Christ Is the Template for Creation

Creation: Week 1

Christ Is the Template for Creation
Thursday, February 15, 2018

The Franciscan philosopher and Doctor of the Church, St. Bonaventure of Bagnoregio (1217-1274) was an exemplary mystic because he so effectively pulled his brilliant mind down into his passionate heart. [1] In Bonaventure’s writings, you will find little or none of the medieval language of fire and brimstone, worthy and unworthy, sin and guilt, merit and demerit, justification and atonement, even the dualistic notions of heaven or hell, which later took over. Etienne Gilson (1884-1978), a noted medieval scholar, said that Bonaventure’s philosophical synthesis might be the most perfect and complete ever created.

Bonaventure summed up his entire life’s theology in three central and sacred ideas:

Emanation: We come forth from God bearing the divine image, and thus our inherent identity is grounded in the life of God from the beginning (Genesis 1:26-27).

Exemplarism: Everything in creation is an example, manifestation, and illustration of God in space and time (Romans 1:20). No exceptions.

Consummation: All returns to the Source from which it came (John 14:3). The Omega is the same as the Alpha; this is God’s supreme and final victory.

For Bonaventure, the perfection of God and God’s creation is quite simply a full circle, and to be perfect the circle must and will complete itself. He knows that Alpha and Omega are finally the same. The lynchpin holding it all in unity is the “Christ Mystery,” or the essential unity of matter and spirit, humanity and divinity. The Christ Mystery—the crucified and resurrected Christ—becomes the visible template for the pattern of all creation. Christ reveals the necessary cycle of loss and renewal that keeps all things moving toward ever further life. The death and birth of every star and atom is this same pattern of loss and renewal, yet this pattern is invariably hidden, denied, or avoided, and therefore must be revealed by Jesus—through his passion, death, and resurrection.

Bonaventure’s theology is never about trying to placate a distant or angry God, earn forgiveness, or find some abstract theory of justification. He is all cosmic optimism and hope! Once we lost this kind of mysticism, Christianity became preoccupied with fear, unworthiness, and guilt much more than being included in—and delighting in—God’s positive, all-pervasive plan.

The problem is solved from the beginning in Franciscan theology: “Before the world was made, God chose us in Christ” (Ephesians 1:4). If more of the Church believed St. Francis and Bonaventure, they could have helped us move beyond the inherently negative notion of history being a “fall from grace.” Bonaventure invited us into a positive notion of history as a slow but real emergence/evolution into ever-greater consciousness of a larger and always renewed life (“resurrection”).

References:
[1] For more on Bonaventure, see Simply Bonaventure: An Introduction to His Life, Thought, and Writing (New City Press: 2013) by Ilia Delio, O.S.F.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi (Franciscan Media: 2014), 162-164; and
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Image credit: Winter Leaf I: CAC Gardens (detail), by Nicholas Kramer.
God always and forever comes as one who is totally hidden and yet perfectly revealed in the same moment or event. The first act of divine revelation is creation itself. Thus, nature is the first Bible, written approximately 14 billion years before the Bible of words. —Richard Rohr

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