Friday, March 05, 2010

A Present from Passignano

The original Badia (Abbey) at Passignano (see below) was built in central Chianti near Panzano by Sichelmo in 890, in the shadow of the powerful Lombard castle of Passignano (whose central tower is still there).

Abbazia di San Michele Arcangelo a Passignano, Tavernelle Val di Pesa

The Abbey, reformed in 1049 as a consequence of the Vallombrosan monastic reforms, takes the form of a quadrangular fortified monastic complex with corner towers.

Towards the middle of the 15th Century the convent was augmented by the addition of cloisters and a wall.

Saint John Gualbert, also known as Giovanni Gualberto or John Gualberto (985 or 995 - 12 July 1073) was the founder of the Vallumbrosan Order.

One Good Friday he was entering Florence accompanied by armed followers, when in a narrow lane he came upon a man who had killed his brother.

He was about to kill the man in revenge, when the other fell upon his knees with arms outstretched in the form of a cross and begged for mercy in the name of Christ, who had been crucified on that day. John forgave him.

Giovanni Butteri (ca. 1540- ca. 1606)
San Giovanni Gualberto e l'uccisore di suo fratello davanti al crocifisso di San Miniato/ St John Galberto and the killer of his brother before the Crucifix of San Miniato
Oil on canvas
The Badia at Passignano

He entered the Benedictine Church at San Miniato to pray, and the figure on the crucifix bowed its head to him in recognition of his generosity

He settled at Vallombrosa, where he founded his monastery. He reformed the abbey at Passignano.

He died at the abbey in Passignano. He was canonised in 1193

Abbot Martino, a native of Siena, came to his office at San Michele in Passignano in 1366

In April 1376 the abbot left Florentine territory because of the interdict imposed by Gregory XI and took refuge for a time in Siena. When the Florentines ceased their observance of the interdict in October of that year he left Siena.

He sent a gift of a crucifix to St Catherine of Siena. In the following letter of February or March 1376 she thanks him for the crucifix. This prompts a meditation on the Cross which may have had particular resonance because of the conversion experience of Saint John Gualbert.

Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez ((b. 1599, - d. 1660)
Cristo en la Cruz 1631
Oil on canvas
100 cm x 57 cm
Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid

"In the name of Jesus Christ crucified and of gentle Mary.

Reverend and very dear father in Christ gentle Jesus,

I Caterina, servant and slave of the servants of Jesus Christ, am writing to you in his precious blood.

I long to see your heart's love engrafted onto the sweet venerable cross, reflecting that we cannot have or share in the fruit of grace unless our heart's love is engrafted into the crucified love of God's Son. For without this engrafting it would be worth nothing to us that the divine nature is joined with and engrafted into human nature and human nature into the divine, even though we see that the God-man ran to the shameful death of the cross.

This Word made an engrafting on the wood of the holy cross and bathed us in his precious blood, making the true solid virtues sprout as flowers and fruits. The bonding of love accomplished all this.

This warm, shining, engaging love ripened the fruits of virtue, drawing all the bitterness out of them—all because of the engrafting of the divine Word into human nature and of the Word on the wood of the most holy cross. You know that before this the virtues were so sour that none of them could lead us to the port of life, because the pus of Adam's disobedience hadn't been drained by the obedience of the Word, God's only-begotten Son.

But I tell you, even with all this exquisitely sweet bonding, we do not and cannot share in grace unless we clothe ourselves, through the movement of love, in the crucified love of God's Son, by following in the footsteps of Christ crucified. For we sterile and completely fruitless trees have to be joined with Christ gentle Jesus, the fruitful tree, as I've said.

Oh dearest reverend father, what heart could be so hard that it could contemplate our Creator's indescribable love for us and keep itself from binding and engrafting itself with him in the bonding of charity? I certainly don't see how anyone could! Yet I believe those [could] who are bound and engrafted onto the dead tree of the devil, onto selfish love of themselves, onto worldly pleasures and wealth and status. [I believe those could] whose grounding is in their own perverse pride and vanity.

Oime! These are the people who are bereft of life and have become not only sterile trees but dead trees. And eating their fruit leads to eternal death because their fruits are the sins and vices. They run* away from the way and teaching of this gentle loving incarnate Word. They walk in the dark and fall into a lot of misery and into death.

This is not how people act who are following the way of truth with energetic love. No, they have opened the eye of their understanding and know their own non-being, and they know God's goodness within themselves. They give God the credit for their existence and for every gift they have received over and above existence, acknowledging that they have received it all from God—gratuitously and not because it is their due. Then a fire and a movement of love grows [within them], and a hatred and contempt for sin and for selfish sensuality. With this love and hatred and with true humility they are engrafted into the crucified and consumed love of God's Son. And then they produce solid virtues as their fruits, and these virtues nourish their own as well as their neighbors' souls, for they become people who eat and savor God's honor and the salvation of souls.

How very necessary for us, then, to have this perfect union! Without it we cannot reach the end for which we were created. And this is why I said that I long to see you engrafted onto the tree of the most holy cross.

So I beg you, for love of Christ crucified, be diligent, not careless. Sleep no more in the slumber of indifference, for time is short and the road is long."

You sent me the cross, venerable father, and I have treasured it as I have never treasured anything else, because I received also the affection and desire with which you sent it to me. You set before my bodily eyes what I ought to have before my spiritual eyes. Wretch that I am, I have never held it there! With very affectionate love I ask you to beg our dear Savior to give me this. I am sending you a cross in return, inviting you to the cross of holy desire—as well as to the physical cross-—by bearing every burden you may receive with good true patience for God's honor and the salvation of souls.

You wrote me that I should complete what I had begun. I assure you I shall complete it to the extent that I can and to the extent that God gives me the grace to do so. I am referring to my praying for you to divine Goodness.

If you respond with true and perfect diligence to the one who is so lovingly calling you, his will (who seeks and wishes only that we be made holy will be realized in you, as will your own desire and mine. This accomplished, I trust that we shall find ourselves bound in the sweet bond of charity.

Do, do be conscientious about using true and holy teaching to correct vice and plant virtue in those in your charge. And you yourself be a mirror of virtue for them. I`ll say no more.

Keep living in God's holy and tender love.

Gentle Jesus! Jesus love!"