Bonaventure, St.

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Franciscan saint, scholastic, seventh general minister of the Lesser Brothers (friars minor ), cardinal bishop of Albano, Doctor of the Church; b. Bagnoregio, 1217; d. Lyons, July 15, 1274.


Bonaventure is the religious name of Giovanni di Fidanza (John of Fidanza) who was born in 1217 in Bagnoregio near Viterbo in Tuscany, Italy. His parents were John di Fidanza, a physician, and Maria di Ritello. Bonaventure tells the story of how as a boy he fell deathly ill and was miraculously saved through the intercession of St. francis of assisi (8.579; references refer to the volume and page number of the Quarrachi opera omnia listed at the end of this article). This event occurred sometime after Francis's death in 1226. No other details of his youth have survived.

Early Years. After receiving his early education in Bagnoregio (12251235), Bonaventure continued his studies at the University of Paris c. 1235, becoming a bachelor of arts in 1241 and a master of arts in 1243. Shortly thereafter, probably following the lead of his teacher alexander of hales (d. 1245) who had just established the new Franciscan school at Paris, Bonaventure joined the Franciscans in Paris (124344). In addition to Alexander, his "master and father," Bonaventure also studied under the masters john of la ro chelle (d. 1245) and the Dominican Guerric of Saint-Quentin (d. 1245). Following their deaths, he continued his studies with Odo Rigaud (d. 1275) and william of melitona (d. 1260).

After becoming a bachelor of Scripture under William in 1248 he lectured on Scripture until 1250. Then he became a bachelor of the Sentences, taught Lombard's Sentences, and wrote his massive Commentaries on the Sentences (125052). These commentaries contain all the basic principles of his theology, illustrate his mastery of the Christian tradition, and systematically outline his understanding of the nature of theology. Afterwards, at the request of the general minister Bl. John of Parma (12471257), he began lecturing on Scripture and wrote several commentaries which he reworked from his earlier studies on Scripture (125354). Of his five exegetical works surviving, the most notable are his writings on the Gospels of John and Luke which contain reflections on the mystery of the Incarnation and Christ's mediation.

The latter was rewritten and polished to help in the formation of future Franciscan preachers. He probably reworked his Sentence Commentary into its final form during this same period (12531256).

In 1253 he was ordained a priest and was ready to become a regent master (magister regens ), but due to the opposition to the mendicants on the part of the secular clergy who were masters at the University of Paris, he may not have been formally approved as a magister until Oct. 23, 1257. Nevertheless, it is clear that he functioned as a regent master before this date. In 1253 he occupied the Franciscan chair of theology and from this position he taught, preached, and delivered at least three disputed questions: On Christ's Knowledge, On the Mystery of the Trinity, and On Evangelical Perfection (12541257). In 1257, at the request of his students, he wrote the Breviloquium as a compendium of his theology. The prologue presents his scriptural methodology and the chapters provide a concise summary of his scholastic theology. Shortly after this, drastic changes would end his formal academic career at the University of Paris.

In 1254, with the support of Pope Innocent IV (12431254) and under the leadership of William of Saint-Amour (d.1272), the secular masters argued that the poverty promoted by the mendicants was against gospel

teaching and subverted church authority. They fiercely opposed the two mendicant orders (Franciscan and Dominican) and attempted to have them excluded from their university positions of teaching publically. Bonaventure responded with a Letter to an Unknown Master and On Evangelical Perfection. The latter argues that humility itself is the foundation of evangelical perfection, that is, a life of poverty, chastity, and obedience conformed to the love of Christ. This heated confrontation was finally settled by the new pope, Alexander IV (12541261), who sided with the mendicants and condemned William's views in 1255. Following this papal intervention, Bonaventure was formally raised to regent master in 1257, six months after he had already been elected general minister of the Franciscan Order.

His election as general minister was in part a response to the wounds sustained by the Franciscans during the mendicant controversy. In 1254 the apocalyptic-minded Franciscan Gerard of Borgo San Donnino (d. 127677), reinterpreting the apocalyptic theology of Joachim of Fiore (d. 1202), published his radical book the Eternal Gospel. This book prophesied that the new age of the Spirit would begin in 1260. It was quickly condemned by Alexander on Oct. 23, 1255. Nevertheless, many other Franciscans embraced Gerard's views of Joachim's apocalyptic theology. Most notable was the general minister John of Parma who, at the suggestion of the pope, resigned in January 1257. When the brothers asked who could best serve as leader, John himself recommended that Bonaventure replace him. Thus, on Feb. 2, 1257, at the General Chapter of Rome, Bonaventure was elected the seventh general minister of the Franciscan Order. He was 40 years old. Upon resigning from his academic post in Paris, Bonaventure delivered his powerful sermon Christ the One Teacher of All. It identifies Christ as the source of all knowledge and provides insight into the heart of his theological synthesis.

Middle Years. Bonaventure's election as general minister radically impacted his life and career. He dedicated his efforts to this office which he held for the remaining 17 years of his life. He inherited an expanding order of over 30,000 brothers suffering internal divisions regarding the practice of Francis's ideals, especially regarding poverty. He quickly issued his first encyclical letter to the entire order on April 23, 1257. It sternly addresses the condition of the order, laxity in the practice of poverty, and the need for spiritual renewal through prayer. In May of the same year, he traveled to Italy where he was officially conferred general minister by Pope Alexander IV. In late summer, he returned to his usual residence at the "grand couvent des cordeliers" in Mantes-sur-Seine near Paris.

For the next two years he visited the order throughout Europe (Italy, France, England, Germany) personally learning its problems and needs. This activity resulted in an almost complete hiatus in his writing. However, in 1259 this changed and his new writings signal a significant transition. While remaining a theologian, he began to compose spiritual/mystical/ascetical writings on prayer devised for the needs of his brothers. His masterpiece the Journey of the Mind into God, which presents six levels of illumination modeled on Francis's vision of a seraph and subsequent reception of the stigmata, leads the contemplative wayfarer in a spiraling ascent from creation upward into God, ending with a mystical death paralleling Francis's own seraphic experience with Christ. This text inaugurated a new period in Bonaventure's literary production. For the next four years his works involved a combination of texts on spirituality, hagiography, and governance.

His spiritual writings of this period include the widely popular The Triple Way which follows Pseudo-Dionysius's formulation of mystical theology as a process of purgation, illumination, and perfection/union. Following the examples of augustine and hugh of saint victor, he also wrote the Soliloquy on Four Spiritual Exercises, devised as a psychological introspection leading the mind to contemplation. Likewise, his meditations on the life of Christ in The Tree of Life and On the Five Feasts of the Child Jesus present a form of imaginative prayer that calls upon the mind to recollect the mysteries of Christ. With these writings, one can sense that Bonaventure discerned the order's need to undergo a spiritual reform, return to the path of prayer, and embrace a life in the footsteps of St. Francis. Moreover, throughout his travels, and for the entire span of his ministry as general minister, he preached frequently and many of his sermons survive. The extent of his preaching activity is evidenced by the entire ninth volume of his Opera omnia, which consists of sermons integral for understanding his spirituality. They are also very helpful in reconstructing his travels. Two of his main travel companions were his secretary Bernard of Besse and his friend Mark of Montefeltro who recorded many of his sermons.

His two hagiographical works are The Major Legend of St. Francis and the shorter The Minor Legend of St. Francis, devised for liturgical use. The term legenda indicates that these works were intended for public reading by the brothers and the wider Christian community. Both works are the result of the request that he write a new life of St. Francis in order to bring the large body of earlier hagiography into a deeper synthesis. Although most modern studies claim that this request was made by the General Chapter of Narbonne in 1260, it is more probable that it came from the General Chapter of Rome in 1257. With this mandate, he repeatedly traveled to Italy to visit Assisi (12591263) where he interviewed the living companions of Francis. During his visit of 1260, he attended the consecration of the church at Mount La Verna and the transfer of St. Clare's body from San Damiano to the new Basilica. It is likely he provided an update of this major project at Narbonne in 1260.

The Major Legend is faithful to the Chapter mandate by integrating the earlier tradition, especially Thomas of Celano, Julian of Speyer, and material from the Assisi Compilation, into a hagiographical, spiritual, and theological masterpiece. Bonaventure recasts the earlier materials about Francis into the framework of his theology of grace: the visible events of Francis's life reveal the invisible presence of God's grace which purifies, illumines, and perfects Francis. The Minor Legend was also significant in disseminating the image, message, and spirituality of Francis while emphasizing the importance of prayer, via the liturgical medium, for following Francis's life of evangelical perfection. According to tradition, these two hagiographies were finished by 1261 and Bonaventure later presented them to the brothers at the General Chapter of Pisa (1263). While in Italy that year, he attended the translation of the body St. Anthony from Arcella to the new basilica in Padua, and he also likely presided over the trial of John of Parma, who continued his adherence to Joachimism.

During this intense activity, he compiled for the General Chapter of Narbonne (1260) the Constitutions of Narbonne, which codify the order's earlier existing legislation into a systematic collection of regulations, divided into 12 headings corresponding to the 12 chapters of the Rule. While the codification adds little to the already existing laws, it is of major importance in the history of Franciscan legislation. Additions are found in the Statutes Issued by the Chapter of Narbonne. The Determinations of Questions Concerning the Rule of the Lesser Brothers and Exposition on the Rule of the Lesser Brothers are spurious works attributed to Bonaventure and should not be included when assessing his administration of the Order.

Approximately the same time, he wrote Instructions for Novices (1260). This provides a defined structure for the critical task of initial formation since the novitiate year was the only "explicit formation" a new brother received. This text envisions a total transformation of the novice through disciplinary practices enabling him to discern and understand the movement of the Spirit better. Two years later, he wrote On the Six Wings of the Seraph for use by religious superiors so they could better serve their brothers. All Bonaventure's authentic works regarding the order reveal his concern for the brothers' proper interpretation of, formation within, and ministerial service toward a life of evangelical perfection as expressed within the Rule approved by Pope Honorius III (12161227) in 1223.

In addition to accepting and disseminating Bonaventure's two Legenda of St. Francis, the General Chapter of Pisa (1263) also issued several statues addressing Franciscan liturgical practices. Again, a concern for the formation of the brothers through the liturgy is evident. Subsequently, he made several trips throughout Italy and France, and in 1265 visited England. The same year, Pope Clement IV nominated him archbishop of York, but he humbly refused, preferring instead to continue his ministry to the brothers. In 1266, he presided over his third General Chapter, in Paris, which responded to several questions concerning the interpretation and observance of the recently approved Constitutions of Narbonne. His even harsher Second Encyclical Letter, possibly delivered there, reveals that the observance of poverty was a persistent problem plaguing the brothers. This chapter is famous for its decree that "all the legends of St. Francis that have been made should be removed" (Miscellanea francescana 72, 247). The Chapter of Narbonne had done the same with earlier copies of the general constitutions (Archivium franciscanum historicum 3,491). Thus, The Major Legend and the new Constitutions of Narbonne attempted a new beginning for the order's interpretation of Francis and implementation of the way of life he inspired. Around this time Bonaventure also wrote On the Regimen of the Soul which presents a concise summary of his spiritual doctrine and its practical exercises.

Later Years. Following the death in 1268 of the pro-Franciscan Clement IV (12651268), a three-year vacancy in the papacy ensued. This vacancy signals a significant shift in the historical climate that impacted Bonaventure's life and writings until his death. The previous year, the decade-long uneasy truce between the seculars and mendicants at the University of Paris began to dissolve and new threats faced the Franciscans. Since the mendicants had lost the protection of the Holy See, the secular masters, led by Gerard of Abbeville (d. 1272), again increased their attacks against the mendicants. Also, through the influence of siger of brabant (d.1281), the secular masters supported the rise of Averroistic Aristotelianism and the related claims that philosophy is self-sufficient. Thus, from around 1266 to 1274, these two heated issues engaged Bonaventure in a battle on two fronts. Again he defended the ideals of mendicancy, this time attacking radical Aristotelianism as well. Most of his longer works from this period are in the form of collations which he did not write himself; rather, they are the records of scribes who copied his lectures as they were delivered at the University of Paris. From 1267 to 1274 he delivered three such lectures along with his Apology for the Poor which he wrote in his own hand.

In 1267 Bonaventure's anti-Aristotelianism first appears in his Collations on the Ten Commandments. The very first collation rejects two errors: the eternity of the world and the unicity of the agent intellect. Throughout he emphasizes the primacy of Christ over the philosophy of Aristotle. His polemic is not against Aristotle per se, but against the Aristotelian philosophers of his day. The following year (1268), his Collations on the Gifts of the Holy Spirit vehemently refutes Averroistic Aristotelianism. He reemphasises his previous objections, increases his references to other related errors like ethical determinism, and explicitly renounces Gerard of Abbeville and other rationalistic philosophers who were reviving their attacks against the mendicants at the university. Bonaventure juxtaposes faith in Christ (the good teacher) against radical Aristotelianism, arguing that one only receives the Spirit's seven gifts through and in Christ who is the foundation and fruition of each gift. In short, he follows Augustine's definition of Christian philosophy as "the cause of being, the basis of understanding, and the order of living" (De civitate Dei, 8.4), and argues that the eternity of the world contradicts the first, the unity of the intellect violates the second, and the necessity of fate subverts the third (On the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, 5.497).

In 1269 Gerard of Abbeville countered with Against the Adversary of Christian Perfection which assails the ecclesial status of the mendicant faculty. The same year, Bonaventure responded with Apology for the Poor (sometimes called Defense of the Mendicants ), which is his most articulate and ardent defense of Franciscan mendicancy as an authentic expression of evangelical perfection. He marshals tradition, canon law, ecclesiastical decrees, the example of the saints, and the authority of Scripture as he constructs his defense around the Rule of 1223, claiming that the brothers, in their life of evangelical perfection, are true disciples of Christ who is their true master. Considering the related issue of the self sufficiency of Aristotelianism, it is likely that he wrote at this time (126970?) On the Reduction of the Arts to Theology, a mature and compact expression of his synthesis of retracing all knowledge and philosophy to a Christian wisdom-theology based on Scripture. A precise date for this text remains elusive, and some scholars date it around 1256. In December 1270, the positions of the secular masters were condemned at the University of Paris.

With this controversy still raging at the university, Bonaventure traveled from Paris to Italy and presided over his fourth General Chapter, in Assisi (1269). The attacks against the Franciscans, along with the possibility of the election of a new pope less sympathetic to the order, prompted the chapter to clean house by issuing several disciplinary and liturgical degrees. The issue of mendicancy was solved, at least temporarily, by the election of the pro-Franciscan Gregory X in 1271 (12711276). Once again the Franciscans had a strong ally in the pope. During his travels, Bonaventure worked his way to his fifth General Chapter in Lyon in 1272, which attended to constitutional and liturgical matters, and further defined the relations between the brothers and the Poor Ladies of St. Clare. After the Chapter, he continued his tour of the order.

In 1273, his last journey to Paris resulted in his extraordinary Collations on the Six Days, his final synthesis. Again, the Aristotelianism crisis forms the backdrop for this series of lectures, and the entire university community came to hear him. His message is unambiguous: Christ, not Aristotle, is the metaphysical center for all knowledge, understanding and wisdom (On the Six Days 1.1039; 3.2ff.). On one level, he rejects the errors of the Aristotelian philosophers by explaining how christocentric exemplarism is the true foundation for Christian metaphysics. He subtly counters the issues of the eternity of the world, the unicity of the agent intellect, and ethical determinism with his theology of the threefold Word: the uncreated Word refutes the first, the incarnate Word the second, and the inspired Word the third. On another level, he organizes his lectures within an eschatological framework thereby emphasizing, against the same errors, that time begins with God, proceeds through Christ the center, and returns to the Father in a grand circular dynamic. Throughout, his insights and associations are veiled in a fusion of analogical and scriptural symbolism, making it a unique masterpiece of mystical theology.

This last work remained unfinished. Before its completion Gregory X, who urged him not to refuse, nominated him cardinal in preparation for the upcoming Second Council of Lyon (May-July 1274). After traveling with the pope to Lyon, Bonaventure was consecrated bishop of Albano; Gregory also consecrated the Dominican Bl. Peter of Tarantaise (future Pope Innocent V, 1276) as archbishop of Lyon. The two served as the pope's chief legates at the council, which sought to reunify the Greek and Latin churches. Bonaventure remained general minister until he resigned at the General Chapter held in conjunction with the council. The pope presided over the chapter's election of his successor. The unanimous choice was Jerome of Ascoli (future Pope Nicholas IV, 12881292) who was not present because he was accompanying the Greek envoys from Constantinople. Thus, under the direction of the pope, Bonaventure guided the chapter to issue several decrees regarding the interpretation and observance of poverty so as to alleviate antimendicant sentiments within ecclesiastical ranks. Bona-venture's resignation brought his extended generalate to a close, and his 17 years of leadership earned him in modern times the title "second founder of the Franciscan Order."

The Greek delegates arrived at the council on May 24, and Bonaventure probably presided over several meetings regarding reunification. Shortly after preaching a sermon celebrating the brief reunion of both churches on June 29, he suddenly became ill, and died on the morning of July 15, 1274, two days before the end of the council. He was buried on the same day in the Franciscan Church at Lyon before the entire council. On April 14, 1482 he was canonized by the Franciscan pope Sixtus IV (14711484). A century later another Franciscan pope, Sixtus V (15851590), made him the sixth Doctor of the Church on March 14, 1588 with the title Seraphic Doctor (Doctor Seraphicus ). In 1890, Pope Leo XIII (18781903) named him the prince of mystical theology.


The prologue to the first book of the Sentence Commentary defines the task of theology as the teaching of salvation. It involves the study of how God creates everything and how everything returns to God through grace as if by an intelligible circle (1.639, 5.148, 5.177, 5.253,5.322, 5.33233), with Scripture as the point of departure. Scripture is like a great river irrigating all of Bonaventure's thought. The prologue to the Breviloquium uses the terms sacra scriptura and theologia interchangeably (5.20108). Thus, theology/Scripture, based on faith and assisted by human reason, orders everything back to God in a grand circular dynamic of exit and return. While he saw a continuity between the goals of philosophy and theology (1.84, 2.716, 5.210, 5.30506, 5.47376,5.32021, 5.36887), Bonaventure never developed a distinct philosophy; rather, his philosophy serves and ultimately culminates in his theology (5.31925). Like philosophy, theology is a science because it organizes knowledge, thereby making reality intelligible. Yet, theology is the highest science because, avoiding idle curiosity (2.5, 5.73, 5.33032, 5.41314, 5.420, 5.636), it attempts to integrate all knowledge into the spiritual journey leading to loving union with God (5.210). Hence, theology is not simply speculative. It must also be practical, so that the theologian arrives at wisdom by way of both knowledge and love (3.774). Ultimately, the true aim or end of theology is "to become good" (1.13,5.574), and this orients Bonaventure's entire theological synthesis toward mystical union with God in love.


Bonaventure's thought is simultaneously Trinitarian and Christological. His theology of the Trinity is christocentric, and his Christology is Trinitarian. They are two manifestations of the same mystery. Bonaventure's metaphysics of the Trinity and Christology both operate according to the threefold dynamic of emanation (emanatio : how things come from God), exemplarity (exemplaritas : how things reflect God) and consummation (consummatio : how things return to God) (5.332). Bonaventure explains the interconnection between the Trinity and Christology by considering the mystery of the Trinity as forming the circle of emanation, exemplarity, and consummation in both the divine and created orders, while Christ is the center of the circle who holds the divine and created orders together. On one level, the self-communication of the Trinity is the basis for the entire circular process of emanation, exemplarity, and consummation both within the divine order (Father-Son-Spirit) and as expressed in the created order (creation-history-salvation). The mystery of God's unity and plurality provides Bonaventure with his basic insight into the metaphysical substructure of all reality. On another level, God's self-communication as Trinity is especially focused in Christ who is the self-expression of the entire Trinity, and so Christ is the metaphysical center of emanation, exemplarity, and consummation in both the divine and the created orders. In the divine order Christ is the center who joins the Father and the Spirit; in the created order Christ is also the center because creation issues forth through Christ, is perfected by Christ, and returns to God in Christ.

Bonaventure holds these two mysteriescircle and center, Trinity and Christas the two roots of Christian faith upon which all knowledge, understanding, and wisdom depend (5.370). The mystery of Christ reveals the Trinity, and the mystery of the Trinity is the transcendent horizon to the mystery of Christ. Everything that exists is in relationship with both the Trinity and Christ. The inner self-communication of the Trinity forms a corresponding circular dynamic in God, in creation, in understanding, and in salvation. Simultaneously, this divine self-communication is fully revealed in Christ who is the same center in God, in creation, in understanding, and in salvation.

While Bonaventure borrows from many sources to construct his theology, it is ultimately St. Francis of Assisi who provides him with the key insights of his systematic synthesis. Bonaventure translates Francis's emphasis on God's goodness and the centrality of Christ in his spirituality into a theological system based on the idea of God's self-diffusive good within the Trinity and the correlative idea of Christ the center. From Francis, Bonaventure constructs a truly Franciscan theology, and, like Francis, he sees the thrust and goal of theology to be union with the Triune God through Christ. Accordingly, to understand Bonaventure's theology, the interrelationship between the Trinity and Christology must be understood.

Trinity. The inner logic of Bonaventure's thought is Trinitarian. The Trinity forms the structural foundation for his metaphysics by which he constructs his entire theological system and all its interconnecting parts according to the circular dynamic of emanation, exemplarity, and consummation. His basic insight into the mystery of the Trinity is the "firstness" (primitas ) of the Father (1.5357, 1.215, 1.46972, 5.11415) who is the ultimate source and origin of all emanation, first within the divine order of persons, and then freely extended to the created order of the world. Nowhere does Bonaventure develop an independent treatment of the divine nature separated from a consideration of the divine persons. Rather, he consistently approaches God's existence (1.6780,1.15356, 5.4551, 5.30809) by considering how the unity of the divine nature and the plurality of the divine persons are ultimately reconciled and explained by the firstness of the Father who is the fecund source of both. In approaching the mystery of the Trinity in this manner, he significantly adjusts the Augustinian model which begins with the unity of the divine nature (de deo uno ) by following the Eastern approach of beginning with the divine persons (de deo trino ).

Based on the New Testament view of God as love (1 Jn 4.816) and goodness (Mk 10.18, Lk 18.19) (5.308,5.310), Bonaventure's theology of the internal emanations in the Trinity (ad intra ) follows Richard of St. Victor and Pseudo-Dionysius (1.5357, 5.70, 5.31011,5.38182). From Richard, he explains the mystery of the Trinity according to an analysis of the nature of love which illustrates the necessity of three persons within the Godhead. He fuses this analysis of love into Pseudo-Dionysius's concept of the self-diffusive good (bonum diffusivum sui ), and develops a Trinitarian metaphysics that is essentially based upon the Father's primacy (primitas ) and the related notions of God's fontal plenitude (plenitudo fontalis ) and fecundity (fecunditas )(1.139, 5.114). Starting with the Father as the eternal origin and fontal plenitude of goodness that is intrinsically self-communicative, he explains the eternal emanations of the Son and Spirit according to two modes: the Son according to nature (per modum naturae ), and the Spirit according to will (per modum voluntatis ) (1.128, 5.211,5.311). The first reflects the Dionysian principle that the good is naturally self-diffusive, thereby explaining the necessary self-communication within God. The second reflects the Victorine principle that divine love is free, thereby showing the free self-communication within God. By combining both principles, Bonaventure arrives at a unique synthesis that views the Trinity as a mystery of the necessary and free self-communication of love (circumincessio ).

The internal emanations of the divine circumincessio follow a circular dynamic based on the order of origin (ordo originis ) (5.7576, 5.210, 5.11415). The Father, who is first (primitas ), is the inaccessible (innascibilitas ) origin who only gives love. The Son, who is the center (medium ), has an origin (Father) and is an origin for another (Spirit) who both receives love (Father) and gives love (Spirit). The Spirit, who is the consummation (ultimum ), has both the Father and Son as origin, is not an origin for another, and therefore only receives love.

This circular dynamic depicts the inner constitution of the divine order of persons and forms Bonaventure's simple but profound insight into the metaphysical basis of all order: everything must have a beginning (emanation), a middle (exemplarity), and an end (consummation) (1.5758, 2.41, 2.277, 5.332, 5.381). As first (primitas ), the Father's fecundity overflows into the emanations of the Son and Spirit according to the metaphysics of Good; as center (medium ), the Son's exemplarity mediates the entire reality of the Godhead according to the metaphysics of Being; and, as last, the Spirit's unity or bond (nexus ) joins the Father and Son according to the metaphysics of Love. The Good, not Being, is the fontal source of Bonaventure's whole metaphysics, and both are united in Love. This insight into the mystery of the Trinity makes Bonaventure's entire theological synthesis distinctive. In sum, everything in both the divine and created orders overflows from the fecundity of the Father, flowing through the Son, and into the Spirit. Likewise, everything returns in the Spirit, through the Son to unity with the Father. Ultimately, all creation has its origin in Good; its constitutive being is an expression of Good, and its finality is love for Good.

While the Father is first within the divine order, the entire Trinity, as divine essence, is first in relation to the created order (5.115). Thus, Bonaventure constructs his entire system within the dialectical framework of exit (exitus/emanatio ) and return (reditus/reductio ) with the exemplarity of Christ as the universal center in both the divine and created orders.

Christology. Bonaventure's Christology emerges from the circular dynamic within the inner life of the Trinity. His basic Christological insight is the simple fact that Christ is the center (medium ) (1.486, 3.32, 5.242,5.269, 5.30912, 5.33035) of the circular dynamic of exit and return in both the divine and created orders. For this reason, his theology is rightfully identified as christocentric since the two closely related doctrines of exemplarism and salvation emerge from his vision of Christ. On the one hand, Christ is the center as exemplar in the emanation from the Father; on the other hand, Christ is the center as mediator in the consummation of all things in return to the Father (5.32425).

Exemplarism. Bonaventure roots his exemplarism in a threefold understanding of Christ: as Son, as Image, and as Word of God (3.2933). The Son's emanation from the Father is the ontological basis for his exemplarism. Since the Father's self-communication to the Son is absolute and perfect, all the Father can express is expressed in the Son. Yet, as perfect expression, Christ is also the true Image who only reflects/imitates the Father, and as perfect likeness, co-emanates the Spirit with the Father within the Trinity. As the Father's perfect expressed likeness, Christ is also truly the Word of God, and Bonaventure prefers this title (6.247) because it is through the Word that the Father freely creates. Thus, the Word is God's all inclusive self-knowledge encompassing the inner relationships of Father-Son and Trinity-Image as well as God's external relationship with creation. In sum, everything that God creates first exists in the Word; thus, the Word is the exemplar of everything that exists (1.485,5.33132, 5.343, 5.37273, 5.426). The Word is both the self-expression of the divine order within and the exemplar of the created order without.

Exemplarism explores how all things are a copy (exemplatum ) of the original model or exemplar. To understand fully the exemplatum, the exemplar must be known. If everything exists through the Word, then everything must be known in the Word. Bonaventure explains this with the doctrine of the divine Ideas/eternal Reasons which reside within the Word or eternal "Art" of the Father (5.301, 5.343, 5.426). Following Augustine, he understands the divine Ideas as eternally existing within the Word as God's omniscient self-knowledge of everything that actually or potentially exists. The one infinite Idea within God contains the multiplicity of everything in creation as well as all that God is in relation to creation. Thus, as the inner self-expression of the Trinity, the Word is the center of the unity and plurality within God; as the external expression of the Word, the unity and plurality of creation also finds its center in Word. The Word is the universal center who contains/reflects the Trinitarian exemplarism of the divine order and communicates it to the created order in the act of creation. Thus, the mystery of reality is unlocked by the Word, and Bonaventure teaches that the threefold Word is the key to contemplation.

With the threefold Word, Bonaventure's doctrine of exemplarism receives its fullest expression (5.241, 5.306,5.343, 5.45759, 8.84). The uncreated Word relates to the emanation of all things from the Father, the incarnate Word relates to the restoration of all things in the eternal/temporal exemplar of the Son, and the inspired Word relates to the revelation of all things in the consummation of the Holy Spirit. The threefold Word is the one center that joins creation, knowledge, and salvation with the Trinity according to the circular dynamic of exit/return. Thus, Bonaventure interconnects all reality in the exemplarism of the Word, the very center of all reality.

Salvation. Bonaventure's theology of redemption emerges from his trinitarian exemplarism. At the center of the threefold Word is the mystery of the Incarnation, and this mystery grounds Bonaventure's soteriology. In the return to God, the center (medium ) becomes the mediator of salvation within the circular dynamic of exit/return (3.20). The Incarnation reveals the hidden center where the divine and created orders meet, and the two extremes are reconciled (1.2, 5.33033, 7.356, 9.107). Bonaventure understands the Incarnation's role in salvation in a twofold sense that can be called "redemptive-completion." On the one hand, Bonaventure approaches the mystery of the Incarnation from the historical and existential perspective of sin (3.706), and so, the actual mode of redemption is through the Incarnate Word by which redemption from sin is achieved through Christ's death on the cross (3.431, 3.42728). Thus, he writes, "The principal reason of the incarnation was the redemption of the human race." (3.2324). Salvation is through the redemptive reductio of Christ's death and resurrection (3.30). On the other hand, the Incarnation perfects and completes creation (3.20, 5.324, 5.241, 9.10910). Bonaventure writes, "For the Incarnation makes for the perfection of the human and consequently for the perfection of the entire universe." (3.23, 3.29). Since the Word is the prior ontological basis for all creation (3.254), from the beginning, God willed the Incarnation as the perfection of an otherwise incomplete universe (3.2627).

The two positions of "redemptive-completion" are not contradictory, rather, they give complimentary emphasis to the one mystery of the Incarnation as medium. Christ is medium in the exit from God, and the medium in the return to God, and this would be true whether sin had disrupted the original created order or not. Thus, the Incarnation is the consummation of the created universe because it closes the intelligible circle and completes the order of creation. However, this perfection of order also repairs the broken order caused by sin. Because of sin, there is no completion without redemption. Thus, redemption is the principle reason for the Incarnation, but sin is not the ultimate cause of the Incarnation. Rather, God's love and mercy is the supreme cause of the Incarnation (3.2223, 3.27, 3.706). God willed the Incarnation as a free gift for the perfection of the human person and all of creation, not simply as a response to sin. With or without sin, God willed the Incarnation because without Christ creation remains incomplete. In sum, Christ the center (medium ) both perfects and redeems creation and vice versa. Christ's mediatio is the salvific reductio of all creation to the Father (3.410, 5.243, 5.325). Thus Bona-venture's soteriology of "redemptive-completion" develops beyond Anselm's legal/moral categories of satisfaction. It is also within the context of Christ's mediation of salvation that Bonaventure's Mariology should be interpreted (5.237, 5.487, 7.27, 7.179, 8.79, 8.315,9.422, 9.612, 9.633721).

Bonaventure applies his Trinitarian theology and Christology to explain how the created order of the universe reflects, relates, and returns to the divine order within God.

Universal Analogy. Bonaventure's basic insight into the relationship between God and creation is his theory of universal analogy by which he considers how creation manifests God's presence and thus is capable of returning to God through participation (2.44, 5.57577). Though this manifestation is natural, the complete return is only possible through faith and grace (5.298). The same circular dynamic of exit/return emerges with the existence of created things standing in the middle according to the exemplarity of the Word.

Bonaventure writes, "Every creature proclaims God's existence" (5.229), and "the divine Word is every creature because God speaks" (6.16). Every created thing receives its inner constitution from the Word of God, and since the mystery of the Trinity is reflected in the mystery of the Word (5.331), every created thing is a reflection of the Trinity (1.72, 5.389). Thus, every particular thing in the created order reflects the divine order of the creative Trinity. Universal analogy is simply the process of discovering the Trinitarian reflections throughout reality. To explain this, Bonaventure describes creation as a book or mirror that reflects, represents, and describes the creative Trinity (5.55, 5.230,5.297, 5.38690). As book or mirror, all of creation is an external sign, symbol, and sacrament of God's own internal self-expression. Thus, the created order is a sacred order manifesting the overflowing goodness and love of the divine order. Through the Word, the internal self-communication of God overflows into creation as the external self-communication of God. Universal analogy explains this dynamic by intertwining the ultimate meaning of the universe deep within the mystery of the Trinity. Yet, while every creature reflects the Trinity (5.389), not all reflect the Trinity in the same way. Rather, creation reflects the Trinity in three degrees of intensity: as vestige (vestigium ), as image (imago ), or as similitude (similitudo ) (5.22930). These degrees define a thing's proximity to and cooperation with God (2.394, 5.24).

The vestige reflects God from a distance. Every creature has God as its efficient, exemplary, and final cause (1.74, 5.219, 5.571), and so every creature is a vestige reflecting the Trinitarian appropriations of power (Father), wisdom (Son), and goodness (Spirit). Thus the inner constitution of all things, as determined by triple causality, is an analogy of God's power, wisdom, and goodness (5.30203). The image has a greater similarity and closer relation to God. It refers to the human person who, as possessing memory, intellect, and will, reflects God not only as cause, but also as the ultimate object of its knowledge and love (1.80, 2.395, 5.55, 5.305). Memory is analogous to the Father, intellect to the Son, and will to the Spirit (1.81, 2.39495, 5.305, 9.447). Thus the unity, distinction, and interrelatedness of the soul's powers correspond to the unity, distinction, and interpersonal relations within the Trinity. The creation of the human person in God's image is the basis of Bonaventure's anthropology. Image conveys the necessary and utterly dependent relationship of the human person to God, and the soul's powers of memory, intellect, and will are what make union with God possible. Similitude is the closest relation and highest cooperation with God; it refers to the infused gift of sanctifying grace (5.25253) or God's indwelling presence (5.214) within the soul whereby the image becomes an expressed similitude through the theological virtues of faith, hope, and love (1.71, 5.230, 5.256,5.306). Through the graces conferred by Christ and the Spirit, faith reforms memory, hope transforms the intellect, and love conforms the will into a true similitude of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Thus the image not only knows and loves but also participates in God's life through grace. As an expressed similitude, the human person becomes God-like (deiform ) (1.58, 1.852,4.91517, 5.252263, 5.28891, 5.42834). Just as the Word, as Image, is the expressed similitude of the Father, the true identity of the human person, as image, is to be an expressed similitude of the Word (2.407, 3.29). To conform to Christ is to conform to the Trinity. Likewise, just as the Word is the center of the divine hierarchy of the Trinity, the human person, as image of the Word, is the center of the created hierarchy of the universe (2.41819, 3.38, 5.22128, 5.289). With the Incarnation, Christ joins both in one center.

Closely related to Bonaventure's theory of universal analogy are the doctrines of creation from nothing, the composition of things, and the illumination of the mind.

Creation. God freely creates the world from nothing (ex nihilo ) and in time (2.1617, 2.3335, 5.92, 5.219,5.350, 5.379, 5.498). Bonaventure vehemently opposed the doctrine of the eternity of the world because he believed that it destroys the fundamental and distinctive relationship of order between God and creation (1.788,5.497). Time must be seen in the perspective of creation's emanation from God (2.68, 5.219). If the world is eternal, then the created circular dynamic of exit and return is no longer distinct from the uncreated circular dynamic. The created order is then no longer an unnecessary, free and gratuitous self-expression of the divine order. This is why he argued that an eternal world contains a self-contradiction (1.788) and is contrary to the essential principles of causality (5.497). Time and space are essential to the created order just as eternity and infinity are essential to the divine order. If the world is eternal then the world has no beginning, and thus no middle or end (2.332), and so any analogy between the divine order and the created order becomes impossible. Unintelligibility results. Thus, Bonaventure never confuses the two orders. Since creation is ex nihilo, its emanation is not necessary but according to God's free act. Everything, including time, is radically distinct from God and therefore radically dependent on God; and so time itself is a vestige of eternity (5.90). Not only are created things reflecting God, created time itself reflects God. Thus, as an analogy of God (5.203, 5.307, 5.39596), the unfolding of salvation history within time reflects the circular movement from God and to God.

Plurality of Forms. The succession of time implies the question of change. To explain how things change Bonaventure explains the composition of all created physical and spiritual beings according to the theory of universal hylomorphism (matter/form) (2.89101,2.413425, 5.221). He adopts Aristotle's theory of matter and form, but adapts it significantly by arguing for a plurality of forms and by combining this altered hylomorphism with Augustine's theory of seminal reasons. Following Aristotle, a form refers to the actuality or existence of a thing, while matter refers to the potentiality or essence of a thing. However, rejecting the theory of a unity of form, Bonaventure opts instead for a plurality of forms. Since only God is pure actuality, all creatures (physical and spiritual) possess potentiality (matter). Matter is simply the name for the principle of potentiality and does not necessarily refer to something physical. Thus there is spiritual matter (angels, human soul) and physical matter (corporeal bodies) and both are potentialities that can be informed by the actualities of either spiritual or physical forms. Ultimately, all created things have at least two forms, the created form which is a copy (exemplatum ), and the eternal Form (exemplar ) within the divine Ideas of the Word. By arguing for the plurality of forms, Bonaventure again clearly distinguishes between the divine order (pure act) and the created order (plural composition of matter and form) as he explains how things change within time. Yet he did not conceive matter and form as being in a static relationship; rather, matter is an "active" potentiality that naturally inclines to unite with a form thereby emerging into existence (5.324). Reciprocally, a form not only unites with matter to constitute a new thing, but also infuses matter with new potentialities that can again join with more forms in effect, a virtual chain reaction approaching infinity. Bonaventure explains this powerful inner dynamism according to Augustine's theory of seminal reasons (ratio seminalis ) (2.198, 2.20607, 2.375, 2.43642). Potencies (matter) are latent acts (form) that exist in a dormant or germinal state. All forms, except the human soul (5.351) which is directly created by God, were created along with and imbedded into matter (potency) when the world was created. Thus all that exists, and all that can exist, exists from the beginning in the seminal reasons. Material realty is not passive but innately evolving and expanding with active powers resulting in an intrinsically dynamic universe bursting with "potential." When forms are drawn from the potency of the seminal reasons, they exist according to the efficient, formal and final causality of the creative Trinity (5.219) and thus are analogies of the power, wisdom and goodness of God.

Illumination. In a world of dynamic change, Bonaventure employs his theory of illumination to explain how there can be certainty in human knowledge (5.1727, 5.295313, 5.56774, 9.44144). Again following Aristotle, he rejects the theory of innate ideas by arguing that knowledge is dependent on sensation. Yet, he modifies Aristotle's epistemology by combining it with Augustine's theory of illumination to explain how the mind judges according to an implicit awareness of the divine Ideas or eternal Reasons. Bonaventure combines Aristotle and Augustine as he explains the mind's twofold orientation: one external through the senses, and the other internal through illumination (5.54, 5.22930,5.496, 5.570). On the external level, the mind can turn outward to the macrocosm of the world and receive innumerable data from the senses (5.299302). However, not all that is in the intellect is first in the senses. Rather, on the internal level, the mind can turn inward into itself, the microcosm, and discover itself as an image of God, and arrive at certitude through "full analysis" (plene resolvens ) by reducing (reductio ) all knowledge to elementary principles found in the divine Ideas (1.504, 5.2324,5.302305, 5.569). Consequently, the human mind is not totally and exclusively dependent on the external sense world; rather, since the mind is the image of God, all external sense knowledge can be illumined by the "light" of the divine Ideas that are internally present to the mind. However, the mind does not "see" the divine Ideas directly but must know them through contuition (contuitio ) of finite objects that are known through the senses. Since the external finite object and the internal knowing subject are both ontologically rooted in the exemplarism of the divine Word, contuitio is a simultaneous knowing of the created order and the divine order (2.542, 3.298, 3.778,5.2224, 5.312, 5.324, 5.56972). In effect, all human knowing is rooted in the Word, God's own self-knowledge.

Thus, the eternal light of divine Ideas within the uncreated Word illumines the mind through memory, regulates it through the intellect and motivates it through the will (5.24, 5.30205). Illumination, therefore, is possible precisely because the mind's powers of memory, intellect and will are an analogy of the Trinity which is the light of all understanding (5.112, 5.382). And because the entire Trinity is expressed in the Word, Christ is the "fontal principle of all cognitive illumination" (5.567) and the "root of all understanding" (5.34344). Christ the center is both the ground of being (emanation of creation) and the ground of knowing (source of certitude) (5.331). In Christ, who is the eternal exemplar of the Word, all things find their most real and true identity (1.62226), and so Bonaventure can write "I will see myself better in God than in myself" (5.386), and "God is closer to you than you are to yourself" (8.31). In effect, knowledge of creation (vestige, image, similitude) can not be separated from a subtle, innate knowledge of God. Knowledge of the external world simultaneously opens to a mystical epistemology of God. All human knowledge naturally moves toward the mystical. This means the return (reductio ) of creation through universal analogy and the return (reductio ) of knowledge through illumination both converge in Christ the center who is the reductio to God, not only in an ontological and metaphysical sense, but especially in the spiritual and existential sense of personally following Christ in his return to the Father.


The end or goal of Bonaventure's theology is the return or reductio of all things to God, and his understanding of the reductio is decidedly christocentric (1.2, 5.332,5.343). Bonaventure's logic is again circular and illustrates his theory of emanation, exemplarity and consummation. Since everything exists through the Word (emanation) and according to the Word (exemplarity), all reality can be led back or reduced by the Word (consummation) to its ultimate end, that is, to its origin within the uncreated Word. However, Bonaventure's basic insight into the reductio is not an abstract theological principle but the person of St. Francis of Assisi. Francis perfectly imitated Christ the incarnate Word who stands in the center of creation recapitulating everything to the Father in the Spirit. If Christ is the reductio, then imitation of Christ is an intimate participation in his reductio, a participation that manifests itself as the mystery of freely giving and receiving personal love. Thus, Bonaventure's spirituality of the reductio is a spirituality of love, a love that is fully given and received on the cross.

Imitation of Christ. Bonaventure frequently describes the imitation of Christ (8.12, 8.246, 8.272, 8.285,8.499503). Imitation of Christ is nothing less than an embrace of Christ's poverty, humility and charity. For example, Bonaventure describes Francis in this way at the end of the Legenda major : "O truly the most Christian of men, who strove by perfect imitation to be conformed while living to Christ living, dying to Christ dying, and dead to Christ dead, and deserved to be adorned with an expressed likeness" (8.346). Francis's expressed likeness or perfect conformity to Christ is most fully manifested in the impressed stigmata upon his flesh (5.441, 8.505, 8.545). The dialectic of expression-impression unites Francis's burning love for Christ crucified with Christ's humble, poor, self-giving love of the cross. And so, the stigmatized Francis is the model of Christian perfection since, "In all things [Francis] wished without hesitation to be conformed to Christ Crucified" (8.346). Bonaventure never tires of exploring the mystery of the stigmata (5.295, 5.312, 8.24648,8.54245, 8.54951, 8.57577, 9.53435, 9.57375, 9.57582, 9.58590, 9.59097). He interprets the stigmata as a divine seal authenticating St. Francis's life of evangelical perfection (8.247, 8.505, 8.542, 8.569,8.57376, 9.593), that is, his life of poverty, humility and charity is truly an illustration of and participation in Christ's reductio to God. Thus, Bonaventure calls Francis, "the mirror of holiness and the exemplar of all Gospel perfection" (8.547, 9.515).

In the stigmata, Francis "is totally transformed into the likeness of Christ crucified" (8.542). To imitate Christ is to be conformed to his cross, and to be conformed to the cross is to be transformed by cruciform love (4.783, 7.22530, 8.171, 8.252, 8.54243,8.57576). With cruciform love, the created order joins the Trinitarian order, and this is the reductio of salvation. Christ crucified is the center of both orders, the greatest expression of God's love, and the fullest manifestation of Christian wisdom, because the cross is the reciprocal self-emptying of the divine into the human and the human into the divine. Just as God fully comes to humanity through the cross, fallen humanity must return to God through the cross. Thus Francis, burning with the love of Christ crucified (5.312), emptied himself and returned to God through the cross of Christ.

For Bonaventure, the logic of the cross is the logic of love which is both poor and humble: poor because the cross manifests the absolute self-emptying of God's love, humble because the cross reveals the radical condescension of God's love. Bonaventure sees the two virtues of poverty and humility as the source of Christian perfection which can only be fully realized in charity/love (8.24245). Again the Trinitarian dynamic of Bonaventure's spirituality emerges. Within the divine order, poverty is ultimately rooted in the self-diffusive goodness of the Father who gives entirely everything to the Son. Humility is supremely revealed in the exemplarity of Christ who obediently receives everything from the Father and does not grasp at divine status. Charity is perfectly shared in the bond of the Holy Spirit who unites the self-communication between the Father and Son in the mystery of divine love. Likewise, within the created order, poverty especially relates to the ontological status of being created ex nihilo which signifies the absolute dependency of everything upon God's self-diffusive goodness. Humility refers to the awareness of sin and to the grateful acceptance of God's gifts of creation and grace whereby the true identity of the human person is regained through conformity with Christ, the incarnate exemplar. Charity reveals the power of the Holy Spirit that conforms the human person to Christ leading to union with God. In sum, the self-gift of poverty, humility and charity originate within the divine life of the Trinity itself. Christ's life, death and resurrection exemplify this same mystery, and Francis's vision of evangelical perfection embodies the same virtues which are fulfilled and confirmed in the divine seal of the stigmata.

The emphasis upon the stigmata as perfect conformity to Christ crucified indicates that Bonaventure focuses his entire spirituality of the reductio upon his theology of the cross (3.20, 5.295, 5.312, 5.324, 5.33233, 5.387,7.57386, 8.1214, 8.4041, 8.68, 8.7778, 8.12023, 8.168, 8.499500, 9.10709). Since creation is fallen, it must be redeemed by the poverty, humility and charity of the Incarnation which is most fully realized on the cross. Cruciform love is selfless love that freely returns what is freely given by God. All is gift and Christ crucified is the ultimate reductio because the cross is a perfect expression of love that redeems the created order by returning it to the divine order of humble, self-giving charity. Thus, the love of the cross repairs the reductio destroyed by sin.

Sin. Originally the human person was fit for perpetual contemplation of God (2.16, 5.229, 5.29798, 5.390). However, sin ruptures the human's reductio to God and so creation's circle of exit and return is also broken. Sin is the great disorder alienating the divine order from the created order (2.83839, 2.96066, 5.23540) resulting in the corruption of the order within the individual soul, the social order within humanity, and the cosmic order of the universe (9.61). For Bonaventure, the root cause of sin is pride (5.23233, 5.238), which manifests itself as the love of things over the love of God, the turning away from the divine light toward darkness (5.298), and the desire for self will instead of God's will. Pride is an illicit desire in which the sinner not only rejects God (2.5), but deforms itself as the image of the Trinity (5.240). The sin of pride is ultimately a sin against the Son who alone shares perfect equality and similitude with God. (3.29.30). Sin perverts a person's core identity by distracting the memory with anxiety, clouding the intellect with ignorance and infecting the will with concupiscence (2.36, 2.528, 5.23435, 5.306, 5.540). Sin, therefore, corrupts the human capacity for wisdom (5.230, 5.340) and love (5.231). The soul's sinful disorder is a deformation that Bonaventure depicts as being bent over (incurvatus ) (2.636, 5.253, 5.29798, 5.325,7.342; see Lk 13.1113). This imagery suggests a person doubled over upon himself unable to straighten up and gaze upon the divine light. As incurvatus, humans can no longer stand upright and fulfill their function as mediator between heaven and earth (2.5) and so all of creation is unable to complete the reductio back to God (5.28586,5.390).

However, the grace of Christ the center heals the effects of sin and reorders the human into an image of the Trinity (5.25354, 5.298, 5.30608). The sins of pride, selfishness and concupiscence are overcome and replaced by Christ's poverty, humility and charity (3.776, 5.175,5.348, 5.370, 7.141, 7.148, 7.175, 7.228, 7.244, 8.272, 9.90, 9.102, 9.148, 9.232, 9.372, 9.443). While not all Christ's actions can be imitated, Christ is the exemplar and model of all Christian perfection (8.243). Any authentic relationship with Christ must historically and concretely manifest the humility, poverty and charity of Christ. True imitation of Christ begins in humility, expresses itself in poverty, and comes to perfection in charity (5.12021, 8.24248). Humility and poverty are always inseparable from the love of self, neighbor, and God, and vice versa (5.46061). Moreover, only in humility and poverty can a human person truly discern his or her true identity which is both incomplete in the natural order and fallen in the moral order (5.11724). Thus, creation's ontological incompleteness as existing ex nihilo and the historical alienation of sin are both reconciled by the poverty, humility and charity of the Incarnation and Crucifixion. In effect, Christ's reconciliation is the reductio of the human person to God. This reductio is intrinsically intertwined with the ongoing process of conformity to Christ. Only by descending with Christ and embracing his poverty and humility can one ascend to God in love (5.297, 5.44246, 9.534). Bonaventure describes this dynamic of the descent-ascent with the concept of hierarchy which, through the grace of Christ, reorders the soul's sinful incurvatus into a hierarchical spirit.

Hierarchy. Influenced by Pseudo-Dionysius, Bonaventure calls the re-ordering of the human image into its original state the hierarchization of the soul. Hierarchization is a technical term which means the total transformation and re-ordering of the soul according to the triple way of purgation, illumination and perfection/union (2.635, 5.205, 5.222, 5.252, 5.30607, 5.42949, 7.349) which is accomplished by the grace of Christ who is the Hierarch (4.508, 5.20507, 5.341437, 8.83, 9.388). Bonaventure simply defines mystical theology as the acquisition of ecstatic love through the hierarchic power of purgation, illumination and perfection/union (7.349). Purgation relates to the removal of sin, illumination to the imitation of Christ, and perfection to the contemplation of God's presence in all things. All three activities work concurrently and in unison to make the human spirit hierarchic by reordering the image into conformity with Christ, the divine Hierarch. The entire triple way is present in every step of the soul's spiritual journey. This mutually inclusive process is the focus of the widely influential De triplici via (8.118) which details the soul's process of transformation according to the integration of the triple way with the three spiritual practices of prayer, meditation and contemplation whereby the soul receives the gifts of peace, truth and love.

The effects of the soul's hierarchization is simultaneously transformative and unitive. On one level, Christ is the inner teacher of the soul (5.327, 5.429) who purges, illumines and perfects the human image into an expressed similitude of the Trinity whereby the memory, intellect and will are re-ordered into proper relationship through faith, hope and love (5.256, 5.30607) and the related beatitudes, habits, virtues and gifts (3.737, 5.25660).

The hierarchic re-ordering of the human body, soul, and spirit results in the re-ordering of the entire human person/image into its proper position as intermediary within the physical, spiritual and transcendent hierarchy of creation. The individual, societal and cosmic disorder caused by sin are reversed by the soul's hierarchization according to the grace of Christ who is the center of each order (5.297, 5.306, 5.312, 5.345, 5.37071). Thus, on another level, Christ is simultaneously the Hierarch who unites the inner hierarchy of the soul, the outer hierarchy of the earthly church, the transcendent hierarchy of the heavenly church and the divine hierarchy of the Trinity (5.22526, 5.42937). Through and in the grace of Christ, the reformed image fully participates in the church on earth, becomes like the heavenly church and is continually becoming a fuller expressed similitude of the Trinity. Throughout, Christ is the one Hierarch who is the center of each hierarchy beginning in the highest hierarchy of the Trinity through the intermediate hierarchies of the angels and church into the lowest hierarchy of the human soul. Likewise, since Francis's imitation of and conformity to Christ was perfect, Bonaventure calls Francis a "hierarchic man" (5.577, 8.504) and portrays him as the perfect model of purgation, illumination and perfection, and therefore the true model of contemplation (5.44041).

Contemplation. For Bonaventure, contemplation is the fullest reductio possible while still on earth. While he frequently discusses contemplation (2.54546, 3.53031, 3.77879, 5.3942, 5.25860, 5.31213, 5.57072, 7.23039, 8.1617, 9.16263, 9.22829, 9.26869, 9.50910), he never offers a precise definition. Rather, rooted in the idea of hierarchization, he upholds contemplation as the highest form of knowledge through and in which the human person glimpses the continuity of all reality, that is, the internal-external, physical-spiritual, and divine-created all converging in one unifying vision (5.42449). Contemplation is the fullness of contuitio.

Bonaventure arrives at this unifying vision of God's presence by way of two distinct but related forms of contemplation (3.531, 5.3842, 5.259, 5.358, 5.57576,8.1617): one derived from Augustine and another from Pseudo-Dionysius (7.232). From Augustine, he teaches a form of contemplation that follows the "affirmative way" (via affirmativa ) which turns toward creatures and discovers God's presence through and in all creation (1.74, 5.297). It achieves its fullness in the gift of understanding. This form of "cataphatic" contemplation is more active, emphasizes the speculative way of understanding God's truth, especially as revealed in Scripture, and culminates in the ecstacy of the intellect (5.4243,5.313). From Pseudo-Dionysius, he teaches a form of contemplation that follows the "negative way" (via negativa ) which turns away from creatures, and in a state of "darkness" turns exclusively and completely toward God. Here the gift par excellence is wisdom. This form of "apophatic" contemplation is more passive, emphasizes the affections (affectus ) over the intellect, focuses on the experience of God's love, and culminates in the ecstacy of the will (3.292, 3.531, 5.306, 5.344, 5.434). In sum, the ecstacy of understanding renders the soul conformed to God, while the ecstacy of love transforms the soul into unity with God (2.916, 5.313, 5.436).

The Itinerarium mentis in Deum is an excellent example of the two forms of contemplation. Therein Bonaventure presents St. Francis as "an example of perfect contemplation" (5.312) whose vision of the crucified seraph accompanying the reception of the stigmata "represents our father's suspension in contemplation and the way to reach it" (5.295). For Bonaventure, Francis's vision of the six wings of the "Seraph in the form of the Crucified" reveals both the goal and the means of contemplation. On the one hand, each of the seraph's six wings symbolizes an illumination (means) which begin with creatures and lead up to God according to the affirmative way. On the other hand, the crucified body of the seraph itself (5.312) symbolizes mystical union with God (goal) in apophatic darkness. By constructing the Itinerarium in this way, Bonaventure sets forth Francis's stigmata, symbolically represented by the seraph, as the perfect mirror of contemplation through which one can discover the divine presence in all things and receive mystical union with God through Christ crucified.

Union with God. Bonaventure describes union with God as a mystical death (mors mystica ) or passing over (transitus ) (5.31213, 5.429, 6.590, 6.619, 8.4951). Mystical union transcends the mind's intellectual activities (2.54446, 5.260, 5.312, 5.34042), subsuming the mind into a transformed state of "affective knowing" which is more like a feeling than knowledge (6.256). At this point, intellectual knowledge becomes insufficient and gives way to the experiential knowledge of God's love. In this state, the soul becomes passive and is totally transferred and transformed into God by the unifying love of the Holy Spirit (1.41, 5.40, 5.254, 5.312). Specifically, it is in the "most burning love of the Crucified"(5.260, 5.295, 5.113, 8.121) that one experiences union with God by mystically participating, like Francis, in Christ's death upon the cross. Bonaventure describes this loving embrace as an absolute self-emptying and total self-giving of love. Here, in the love of the cross, one shares in the mystery of Christ's loving return to the Father in the unity of the Spirit. In sum, union with God is through and in union with Christ crucified. Furthermore, Bonaventure distinguishes between two types of union with God (3.744, 5.259, 5.34748): ecstacy (excessus/ecstasis ) which is open to everyone through the grace of contemplation (2.546, 3.531, 5.1921, 5.259), and rapture (raptus ) which is reserved for very few through an act of divine glory (2.54446, 4.160, 5.24, 5.45556,5.34748, 9.229). For Bonaventure, Francis is a new model for both, and for this reason, he signifies a new age in salvation history.

Eschatology. While contemplation focuses on the reductio of the individual Christian to God, eschatology focuses on the reductio of the entire church and all of history to God. In reality the two are inseparable. In his last unfinished work, the Collationes in Hexaëmeron, Bonaventure combines them by paralleling and associating six levels of illumination with the six days of creation and the six ages of salvation history (2.33839, 5.20506,5.245, 5.269, 5.321, 5.38889). Bonaventure thus situates the significance of St. Francis and the Franciscan Order within a symbolically rich "apocalyptic eschatology" which anticipates a new age of spiritual/prophetic understanding of Scripture and perfect conformity to Christ through contemplation. To explain this monumental transition in salvation history, Bonaventure adopts Augustine's traditional theology of history which envisions a correspondence between the seven days of creation and the seven ages from Adam to Christ (5.388,5.392402). Bonaventure adapts this schema by combining it with the apocalyptic theology of Joachim of Fiore (5.388400, 5.40508). While rejecting certain key aspects of Joachim's apocalypticism (1.121, 5.403), he employs, possibly indirectly, Joachim's exegetical method of exact historical parallels between the seven ages of both the Old and the New Testaments. Thus, Bonaventure conceives salvation history according to a twofold parallel between the Old Testament, spanning seven ages from Adam to Christ (Augustine), and a corresponding schema in the New Testament, spanning seven ages of the church from Christ until the end of the World (Joachim).

Within this eschatological framework, Bonaventure interprets both Francis and his order as appearing at the end of the sixth age of the New Testament (5.44041). Francis is the prophetic figure signifying, especially in the miracle of the stigmata, the advent of the seventh age after Christ, namely, an age of revelation (5.33839,5.408, 5.430) and peace (5.40102) preparing the way for the kingdom of God. To highlight Francis's eschatological significance, Bonaventure identifies Francis as the Angel of the Sixth Seal (Rv 7.2) who both embodies and signals the coming of a new age of contemplation before the end of the world (5.164, 5.405, 5.408, 5.50910,5.445, 5.447, 8.247, 8.504, 8.516, 8.545, 9.587). Thus, during the crisis of the false uses of Aristotelian philosophy (5.36061, 5.41819, 5.42223) and the continued attacks against mendicancy, Bonaventure looks to Francis as an eschatological figure of hope. Francis, in perfect conformity to Christ in the stigmata, establishes a new order of contemplatives (5.402, 5.449) in the church that can be embraced by anyone who follows Francis's example by embracing Christ crucified (5.43744). In effect, Bonaventure interprets the stigmata to have eschatological-prophetic meaning as well as mystical-contemplative meaning.

Bonaventure's emphasis on Francis as an eschatological figure always leads back to conformity to Christ, who in turn, leads everything back (reductio ) to the Father. In effect, Bonaventure sees Christ as the center of his double seven schema of salvation history. Just like the rest of his theology, Bonaventure's eschatology is christocentric. It is within this eschatological and christocentric framework that Bonaventure situates his theology of the church (4.602607ff, 5.43144) and the Sacraments (4.846ff, 5.26580). In sum, all of salvation history is engaged in a grand circular dynamic of exit and return with Christ as its universal center uniting the divine order of the Trinity with the created order of history.


The critical edition of Bonaventure's works was published as Opera Omnia: Doctoris Seraphici S. Bona-venturae opera omnia, 10 vols. (Quaracchi: Collegium S. Bonaventurae, 18821902). The table accompanying this essay lists these works in chronological order, giving their volume and page numbers in this edition.

Feast: July 15.

Bibliography: Works. Collationes in Hexaëmeron et Bona-venturiana quaedam selecta, ed. f. delorme (Quarachi 1934); Sancti bonaventurae sermones dominicales, ed. j. g. bougerol (Grottaferrata 1977). b. distelbrink, Bonaventurae Scripta: Authentica dubia vel spuria critice recensita (Rome 1975). i. brady, "The Opera Omnia of St. Bonaventure," Archivum Franciscanum Historicum 70 (1977) 35276. English Translations. Works of Saint Bonaventure, 7 v., ed. g. marcil and z. hayes (St. Bonaventure, N.Y. 1956). The Works of Bonaventure, tr. j. de vinck, 5 v. (Quincy, IL. 19601970). What Manner of Man: Sermons on Christ by St. Bonaventure, tr. z. hayes (Chicago 1989). Bringing Forth Christ: Five Feasts of the Child Jesus, tr. e. doyle (Quincy, IL.1984). Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, v. 2, ed. r. armstrong,j. a. hellmann, and w. short (New York 2000). Bonaventure: The Soul's Journey into God, The Tree of Life, The Life of St. Francis, tr. e. cousins (New York 1978). Bonaventure: Mystic of God's Word, ed. t. johnson (New York 1999). Collected Essays. Sancta Bonaventura 12741974, ed. j. g. bougerol, 5 v. (Grottaferrata 1974). Bonaventuriana: Miscellanea in onore di Jacques Guy Bogerol, ed. f. blanco, 2 v. (Rome 1988). San Bona-ventura Maestro di vita francescana e di sapienza cristiana, ed. a. pompei, 3 v. (Rome 1976). The Medieval Heritage: A Colloquy on the Thought of Aquinas and Bonaventure, ed. d. tracy (Chicago 1989). S. Bonaventura Francescano, Covegni del Centro di Studi sulla Spiritualità Medievale XIV (Todi 1974). Proceedings of the Seventh Centenary Celebration of the Death of Saint Bonaventure, ed. p. foley (St. Bonaventure, N.Y. 1975). English Studies. j. g. bougerol, Introduction to the Works of Bonaventure, tr. j. de vinck (Paterson 1963). c. carpenter, Theology as the Road to Holiness in Bonaventure (New York 1999). e. cousins, Bonaventure and the Coincidence of Opposites (Chicago 1978); "Bonaventure's Mysticism of Language," in Mysticism and Language, ed. s. katz (New York 1992) 23657. i. delio, Crucified Love: Bona-venture's Mysticism of the Crucified Christ (Quincy, IL. 1998); Simply Bonaventure: An Introduction to His Life, Thought and Writings (New York 2001). p. fehlner, The Role of Charity in the Ecclesiology of St. Bonaventure (Rome 1965). e. gilson, The Philosophy of St. Bonaventure, tr. i. trethowan and f. sheed (Paterson 1965). j. hammond, Seeking Peace Through Prayer: Bonaventure's Journey of the Mind into God (Quincy, IL. 2002). z. hayes, The Hidden Center: Spirituality and Speculative Christology in St. Bonaventure (New York 1981); Bonaventure: Mystical Writings (New York 1999); "Bonaventure: Mystery of the Triune God," in The History of Franciscan Theology, ed. k. osborne (St. Bonaventure, N.Y. 1994) 39126. j. a. hellmann, Divine and Created Order in Bonaventure's Theology, tr. j. hammond (St. Bonaventure, N.Y. 2001). t. johnson, The Soul in Ascent: Bonaventure on Poverty, Prayer and Union with God (Quincy, IL. 2001). b. mcginn, "Bonaventure's Mystical Synthesis," in The Flowering of Mysticism (New York 1998) 87112. r. prentice, The Psychology of Love According to St. Bonaventure (St. Bonaventure, N.Y.1992). j. quinn, The Historical Constitution of St. Bonaventure's Philosophy (Toronto 1973). j. ratzinger, The Theology of History in St. Bonaventure, tr. z. hayes (Chicago 1971). a. schaefer, The Position and Function of Man in the Created World According to Saint Bonaventure (Washington 1965). g. tavard, Transiency and Permanence: The Nature of Theology according to St. Bonaventure (St. Bonaventure, N.Y.1954).

[j. m. hammond]