The Franciscan Vision

Joy and Hope

The Franciscan Vision
Monday, November 26, 2018

St. Bonaventure of Bagnoregio (1217–1274) took Francis and Clare’s practical lifestyle to the level of theology, philosophy, and worldview. Unlike many theologians of his time, Bonaventure paid little attention to fire and brimstone, sin, merit, justification, or atonement. His vision is positive, mystic, cosmic, intimately relational, and largely concerned with cleaning the lens of our perception and our intention so we can see and enjoy fully!

He 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.” [1] For Bonaventure, the perfection of God and God’s creation is 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 is thus the template for all creation, and even more precisely the crucified Christ, who reveals the necessary cycle of loss and renewal that keeps all things moving toward ever further life. Now we know that the death and birth of every star and every atom is this same pattern of loss and renewal, yet this pattern is invariably hidden or denied, and therefore must be revealed by God—which is “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 sees humanity as already being included in—and delighting in—an all-pervasive plan. 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. Rather than seeing history as a “fall from grace,” Bonaventure reveals a slow but real emergence and evolution into ever-greater consciousness of Love. He was the Teilhard de Chardin (1881–1955) of the 13th century.

One reason Bonaventure was so hopeful and positive is that he was profoundly Trinitarian. He saw love always and forever flowing between Father, Son, and Spirit and on to us. Bonaventure’s strong foundation in the Trinity gave him a nondual mind to deal with the ineffable mystery of God and creation. A dualistic mind closes down at any notion of Trinity or infinite love, because it cannot process it.

For Bonaventure, God, is not an offended monarch on a throne throwing down thunderbolts, but a “fountain fullness” that flows, overflows, and fills all things in one positive direction. Reality is thus in process and participatory; it is love itself, 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 contemporary science is exactly the case.

References:
[1] Bonaventure, Collationes in Hexaëmeron (Lectures on the Six Days of Creation), 3.2. See Ilia Delio, Simply Bonaventure: An Introduction to His Life, Thought, and Writing, 2nd edition (New City Press: 2013), 171.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi (Franciscan Media: 2014), 162-165.

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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