December 10, 2014

Sweet Obedience

The other week I was translating for a meeting and one of the things I got to enjoy was a presentation on the Lower Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi. The presenter spent some good time on the allegories of obedience, poverty, and chastity that surround the scene of the glorified Francis above the altar. I confess that even though these allegories--in black and white reproduction--adorned the walls outside of my room when I was in post-novitiate formation, I guess I never studied them in much detail.

When I came upon today's gospel,
Jesus said to the crowds:
“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am meek and humble of heart;
and you will find rest for yourselves.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
right away I thought back to the allegory of obedience:

You can see the yoke descending on Francis's shoulders right from the hands of God. (click the picture to enlarge it.)

The Greek chrestos which the New American Bible gives as "easy," the Italian lectionary translates as dolce, 'sweet.' This of course made me think of the beginning of Francis's Testament:
The Lord gave me, Brother Francis, thus to begin doing penance in this way: for when I was in sin, it seemed too bitter for me to see lepers. And the Lord Himself led me among them and I showed mercy to them. And when I left them, what had seemed bitter to me was turned into sweetness of soul and body. And afterwards I lingered a little and left the world. (1-3)


Louis M said...

"And afterwards I lingered a little and left the world"

I've always loved that line. :)

Terry Nelson said...


Years ago a young friar took me through the frescoes with detailed explanations - it was a lesson I never forgot. It certainly is an excellent lesson on the mystical life of St. Francis.