Coming Full Circle — Center for Action and Contemplation

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Coming Full Circle

Transformation: Week 2

Coming Full Circle
Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Franciscan theologian and philosopher Bonaventure (1217-1274) offers a fully symmetrical worldview, clearly drawing the parallel between Christ and Creation: “Christ has something in common with all creatures. With the stone he shares existence, with the plants he shares life, with the animals he shares sensation, and with the angels he shares intelligence. Therefore, all things are said to be transformed in Christ since—in his human nature—he embraces something of every creature in himself when he was transfigured.” [1]

Bonaventure starts very simply: “Unless we are able to view things in terms of how they originate, how they are to return to their end, and how God shines forth in them, we will not be able to understand.” [2] 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, and 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, and even more precisely the crucified Christ, is thus the template for all creation, revealing the necessary cycle of loss and renewal that keeps all things transforming and moving toward ever further life. Now we know that the death and birth of every star and every atom follows this same pattern of loss and renewal. Yet this pattern is invariably hidden or denied and therefore must be revealed by God. The pattern of loss and seeming death is the hardest for us to trust and is precisely the revelation of “the cross.”

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—an all-pervasive plan that is already in place. As Paul’s school says, “Before the world was made, God chose us, chose us in Christ” (Ephesians 1:4). The problem is solved from the beginning! If we had listened to Bonaventure, he could have helped us move beyond the negative notion of history being a “fall from grace” and invited us into a positive notion of history as a slow but real transformation and emergence/evolution into ever-greater consciousness of who we eternally are in God. Bonaventure began with original blessing instead of original sin, and he ended where he began.

Gateway to Silence:
Death to life, sadness to joy

[1] Bonaventure, Dominica prima in quadragesima. Servo 1 (IX, 215-219), as quoted by Zachary Hayes, “Christ, Word of God and Exemplar of Humanity: The Roots of Franciscan Christo-centrism and Its Implications for Today,” The Cord 46.1 (St. Bonaventure University: 1996), 13.

[2] Bonaventure, The Works of St. Bonaventure, Hexaemeron, 3, 2 (St. Anthony Guild: 1960).

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi (Franciscan Media: 2014), 161, 163-164.

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