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Universal Belonging

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Joy and Hope

Universal Belonging
Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Bonaventure’s “vision logic,” as Ken Wilber would call it, and the lovely symmetry of his theology, can be summarized in what Bonaventure named the three great truths that for him hold everything together. He summarizes all his teaching in these three movements:

Emanation: We come forth from God bearing the divine image; our very DNA is found in God.

Exemplarism: Everything in creation is an example and illustration of the one God mystery in space and time, by reason of its “origin, magnitude, multitude, beauty, fulness, activity, and order.” [1]

Consummation: We return to the Source from which we came; the Omega is the same as the Alpha and this is God’s supreme and final victory.

What a positive, coherent, and meaning-filled world this describes! Note that Bonaventure’s theology is clearly not the later reward/punishment frame that took over when people did not experience God, but merely believed propositions. Many people today are not sure where we came from, who we are, and where we are going, and many do not even seem to care about the questions. What if we could recover a view of the world and God that was infused with Bonaventure’s teaching? It would provide a foundation that we lack in our often aimless and adrift age. It could hold our lives together during times of despair and cynicism.

Bonaventure described the Great Chain of Being both in a historical and linear way—but also in terms of cosmic connectedness along the way! He was following Paul in Colossians: “In his body lives the fullness of divinity, and in him you will find your own fulfillment” (2:9–10), or “There is only Christ: He is everything and he is in everything” (3:11). We were created in unity, proceed forward insofar as we are in unity, and return to God’s full gift of final unity. It is grace before, during, and after.

For Bonaventure, creation is quite simply the mirror and image of God; he uses metaphors like footprint and fingerprint (vestigia Dei), effigy, likeness. Francis, Bonaventure, and Teilhard give me the confidence to believe and teach that “everything belongs.” They describe and defend the universal belonging of all creation and show us that such a cosmic divine victory makes the fear-based preoccupations of later exclusionary and punitive Christianity seem small and unnecessary.

There is neither denial nor resentment in Bonaventure. His heart was never stingy, but always generous and eager to love. Bonaventure’s “tree of life,” his “coincidence of opposites,” his “journey of the soul to God,” his Great Chain of Being . . . each made joyful room for everything in one divine circle of life. God for him is “the one whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere.” [2]

And now you know that all things, including you, live safely and happily inside of that one good circle.

[1] Bonaventure, The Soul’s Journey into God, 1.14. See The Soul’s Journey into God, trans. Ewert Cousins (Paulist Press: 1978), 65.

[2] Alan of Lille, Regulae Theologicae, reg. 7, as quoted by Bonaventure in The Soul’s Journey into God, 5.8. See Cousins, 100.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi (Franciscan Media: 2014), 166-168, 173.

Image credit: Zaatari Refugee Camp, Jordan (detail), Foreign and Commonwealth Office, 2013.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: Dear Child of God, you are loved with a love that nothing can shake, a love that loved you long before you were created, a love that will be there long after everything has disappeared. . . . And God wants you to be like God. Filled with life and goodness and laughter—and joy. —Desmond Tutu
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