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A Fountain Fullness of Love

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Franciscan Spirituality: Week 3

A Fountain Fullness of Love
Sunday, June 18, 2017

For as a human being, Christ has something in common with all creatures. With the stone he shares existence; with plants he shares life; with 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 is transfigured. —Bonaventure [1]

There is no other teacher who takes the vision of Francis and Clare to the level of a theology and philosophy, a fully symmetrical worldview, as well as Bonaventure of Bagnoregio, Italy (c. 1221-1274). As Paul did for Jesus, so Bonaventure did for Francis. Bonaventure’s vision is positive, mystic, cosmic, intimately relational, and often concerned with cleaning the lens of our perception and our intention. With this awareness, we can see that God is with us in everything we experience in life and can be found in and through everything, even and often most especially our limits and our suffering (because in those states we long so desperately for meaning and purpose).

Bonaventure was profoundly Trinitarian in that his framework for reality was love itself—always and forever flowing, overflowing, and filling all things. He called the Trinitarian God a “fountain fullness” of love. Reality is always in process and fully participatory; it is love itself in action, and not a mere Platonic world, an abstract idea, or a static, impersonal principle. God as Trinitarian Flow is the blueprint and pattern for all relationships and thus all of creation, which we now know from atoms to circulatory systems, ecosystems, and galaxies is exactly the case.

Bonaventure taught that there are three books from which we learn wisdom: The Book of Creation, The Book of Jesus and Scripture, and The Book of Experience. He also taught that there are three pairs of eyes. The first pair sees all things as a fingerprint or footprint of God (vestigia Dei), which evokes foundational respect and teachability. The second pair of eyes is the hard work of honest self-knowledge—awareness of how you are processing your reality moment by moment. This is necessary to keep your own lens clean and open, and it is the work of your entire lifetime. The third pair is the eyes of contemplation, which allow you to see things in their essence and in their core meaning. Only then can you receive the transmitted image of God on your soul. “Deep calls unto deep” as the Psalmist says (42:8), and all outer images can then mirror and evoke your own inner divine image.

Bonaventure says we must begin “at the bottom, presenting to ourselves the whole material world as a mirror through which we may pass over to God, the Supreme [Artisan].” [2] He teaches that to really see things, we must “consider this world [i.e. all material things] in its origin, process and end.” [3] Everything comes from God, exemplifies God, and then returns to God.  Bonaventure says that sums up all his teaching.

Gateway to Silence:
I am that which I am seeking.

[1] Bonaventure, “Sermon I for the Second Sunday of Lent,” trans. Zachary Hayes, “Christ, Word of God and Exemplar of Humanity,” The Cord, vol. 46, no. 1 (1996), 13.
[2] Bonaventure, The Soul’s Journey into God, I, 9. See Bonaventure: The Soul’s Journey to God, trans. Ewert Cousins (New York: Paulist Press, 1978), 63.
[3] Bonaventure, The Soul’s Journey into God, I, 12. See Bonaventure: The Soul’s Journey to God, trans. Ewert Cousins (New York: Paulist Press, 1978), 64.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi (Franciscan Media: 2014), 161, 164-165; and exclusive video teaching within the Living School.

Image credit: La Franceschina (detail), c. 1474, Biblioteca Augusta, Perugia, Italy. artist unknown.
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