The Tree of the Crucified Life of Jesus Book Five (Excerpts) - 142 

the Apocalypse commentary of his mentor, Peter of John Olivi,4 the writings of that magnus Ioachita, Hugh of Digne,5 the declarations of the popes, and the stories of Leo and others, Ubertino was able to rely, he was convinced, on divine help. The Tree of the Crucified Life of Jesus emerges as "a devotional, even mystical work of striking power and vision," as Decima Douie characterizes it,6 that marshals all the Spiritual arguments in defense of the primitive observance that was being subtly undermined.7

Faithful to Joachim of Fiore's apocalyptic view, in The Tree of the Crucified Life of Jesus, Ubertino describes history as divided into three ages,8 each corresponding to one of the three Persons of the Trinity. The second age, pertaining to the Son of God, embraces the history of the Church and is the concern of The Tree's fifth book. Chapter One of Book Five enunciates seven periods in the Church's history: (1) the primitive foundation made by the Apostles, (2) its proven strength as seen in the martyrs, (3) its ability to define and defend the doctrines of the faith, (4) its profound anchoritic and austere life as seen in the desert tradition, (5) the well-being of monks and clergy with property, (6) the renewal of Gospel life and the victory over the sect of the Anti-Christ through voluntary poverty, and (7) the final period of contemplative participation in resurrected glory.

From the fifth period forward, when the clergy and monks begin to enjoy great wealth, Ubertino's narrative becomes profoundly pessimistic. The sixth period is ushered in by Francis, the Angel of the Sixth Seal whose mission is the reform of the Church by a thorough renewal of the life of the Gospel. While Francis is chosen to initiate this mission, the task of seeing it to completion is left to his followers who are bound to remain faithful to his way of life. Its energies enervated by opulence and ease, the Church is now devoured by the three concupiscenses symbolized by the horrible beasts created on the sixth day. And in this sorry state, two antichrists appear, one mystic, the other blatant, like the two high priests Annas and Caiaphas. In Ubertino's view these were Boniface VIII (1294-1303) and his successor, Benedict XI (1303-4), both of whom had allied themselves with the carnal Church, Babylon the Whore. Together they stand condemned by Francis and his faithful disciples of the most exalted poverty, the Spirituals.

According to Ubertino's testimony, the Fifth Book of The Tree was entirely "inspired" by the Holy Spirit. "It happened," he writes, "that at the first words of Jesu futura previdens, [the beginning of the ninth chapter of Book Four], I was forcefully seized by the Spirit of Jesus and impelled to describe His sufferings . . ." When this Fifth Book is read in light of the struggles of the Lesser Brothers during these early years of the tumultuous fourteenth century, the storm clouds are visible on the horizon. It is as if Ubertino had gathered in his text the tinder of the intensifying controversies dividing the Brothers and, with its publication, ignited an unquenchable fire.

One of the more practical results of Ubertino's Tree was the signal it gave the Brothers to scour their residence for the scrolls containing the reminiscences of Brother Leo and his companions. Thomas of Celano clearly had access to them in the preparation of The Remembrance of the Desire of a Soul; for




Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 3, p. 142