Saint Francis knew that God loved him – that he loves all of us. In joy and gratitude, Francis embraced the cross. Through prayer, the Spirit of God breathed within him, drawing him into the circle of love between the Father and the Son. He danced with the Trinity.
From Bonaventure’s Letter to Poor Clares
Indeed, no sorrow was ever comparable to Yours, O Lord Jesus Christ! Your blood was shed so abundantly that Your whole Body was soaked with it. Not a drop, O good Jesus, most sweet Lord! but a welling stream of blood sprang from the five parts of Your Body: the hands and feet in the crucifixion, the head in the crowning of thorns, the whole body in the flagellation, and the heart in the opening of Your side. Not an ounce of blood could have possibly remained in your veins. Tell me, I beg You, most beloved Lord: why did You let Your blood pour forth in a river when a single drop would have sufficed for the redemption of the world? I know, Lord, I know in all truth that You did this for no other reason than to show the depth of Your love for me!
Source: On the Perfection of Life by Bonaventure.
Jesus is Nailed to the Cross
See, now, my soul,
how he who is God blessed above all things,
is totally submerged
in the waters of suffering
from the sole of the foot to the top of the head.
In order that he might draw you out totally
from these sufferings,
the waters have come up to his soul.
For crowned with thorns
he was ordered to bend his back
under the burden of the cross
and to bear his own ignominy.
Led to the place of execution,
he was stripped of his garments
so that he seemed to be a leper
from the bruises and cuts in his flesh
that were visible over his back and sides
from the blows of the scourges.
And then transfixed
he appeared to you as your beloved
cut through with wound upon wound
in order to heal you.
Who will grant me
that my request should come about
tnat that God will give me
what I long for,
that having been totally transpierced
in both mind and flesh,
I may be fixed
with my beloved
in the yoke of the cross?
Source: The Tree of Life by Bonaventure.
The Cross, Suffering and Death
The Wedding between God and Humanity
Christ on the cross bows his head waiting for you, that he may kiss you, His arms outstretched, that he may embrace you, his hands are open, that he may enrich you, his body spread out, that he may give himself totally, his feet are nailed, that he may stay there, his side is open for you, that he may let you enter there.
Source: Soliloquy by Bonaventure
Tell us, Francis, tell us,
What saw you upon the cross?
Son of the living God by birth,
Crucified for love of all here on earth.
(Attributed to Thomas of Celano.)
Bonaventure tries to explain the mystical union of Francis with the Crucified through the category of a paschal experience. The point of arrival of the long journey of the soul in search for God is found in this transforming experience of Francis, which Bonaventure himself experienced and proposes to his readers: “Whoever turns his face fully to the Mercy Seat and with faith, hope and love, devotion, admiration, exultation, appreciation, praise and joy beholds him hanging upon the cross, such a one makes the Pasch, that is, the passover, with Christ. By the staff of the cross he passes over the Red Sea, going from Egypt into the desert, where he will taste the hidden manna; and with Christ he rests in the tomb, as if dead to the outer world, but experiencing, as far as is possible in this wayfarer’s state, what is said on the cross to the thief who adhered to Christ: ‘Today you shall be with me in paradise.’”
From Francis of Assisi and Bonaventure’s Theology of the Cross by Noel Muscat OFM. Click to read: Cross_in_Bonaventure
From the Testament of Saint Francis
And God inspired me with such faith in his churches that I used to pray with all simplicity, saying, “We adore you, Lord Jesus Christ, here and in all your churches in the whole world, and we bless you, because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.”
Source: Francis of Assisi by Andre Vauchez, page 30.
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Concerning the vision of the man in the likeness of a crucified seraph.
Two years before Francis gave his soul back to heaven, while he was staying in a hermitage called “Alverna” after the place where it was located, he saw in a vision from God a man with six wings like a seraph, standing above him with hands extended and feet together, affixed to a cross. Two wings were raised over his head, two were extended in flight, and two hid his entire body.
When the blessed servant of God saw these things he was filled with wonder, but he did not know what the vision meant. He rejoiced greatly in the benign and gracious expression with which he saw himself regarded by the seraph, whose beauty was indescribable; yet he was alarmed by the fact that the seraph was affixed to the cross and was suffering terribly. Thus Francis rose, one might say, sad and happy, joy and grief alternating in him. He wondered anxiously what this vision could mean, and his soul was uneasy as it searched for understanding. And as his understanding sought in vain for an explanation and his heart was filled with perplexity at the great novelty of this vision, the marks of nails began to appear in his hands and feet, just as he had seen them slightly earlier in the crucified man above him.
His hands and feet seemed to be pierced by nails, with the heads of the nails appearing in the palms of his hands and on the upper sides of his feet, the points appearing on the other side. The marks were round on the palm of each hand but elongated on the other side, and small pieces of flesh jutting out from the rest took on the appearance of the nail-ends, bent and driven back. In the same way the marks of nails were impressed on his feet and projected beyond the rest of the flesh. Moreover, his right side had a large wound as if it had been pierced with a spear, and it often bled so that his tunic and trousers were soaked with his sacred blood.
Alas, how few were worthy of viewing the wound in the side of this crucified servant of the crucified Lord I How fortunate was Elias, who was worthy of seeing it while the holy man lived, but no less fortunate was Rufinus, who touched the wound with his own hands. For once, when the aforesaid brother Rufinus put his hand on the holy man’s chest in order to rub him, his hand fell to his right side, as often occurs, and he happened to touch that precious wound. The holy man of God suffered great anguish from that touch and, pushing the hand away, he cried out to the Lord to forgive him. He carefully hid the wound from outsiders and cautiously concealed it from those near him, so that even his most devoted followers and those who were constantly at his side knew nothing of it for a long time. And although the servant and friend of the most high saw himself adorned with many costly pearls as if with precious gems, and marvelously decked out beyond the glory and honor of other men, he did not become vain or seek to please anyone through desire for personal glory, but, lest human favor should steal away the grace given to him, he attempted to hide it in every way possible.
The Sacred Stigmata of Saint Francis of Assisi
Feast: September 17
Early in August, 1224, Francis retired with three companions to “that rugged rock ‘twixt Tiber and Arno”, as Dante called La Verna, there to keep a forty days fast in preparation for Michaelmas. During this retreat the sufferings of Christ became more than ever the burden of his meditations; into few souls, perhaps, had the full meaning of the Passion so deeply entered. It was on or about the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross (14 September) while praying on the mountainside, that he beheld the marvellous vision of the seraph, as a sequel of which there appeared on his body the visible marks of the five wounds of the Crucified which, says an early writer, had long since been impressed upon his heart. Brother Leo, who was with St. Francis when he received the stigmata, has left us in his note to the saint’s autograph blessing, preserved at Assisi, a clear and simple account of the miracle, which for the rest is better attested than many another historical fact. The saint’s right side is described as bearing on open wound which looked as if made by a lance, while through his hands and feet were black nails of flesh, the points of which were bent backward. After the reception of the stigmata, Francis suffered increasing pains throughout his frail body, already broken by continual mortification. For, condescending as the saint always was to the weaknesses of others, he was ever so unsparing towards himself that at the last he felt constrained to ask pardon of “Brother Ass”, as he called his body, for having treated it so harshly. Worn out, moreover, as Francis now was by eighteen years of unremitting toil, his strength gave way completely, and at times his eyesight so far failed him that he was almost wholly blind.
(Taken from Catholic Encyclopedia; see also the account given in The Minor Legend of Saint Francis by Bonaventure.)