Introduction to Legends and Sermons - 499 

genius. The vision of a six-winged Seraph re-enforced his conviction that the crucified Christ was at the very heart of Christian life, the center around which all else revolved.

The six wings of the Seraph, can be rightly understood as signifying the six levels of uplifting illuminations by which, as if by steps or stages, the soul is disposed to pass over to peace through ecstatic transport of Christian wisdom. The road to this peace is through nothing else than a most ardent love of the Crucified, the love of which so transformed Paul into Christ when he (2 Cor 12:2) was carried up to the third heaven that he could say: (Gal 2:20) With Christ I am nailed to the cross. I live, now not I, but Christ lives in me. And this love also so absorbed the soul of Francis that his spirit shone through his flesh the last two years before his death when he carried in his body the sacred marks of the passion.19

Bonaventure then proceeds to articulate his own understanding of the vision. In doing so, however, the figure of Francis becomes that of the Christian soul, the one who enters through the Crucified, who washes in the blood of the Lamb, who becomes inflamed with desire.

The figure of the six wings of the Seraph, therefore, brings to mind the six steps of illumination which begin with creatures and lead up to God, Whom no one rightly enters save through the Crucified. (Jn 10:1) For he who enters not by the door, but climbs up another way, is a thief and a robber (Jn 10:9) But if anyone enter by this door, he shall go in and out and shall find pastures. For this reason Saint John says in the Apocalypse: (Rv 22:14) Blessed are they who wash their robes in the blood of the Lamb, that they may have a right to the tree of life and that by the gates may enter into the city. That is to say, no one can enter by contemplation into the heavenly Jerusalem unless he enters through the blood of the Lamb as through a door. For no one is in any way disposed for divine contemplations that lead to spiritual transports unless, like Daniel he is also (Dn 9:23) a man of desires. Now, such desires are enkindled in us in two ways, to wit, through the outcry of prayer, which makes one sigh (Ps 37:9) from anguish of heart, and through the refulgence of speculationby which the mind most directly and intently turns itself toward the rays of light.20

Those "signs of consummate love," as Bonaventure described the stigmata in his 1255 sermon on Saint Francis, now provided for those who would follow Francis's lead on the path into God. And, as Bonaventure articulated in his final work, The Collations on the Six Days, they provided one of the underlying principles of the Major Legend: the impressed stigmata were expressed signs.21




Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 2, p. 499