, an understanding of the humanity of Christ which does not make sufficient allowance for the mental and emotional (as opposed to physical) limitations of the human condition, and second, a superficial working concept of the Godhead, which loses sight of God's radical "Otherness."^ Pseudo-Bonaventure's image of Christ as child is compared at all relevant points with the theological statements found in the genuine works of Bonaventure, as well as in the Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas, and this shows the Chirst of the Meditationes to be in fact a popularized and imaginative picture of the Jesus of thirteenth century Christology. Pseudo-Bonaventure shares the first of his basic flaws with the great theologians of his age, and his imaginative method and popular presentation only serve to make visible some of the hidden imbalances in the medieval version of Chalcedonian Christology, which are concealed by the theoretical method of his greater contemporaries. ^

Subject Area

Religion, History of

Recommended Citation

JAIME R VIDAL, "THE INFANCY NARRATIVE IN PSEUDO-BONAVENTURE'S "MEDITATIONES VITAE CHRISTI": A STUDY IN MEDIEVAL FRANCISCAN CHRIST-PIETY (C. 1300)" (January 1, 1984). ETD Collection for Fordham University. Paper AAI8506363.
http://fordham.bepress.com/dissertations/AAI8506363

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