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Center for Action and Contemplation
Franciscan Mysticism
Franciscan Mysticism

A Web of Infinite Love

Thursday, October 6, 2022

God, for Bonaventure, is not an offended monarch on a throne throwing down thunderbolts, but a “fountain fullness” that flows, overflows, and fills all things in one exclusively positive direction. God is a one-directional waterwheel of love, with no backsplash. Reality is always in process, participatory; it is love itself. —Richard Rohr, Eager to Love

Franciscan mystical theologian Bonaventure (1221–1274) used dynamic, creation-centered metaphors to describe God. Theologian and Franciscan sister Dawn Nothwehr summarizes:

God, as Trinity, is like a gushing fountain—that is, the source from which the river of all reality flows and to which it ultimately returns. Again, God is like the water of an overflowing fountain, generously showering all of creation with love. Or, God is like the expansive deep oceans that are like the vast depth of God’s faithful love. Like a song—where all of the notes in a carefully crafted order must be heard for the song to be known—so too, in its wide diversity, the various dynamic cosmic elements make up the interrelated cosmos. God’s self-revelation is like a book: it is first “written” within the consciousness of God . . . and then becomes the book “written without” as the whole creation—all created things are the expression of the divine Artist. . . .

Then there is Bonaventure’s window metaphor. Each element of creation reveals something of the Creator like the array of colored glass in a stained-glass pane, which flashes with dynamic hues as sunlight passes through it. [1]

Drawing insight from Bonaventure’s metaphors for God, Ilia Delio writes that contemplation naturally leads to compassionate care for the earth:

While this Franciscan path of contemplation is desperately needed in our world today as we face massive suffering and vast ecological crises, we still live, in our western culture, with an emphasis on rationality, order and mind. Because our “I” is separated from the world around us, we struggle to be incarnational people and to see our world imbued with divine goodness. We fail to contemplate God’s love poured out into creation. . . .

The Franciscan path to God calls us to gaze on the crucified Christ and to see there the humble love of God so that we may, like Francis, learn to see and love the presence of God’s overflowing goodness hidden, and yet revealed, in the marvelous diversity of creation. The one who contemplates God knows the world to be charged with the grandeur of God. Contemplation leads to a solidarity with all creation whereby all sorrows are shared in a heart of compassionate love, all tears are gathered in a womb of mercy, all pain is healed by the balm of forgiveness. The contemplative sees the threads of God’s overflowing love that binds together the whole of creation in a web of infinite love. We are called to see deeply that we may love greatly. And in that great love, rejoice in the overflowing goodness of God. [2]


[1] Dawn M. Nothwehr, Ecological Footprints: An Essential Franciscan Guide for Faith and Sustainable Living (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2012), 110, 111.

[2] Ilia Delio, Franciscan Prayer (Cincinnati, OH: St. Anthony Messenger Press, 2004), 139–140.

Explore Further. . .

Image credit: Belinda Rain, Water Drops on Grass (detail), 1972, photograph, California, public domain. Belinda Rain, Nevada, Lake Tahoe California (detail), 1972, photograph, California, public domain. Belinda Rain, Forest (detail), 1972, photograph, California, public domain. Jenna Keiper & Leslye Colvin, 2022, triptych art, United States. Click here to enlarge image.

This week’s images appear in a form inspired by early Christian/Catholic triptych art: a threefold form that tells a unified story. 

Image inspiration: We look for Spirit in every stone and blade of grass, in everything. We are part of something so much larger, so much grander. God’s grace abounds.

Story from Our Community:

I live by the ocean and walk there frequently. I took a much slower walk yesterday and my spirit being in a different tempo allowed my eyes to see more that God was creating on that day in that moment. This is one of the creations I saw in the sand on my walk… a fish. The very earth cries out God’s majesty. I am so grateful to have this community that seeks to see differently and is therefore open to the marvels of God physically and spiritually within. I appreciate Merton and Francis of Assisi and living in the Beauty and Light that surrounds us and is God with us. —Sharon S.

Share your own story with us.

Prayer for our community:

God, Lord of all creation, lover of life and of everything, please help us to love in our very small way what You love infinitely and everywhere. We thank You that we can offer just this one prayer and that will be more than enough,  because in reality every thing and every one is connected, and nothing stands alone. To pray for one part is really to pray for the whole, and so we do. Help us each day to stand for love, for healing, for the good, for the diverse unity of the Body of Christ and all creation, because we know this is what You desire: as Jesus prayed, that all may be one. We offer our prayer together with all the holy names of God, we offer our prayer together with Christ, our Lord, Amen.

Listen to the prayer.


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