By Mary Hollis and Lauren Simpson
This diagram presents the events of Christ's life along with scriptural citations and prompts for meditation in the form of a tree. The diagram was inspired by St. Bonaventure's Lignum vitae, a thirteenth-century text meant to aid the devout in conforming themselves to Christ through meditation on the events of his life, passion, and glorification.
The diagrammatic tree has twelve branches and twelve fruits, each presenting a different mystery from the life of Christ. Beneath the tree are two rows of verses from both the Old and New Testaments. One row features tree imagery, while the other contains passages alluding to Christ's death. A verse from Revelation serves as the root of the tree itself, suggesting a link between the Edenic tree in Genesis and the cross of the Gospels. The designer of the diagram also linked the events of Christ's life inscribed on tree itself with Old Testament verses prefiguring them. These latter are found in the lobes on the margins. In pairing the events of Christ's career with their Old Testament prefigurations, the designer of the diagram went a step beyond St. Bonaventure, who did not have a broader exegetical program in mind when he composed his text. The Tree of Life as it appears in Beinecke MS 416 concretely depicts the essential unity of the Hebrew Scriptures and the Christian Gospels, illustrating how ancient prophecies have become the fruit of the new dispensation.