THE "LIGNUM VITAE" OF SAINT BONAVENTURE AND THE MEDIEVAL DEVOTIONAL TRADITION (SPIRITUALITY, FRANCISCANS)

PATRICK FRANCIS O'CONNELL, Fordham University

Abstract

The Lignum vitae of St. Bonaventure (1217-74) is the earliest and certainly among the finest literary expressions of Franciscan devotion to the humanity of Christ. The purpose of this dissertation is to demonstrate that Bonaventure's short treatise is intended not simply to develop the affective and moral dimensions of the Christian personality but to lead the reader to a participation in the Pascal mystery of death and resurrection and so into a contemplative union with God in Christ. The approach taken is first to situate Bonaventure's work in the tradition of medieval devotion, then to consider Bonaventure's sources for the Lignum vitae, and finally to present a literary and theological analysis of the Lignum vitae itself.^ Part One surveys the development of devotion to the humanity of Christ. After a brief look at the Patristic period, special attention is given to the medieval masters of this spirituality, including Peter Damien, Anselm and Bernard. The rise of the meditatio as a distinct literary genre in the twelfth century is considered next. Finally the role of Francis of Assisi as a living icon of this devotion is examined.^ Part Two focuses on the use which Bonaventure made of two earlier meditations on the life of Christ, that included in the De institutione inclusarum of Aelred of Rievaulx and the Stimulus dilectionis of Eckbert of Schonau. The structure and theme of each of these works are considered, as well as the specific ways in which Bonaventure incorporated material from these meditations into his own treatise. The concept of "meditative appropriation" is proposed as an explanation of the relationship between these sources and the new work.^ Part Three presents a critical reading of the Lignum vitae, which includes a Prologue, introducing the Tree of Life as an organizing symbol, and three major sections, each consisting of sixteen meditations, on Christ's birth and public life, his passion and death, and his resurrection and glorification. Close attention is given both to the structure of individual meditations and to their place in the overall development of the treatise. An analysis is made of the ways in which affective and moral aspects of the work are oriented toward a contemplative end. ^

Subject Area

Theology

Recommended Citation

PATRICK FRANCIS O'CONNELL, "THE "LIGNUM VITAE" OF SAINT BONAVENTURE AND THE MEDIEVAL DEVOTIONAL TRADITION (SPIRITUALITY, FRANCISCANS)" (January 1, 1985). ETD Collection for Fordham University. Paper AAI8521412.
http://fordham.bepress.com/dissertations/AAI8521412

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