Introduction to Legends and Sermons - 501 

of Life. Had Adam not sinned, he maintains, the Book of Creation would have been efficacious in leading human beings to discover the power, wisdom, and goodness of God. Because of sin, that Book had become obscured prompting God to provide the Book of Scripture. In it, a human can discover the triune God and, enlightened by grace, a human can discover the Book of Life and in it the fullness of life.28 Bonaventure's portrait of the "hierachic man" Francis is also that of the individual whom grace teaches to see correctly and to interact with the created world in which he lives.

At the very heart of this vision is the cross. As in all his other writings, Bonaventure places the mystery of the crucified Christ at the very center of his understanding. After the manner of John the Evangelist, he accentuates six manifestations or signs pointing to a seventh, that is, six apparitions of the cross, all of which are in the first four chapters, pointing to the reception of the stigmata in the thirteenth. Then, in Chapter Nine, at the very heart of the nine chapters treating the virtues of Francis, Bonaventure describes the saint's burning desire to be identified with Christ crucified. The evening sermon that he preached on October 4, 1262, while he was writing The Major Legend, focuses on Matthew 24:30: Then will appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven. Reading that sermon now, it is obvious that it was a key to Bonaventure's portrait of Francis. His reception of the stigmata was not only the supreme moment of contemplative ecstasy, it was the vindication of his entire life. "The cross of Christ is the sign of God's perfect works and of all his wonderful deeds," Bonaventure reminds his brothers in Paris. "And because Saint Francis can be likened to the heavens in all he did, we should expect to find the cross imprinted on him, so that by this sign he would be raised on high."29

While it is important to understand the overall structure of Bonaventure's portrait of Francis, the Major Legend, each chapter has a structure of its own. In some of these, the theology of the Parisian master is more obvious than in others. Linear in some, it is concentric in others. Chapter Six, for example, begins describing the foundations of Francis's humility before God and continues with its exercise before his brothers, especially in the practice of obedience. The second half of the chapter is dedicated to God's response to this practice of virtue, providing by way of examples a balanced picture of the pursuit of virtue. Chapter Eight, on the other hand, describes Francis's practice of piety through a pattern of concentric circles in which his devotion to God after the example of Christ is at its very heart. Bonaventure then continues with the saint's relations with his brothers, his fellow human beings, especially with the poor and the sick, and proceeds to his relations with animals. In each instance, Bonaventure respectfully uses the texts of Thomas of Celano and Julian of Speyer to craft his image of Saint Francis.

As he describes Francis's life in visible detail, Bonaventure underscores the invisible strokes of God's grace. The result is a remarkable piece of literature, written in much the same way as the artisans and craftsmen of those recently built Gothic structures that surrounded his Parisian friary.30 To understand the aesthetics of his portrait of Francis, it is as important to comprehend the architectonic lines of his thought as to concentrate on the nuances of his deli-




Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 2, p. 501