The Tree of the Crucified Life of Jesus Book Five (Excerpts) - 143 

his Legends, Bonaventure may have as well. At this critical period of struggling with the nature of Francis's vision, Ubertino expressed what others sensed: the unedited scrolls were of the utmost importance. Yet one has to wonder if, after The Tree of the Crucified Life of Jesus, it was possible to recapture the simplicity of that mid-thirteenth century vision of Francis's companions. For in its Fifth Book there are new images of Francis of Assisi with emphases adjusted to a new purpose.9

In the first place, Ubertino articulates, as does the Sacred Exchange, a theology of virtue in which poverty is seen as "the perfection and queen of all virtues." Ubertino, however, goes further in teaching that poverty "forms all those who yield to her wishes to the likeness of Jesus." Thus he describes Francis as completely united to Jesus through the practice of poverty: "Francis, emulator of the likeness of Jesus from the outset of his conversion, applied his every effort to seek out holy poverty and to follow her totally, ever eager to observe the likeness of Christ."10 In doing so, Ubertino adds an important new nuance to the vocabulary of the following of Christ, moving from imitation to assimilation and beyond to conformity, a distinction he is careful to articulate:

. . . he was not like the Son in a likeness of equality, such as Lucifer strove for (Is 44:14)—I will make myself like the Most High. His was rather a likeness of conformity; that is a likeness of learner to tutor, of recipient to adviser, of subject to commander, of imitator to exemplar. This properly occurs when our will is in conformity with the divine will, in the willer's motive, in the manner of willing, and in the end intended.11

Ubertino, in other words, sees the goal of poverty as bringing its practitioners into conformity with Christ. Cloaked in a subterfuge of biblical allusions and entwined in a sense of ecclesial mission, the pursuit of poverty becomes uppermost in Ubertino's mind.

From this perspective, Ubertino describes Francis as the "principal reformer" of the fifth age and, in the sixth age, establishing "a reformation of the life of Christ." The vocabulary of renewal and reform, already present in Thomas of Celano's Life of Saint Francis, is expressed more forcibly and, because of his perfect likeness to and conformity with Christ, Francis is portrayed as initiating a "new beginning of the Church." Ubertino clearly follows the apocalyptic thought of his mentor, Peter of John Olivi who also wrote of the renewal brought about by Francis. But the language of The Tree is the more provocative and inflammatory vocabulary later used by the Protestant reformers in separating from the Church of Rome.

The image of Francis as the apocalyptic angel of the sixth seal had appeared in Bonaventure's Major Legend,12 but Ubertino, recalling a conversation with Peter of John Olivi, maintains that Bonaventure was convinced that "John the Evangelist actually had Francis, his form of life, and his Order in mind." From his Joachimist perspective, however, Ubertino furthers Bonaventure's




Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 3, p. 143