Saturday, 21 February 2009
Once upon a time there was an apple tree in the middle of a valley, in between two famous monasteries: one run by the Franciscans, the other by the Dominicans. This tree was a constant source of contention between the two monasteries – every year and argument would break out as to who would have the apples from this tree. They were the plumpest, juiciest and most delicious apples that the monks had ever known. A debate between two monks was organised to decide who would have the apples for the year.
The Dominicans without hesitation chose their head theologian to lead the debate. After many nerves and indecision, the Franciscans, being an order based more on charity and poverty rather than intellect, allowed their head chef to attempt to win the debate for them after nobody else volunteered. The Dominican head theologian was so confident that he could win the debate that he decided to give the Franciscans a chance by making it a silent debate. Both communities gathered in the valley by the apple tree ready for the debate.
The Dominican head theologian started the silent debate by pointing to the apple tree. The chef then pulled a loaf of bread out of his pockets. Then the theologian raised one finger. The chef replied by lifting two fingers. The theologian continued by raising three fingers at which point the chef gestured in a circular motion with his hand.
The theologian fell to the ground, crying, “It’s too much, he’s just too clever!” He had given up and admitted defeat. The Franciscans roared with delight and happiness as they returned to their monastery with cart loads of apples and singing and dancing along the way.
Later that night in the Dominican monastery, the theologian explained what had happened. “I pointed to the tree, stating that we had all fallen from the tree in the garden of Eden, and through Adam’s fault all had original sin. He replied, that we are all saved by Jesus Christ, the bread of life as he pulled a loaf of bread out. Then, I told him that we believe in the one God who feeds us and sustains us day by day, by holding out one finger. He replied that this God in Jesus Christ was both human and divine, his hypostatic union was that in the incarnation he became man, whilst at the same time being God. I then told him with three fingers that we believed in the trinity, the mystery of 3 persons in one God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. But at this point he had me. By gesturing with his hands, he told me that these are all ineffable mysteries of the triune God in which we believe and in whom is infinite majesty and splendour. With this point he had clearly won the debate.”
Back at the Franciscan monastery there was wild cheering and celebrations. The monks were cooking apple pies by the dozen and a great spirit of camaraderie and jolliness prevailed. The cook explained his famous victory, “He pointed to the tree to say that they were going to win the apples. I pulled out some bread to say that we had a lot of food too and hey it’s no big deal. He then help up his finger to tell me that he was going to poke my eye out. I help up two fingers to say that I would poke both his eyes out. He then pulled up three fingers to tell me that he was going to poke out all three of my eyes. I then motioned to tell him ‘where’s the third eye?’