The Tree of the Crucified Life of Jesus Book Five (Excerpts) - 144 

thought by proposing that "he (John) beheld the fraternity of [Francis's] sons, who were perfect imitators of Christ, in all the verses he was writing about the sixth opening in the Apocalypse." The mission of the fraternity, in other words, is charged with the same mission as that of the angel of the sixth seal.

From his biblical perspective, moreover, Ubertino compares Francis in new ways to Jehoash, the young king who repaired the temple (2Kgs 12:1-12), the grain of mustard seed (Mt 13:32), Paul, the least of the saints (Eph 3:8-9), and, more extensively, Benjamin (Gn 42-46). Ubertino also places the Old Testament figures of Henoch and Elijah together and sees them prefiguring Dominic and Francis. But it is the image of Benjamin, more than the others, that provides insight into Ubertino's biblical images:

Benjamin, in his birth, killed his mother; Francis, born in the midst of the fifth age, in the fullness of his birth through his reformed Rule killed its self-indulgence. Benjamin, in his sojourn, dwelt with his father in the land of Canaan, and (Gn 44:30) his father's life depended upon his life; Francis fully observed always, by the will of the eternal Father in heaven, a life of fervent Christ-like love, and what pleased the will of the Father was his adornment and repose. Benjamin was received by his brother Joseph, who revealed his news to his brothers at his arrival. Now it is said there that he made Benjamin's portion exceed by five portions that of the other brothers, and he gave him five fine robes, and afterwards he could not restrain himself when he said to the brothers in Benjamin's presence, (Gn 45:4) "I am your brother Joseph, whom you sold." Then the cup of the wise Joseph was secretly placed in Benjamin's sack, and he had him brought back first as a thief.13

This is a much different image of the biblical patriarch. Unlike the earlier medieval tradition, Ubertino does not highlight Benjamin as the contemplative but as the purifier, the herald of Joseph, and, eventually, the one betrayed.

The Tree of the Crucified Life of Jesus is a pivotal text among all the portraits of Francis, one whose importance cannot be underestimated. In the Fifth Book, Ubertino cleverly builds on his interpretation of history by placing the Founder, Francis, in the role of a prophet with a mission to save the world and the Church in a time of crisis. While this may be justified, Ubertino's re-casting of Francis as a "new Christ," a reformer of the Church, and as one rejected by his own, furthered the divisions already infecting the Lesser Brothers. When it is read with an awareness that the lost scrolls of what Francis's companions had sent to Crescentius had not yet been discovered,14 the Tree's influence on the Assisi Compilation, the Sabatier edition of the Mirror of Perfection, and Angelo Clareno's Chronicle of the Seven Tribulations is evident. References to The Tree appear in Dante's Eleventh Canto in the Divine Comedy's "Paradise."15




Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 3, p. 144