From the Trinity to the Cross


Christ the Centre as Mediator and Healer in the thought of St Bonaventure

Table of Contents

A thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirement for the degree of Master of Sacred Theology in Marriage and Family


John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family, Melbourne, Australia

Benjamin L. Johnson



This thesis is my own work. No part has been copied from any other student’s work or from any other source, except where due acknowledgment is made in the text. No part has been written or substantially edited for me by another person, except where such collaboration has been authorised by the Course Co-ordinator concerned. I have complied with the Academic Regulations and with the Guidelines for Presentation of Essays and Theses.

Benjamin Luke Johnson

Date: 20 February 2017


1.1 General Introduction

St Bonaventure of Bagnoregio (1221-1274) increasingly throughout his writings presents a radically christocentric vision. He states, in regards to the preacher, that to overlook Christ the medium (the centre) means that no true result can be obtained.[1] Without coming to know the incarnate Word man cannot obtain true knowledge and understanding in both the divine and created orders. Bonaventure’s christology places the divine Word at the centre (media persona) of the Trinity. For the created order, the Word is the mediator through whom all things are created (exitus) and through whom all things return (reditus) to the Father. The Word in both the divine order and the created order is the medium and as such is the exemplar.

At the centre of this christological vision stands the cross, through which a healing is dramatically affected, enabling the reductio ad Patrem of all creation. For Bonaventure, it is Christ crucified on the cross who mediates through suffering thereby affecting a healing that leads man to mystical union with God. Bonaventure’s christocentrism develops on the awe he has for the stigmatised St Francis of Assisi who is for him the exemplar of Christ mysticism that has the cross at its centre.

The aim then of this thesis is to come to understand the christocentric approach of Bonaventure in light of the renewed interest as understood and portrayed by contemporary theologians. In analysing the various and differing approaches of major contributions to understanding his christology, I hope to present Bonaventure as a valuable voice for our contemporary theological world. This thesis will therefore explicitly look at the insights of contemporary scholars on Bonaventure’s christocentric vision from its origin in the Trinity to the incarnation and the cross where creation is able to return to God. The examination of various leading scholars, including especially their differences, aims to provide an avenue into the vast and yet tightly held together Bonaventurean system. At the same time it also seeks to highlight the deficiency in Bonaventurean studies in regards to the place of Christ.

In contemporary times Pope St John Paul II has underscored the need for the recovery of authentic christology. Indeed at the beginning of his pontificate in 1979 he issued the Encyclical Letter Redemptor Hominis. This first Encyclical would mark the shape of his teaching during his time in the chair of Saint Peter. He begins boldly stating that “The Redeemer of Man, Jesus Christ, is the centre of the universe and history.”[2] Looking forward to the great jubilee of the new millennium he longs to

reawaken in us in a special way our awareness of the key truth of faith which Saint John expressed at the beginning of his Gospel: ‘The Word became flesh and dwelt among us’ (Jn. 1:14), and elsewhere: ‘God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life’ (Jn. 3:16).[3]

With these key words, John Paul II is not only encouraging the faithful but directly addressing contemporary, yet perennial, problems in christology.

At the heart of what John Paul II is addressing are the challenges to the truth of faith that the Word of God, the second person of the Trinity assumed a human nature and has universal significance throughout history. Joseph Ratzinger, who would succeed John Paul II to the papacy, in 1968 engaged also with this problem in his work Introduction to Christianity. He asks “Can we dare to base our whole existence, indeed the whole of history, on the straw of one happening in the great sea of history?”[4] The problem addressed at the core of this question is nothing new, states Ratzinger, but he does argue that it is exacerbated in modern times due to the way in which history is approached and dealt with.[5] In this milieu the possibility for metaphysical and ontological claims are severely limited. The project of christology is constrained to the level of historical investigation, which has significant limitations.[6]

The theological concerns of Joseph Ratzinger underscore the impetus of the magisterial project of John Paul II. This project was to build on that central theme of the Second Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution Gaudium et Spes. In his first Encyclical John Paul II proclaims that it is Christ who “fully reveals man to himself and brings to light his most high calling.”[7] In modern times man has become lost to himself and John Paul II understands this as related to christological problems. Without a proper understanding of the human nature of Christ one is often left with, at best, a mere moral teacher. To borrow the term from Ratzinger, one can see that John Paul II does indeed ‘dare’ to place at the centre of the created order and of all history the incarnate Word of God. Edward T. Oaks states that the opening line from Redemptor Hominis is “about the most lapidary formulation of Christocentrism ever penned.”[8]

The challenges to orthodox understandings of the humanity of Christ, as Ratzinger pointed out, are nothing new. This difficulty is true of the Middle Ages which saw one of the most significant growth periods of interest in the humanity of Christ. Saint Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153) helped usher in this interest through his writings and teachings, which subsequently filtered into popular piety. The Franciscan movement inspired by the life of Saint Francis of Assisi (1182-1226) is attributed with spreading devotion and interest far and wide in the humanity of Christ.

The contemporary situation for the project of christology with its inherent difficulties and constraints offers greater reason to examine the thought of a major figure from the tradition. The christocentric call of the Second Vatican Council shared by John Paul II and Benedict XVI directs us to the historical and foundational christocentric vision of St Bonaventure of Bagnoregio.

1.2 Aims of the Thesis

The edition and publication of the 10 volume critical edition of Bonaventure’s writings by the Quaracchi Fathers between 1882 and 1902 brought about renewed interest in his thought. There have not been, however, vast numbers of works in Bonaventurean studies as compared to say Thomistic studies over the last century. In the English speaking world Zachary Hayes stands as a preeminent scholar of Bonaventure’s christology. Hayes’ book, The Hidden Center: Spirituality and Speculative Christology in St. Bonaventure remains a definitive text, and yet also must be met with critical inquiry. Hayes concludes that Bonaventure’s christology grows as it finds further expression within a “Dionysian hierarchical-mystical model.”[9] Hayes argues that Bonaventure’s focus is on the salvific work of Christ for the human subject as the soul is ordered to God through Christ the centre of all reality. It is a christology that is deeply connected to a spirituality of the imitation of Christ.

Due to the renewal of interest in Bonaventurean studies over the last century this study is primarily an examination of contemporary scholarship on ‘Christ the centre’ in the thought of Bonaventure. Within his wide corpus there are specific works which reveal Bonaventure’s christocentric vision and these are used in conjunction with the overall analysis of contemporary thought. Aside from Hayes, contemporary leading theologians in Bonaventure’s thought include Ilia Delio, Wayne Hellmann, Jay Hammond, Joshua Benson, Jared Goff, Christopher Cullen and Gregory LaNave.

Three significant works where Bonaventure outlines his christocentric theology and mysticism are the Collations on the Six Days of Creation, The Soul’s Journey into the Mind of God and The Tree of Life. These three texts in a certain way represent the culmination of his christology both from his academic career and his mystical theological insights. Reference is also made to his academic writings most especially The Breviloquium, but also to The Commentary on the Sentences of Peter Lombard, and The Disputed Questions on the Mystery of the Trinity.

1.3 Organisation of the Thesis

Bonaventure himself often uses a triadic structure to express the presence of the Trinity in the order of everything. The body of this thesis is divided into three main chapters and this triadic method is used insofar as it follows the great fascination of the Seraphic Doctor with numbers and order.

Chapter two is the first chapter of the body of the thesis. I follow a traditional structure of starting with the Trinity and the centre place of the Word in its inner life. Following this I analyse the Word incarnate holding centre place between God and humankind. The central work which sets the framework for this first section is Bonaventure’s final work the Collations on the Six Days, which presents the height of his christocentric vision. The first part in this section will examine the Trinity as the starting point for understanding Bonaventure’s christology. This part will examine in particular recent scholarship on Bonaventure’s incorporation of the Dionysian principle that goodness is diffusive of itself and the Victorine principle that the highest form of the good is love. Finally this part details Bonaventure’s understanding of the primacy of the Father. These three fundamental aspects of Bonaventure’s trinitarian theology form the foundation for understanding the Word as medium.

The second part will analyse the Word as the media persona of the Trinity. I will explore especially recent understandings of Bonaventure’s use of the titles of Word, Son and Image. The Word as medium of the Trinity is foundational to the christocentric nature of Bonaventure’s theology. His christocentrism is detailed through the importance of these three titles which he favors for the second divine person. Bonaventure’s doctrine of exemplarism finds its foundational expression here.

The third part of this chapter investigates how the Word as medium and divine exemplar is the presupposition to the Word as mediator in the thought of Bonaventure. This part analyses contemporary thought on Bonaventure’s idea that Christ’s incarnation enables the return of all creation to the Father. Importantly the treatment of Bonaventure in regards to the purpose or reason for the incarnation is the central focus.

The third chapter examines Bonaventure on the human suffering of the Word. In the first part of this chapter, I examine the human nature of the Word in contemporary scholarship. For Bonaventure the whole life of Jesus Christ is salvific and therefore mediatorial. The two major areas of concern are Christ’s human intellect and will. The overall interest is how does his understanding of the humanity of the Word impact his christology.

The second part of this chapter analyses the human suffering of the Word. In Bonaventure’s time there was great interest in the sufferings of Christ. This part investigates the differing insights into how Bonaventure understands the possibility of the incarnate Word to undergo suffering and what is the nature of that suffering.

The third part examines directly Christ as mediator on the cross. For Bonaventure Christ assumes only those defects which need healing. Christ is medium to all things but he is only mediator to mankind. Here I study contemporary scholarship of Bonaventure’s notions of condescension, liberality and completion.

Finally chapter four studies the contemporary thought on Christ crucified and his grace as the centre for the human person. For Bonaventure the return to God is enabled at the cross, where the Word is the centre of healing for humankind in their return to the Father. Bonaventure presents the Word as the divine healer in the Soul’s Journey into the Mind of God. As the soul is lifted up into the divine it experiences the healing merits of the cross. The first part of this final chapter examines Bonaventure’s understanding of redemption as healing. Discussions over the influence of the stigmata of Saint Francis of Assisi on Bonaventure’s mysticism of Christ crucified are reviewed. Francis is demonstrated to be an archetype for the possibility of our own union with God.

The second part analyses the centrality of Christ crucified as the model of life and way to the Father, especially in reference to the virtues of poverty and humility. It will be demonstrated that for Bonaventure the Word as Divine Exemplar offers the reditus to the Father.

The above forms the body of the thesis. The three significant texts where Bonaventure presents his christocentric mystical theology are from the post-university stage of Bonaventure’s life. These later works represent the organic development and culmination of his earlier writings as his thoughts turn from the academic world to the spiritual life of the Friars Minor. The three works are examined in conjunction with the major works of Bonaventure during his academic career, namely; the Commentary on the Sentences of Peter Lombard and the Brevoloquium.

This thesis examines Bonaventure’s unique christological vision from contemporary scholarship of the Word as the medium who mediates and heals. This scholastic theologian-philosopher reveals Christ to be the centre of the Trinity, the Universe and the human person. All of this finds roots in the esteem to which Bonaventure holds Francis and his theological insights. The value of a christocentric theology is echoed in our times in the perennial task of refining and evolving theology.

1.4 Background to the life and thought of Saint Bonaventure

Bonaventure of Bagnoregio (1221-1274) as the young student at the University of Paris was awestruck by the new movement of mendicant friars. His Franciscan teacher Alexander of Hales (1185?-1245) nurtures academically the brilliant young Bonaventure. It is during his studies at Paris that he would join the Ordem Fratrem Minorum (The Order of Friars Minor), who would come to be known as the Franciscans. Later, Bonaventure will see in the un-schooled Francis a theologian par excellence.

Bonaventure’s entry into the Franciscans shapes the theology he would produce. Hans Urs Von Balthasar states that for Bonaventure:

His world is Franciscan, and so is his theology, however many stones he may use to erect his spiritual cathedral over the mystery of humility and poverty, like another Baroque Portiuncula over the unpretentious original chapel… At the origin lies an experience of overpowering by the fullness of reality, like a sea that emanates gloriously from the depths of God, eternally flowing and not to be restrained.[10]

The distinctiveness of his contribution lays the greatest foundation to what would be eventually known as the Franciscan school of theology. His theology does not appear out of nowhere but is steeped in the tradition of the Church. There have emerged in contemporary times significant discussions over which academic sources of the tradition have greater value.[11] These debates have varying values, and as I argue in agreement with Balthasar, cannot neglect the presence of Bonaventure’s Franciscan vision.

Bonaventure often develops from an Augustinian line and incorporates aspects of the theology of the Eastern Fathers of the Church. His first major work is his Commentary on the Sentences of Peter Lombard as was the custom at the time. Here he reveals his thorough understanding of all the pertinent scholastic questions. He is also aware of, but remains at times more sceptically distant from the works of Aristotle, as they emerge at this time unlike his great contemporary Thomas of Aquinas (1225-1274). Ewert Cousins describes Bonaventure as a great “synthesizer” alongside Thomas Aquinas in a period of history known for synthetic thinkers.[12] He is both philosopher and theologian. Bonaventure stands tall within the scholastic tradition drawing upon the great variety of resources, some of which were ‘newly’ available. What makes his contribution significant and distinct is, at least partly, his incorporation of the vision of the “Poverello” of Assisi.[13]

One of the richer and most highlighted parts of his theology is his emphasis on the central place of Christ. So central is the place of Christ that it may be argued that Bonaventure does not have a theology outside of christology. The Word of God is not only the centre of creation as the one through whom all things were made but is at the centre of the Trinity. At the incarnation the Word of God becomes the centre (medium) between God and humankind, and indeed God and the entire creation. Bonaventure therefore develops a cohesive christocentric vision of the universe and history. Christ is at the centre of all reality.

Bonaventure understood that Francis knew Jesus Christ not just in an epistemological sense and therefore he did not imitate him merely in a moral sense. Francis’ identification with Christ included his receiving of the stigmata, the wounds of Christ from his Passion. Francis, about two years from his death is at Mount La Verna wrapped in the ecstasy of prayer, has a vision of a six-winged Seraph fastened to a cross. Bonaventure writes:

[Francis] wondered exceedingly at the sight of so unfathomable a vision, realizing that the weakness of Christ’s passion was in no way compatible with the immortality of the Seraph’s spiritual nature. Eventually he understood by a revelation from the Lord that divine providence had shown him this vision so that, as Christ’s lover, he might learn in advance that he was to be totally transformed into the likeness of Christ crucified, not by the martyrdom of his flesh, but by the fire of his love consuming his soul.[14]

The vision ends with the Seraph leaving and Francis having the wounds of the crucified Christ. Bonaventure’s analysis of the stigmata of Francis offers an insight into his christology.[15] The cross is at the centre of the life of the Word made flesh. Christ crucified is the one mediator, and it is only through his human wounds and suffering that humanity is saved. This transformation into the crucified-One lived by Francis forms the basis for the overarching christocentric vision of Bonaventure.

Bonaventure poetically states that the fastest way to find the centre of something is to draw two straight lines at right angles and mark where they intercept.[16] Placing Christ on the cross at the centre of reality for Bonaventure is not just poetical imaginings but forms for him a theological metaphysics. Hayes states:

In the final analysis, for Bonaventure there is but one metaphysics, and that is one for which the Christ-mystery becomes paradigmatic for our understanding of all reality. In relation to this, philosophical metaphysics can be only a stage on the way and not a discipline that stands completely in itself.[17]

The Christ-mystery with its central reference point of the cross is the locus of the mediation between God and man. The mediation itself takes place in the humanity assumed by the Word of God. Jesus of Nazareth is the universal Saviour.

Here we find the “scandal of the particular” whereby Hayes states that “the entire burden of man’s quest for a universal word of intelligibility is focused in the history of the Man of Nazareth.”[18] Bonaventure as a theologian is very much concerned with this problem, which as noted above, arises in our contemporary times. With the christocentric vision of Gaudium et Spes paragraph 22 and the need for a correct understanding of the humanity of the Word, Bonaventure’s thought presents as vitally important to reconsider.

Studies on the thought of Bonaventure received a resurgence in the 20th Century due to the edition and publication by the Quarrachi Fathers. For the first half of that century neo-Thomist scholasticism was still strong and so Bonaventurean studies were often focused on trying to extract a philosophical system from him. The Thomist Etienne Gilson concluded that Bonaventure indeed had an independent philosophical system.

Others approached him by stepping outside the neo-scholastic framework seeing the freshness of the unity of his overall theological-philosophical vision. These include theological heavyweights Romano Guardini, Hans Urs von Balthasar and Joseph Ratzinger. Ratzinger found that for Bonaventure history and metaphysics are interconnected and that history is one christocentric event.[19] Balthasar perceived Bonaventure’s christocentric theology as giving expression to his inmost experience of Jesus Christ: “In Bonaventure, the nuptial theology and spirituality is omnipresent, permeating everything as a matter of course; it comes to expression more strongly the nearer he approaches the mystical peaks.”[20] The insights of Balthasar, though he is not a Bonaventurean scholar per se, remain profoundly important to studies of the Seraphic Doctor especially in regards to the needs of contemporary theology.


2.1 The Trinity and the Father

The works of the greatest synthetic minds of the middle ages have been compared with the structures of the great medieval gothic cathedrals.[21] This is certainly true for Bonaventure’s works and is a fruitful image for the very structure of his overall thought. One finds with him that the doctrines of the Trinity, creation and Christ form an architectonic framework.

What one therefore finds in Bonaventure is a close and interconnecting relationship of all the sciences. Indeed, he outlines this in the De reductione artium ad theologiam. The search for the intelligibility of all things can only be fulfilled in knowing the triune God revealed by Jesus Christ in history.[22] Zachary Hayes states that Bonaventure “sees an inner positive relation between the order of creation and the order of grace, between the science of philosophy and the science of theology.”[23] This positive relationship between philosophy and theology is most apparent in his metaphysics.[24]

In regards especially to his trinitarian theology one can see this pervading both the goal and the structure of his entire corpus. The Trinity is the origin and telos of his work and source of the true knowledge of God. According to Jared Goff this knowledge of God for Bonaventure is attainable only in a trinitarian framework.[25] This is true in Bonaventure’s final work the Collations on the Six Days of Creation (henceforth the Collations), which are a series of lectures delivered against radical Averrorism. Bonaventure begins with Christ as the centre of all things. This work is the culmination of both his academic life and spiritual life framed in a christocentric vision.

Bonaventure asks in the first collation where it is that the Holy Spirit will teach the prudent man to not only address his speech but also where to begin and conclude it. It is addressed to the Church primarily, which Bonaventure states is a “union of rational men living in harmony and uniformity through harmonious and uniform observance of divine Law.”[26] The speech will end in the “complete fulfilling of the spirit of wisdom and understanding.”[27] A central aspect for our study is Bonaventure’s assertion of where the activity of the preacher, in preaching to the Church, must begin. Bonaventure asks and answers “from where to begin, that is, from the center (medium), which is Christ: for if this Medium is overlooked, no result is obtained.”[28] He proposes that the preacher must begin with the centre, in Latin the medium, who is Christ. It is here that we find the summit of his christocentric theology, which shapes and is shaped by his trinitarian vision. One must begin with Christ as ‘the centre’ because he alone reveals the truth of the mystery of the triune God, and thus the truth of creation.

Bonaventure points to Christ the centre as the locus in which to lay the foundation of theology. His final theological work does not begin with the nature of God as he had done in his academic works, namely The Commentary on the Sentences and the Breviloquium. The Collations reveal a shift in the manner of expression he wishes to present his vision. This shift, I would argue, does not represent a substantive change in his christology but a natural development, especially shaped by changing circumstances. What it does clearly represent is that for Bonaventure Christ is the medium of the Trinity and the medium between God and humankind, and without acknowledging this one cannot achieve the fullness of knowledge. In order to understand this christocentric vision this study will somewhat paradoxically begin with the Trinity. This method aims to draw out and highlight especially Bonaventure’s understanding of the Word as the centre. Contemporary theologians highlight christocentrism as one of the most significant aspects of Bonaventure. The Verbum increatum is at the centre of the life of the trinitarian persons and is subsequently in the Bonaventurean system at the centre of the trinitarian life ad extra as the Verbum incarnatum.

According to Christopher Cullen, it is due possibly to this christocentrism that Bonaventure escapes the accusations often laid upon scholastic trinitarian theology by theologians of the Renaissance, Enlightenment and modernity. Cullen asserts that the detail to which the Scholastics probe the nature of God is often accused of verging on the absurd. One accusation is that the scholastic speculations on the unity of the Godhead subordinate the doctrine of the Trinity of persons.[29] Cullen states that this is not true for Bonaventure: “Whatever path one takes to God, whether scriptural or philosophical, one will find the Trinity of persons. Everything that exists proclaims the Trinity of persons.”[30]

While the accusations noted hold varying degrees of weight, Cullen’s analysis of Bonaventure’s trinitarian vision is important. Similarly Cousins argues that “Bonaventure does not make a sharp distinction between the divine nature and the Trinity.”[31] For this reason Cousins states that Bonaventure’s thought is highly structured in that there is a continuous line from the dynamism of the Father to creation.[32] It is true that for Bonaventure revelation and the created order reveal the Trinity because in them are stamped the trinitarian relations. The structure itself of Bonaventure’s thought emphasises the three hypostases strongly. The implicit association that this aspect of his theology runs counter to the western and therefore Augustinian tradition needs further analysis.

In one of the most recent studies into Bonaventure’s thought on the Trinity is Jared Goff’s Caritas in Primo. Goff points out the trinitarian nature of the task of theology. He states that for Bonaventure “theology has for its object the ground of all reality, truth and love: the essence of God communicated in the circumincessing love of the three divine Persons of the Godhead.”[33] This understanding of theology is fundamental to Bonaventurean studies and highlights the problematic task of trying to extract a philosophical system out of Bonaventure. Goff demonstrates that only theology and revelation can bring the finite mind to a “full resolution of those insights gained through the lower disciplines, especially philosophy.”[34] In the background of this system stands Francis of Assisi and his ecstatic union to the three divine Persons. Goff importantly situates the theological vision of Bonaventure within the Franciscan tradition based on the experience and insights of Francis.[35]

Since the renewed interest in his work with the publication of the critical Quaracchi edition there have been several hypotheses regarding Bonaventure’s philosophical influences and the degree to which their thought is manifest in his writings.[36] There are two influences which are highly significant in reference to his trinitarian theology, Augustine of Hippo and Richard of St Victor. Cullen, summarising the current consensus, states:

Drawing on Augustine, Bonaventure argues to the Trinity from the notion of God as mind; drawing on Richard, he argues to the Trinity from the notion of God as love. It seems that Bonaventure attempted to use them both in order to create a synthesis rooted in a metaphysics of being, goodness, and love.[37]

Bonaventure does not simply synthesise the models of Augustine and Richard but incorporates them with the Dionysian concept of the good; namely that bonum diffusivum sui.[38] The goodness as self-diffusive is fundamental to Bonaventure’s thought in that his vision is trinitarian. Therefore, this notion of the good plays out into his whole portrayal of the created order. It is though too simplistic and unfair to characterise the trinitarian theology of Bonaventure as a major shift away from Augustine or to simply limit him to the Augustinian school. Cousins’ point that Bonaventure is a great synthesiser must also serve as a caution against attempts to characterise prematurely Bonaventure’s thought. Bonaventure draws together and develops a theological system that incorporates the best influences available to him, and this must be situated in his life as a follower of Francis. Interestingly Cousins and Cullen do not place great emphasis on the Franciscan world in depicting the synthetic nature of Bonaventure’s thought.[39]

Alongside the Dionysian doctrine that the highest good is self-diffusive another distinctive and essential aspect of Bonaventure’s trinitarian theology is his notion of the Father as primitas. These two aspects form a path into understanding the place of the Word in the Trinity and from there as mediator ad extra. They are significant aspects that take a unique form in Bonaventure’s thought. Goff has traced with great care the arguments of varying positions in contemporary scholarship as regards to the sources of Bonaventure’s trinitarian thought.[40] Goff’s detailed work on Bonaventure’s De mysterio Trinitatis challenges successfully many of the presuppositions which appear in Bonaventurean studies, especially in reference to debates over whether or not his trinitarian thought represents a break from Western Tradition.[41] Another significant factor is the nature of academic speculations regarding various individuals like Augustine, Richard of St Victor and Dionysius, which have changed themselves substantially over the last century. Cullen, also discusses this, highlighting in particular that Richard of St Victor was thought at one stage to be heavily influenced by Greek trinitarian theology but in subsequent studies he is placed firmly within the Latin tradition.[42]

The extent to which Bonaventure incorporates different parts of the tradition still requires rigorous investigation. Bonaventure’s trinitarian theology reveals that he does incorporate the Dionysian and Victorine notions of goodness and love respectively. A central thesis of Hayes is that the use of a Dionysian metaphysics of the good is at the heart of Bonaventure’s distinctive trinitarian theology.[43]

In Bonaventure’s mystical work The Soul’s Journey into God (henceforth The Soul’s Journey) the soul begins its journey recognising its end, which is the contemplation of the highest good above.[44] In the penultimate chapter the soul is contemplating the “most Blessed Trinity in its Name which is Good.”[45] The arrival at the contemplation of the Trinity of persons follows the journey of the soul contemplating God as the highest being to then contemplating God as the highest good.

What is of great interest though is that Bonaventure shifts the focus from God as being to God as good. Jesus’ statement that “only God is good” to the rich young man receives therefore a certain priority in Bonaventure’s understanding of God. One could argue that his preference for this description by Jesus shifts attention away from an exposition of the nature of God according to Exodus (3:14-15). This shift then represents the significance of Bonaventure’s trinitarian theology as one, which without discounting the doctrine of God as pure being, lies in his development of the doctrine of God as the highest good. And for Bonaventure then God as the highest good is what establishes his argument for the possibility of a plurality of persons in his being. The divine persons for Bonaventure are differentiated more according to their origin rather than their subsistent relation. Cullen argues this emphasis reveals Bonaventure to side more with those following Richard of St Victor than those theologians following Augustine.[46]

If God is the highest good and the Dionysian understanding of goodness is accepted, using the name ‘good’ for God becomes the “principle foundation for contemplating the emanations,” according to Bonaventure.[47] The first emanation is per modum naturae.[48] Bonaventure also uses the term for this emanation as being per modum exemplaritatis. According to Hayes, exemplarism in Bonaventure is not just attributed to the Trinity in relation to creation, but especially to the Word of God who “is the total expression of all that the divine love is in itself and can be in relation to the finite.”[49] Bonaventure thus places the notion of exemplarity at the centre of his understanding of the role of the second divine person. In Bonaventure’s system the Son is the exemplar of the Father and indeed the whole Trinity.

Hayes states in relation to the notion of exemplarity that one can “perceive the world in its symbolic nature as the objectification of the self-knowledge of God.”[50] In the second person the mystery of the Trinity is reflected as he is the full and total expression of God’s primal fruitfulness.[51] As God is good by nature, which we learn from the words of Jesus Christ himself, then as the primitas of the Father’s goodness he is fecund. In the nature of God as fecund there arises the first emanation from the One who produces and yet is not produced.[52] Hayes states:

Within the trinity, the person of the Father receives particular emphasis in Bonaventure’s view, for the primacy of the Godhead with respect to the world of created realities is traced back even further into the mystery of God Himself revealing the Father as the mystery of primacy within the trinity, since he is the source from which the other persons ultimately emanate. As source and goal of the immanent emanations of the trinity, the Father is also source and goal of all created reality.[53]

Hayes’ point is important, not only for examining the work of the Trinity ad extra, but also in understanding the place of the immanent Word in Bonaventure’s trinitarian framework. Within the nature of the Godhead there is this fecundity. The Father has primacy in the Godhead and is therefore the one who in accord with being the highest good is the source and goal of the emanations. The first emanation, that is the generation of the Son, is per modum naturae. Hayes demonstrates that as the Father has primacy in the Godhead, which is by nature the highest good, then this goodness emanates in the generation of a second person.

In turning to the second emanation in the Godhead, Hayes argues that Bonaventure incorporates from Richard of St Victor the view that the supreme form of the good is love. Bonaventure therefore turns to the will to show the second emanation. The first emanation was per modum naturae and the second is per modum liberalitas or amoris, which Bonaventure puts simply as per modum voluntatis.[54] In this reading not only is the divine nature fecund but the divine will is also. The willed and therefore shared love of the Father and the Son emanates as the third person. The liberality and generosity of God as good is at the heart of the emanations.

One should be careful though to note that both emanations for Bonaventure do not occur purely as one by nature and the other by love or the will. Balthasar makes this point stating that as the first emanation is by nature this does not mean that it occurs involuntarily and that the second emanation is without a ‘natural’ side.[55] In seeking to maintain a distinction between the two emanations Balthasar highlights a difficulty in trinitarian theology whereby knowledge is ranked before love. This issue is present in seeking to understand Bonaventure and his two modes of emanation and thus a clear differentiation of the second and third persons of the Trinity. For Balthasar it is too simplistic to state that the first is by way of God’s self-knowledge and the second love. Balthasar’s point is that there should be a way to maintain the distinction of the processions within the one divine love model. Hayes stated that for Bonaventure the primal fruitfulness of the Father is the inner self-expression of God.[56] In Hayes’ reading therefore one can sense this tendency to rank knowledge before love.

Balthasar, though, argues that for Bonaventure to fully understand the Trinity there needs special focus on the second emanation as reflecting the liberality of the Godhead. This liberality in Bonaventure, according to Balthasar, helps avoid prioritising a model of knowledge over one of love. In relation to this difficulty Balthasar states that:

the category of liberalitas, in which the Father and the Son are involved with equal love, could indicate the superabundance of love that, as benefits its essence, always wills to, indeed, must, give more, in excess of every “proportionate” measure, in defiance of every restrictive reservation, and precisely thereby brings about the miracle of its fruitfulness, whose creaturely reflection is the child’s issuance from its parents.[57]

The Spirit as proceeding by way of liberality reveals the nature of the love shared between the Father and the Son as supremely generous and fruitful. Balthasar’s exposition of Bonaventure reveals the connection between the notion of liberality and the distinction of the two emanations.

The Father who gives everything to the Son has yet to give in every way, which is the Father giving with the Son. This ‘giving with’ is thus the basis for the second emanation. Balthasar states:

To say this does not detract from the primary, all-grounding deed of the Father’s love whereby he gives all that is his to the Son (Jn 16:15); after all, this deed is simply the first, indispensable act of the divine superabundance without which the second, and necessarily last, act could not be performed.[58]

Balthasar recognises that the first emanation is the foundation for the second in Bonaventure if we follow this understanding of liberality.

Interestingly, Balthasar does not argue that Bonaventure overcomes the tendency to rank a model of knowledge before love. The significance of this medieval scholastic for Balthasar is the framework of liberality. It is of interest that the notion of the second emanation finds particular importance in understanding the first emanation. The notion of liberality is the framework, according to Balthasar, for Bonaventure to argue the plurality of persons in the one Godhead and therefore the foundation for understanding the eternal and indeed temporal place and role of the second person.

Cullen states that Bonaventure utilises both Augustine and Richard of St Victor to argue to the Trinity of persons, which is by the notions of God as mind and God as love respectively. Cullen’s point demonstrates significantly Bonaventure’s employment of the theological sources available to him and his ability to synthesise these. Cullen argues that in the Soul’s Journey one can perceive the operation of these two models. Read this way Bonaventure’s goal is to demonstrate that belief in the Trinity is not contrary to reason. His arguments are of “congruence” or “fittingness” of this belief.[59] He does not believe therefore that one can prove the Trinity of persons from reason alone but that their existence does not contradict reason. According to Cullen, Bonaventure builds upon the Victorine, especially to show the fittingness of a third person, because Richard insisted that “perfect love requires the presence of a third who shares in the mutual love and rejoices in it.”[60] Bonaventure establishes, using the argument from love, the presence of the third divine person and at the same time the framework for limiting the persons to three.

Hayes argues that as the nature of love in Bonaventure is both liberal and shared then in God there must be both a dilectio and a condilectio.[61] An infinity of persons is avoided as Bonaventure shows the difference in origin of each of the three; there is the one who solely produces (Father) and the one who is solely produced (Holy Spirit) and the one who both is produced and produces (Son). The Son as the One who is produced and produces then in a unique way expresses the inner structure of the trinitarian life. Cullen points to the Soul’s Journey into the Mind of God where it is in the consideration of God as the highest good that leads Bonaventure to a consideration of the emanations.[62] The two emanations both find their ultimate source in the Father as the fontalis plenitudo. The emanation of the Spirit though is from the Father in union with the Son.

Bonaventure reveals the fittingness of the three persons in the one divine essence through not only a synthetising of the philosophical and theological heritage he receives, but through a rich development and application of these. The result, states Hayes, is that “God is the infinitely rich and fecund mystery whose eternal being is a dynamic ecstasy of goodness and love.”[63] Bonaventure avoids any leanings to a tritheism by starting with the notion that the one divine nature, as supremely fecund in goodness and love, is the source of a plurality of persons and not natures.[64] Thereby, through his focus on the fecund essence of God as good, Bonaventure can show the fittingness of the three divine Persons of one nature, coequal and coeternal. His employment of the Dionysian metaphysics of the good, coupled with the influence of the Victorine in relation to the Trinity, offers further foundation for exploring the mediatorial place and work of the immanent and incarnate Word.

A second significant aspect of Bonaventure’s trinitarian theology is the understanding of the primitas of the first person. The notion of primacy is central and somewhat unique in Bonaventure and this notion is not only located in the divine nature itself. Balthasar presents Bonaventure’s position as that the “Originating being (primitas) and the fullness from which a spring flows (fontalis plenitudo) is the property not simply of the being of God, but rather of the Father as Father.”[65] As the Father is first, in relation to the other persons, he is said to be the plenitudo fontalis. The fullness of divine fecundity resides in the one who is first in respect to the other persons. Indeed, as Hayes states, as God is in act according to his nature this fecundity necessitates a plurality of persons.[66]

This fecundity is the positive complementary property of the Father with respect to Him as innascible or unbegotten. Innascibility affirms the negative aspect of the Father as non ab alio, that is one without origin. For Bonaventure this primacy also affirms that the Father is “the richest source of all the immanent processions and external productions.”[67] Cousins asserts that this is the positive side to Bonaventure’s notion of innascibility stating that it not only coexists with paternity in the Father but they mutually require each other.[68] One can see the importance of the Dionysian understanding of the good as diffusive of itself.

The divine fecundity has its origin in the Father and we see its expression in the two emanations within the Godhead. This emphasis on the Father is then the foundation for Bonaventure’s theological metaphysics of the created order. Ilio Delio asserts that “as the Father is the source and goal of the immanent emanations of the Trinity, so too the Father is the source and goal of all created reality.”[69] Hayes states that this is the basis not only for Bonaventure’s notion of emanation but also for reduction, that is the return of all things to the Father.[70] All is led out from the Father and all is to be led back to him. Hayes argues that it is Bonaventure’s theological metaphysics of exitus and reditus, which sets him apart from Augustine and Aquinas.[71] The emphasis on the first divine person sets the framework for understanding the place of the second person especially in regards to the leading back of all things to their source, in other words Christ as the mediating centre.

2.2 The centre of the Trinity – Word, Son and Image

The previous chapter demonstrated the prominence in Bonaventure’s corpus of his trinitarian vision. At the centre of his trinitarian theology is the Word of God the second divine person. In order to fully understand the mediatorial office of the incarnate Word in his life, death and resurrection it is necessary to understand the place and role of the Verbum increatum in the life of the Trinity.

In the account of Bonaventure’s trinitarian theology and especially the place of the second divine person his use of the terms Word and Son is highly significant. One other significant title for the second person, which is foundational to Bonaventure is that of Image. Bonaventure’s use of these three terms offers substantial insight into his christology. According to Dominic Monti “word” for Bonaventure denotes the Son’s expressive likeness to the Father whereas image speaks of his expressed likeness.[72] In his Commentary on the Sentences Bonaventure explains hierarchically the importance of these three names for the second divine person:

Since the understanding [of the Father] does not signify anything relative, wisdom and knowledge do not stand for a proper name [of the Son]. Since, on the contrary, conceptive intention [conceptio] and similarity imply a relation toward [respectum], the names Son, Image, and Word must count as proper names. There thus results an ordering in naming, and the reason for the various modes of denomination comes into view. For in knowing wisdom and understanding are named first [though, as was said, they are not proper names of the Son], then comes “Son”, which declares procession or receptivity [conceptio as an intention to express oneself originating in the mind], then “Image”, which accentuates the expressive aspect of the procession, and in the third place “Word”, which enunciates all of this and adds the dimension of self-expression and revelation.[73]

The titles of Son, Image and Word are the proper names which can be applied to the second divine person. Interestingly each of them to varying degrees Bonaventure associates with the notion of expression. This notion of expression also correlates closely to his doctrine of exemplarism.

1. The second divine person as Son

The importance of the title of Son for Bonaventure arises from the first emanation as one which produces a personal being like the first divine person who is the Father. Hayes demonstrates that Bonaventure’s use of this term often accompanies his analysis of the modalities of love.[74] In these modalities of love the Son assumes a central place in the inner life of the Trinity as the one who is generated by the Father’s love and who with the Father is co-principle in the spiration of the Spirit. As Bonaventure states above the title of Son contains within it the notion of procession or receptivity as he is Son of the Father.

In the sonship of the second divine person the paternity of the first person is more clearly revealed. The Father due to Bonaventure’s notion of his primacy, as discussed in the previous chapter, is non ab alio through his nature as the highest good. The fecundity of this goodness eternally generates the Son through the Father’s personal love. Hayes’ point articulates that from a person (the Father) emanates a second person (the Son). This reading of Bonaventure further clarifies his assertion that the generation of the Son is per modum naturae. The second person is the Son in personal relationship to the first who is the Father.

In this title of Son, as the one who emanates by the mode of nature, there occurs a difficulty. If one asserts that it is by mode of nature then this implies there is necessity in the generation of the Son, which can undermine an understanding of God as love. In reference to this both Hayes and Delio point out the dialectical nature of the generation of the Son in Bonaventure. The Son as generated from the Father is the expression of the Father and that this does indeed contain a certain necessity as it is per modum naturae.[75] Delio asserts that for Bonaventure in the nature of the Godhead as love that this radically free love is “necessarily expressed in union of another.”[76] The free love of God therefore contains in itself the necessity for expression. This expression by way then of the nature of God is the generation of the Son from the Father.

Following the personal emanation of the Son there is the spiration of the third divine person. The Spirit emanates from the willed personal union of love between the Father and the Son. This emanation of the third divine person is per modum voluntatis or per modum liberalitas. The distinction between the three Divine Hypostases lies in their origin, which is their mode of emanation, and this is subsequently reinforced by their relationship to each other. In placing the emphasis on the origin of the divine persons to show difference, Hayes states that Bonaventure follows Richard of St Victor over St Augustine, which is a significant decision in the Western tradition.[77] The title of Son then for Bonaventure reflects the origin of the second person and his personal relationship to the first.

According to Hayes, Bonaventure’s characteristic properties of the three divine persons are paternity, sonship and passive spiration.[78] Goff states more precisely that these distinct properties for Bonaventure are “identical to the persons themselves (Father, Son, Spirit).”[79] Indeed, Goff demonstrates that Bonaventure arrives at these personal properties through the revelation of the relations of the three divine persons. Goff states that it is:

through the revelation of the relations (paternity, filiation, spiration and procession) in God, that we first come to know both the persons as distinct as well as the mode in which each possesses, in common with the other persons, the one divine esse.[80]

From this consideration of mode and property and relation Goff states that Bonaventure can assert the presence of a person who is “unoriginate” and therefore has a “fontal reductive priority.”[81] Goff’s analysis of the properties as identical to the persons themselves asserts that Bonaventure understands the Trinity very much in terms of a communion of persons.

For Bonaventure the term Son is highly personal. There is the first person who is totally communicative and the third person who is totally receptive. At the centre is the second person who is both receptive and communicative of the essence of love, and is therefore love ab utroque permixtus.[82] The Son reflects the Father by whom he emanates from and the Spirit whom he is co-principle of with the Father. With their difference in origin the title Son manifests the personal aspect of his relationship to the Father and with the Father the liberality of their love emanates the Spirit. The title Son highlights Bonaventure’s notion that the second divine person is at the centre of the inner divine life of the Trinity.

2. The second divine person as Image

The Son is the personal likeness of the Father as he is generated from him alone, unlike the Spirit who proceeds from both. Hayes states that the title “Image” has a certain wider range of significance than the title Son, because the personal property of Sonship holds in his relation to the Father and the Spirit. Hayes states that as Image “the Son is coprinciple with the Father in the spriation of the Spirit… therefore, his likeness approaches the very property of the Father Himself.”[83] The distinction in origin of the Son and the Spirit reveals that only the Son is termed to be Image of the Father. Unlike the title Son which expresses what distinguishes him from the Father, the title Image expresses his likeness to the Father.

The title of Image further highlights the second person of the Trinity as its medium, that is, the centre person in the “dynamic interaction and communication” of the Trinity of persons.[84] As medium of the three Persons, the Word has a mediatorial position in the inner life of the Trinity. Hellmann acknowledges the problematic side of applying this position to the Verbum increatum, as mediatio is often taken to be the resolving of distinction and separation. Hellmann recognises that in Bonaventurean trinitarian theology there is an important notion that the Son mediates between the Father and the Spirit in the divine order.[85] The Son is the centre of the order of divine life, that is, He is the very exemplatum of the mystery of that very life and is therefore rightly called Image. This position of the Son is foundational to Bonaventure’s works, especially the Collations.

3. The second divine person as Word

In knowing the Son one can perceive the very structure of the mystery of the Trinity, because the inner Word of God expresses the Father and in union with the Father spirates the Holy Spirit. The Word is the “self-utterance” of the superabundant love and goodness of the Father due to His special relationship to Him. The title of Word for Bonaventure holds special place in his theology. This utterance of the Father determines certain aspects of Bonaventure’s christology, especially that the Son is the expression of the Father and the notion of the second divine person as the divine exemplar.

The Word is the full expression of the Father at the centre of the Trinity. He is the metaphysical centre as Bonaventure asserts in the Collations that:

from all eternity the Father begets a Son similar to Himself and expresses Himself and a likeness similar to Himself… He expresses what He can do and most of all, what He wills to do, and He expresses everything in Him, that is, in the Son or in that very center, which so to speak is His Art.[86]

The Father expresses everything through that very medium which manifests the primal fecundity of the Father’s supreme self-diffusive goodness. The Word as the expression of the Father is the foundation of the notion of the Word as the divine exemplar. As the “Art” of the Father the Word is the exemplar of all the Father can and does express, including creation. Balthasar highlights that unlike Thomas Aquinas where the focus is more on the interior Word, Bonaventure highlights the speaking forth of the Father in generating the Word. Balthasar recognises the importance of the Word as the expressio of the Father. Balthasar’s basic assessment is that for Bonaventure the notion of expressio is the “integrative attribute” operating as the recapitulating sense of all the other names for the Son.[87] The title of Word and Son both signify the second divine person as the expression of the Father. Bonaventure’s preference for the title of Word, in light of Balthasar, directs us to the notion that the Father speaks forth from himself.

Balthasar’s assessment of the difference between Bonaventure and Thomas is significant. According to Balthasar the term “word” for Thomas in relation to its external utterance is uncertain due to Thomas’ focus on the Word as the verbum mentis that is the interior Word of God.[88] Balthasar states:

For Bonaventure, on the other hand, the fundamental property of the Logos is to be an expression (which explains why he must be “similar”), both in the sense that the Father wills to express himself in the Logos (similitudo expressa [expressed similitude]) and in the sense that he is able to do so because the Logos provides the suitable medium (similitudo expressa [expressive similitude]). It is in reference to this property that Bonaventure interprets all the remaining names signifying the Son.[89]

The property of expression holds the central reference point for understanding the second divine person as especially Word but also the titles of Son and Image. Balthasar reveals that for Bonaventure the Word as similitudo expressa is both the expressed likeness of the Father and the likeness through which the Father expresses.

The Word as expression, according to Balthasar, is the hermeneutical key to understanding Bonaventure’s christology. The term “word” which itself denotes expression further signifies Bonaventure’s preference for it as a title for the second divine person. The medium of the Trinity becomes at the incarnation the medium between God and humanity. Indeed, the title of Word provides one of the clearest points of the interpenetration between trinitarian theology and christology. The Son as the full self-expression of the Father is the suitable medium to be the expressive similitude of the Father. The role of the Word ad extra in Bonaventure is understood in light of his place as medium in the Trinity.[90] The Father who makes a full self-utterance in the generation of the Son in a certain sense says nothing more in the creation of the world. In other words, the Father’s expressiveness is contained in his first and fullest expression in the Word.

In regards to the immanent life of the Trinity Hayes argues that for Bonaventure the second person reveals the mystery of the Trinity in a special manner as he is the expression of the primal fruitfulness of God.[91] The Word is the expression of the whole inner-trinitarian life and as such is the one who exemplifies in his expressive likeness. The second divine person as the Word of God raises the important notion of him as the divine exemplar. The doctrine of exemplarism is central to Bonaventure’s philosophical and theological exposition on the nature of God and creation.

In recent contemporary scholarship there have been different emphases placed on Bonaventure’s doctrine of exemplarism and on how it is employed by him. These differences of emphasis are more critical in reference to the incarnate Word. At the core of this doctrine though is the relationship of the Father to the Son as the ontological basis for all the relations ad extra, and from this foundation Bonaventure presents Christ as the metaphysical centre of all reality. Bonaventure utilises the platonic notion of exemplarism applying it to the role of the Word which becomes part of the core of his metaphysics. The Word as the one whom the Father expresses all that he can and wishes to express is thus the source of all archetypal forms and ideas of God.

Frederick Copleston states in relation to Bonaventure’s metaphysics of exemplarism that:

The metaphysician, however, considers the world as also a manifestation of God and ascends to a knowledge of the divine ideas and of God as creative and exemplary cause. But unless it is realised that the divine ideas, which are not ontologically distinct from one another, exist in the Word of God, as St Augustine realised, the metaphysician stops short of the full truth.[92]

The divine ideas exist in the Word as the Word is the eternal art of the Father. Copleston recognises that for Bonaventure creation and all the sciences find their full truth when metaphysics is linked to theology. The important place of metaphysics in the scholastic world enables Bonaventure to develop his system around the Word of God as the one in whom all things find their ultimate meaning. As Copleston points out, the Word through whom all things are made is the same Word who leads all things back to their origin. The Word is the medium of all reality and as such is its exemplar.

For Bonaventure there are two senses of exemplatum. The first is in the proper sense of the term referring to a being that is truly outside and distinct from that which it resembles. In this sense creation would be the exemplatum of God. The second sense, central to Bonaventurean trinitarian theology, is that in the emanation of the Son one finds the fullest expression of the Father. This understanding of exemplarism is the overarching vision at work in the Collations. Indeed, Hayes asserts that for Bonaventure the Word of God is the ratio exemplandi, that is, the very way in which everything finds its existence and meaning in God.[93] The incarnate Word reveals that he is at the centre of the Trinity and is thus the trinitarian exemplar. The firmness of faith in the triune God for Bonaventure is expressed first in the witness of the uncreated Word.[94] Subsequently, as Bonaventure states, this witness is “given by the Three, but is expressed through the Word, for the Word expresses the Father, and Itself, and the Spirit.”[95] The title of Word reveals the mystery of the triune God as the Word is the art expressed of the Father who expresses the whole Trinity and indeed the whole created order.

As Bonaventure stated above in his Commentary on the Sentences the title of Word encapsulates what the names of Son and Image express and adds to it the notion of self-expression. These three titles reveal the detailed richness of Bonaventure’s understanding of the second divine person in the inner life of the Trinity and the foundation for his vision of the incarnate Word as the exemplar of the created order.

The notion of expression, highlighted by the proper names given to the second divine person by Bonaventure, reveals the importance of his use of the doctrine of divine exemplarism. The expressed likeness is the expressive likeness, which reveals the fundamental connection between his trinitarian theology and christology. The primal relation between the Father and the Son is Bonaventure’s basis for all other relations. The Son, who proceeds from the Father per modum exemplaritatis, refers all things back to the Father as their divine and exemplary cause. The inner Word is the exemplatum that reveals the nature of God as fecund goodness, and in this Word is the sum total of all that the Father can do and wishes to do. Balthasar demonstrates the link between the Son as medium and the notion of expression:

As expression in God, the Son is a unifying centre between Father and Spirit: he gives expression both to his having been begotten by the Father and to the Father’s and his own spiration of the Spirit. He is thereby the expression of an endless and absolute event of love, and to that extent (precisely as expression) the Son himself journeys out of himself into the love itself.[96]

The Son as the medium between the Father and the Spirit in the trinitarian life is the expression of love. Balthasar’s summation reveals Bonaventure’s preference for the Victorine understanding of God as love over an emphasis on being. It also highlights that as centre of the trinitarian relationships the Word’s role as mediator is intimately linked to the expression of divine love. The Word incarnate fulfils this mediation of love on the cross.

Bonaventure’s trinitarian thought reveals his central notions of the fecundity of the primacy of the Father’s goodness, the exemplarity of the Son-Word as Image of the Father, and their unity in breathing forth the Spirit. For Bonaventure the mystery of the Trinity is understood in and through the Word incarnate whereby the notions of divine fecundity, exemplarism, and mediation are central to understanding the life of the Trinity ad extra. The Son at the centre of the divine life is the one who expresses in himself the mystery of the triune God.

2.3 The incarnate Word as Centre: Reductio and Mediatio

In the Breviloquium Bonaventure follows the movement from the Trinity with the Verbum increatum to creation and sin and therefore to the Verbum incarnatum. In this text written as a compendium for theology students in 1257,[97] Bonaventure does not begin with the incarnate Word but with the Trinity, which generally accords with the scholastic method. Nonetheless, this approach supports his increasingly christocentric vision, which finds its subsequent greatest expression in The Soul’s Journey and the Collations his final work.

We have noted that in the Collations Bonaventure states that the three divine persons are stamped in the created order but this is “expressed through the Word, for the Word expresses the Father, and Itself, and the Spirit, and all other things besides.”[98] Due to the centre place that the Word holds in the immanent life of the Trinity, indeed he is the one who expresses the Trinity in his person, the Son then for Bonaventure is the most fitting to become incarnate. Bonaventure states in the Breviloquium:

Having said something about the Trinity of God, the creation of the World and the corruption of sin we now turn to a brief discussion of the Incarnation of the Word, for it was by the Word’s becoming flesh that the salvation and redemption of humankind was achieved. This was not because God could not have saved and liberated the human race by some other means, but because no other way would have been so fitting or so appropriate to the Redeemer, those redeemed, and the nature of redemption.[99]

As the medium of the inner life of the Trinity the Son in the incarnation becomes furthermore the medium between God and man. Bonaventure makes the argument of the fittingness and congruency of the Word to become flesh. Hayes asserts that in this way Bonaventure avoids any undermining of the freedom of God in his doctrine of the incarnation.[100] The role of the Word in the Trinity as the expressed and expressive likeness of the Father is reflected in his role ad extra.

At the incarnation the medium of the Trinity becomes the medium between God and man. The christological heritage of the Councils of Nicaea and Chalcedon are taken as given in Bonaventure’s system; a system that develops the congruity of the incarnation of the second divine person. Bonaventure states in reference to the hypostatic union: “this union is a oneness, not of nature, but of person; not of a human person, but of a divine one; not of an assumed person, but of the assuming one; and not of any person indiscriminately, but of the person of the Word alone.”[101] Joshua Benson argues that in Bonaventure’s teaching on the incarnation everything serves to highlight that there is one person and one personal unity only. Benson demonstrates clearly the importance for Bonaventure that the Word incarnate is the unifying mediator between God and humankind, and “by virtue of the union of natures, can accomplish the work of satisfaction.”[102]

The place of the Word in the divine order is reflected in the place of the Word in the created order. Through the condescension of the media persona at the incarnation “testimony is given on earth of the divine order in heaven.”[103] Hellman demonstrates that the convergence of the divine and created orders was established at the incarnation because the uniting principle is the Word, who is the medium of the Trinity.[104] The media persona of the Trinity assumes the place of media persona between God and humankind.

The Father expresses all of himself in the Son, and thus the Son, as his exemplar, is the One through whom all creation comes into being. This is at the heart of Bonaventure’s doctrine of exemplarism. In the created order the medium is the one through whom all things were created and at the incarnation becomes also the way back to the Father which is Bonaventure’s doctrine of the reductio ad Patrem. The Word expresses creation, and this is founded in the emanation of the Son from the Father, whereby the Word expresses the Father. For Bonaventure the incarnation of the Word becomes the visible expression of the very nature of the created order. With the incarnation the created order is able to share in the reductio ad Patrem. This mediatio of the Son is his leading back of all things to the Father. The incarnation of the Word effects the fulfilment of the created order. The doctrine of exemplarism calls for all things to be led back to the Father through the medium in whom they were created.

The media persona of the Trinity has a presupposed role of mediator. The medium as Verbum incarnatum not only shares the properties of God and man but as mediator is charged with the “task of reconciling those estranged extremes.”[105] Christ is the centre between God and humankind uniting them in the unity of his person. The two natures unified in the person of the Word are thus fundamental for the work of reconciliation. This radical christocentrism in Bonaventure’s understanding of the Verbum incarnatum impacts his whole vision of creation, redemption and history. The medium of the divine and created orders unites estranged humankind in himself at the incarnation. Here lies the fittingness of the medium to be mediator.

Hellmann identifies that for Bonaventure the purpose of the incarnation is twofold. On the one hand, it is the fulfilment of humankind and thereby all creation at the moment when the Word through whom all things were created enters into its history. Hellmann states that for Bonaventure the incarnation “is the consummation of all God’s works” whereby “the last is joined to the first.”[106] The joining of the last to the first in Bonaventure reveals that at the incarnation there is the completion of the circle. According to Hellmann the perfection of the human person thereby leads to the perfection of the whole universe.[107] Bonaventure’s doctrine of reductio means that at the incarnation there is the perfection of humanity because this reduction is the perfect act.

The second purpose of the incarnation for Bonaventure is the redemption of humanity, which happens in the completing of the order leading to its perfection. Humanity as created last on the sixth day (Gen 1:26) is joined in the hypostatic union to the first principle God. Bonaventure’s emphasis when speaking about the incarnation, according to Hellmann, is largely about the perfection of the human person and thus the universe. Yet Hellmann identifies that for Bonaventure the explicit reason for the incarnation is the redemption of the human race.[108]

Hellmann’s analysis of Bonaventure prioritising the perfection of the human person before the redemption of the human person from sin highlights one of the tensions in scholastic theology. Hellmann acknowledges this tension where he discusses whether Bonaventure’s christology basically implies that from before the reality of sin God intended the incarnation. This position is taken up by Duns Scotus, who taught that the incarnation would have occurred outside of any sin. Hellmann recognises the possibility of this problem in understanding the thought of Bonaventure. If the created order is the exemplatum of the divine order then the incarnation is the fulfilment and perfection of it.[109] The incarnate Word then is the goal of all reality, in that Christ the exemplar fulfils and completes the created order enabling its reductio ad Patrem. The danger here is that focusing narrowly on the cosmic aspect of Bonaventure’s christocentric vision may detract from understanding the incarnation as the free and loving action of God. The problem is that Christ as the divine exemplar is the perfection of created reality which seemingly insinuates the necessity of his incarnation. This in turn undermines the integrity of his divine personhood. What emerges is a sense that as Christ is leading back to the Father all created reality, then it appears as though the created order is compelling him to do so.

Interpretations of the second divine person as the divine exemplar, who enters into the created order in completing the mission of exemplarism, can lean towards the Scotist position. God’s freedom at the incarnation is thus severely diminished as this event is now merely an act contained to the nature of the created order. Adding to this tendency, Hellmann states that in Bonaventure’s notion of exemplarism the reductio is itself the incarnation.[110] In Hellmann’s assertion the possible problem still remains of a purely cosmic interpretation of the incarnation. He argues that Bonaventure’s resolution comes from seeing that the two positions are complementary in the “one mystery of the medium.”[111] Hellmann states:

To say that the Incarnation is redemption gives a fuller and deeper dimension to that dependency already rooted in creation. So creation depends upon Christ not only because of its very nature, but also because that nature has been ruptured. Without Christ there is no way creation can be healed.[112]

In this interpretation Christ is the medium in regards to the completion of the created order and the medium for the redemption of humanity from sin. Christ is the answer, as the medium, for the total dependency of creation on God and the healing needed due to the rupture caused by sin.

This understanding of the incarnation as a cosmic event does have strong currents in Bonaventure’s christology. The problem often lies in isolating particular aspects of Bonaventure’s detailed system or trying to direct these to particular contemporary currents in theology. For instance Hellmann reveals this tendency in the thought of Cousins. Hellmann argues that in Cousins’ attempt to align the thought of Bonaventure with Teilhard de Chardin that his “language is impersonal and does not adequately express God’s freedom, nor does it acknowledge that the Incarnation is the greatest miracle of love.”[113] Hellmann’s critique of Cousins is important as it highlights a central difficulty in interpreting the thought of Bonaventure. The central doctrine of the Word as the exemplatum in Bonaventure seemingly leans to the Scotist position that the incarnation would have occurred outside any event of sin. This understanding is especially apparent in discussions of the works of the Trinity ad extra. Hellmann notes that assuming this understanding of the thought of Bonaventure can lead to positions like Cousin’s, which inadequately express God’s action as free and loving. In interpreting Bonaventure with his strong doctrine of Christ as the divine exemplar one needs to hold other aspects of his system in view.

The solution for Hellmann is to argue that this position is complemented by Bonaventure’s explicit preference that the reason for the incarnation lies in the redemption of humankind. Hellmann states that the “perfection of the Incarnation is our redemption” and therefore creation “depends upon Christ not only because of its very nature, but also because that nature has been ruptured.”[114] This reading of Bonaventure asserts that in the incarnation there are the dual aspects of the cosmic fulfilment and the redemption of humankind, and that these complement each other.

Hellmann’s resolution still does not answer the concern of whether Bonaventure does indeed lean towards or even pre-empt the Scotist position on the incarnation. Balthasar presents a way through this in his reading of Bonaventure. He returns us to the two emanations in God. The first emanation, in which the whole doctrine of exemplarism is found, he asks us to place to the side. The importance is on the second emanation which is per modum liberalitas as this is the equal and productive expression of the Father and the Son. Balthasar states:

… the category of liberalitas, in which the Father and the Son are involved with equal love, could indicate the superabundance of love that, as benefits its essence, always wills to, indeed, must, give more, in excess of every “proportionate” measure, in defiance of every restrictive reservation, and precisely thereby brings about the miracle of its fruitfulness, whose creaturely reflection is the child’s issuance from its parents.[115]

Balthasar demonstrates that for Bonaventure the second emanation reveals the miracle of the fruitfulness of the divine substance. The Father as fons plenitudo gives to the Son all that He has, which is love. “Indeed, God does not merely have love as a habitus or as a particular property but is love substantially.”[116] The miracle of the fruitfulness of the mutual superabundant love is the procession of the Spirit. Balthasar thus asserts in the origin of the Son’s and Spirit’s substance as love, the divine liberalitas, is that “without which (despite the Son’s role as exemplar in creation) there could be no creation.”[117] Bonaventure states: “in one way that which is not liberality, but which is made or given out of liberality, proceeds by way of liberality, and it is thus that creatures proceed from God.”[118] For Bonaventure then creatures proceed from God by way of liberality just as the Spirit proceeds per modum liberalitatis from the freely given divine love of the Father and the Son.

Importantly for this discussion is that Balthasar locates the purpose, motivation and role of creation in Bonaventure’s theology of the divine liberality. Balthasar in no way denies the importance of the Bonaventurean doctrine of exemplarism. The Son is the divine exemplar of creation as he is the “mundus archetypus [archetypal world] of all that God can create.”[119] It is with these considerations that Balthasar draws a different conclusion to the problem of the necessity and impetus for the incarnation:

Even more: on the hypothesis that God actually resolves to create a world, Bonaventure, thanks to his idea of liberalitas, transcends a priori the Thomist-Scotist controversy over the motive of the Incarnation. However much the Logos may appear in the world as the “redeemer” from sin, his becoming man is ultimately conditioned, not by this motive, but by the free and generous love of God that transcends every worldly reality.[120]

In this way the Son is the mediator between God and the world. The incarnation is not necessitated by sin nor is it conditioned or compelled by a lack in the created order. The very nature of God as free and generous love is the motivation for the incarnation. The reality of sin and the lack of perfection in creation are both for Bonaventure secondary to the motivation of the expression and fulfilment of the work of divine liberality.

Balthasar demonstrates therefore that Bonaventure does not indeed anticipate Scotus’ position. He asserts that Bonaventure’s position aligns more with Maximus the Confessor in facing the question of the motivation for the incarnation. The question does not make sense in their systems. Balthasar succinctly concludes that for them “Christ simply fulfils God’s decree, which providently foresees all and, by the liberal giving of its love, is exalted above the aspects of ‘redemption’ and of ‘fulfilment of the world.’ ”[121]

The redemption and the fulfilment of the world are accomplished through the incarnation; however they are part of the dynamic movement of love that is the Trinity. The reductio ad Patrem effected at the incarnation accords to the nature of nuptial love. As the Word through whom all things were made and who as such is their exemplar, Christ is the one who out of love draws all things back. Indeed, as Balthasar states, the “entire descent of God is nuptial.”[122] This, according to Balthasar, is the Bonaventurean framework for the redemption and the perfecting of creation.

Balthasar’s analysis offers a certain solution to the impasse present in contemporary Bonaventurean scholarship. Hellmann recognises that for Bonaventure the “incarnation is the consummation of all God’s works” and yet is unable to rescue Bonaventure from a Thomist-Scotist dialectic.[123] Hellman asserts that Christ is the medium of both creation and its fulfilment and it is here that Bonaventure can be taken to be a precursor of Scotus. Scotus argues that Christ is the fulfilment of creation whether sin entered the world or not, in other words, the incarnation would have occurred regardless of the reality of sin.[124] Balthasar on the other hand reveals that for Bonaventure the incarnation is the unique event of the nuptial and generous love of God. Balthasar’s insight, to a large extent, seemingly holds together better in the Bonaventurean system. He achieves this insight by shifting primary focus from the first emanation to the second emanation. This is a significant shift in the reading of Bonaventure and in understanding his christology. The fruitfulness of this move is that with primary focus on the first emanation there was an absence in relation to the second, yet this is not the case the other way round. In other words in the notion of liberalitatis the whole mystery of the dynamic exchange of love in the Trinity is present, including the Word’s emanation per modum naturae.

Caught up in the free and generous love of God at the incarnation is the redemption of the human race from sin. This aspect is in no way denied by Balthasar or Hellmann or any serious scholar. The redemption from sin is not for Bonaventure the primary or conditioning motivation for it but it is a significant theme in his thought. Bonaventure understands that the central significance of the incarnation is that it is the greatest expression of the nuptial love of the Trinity.


Having discussed the nature and purpose of the incarnation in the thought of Bonaventure we now look directly at the human nature assumed by the Word. It is in the Verbum incarnatum that humanity has a suitable mediator. This chapter therefore examines the human nature of the Word especially in reference to its integrity, suffering and finally the significance of the cross.

3.1 The human nature of the Word

In his works from his academic career, chiefly the Commentary on the Sentences and the Breviloquium, Bonaventure discusses the important scholastic questions of his day; including the possibility of the union of the two natures, how and where the union takes place, and the type of union and the integrity of the human nature assumed. In reference to the integrity of the human nature, Bonaventure discusses the important issues of the human knowledge and will of Christ. In the Breviloquium Bonaventure states:

Nor could humanity have recovered its friendship with God except by means of a suitable mediator, who could touch God with one hand and humanity with the other, who would be the likeness and friend of both: God-likeness in his divinity, and like us in his humanity.[125]

Emphasis is placed on the integrity of the human nature that has been united to the divine Word. In the quote from the Breviloquium we are afforded an insight into his overall framework for his discussion in these matters, which is to demonstrate the fittingness of God redeeming humankind in the manner in which he did.

Richard Martignetti asserts Bonaventure’s place within the early Franciscan tradition and its role in the awakening of devotion to the humanity of Christ.[126] Within this Franciscan milieu Bonaventure reaffirms the teaching of the Church’s orthodox christology. Bonaventure rejects the heresies that Christ only ‘appeared’ to have a bodily nature and the notion that if Christ had flesh it was of a heavenly type. He rejects these, as Hayes concludes, because they imply deceit and manipulation on the part of God.[127] The framework of the fittingness of the Word’s mediation means that for Bonaventure there must be an integrity of his human nature. If this were not the case the redemption achieved by Christ would not be part of the nuptial expression of the supremely generous love of God. To be truly the mediator between God and humankind Christ must participate in truly human activity therefore requiring fully those powers of body and soul that accord with this.[128]

Hayes recognises that a difficulty arises in the relation of the Word to the body he assumed. Hayes notes that Bonaventure argues that it is easier to understand how the spiritual powers of the human soul of Christ are united to the Word, but the faith teaches that the Word became flesh.[129] Therefore in attempting to hold to the integrity of the human nature of Christ the difficulty arises as to how to understand his corporeal reality as something more than peripheral. Hayes, in demonstrating Bonaventure’s solution, reveals the positive manner in which this scholastic views the relationship between the soul and the body. Fundamental to this is Bonaventure’s understanding of the innate goodness of the human body, as he asserts that it is the soul that animates the body, thus making it a human body. The human body is never a material being distinct from the soul. Accordingly for Bonaventure, as Hayes states, the human body is congruous to a union with the divine Word.[130] Hayes’ point is significant as he highlights that there is nothing in human nature per se that in a union with a divine person would threaten, undermine or limit the properties associated with such a divine person.

Hayes’ treatment of Bonaventure in this area highlights the positive way in which Bonaventure understands the relationship between God and human nature and his relation to the entire created order. Hayes sums up Bonaventure’s approach:

If it is not contradictory to God’s nature to conceive of Him as Creator, neither is it contradictory to think of him in a relation of hypostatic union since the latter is a unique and particular instance of the former. There is nothing in the notion of an incarnation that is derogatory to God’s supreme perfection since, if properly understood, it involves neither change in God nor dependence of God on creation. Whatever is neither intrinsically contradictory nor derogatory to God’s perfection is to be considered as a possibility for the divine power.[131]

The perfection of the divine order is in no way logically compromised by the uniting of a human nature to a divine person. Nor is the integrity of that human nature undermined in this union. As the union is with the Word who is the expression of all the Father can and wills to express, the incarnation thus becomes that fulfilment of God’s expression ad extra. The one who is both the expressed likeness and expressive likeness of the Father’s fontal goodness in the divine order becomes at the incarnation that fulfilment of the created order. In the incarnate Word is God’s total expression of the meaning of all reality.

The integrity of the human nature of the Word is clearly present in the mystical works of Bonaventure. There would be no mediation without the fullness of the human nature of the Word. In the first fruit of twelve in the Tree of Life, Bonaventure writes in relation to the Word, that when the Virgin Mary was overshadowed by the power of the Most High “instantly his body was formed, his soul created, and at once both were united to the divinity in the Person of the Son, so that the same person was God and man, with the properties of each nature maintained.”[132] While he states that each nature retains the properties proper to them, it is the significance of the human nature that is at the heart of the mediation, as this nature is the point of entry. The fullness of the Word’s humanity enables the mediation. With his fullness of humanity Christ is the “door” to mystical union with God, as this humanity is itself united so intimately to the divine person.[133] In the Tree of Life he writes: “Now, then, my soul, embrace that divine manger; press your lips upon and kiss the boy’s feet.”[134] For Bonaventure this is not merely a form of poetic sentimentality. The union of a human nature to the person of the Word unites him to all humankind as the incarnate Word can “touch God with one hand and humanity with the other.”[135] The soul contemplating this mystery enters through the door of the humanity of Christ and is healed and lifted up with him, which for Bonaventure is an affective and personal journey.

Bonaventure marvels at the condescencio of God in the incarnation whereby in taking on the fullness of human nature God expresses himself in humility. Balthasar acknowledges the important place this holds for Bonaventure highlighting both the incarnation and the cross.[136] The integrity of the human nature of God is at the heart of the rich mystical experience of Francis of Assisi. This experience would be null and void if there were any compromising of the integrity of the human nature. To kiss the feet of the Christ-child would then be nonsensical, and indeed any mediation between God and humankind would be illusory.

The world and the mystery of God’s action within it are for Bonaventure seen through a Franciscan framework. This is Balthasar’s important assertion at the beginning of his chapter on Bonaventure in his Theological Aesthetics. Francis’ imitation of Jesus Christ is one rooted in identifying with the concrete historical person and his entire earthly life and death. The door into mystical union with God is opened to Francis through his deep and prolonged desire to be totally identified in his person with Jesus Christ in the way in which he lived and acted in history. The mystical union of Francis with Jesus Christ is possible because God entered human history at the incarnation and assumed an integral human nature. The possibility for humanity to be united to God is through the Word made flesh. The healing and affective journey that this requires is examined in the final part of this paper.

In reference to the integrity to the human nature of the Word questions relating to his knowledge and will arise. Knowledge plays a key role in the Bonaventurean system as part of the reductio ad Patrem, specifically in regards to his doctrine of illumination.[137] Bonaventure is part of the scholastic world that perceives an intimate connection between being and knowing. The existence/nature of something is intelligible because it is an expression of the eternal ideas existing in the mind of God, which for Bonaventure means that it finds its intelligibility as an expression of the divine archetype. Bonaventure employs this Neoplatonic understanding to explain the experience of Francis. It is the experience and insight of Francis that is the guiding principle as he is the concrete example of the person illumined through imitation of and identification with the incarnate Word. In Bonaventure’s system, as Hayes states in regards to the hierarchy of being, humanity as created in the image of God is thereby not only intelligible but intelligent.[138] Human beings are capable of knowing God due to their place in the hierarchy of being and this is important for Bonaventure, as Hayes demonstrates, when considering the human knowledge of Christ.[139]

Following on from this a difficulty emerges in asserting the divine omniscience in the union of a human nature to the divine Word. It would be wrong to assert that Jesus Christ as man was omniscient. Hayes states that Bonaventure disagrees with a number of other scholastics who denied a finite habit of knowledge in Christ, that is, those who asserted that due to the hypostatic union Jesus Christ had no created habit of knowledge.[140] Denying a habit of knowledge in Christ undermines for Bonaventure Christ’s integral human nature. In other words this would entail Christ’s humanity in some way being overcome through union with the divine hypostasis. Furthermore, the fullness of what it means to be human would thus not be fitting for union with the Word, a position which Bonaventure strongly opposes.

Hayes argues that the question of Christ’s human knowledge in Bonaventure is never completely resolved, which can be seen by his three varied attempts which employ three different solutions.[141] Without going through each of these positions in detail there are nonetheless some important aspects to cover in relation to Christ as mediator. The overall difficulty remains that it is impossible for the created intellect in its finiteness to know the infinite. Hayes reminds us that for Bonaventure and the scholastics in general this is an ontological concern and not a psychological one.[142]

This point is important because the issue at hand for Bonaventure is how the human knowledge of Christ can be asserted in its integral nature with reference to the hypostatic union. Bonaventure is not aware of the modern psychological concern of how Christ understood himself to be the Son of God. It is contemporary christology that must account for the evidence of the self-conscious awareness of Jesus of Nazareth and subsequent to that assess the legitimacy of christological claims accordingly. If we take, for example, Gerald O’Collins’ 1995 study on christology we find the need for this approach. O’Collins attempts this well by demonstrating the scriptural basis concerning Jesus for the christological development of doctrine.[143] In contrasting O’Collins and Bonaventure one realises the entirely different starting points for their Christology; that is O’Collins must make account for Jesus’ understanding of himself as the Son of God which for Bonaventure is not even a question considered.

Hayes argues that in understanding Bonaventure on the question of the human knowledge of Christ, it does appear to a large extent as something unresolved and indeed even unresolvable.[144] Hayes argues that Bonaventure is only able to demonstrate the ontological possibilities for the hypostatic union in relation to the integrity of the humanity assumed and does not articulate clearly the operation of the human knowledge of Christ.

Hayes articulates that Bonaventure’s solution in The Sentence Commentary to the difficulty of the human knowledge of Christ is to assert that Christ knew God “totum sed non totaliter.”[145] This formulation allows Bonaventure to assert that Christ knew God as whole in his human soul but from a limited perspective, that is not in God’s totality. Human nature with its created soul can know God in a very real sense and Bonaventure argues in The Sentences that this is how Christ’s soul knew God. He offers the analogy that as a weak eye is still able to see a brilliant white colour in totum but not as a healthy eye sees its full brilliance in totaliter.[146]

This exposition by Hayes also highlights a connection between Bonaventure the scholastic and his Franciscan worldview. Francis’ culminating mystical experience of the stigmata revealed to Bonaventure the evidence that indeed the human soul does possess the capacity to know the divine essence. The whole mystical ascent in The Soul’s Journey attests to this point. In chapter seven, which corresponds to the seventh day of creation and therefore rest, Bonaventure states that at this level of the ascent the mind has been illumined and beholds the “Light itself” contemplating the “First and Supreme Principle.”[147] The mind then has the potential to be lifted above itself contemplating the One beyond itself. For Bonaventure then the integrity of the human soul of Christ and its union to the divine person must involve its beholding the divine essence in the maximum degree that a human soul can, which is “in totum.”

The difficulty remains of the operation of Christ’s actual knowledge. As we have noted for Bonaventure the Word is the total expression of all that God can and does express. As Hayes states, in the generation of the Word, God expresses all the possibilities of what he can cause to exist outside of himself.[148] Indeed, as the divine exemplar the Word is the very source of intelligibility for all created reality. How then in the hypostatic union can Christ be said to grow or increase in human knowledge? Hayes asserts that Bonaventure seeks to argue that there is no growth of habitual knowledge but there is growth in actual knowledge related to sense experience. He states “when He [Christ] experiences a particular object, He comes to know actually and in a new way what was present to Him only habitually prior to His experience.”[149] The nature of the hypostatic union entails Christ’s human intellect to be like ours in the growth of how one arrives at knowledge. On the other hand, the possible inadequacy of this position is that it is not like ours in that his human knowledge is fully informed habitually prior to any experience. Hayes’ reading of Bonaventure therefore highlights the struggle of this scholastic to satisfactorily demonstrate the operation of Christ’s human knowledge on the part of Christ’s likeness to us.

The question of the human knowledge of Christ, though it remains largely unresolved for Bonaventure according to Hayes, highlights in part the dilemma present in trying to uphold the integrity of Christ’s human nature. The difficulty in adequately expressing the relationship of the finite human knowledge of Christ with its union to his divine personhood though is complemented by Bonaventure’s theory of illumination for the human soul in general. The human intellect in union with Christ is illumined so that it can behold what is totally outside its nature, though it can never behold this in totality. Bonaventure’s christology holds Christ as the exemplar of this possibility. In this way the person of Christ with the fullness of humanity is the model for the possibility of each human soul to be illumined by the divine light. Christ exemplifies this and thus is the mediator for the human soul to transcend itself. Bonaventure states that:

in the mediator of God and men, Jesus Christ, those things whose likenesses can in no way be found in creatures and which surpass all penetration by the human intellect, it now remains for our mind, by contemplating these things, to transcend and pass over not only this sense world but even itself. In this passing over, Christ is the way and the door; Christ is the ladder and the vehicle, like the Mercy Seat placed above the ark of God and the mystery hidden from eternity.[150]

This text from The Soul’s Journey highlights that even with the prevailing unresolved difficulties of his consideration of the human knowledge of Christ, Bonaventure’s christology remains concerned primarily with the ontological possibilities. Christ, as the door for the mystical ascent of the soul who contemplates him, is the mediator between God and humankind. Christ’s human knowledge for Bonaventure represents the possibility of the human soul to grasp the divine essence as far as it is able.

The created intellect of Christ and therefore all humanity, as Hayes states, are “related as to a mystery that always exceeds the finite.”[151] The incarnate Word as exemplar is the mediator between what is finite and what is infinite. The relationship of Christ’s human knowledge to his divine knowledge is itself revelatory for the possibility of our souls in their desire for mystical union. In the humanity of the Word is the fullness of the potential for the intellect to be present to the infinite divine mystery. In his ontologically focused system one can perceive the struggle of Bonaventure to uphold the integrity of Christ’s human capacity for knowledge in regards to that humanity being united to the divine Word.

The same difficulty is not present in his consideration of the human will of Christ where Bonaventure is able to employ a hierarchical distinction of the wills present in Christ. Bonaventure asserts that the operation of an integral human will in Christ is in accord with the ontological reality of the hypostatic union. Hayes examines specifically Bonaventure’s exposition of Christ’s statement from Matthew (26:39), “Not as I will, but as you will.” Bonaventure does not simply assert that there is a difference in the modes of willing and therefore no conflict between them. Hayes attests that for Bonaventure there is true conflict when two wills disagree as to the same object. This conflict would signal a defect in the operation of the will and for this reason it is excluded by Bonaventure.

In relation to the text from Matthew, Bonaventure states that the sensual will as God-given does not desire suffering as its object. However, as this is a lower mode of willing it is subject to the rational will which is united to the divine will.[152] The lower mode of the will can be subject to the higher mode not as an assimilation but a subjection of ordering. The humanity of Christ is not diminished by an absorbing of his human will into the divine will. The reality of Christ’s human will is affirmed at the sensual level in the desire to avoid suffering. Hayes’ depiction of the integrity of the human will in Christ affirms Bonaventure’s notion that it is through the humanity of Christ, rightly understood, that the soul is lifted up into mystical union with the divine. This understanding is fundamental to Bonaventure’s theology of Christ’s mediation on the cross, which is discussed in the next chapter.

Through this examination of the human nature of the Word the aspect that stands out most clearly and is perceived and developed by contemporary theologians is that Bonaventure seeks to demonstrate the integrity of the human nature that the Word assumed. There are the constraints associated with his medieval context, nonetheless, discussions of the human knowledge and will of Jesus Christ offer an important insight into his christocentric system. It is Francis’ deep mystical experience and illumination that, while in the background, at times seems to guide Bonaventure to maintain an extremely positive anthropology. The importance of his understanding of the hypostatic union is founded on his recognition that the union of a divine person with a human nature is congruous.

3.2 The human suffering of the Word

In the middle ages the suffering Christ received particular attention both in popular piety and scholastic inquiry. Bonaventure’s works reveal the centrality of the mystery of Christ crucified.

With Christ I am nailed to the cross… The true worshiper of God and disciple of Christ, who desires to conform perfectly to the Savior of all men crucified for him, should, above all, strive with an earnest endeavor of soul to carry about continuously, both in his soul and in his flesh, the cross of Christ until he can truly feel in himself what the Apostle said above.[153]

It is the mystery of the crucifixion that for Bonaventure reveals most clearly the nature of God. Christ’s supreme act of mediation is on the cross as it represents the revelation of the divine exemplar of the primordial love of the trinitarian God.

With new emphasis on the suffering of Jesus Christ new difficulties emerge. For Bonaventure though the concerns relating to the impassibility of God are a seemingly settled matter. His focus is rather on making a careful exposition of what the possibility of suffering is for the human nature assumed by the Word. Bonaventure is aware that attributing certain forms of suffering to Christ could tend towards having to adopt a Nestorian view in order to protect the integrity of the divinity. Similarly, Bonaventure seeks to avoid a docetic view of the incarnate Word emphasising that the suffering in Christ was real human suffering.

Hayes and Cullen both highlight that for Bonaventure the incarnate Word assumed only certain defects associated with human nature. These certain defects permit therefore only certain forms of human suffering which are “fitting and expedient with respect to the work of redemption.”[154] These defects relating to Christ’s human body include hunger, thirst and fatigue and those relating to his human soul are sorrow, fear and anguish. Cullen states that Bonaventure strongly asserts that there is no suffering related to Christ as a divine person but only to his humanity and this only in a qualified sense.[155] The human perfections of the incarnate Word for Bonaventure are protected from attributing defects to his divine and rational will. However, Christ does suffer the penalties arising from original sin. Bonaventure states in the Breviloquium that Christ did not “assume these penalties in an unqualified fashion, for he took on the necessity of suffering in such a way that he was unable to suffer contrary to his divine and rational will, although his passion conflicted with his sensory and carnal will.”[156]

Christ’s suffering accords with the need to subject his sensory and carnal will to that of his rational and divine will. Bonaventure points to Christ’s prayer “Not as I will, but as you will” (Mt 26:39) as evidence for this. For Bonaventure this prayer of Christ reflects the natural ordering of the sensory and carnal will to avoid suffering. As was discussed in the previous chapter in relation to the will, Bonaventure understands the presence of different wills hierarchically. The sensory and carnal wills are subject to higher forms of the will, namely the divine and rational wills. Christ assumes humanity with this condition, according to Bonaventure, precisely because he is the mediator between God and fallen humanity. Christ “needed therefore to be in harmony with both extremes, not only in regard to their natures, but also their circumstances.”[157] The mediation of Christ for Bonaventure finds its locus in the truth of the incarnation whereby the human nature assumed enables a true sharing in the passions and mortality of humankind.

Hayes notes that for Bonaventure it was not necessary that Christ assume every bodily sickness and experience every human weakness.[158] Hayes’ point is significant in reference to the specific suffering that Christ endured. The universal applicability of his redemptive act is not undermined by the specific way in which he suffered. The important notion of order for Bonaventure is revealed here, as he states that the lower form of the will was subjected to its higher form. Christ reveals the need for a right ordering of one’s will especially in the face of suffering. Bonaventure states that Christ conforms his rational will to the will of the Father after expressing the desire of his flesh to avoid the impending suffering.[159] Bonaventure cites Hugh of St Victor, stating:

‘Each will acted in its own proper way and sought what pertained to each: the divine will, justice; the rational will, obedience; and the will of the flesh, nature.’ Hence there was in Christ no struggle or resistance, but peaceful order and ordered tranquillity.[160]

Bonaventure’s words may lead one to think that he down-plays the suffering endured by Christ by highlighting the ‘ordered tranquillity’ within him. Bonaventure is rather highlighting the hierarchically ordered nature of the operation of the different wills in Christ. In the operation of Christ’s will, specifically the subjecting of the will of his flesh to his rational and divine will, there was no struggle or resistance to this ordering. The different objects desired by the different wills allows Bonaventure to articulate that Christ, in the midst of extreme suffering, reveals the correct ordering of reality. The quote from the Breviloquium is complemented by Bonaventure’s mystical works whereby Christ crucified offers peace to the soul. The peacefulness of Christ’s soul even in the moments of horrendous suffering is due to the right ordering of the faculties of his human soul. Christ is thus the exemplar for the right ordering of the soul and the tranquillity that this ordering offers the soul.

Bonaventure does assert that Christ suffered in a human but indeed in a peculiar way. Cullen also asserts this relationship of the wills in Christ in relation to the penalties he assumed and acknowledges that Christ did not have defects in his rational and divine wills. In recognising this though, Cullen asserts, that according to Bonaventure Christ did not suffer in his rational will. In reference to Christ, Cullen states that he

…could not suffer in his rational will, since he lived in a state of beatitude and union with the Godhead and, what is more, he lived in a state of perfect innocence. He did not suffer any pain in his divine or rational will (even though in his passion, he suffered pain in his carnal will). He suffered only in his instinctive will.[161]

Cullen misinterprets Bonaventure here. As although Christ possessed no defects in his rational will, Bonaventure strongly argues that Christ’s suffering in his passion went beyond the limits of his sensory or instinctive will. In the next chapter from the Breviloquium, the chapter after the one which Cullen attributes this understanding, Bonaventure outlines further his understanding of Christ’s sufferings. Bonaventure states:

So thorough was the corruption within us that it not only infected our body and soul in general, but penetrated every part of the body and all the powers of the soul. Therefore, Christ suffered in every part of his body and every power of his soul, even in the highest part of his reason. Although as a spiritual principle united to things above, it fully enjoyed the presence of God, as a principle of nature attached to things below, it suffered most intensely, for Christ was a pilgrim as well as one possessing [beatific union with God].[162]

While asserting the blessed state of Christ’s soul in relation to the Godhead, Bonaventure clearly outlines that at the passion Christ suffered in relation to higher powers of his soul including his reason. The peaceful order and tranquillity which Bonaventure asserted above therefore should not be read in terms of the absence of suffering but as indicating the possibility to endure it in the highest human manner.

Furthermore, Bonaventure insists that due to the nature of the hypostatic union that Christ suffered in a special way. As Christ’s “soul possessed perfect love for God and supreme concern for neighbor, his anguish in both body and soul was immeasurable.”[163] The blessed innocence and union with the Godhead of the soul of Christ does not, according to Bonaventure, make him immune to suffering. For Bonaventure it is quite the opposite. Hayes asserts this point stating that for Bonaventure Christ was “most fully alive and most harmonious in all dimensions of His being” and thus he was “supremely susceptible to pain and suffering.”[164]

The interpretation by Cullen, to not attribute suffering to Christ’s rational powers, is a position that Balthasar also discusses. Amongst other references Balthasar cites that the Tree of Life confines its attention to the outward dimension of suffering in Christ’s passion. Balthasar asserts that there remains a question, in reference to Bonaventure’s account of the suffering of Christ, as to whether it adequately accounts for the inward dimension. In reference to Christ’s interior human suffering Balthasar states:

suffering in the superior part of the soul seems at first impossible (Brevil. 4, 7; V), but is then allowed by means of a curious distinction—the Spirit of Christ is at one and the same time ‘as ratio’ and because of its unity with God in the highest delight in God, and ‘as nature’ and because of its unity with what is lower ‘in the deepest suffering’ (ibid. 4, 9; V).[165]

Balthasar, in reference to the text from the Breviloquium, demonstrates that for Bonaventure the union of Christ with God at the same time as his union with humankind makes him “capable of the uttermost suffering.”[166] The inner suffering of Christ, according to Bonaventure, is accounted for because, as Christ possessed beatific union with God, in his union to humankind the nature of his abandonment on the cross becomes the most intense suffering.

Balthasar asserts that the solution to the presence of the inner suffering of Christ lies in the loving heart of Jesus, as this is the locus of his loving union with the Father and humankind. Balthasar states that for Bonaventure the heart “is the true midpoint of man.”[167] This midpoint of man is the midpoint between God and man in Christ as this heart is opened and wounded, revealing both the intense physical suffering of Christ and, as Balthasar highlights, the vulnerability of divine love. Balthasar’s reading of the outward and inward aspects of the suffering of Christ are far more comprehensive than those offered by Cullen and even Hayes. Hayes asserts the special intensity of the sufferings of Christ but does not provide an exposition of the nature of inner suffering in the thought of Bonaventure.

The presence of suffering in Christ, in all aspects of his humanity, is central to the Bonaventurean christological system. As mediator between God and man, Christ’s suffering for Bonaventure was extremely purposeful. Hayes, acknowledging that Christ suffered in all dimensions of his human nature, states that in this way “Bonaventure provides a systematic basis for the image of the suffering Christ which plays so important a role in his spiritual and mystical writings.”[168] This importance is highlighted in the third part whereby we examine the cross as Christ’s mediation of healing. Hayes recognises the completeness of the human suffering which Christ endured in his passion. It is Balthasar though who provides the richest insight into the inner suffering of Christ by demonstrating that Bonaventure understands this as located in his human heart, which is thus where we find the revelation of the nature of the divine heart. In the fullness of his human nature his suffering was greatest even as he assumed only those defects of humanity expedient to his work of redemption. This leaves no room for a docetic leaning in his christology.

3.3 Christ the centre on the cross

We have discussed the arguments of the incarnate Word’s human suffering, which for Bonaventure is most intense. We now turn to the cross and its overall importance in the christology of Bonaventure. In the Collations Bonaventure depicts seven different ways in the created order in which Christ is the medium. In the crucifixion Christ manifests himself to be the centre in the order of distance. It is through the crucifixion that Christ wrought salvation drawing the whole measure of the created order to the central point of the cross. After sin entered world, man was lost in chaos and darkness; man no longer had a sense of measurement. Bonaventure introduces Christ then as the mathematical centre of reality who leads humankind to salvation though his crucifixion. Bonaventure writes:

the Son of God, the very small and poor and humble One, assuming our earth, and made of earth, not only came upon the surface of earth, but indeed to the depth of its center, that is, He has wrought salvation in the midst of the earth, for after his crucifixion, His soul went down into hell and re-established the heavenly thrones.[169]

Bonaventure cautions that by ignoring the cross man will be unable to “measure himself.”[170] Without the cross man cannot discover the truth of his existence, his place in the created order. Bonaventure provides the antidote for when the centre is lost, stating that “it cannot be found except by two lines crossing each other at right angle.”[171] This therefore includes both that he is the centre in the order of distance, and that the crucifixion is the event where Christ further manifests himself to be the centre of all reality.

The crucifixion of the incarnate Word and his descent into hell marks for Bonaventure the completion of the descensio. The divine Word, in uniting humanity to himself and indeed all creation, completes this descensio at the cross so as to enact the ascensio. “The cross,” as Hammond identifies for Bonaventure, “is the ultimate reductio because it is the perfect expression of love.”[172] As the perfect expression of love the cross always implies the incarnation and vice versa. The expression of superabundant love of the Trinity at the incarnation finds its full manifestation on the cross, whereby Christ is the centre between God and man as mediator.

In our earlier treatment of Bonaventure’s thought on the reason for the incarnation there emerged certain difficulties in understanding the relationship between his cosmology and his soteriology. Balthasar directs focus beyond these to the liberalitas of divine love as the key in Bonaventure’s system for understanding the incarnation. Balthasar also recognises the connection in Bonaventure between the incarnation and the cross. In highlighting the fact that Bonaventure speaks often about the condescension of God, Balthasar states:

This humilitas Dei is the most profound thing that God reveals of himself in his Incarnation and especially in his cross. The cross is absolutely the key to everything; omnia in cruce manifestantur, not only sin, not only man, but God himself.[173]

Balthasar’s interpretation here is highly significant as he articulates that in the theology of Bonaventure the cross (and therefore the incarnation) cannot be reduced to interpretations which exclude an aspect which speaks to the very nature of God. God’s humility is chiefly expressed in Christ’s crucifixion whereby the full liberality of God’s love is manifest in the redemptive event. The revelation of God’s generous superabundant love is thereby manifested in Christ as centre. As medium Christ becomes the mediator between God and humanity and this mediation is fully effected by his total loving condescension in the humiliating death of the cross. The full condescension of Christ on the cross reveals the profound humility of God through his humanity.

As Hammond pointed out, the cross should also be understood in the Bonaventurean system to be the further expression of the generous outpouring of the superabundant divine love as recognised first in the incarnation. The centrality of Christ’s passion for Bonaventure, as the act of the highest expression of love in the redemption of humankind, helps balance interpretations that overemphasise the cosmic completion side of the Christ event to the neglect of his theology of redemption. Christ completes by his incarnation the created order as an expression of love and this act of love is fully manifested by his redemptive act on the cross. The cross as redemption for humankind, thereby means that in the reductio ad Patrem of all creation, humanity plays a unique role.

Christ’s death as a sacrifice for sin and the means for reconciliation with God is an essential part of the Christian tradition and finds definitive roots within the New Testament.[174] This aspect is not overlooked by Bonaventure. Christ’s death as a sacrifice for sin is not a secondary aspect for Bonaventure in relation to the whole Christ-event. Indeed, due to his understanding of the hypostatic union, he is able to state that the sufferings of Christ would have been felt to their ultimate level. Indeed, as Hammond asserts there is an ever present, even if sometimes implicit, connection in Bonaventure’s treatment of the incarnation with the cross.[175]

One difficulty faced in examining the soteriology of Bonaventure is the differences in approach he takes in presenting his understanding of the mystery of Christ’s passion. Some approaches are highly systematic and others highly mystical. Hayes offers a basic summary of the major expositions of Bonaventure’s soteriology in contemporary thought. He examines in particular Romano Guardini, Rufinus Silic, Alexander Gerken and Werner Hülsbusch.[176] Guardini identified two major theories of redemption in Bonaventure as the “moral-legal” and the “physical-mystical.” Hayes also highlights a minor one which Guardini termed the “personalist.”[177] In exploring these theories named by Guardini, Hayes highlights the criticisms and developments from them by other scholars. Interestingly the overall criticism, which he also adopts, is not the presence of a variety of redemption models but that Guardini is unable to find an inner logic between the three.[178] The focus then for Hayes’ is to offer an interpretation that can hold together the different models of redemption found in Bonaventure through a common key.

Hayes, in agreement with Gerken, cites an inherent difficulty in Bonaventure’s deeply dialectical style. He argues in approaching the mystery of Christ’s redemptive act that Bonaventure does so as he recognises that no particular viewpoint is without its limitations.[179] Hayes subsequently develops his model naming it “redemptive-completion.” Soteriology is not, according to Hayes, distinct from christology in Bonaventure since it “can be nothing other than the elaboration and explicitation of the saving significance of the personal mystery of Christ.”[180] Hayes unites the whole mystery of Christ’s life to that of redemption. Hayes’ position asserts that there is no extracting from Bonaventure a soteriology without considering its place within his total trinitarian and cosmological view. This position reflects Bonaventure’s understanding that the entire life of Christ is revelatory and that imitation of him requires adopting those virtues manifested throughout every part of his life, death and resurrection. The cross, as the centre, is the full manifestation of the divine redeeming love which for Bonaventure both heals and completes the created order.

Bonaventure’s trinitarian vision of the world is one where creation flows forth from the Father through his medium, the Word, and returns to the Father through this same Word. This trinitarian understanding is the foundation for understanding the cosmological fulfilment aspect to his christology. Hayes finds resounding in Bonaventure’s theology of redemption the notion of the hierarchical grades of being.[181] The trinity is the highest form of the good as a perfect unity of plurality and thus “God Himself is perfect order and the supreme archetype of all order and hierarchy.”[182] The egressus and regressus movement exemplified in the emanation of the Son from the Father is the divine pattern for the created order. This circular movement is understood more fully in Balthasar as he emphasises the emanation of the Holy Spirit which is by mode of liberality. In the reductio ad Patrem of redemption there is a hierarchy according to God-likeness and one’s capacity to realise this God-likeness.[183] In this way humankind, in union with the incarnate Word, shares in the task of leading all creation back to the Father. The divine liberality is most manifested in the great act of redeeming love of Christ on the cross.

In their realisation of their God-likeness humanity stands as the crown of all creation. This hierarchical place of humanity, Bonaventure asserts, gives rise to the possibility of an incarnation, whereby the potency found in human nature makes a union with a divine person possible.[184] It is an incarnation of the Word because the Word is the full expression of the created world and human nature. In the incarnation the principle of expression (the Word) and that which is expressed (human nature) are united into one being. Hayes asserts that this is the “free, loving completion of world-order by God” that finds its locus in an historical human nature.[185] The cross as the expressive sign of the divine love is possible because of the flesh assumed at the incarnation. Therefore, in reference to the fallen state of humanity in body and soul, Bonaventure states:

Now the flesh is the part of our being most evident to us and most distant from God. And so, in order that this work might be designated in the most expressive manner, so as to indicate better the humiliation [of God] and more profoundly explain the exaltation [of our flesh], it is called, not ‘inanimation,’ but ‘incarnation.’[186]

The human flesh of Christ more profoundly reveals the exalted place of humanity in the created order. The divine condescension is uniquely exemplified through the incarnation and completed in the humiliation of the bodily death of Christ. The cross is the ultimate centre for Bonaventure because it is there that the love of Christ for God and for man is fully revealed in his human flesh and soul. Dreyer asserts that as “Christ took on human sinfulness, thus becoming capable of suffering and death, he showed the genuineness of his human nature, allowing both his body and his spirit to become vulnerable.”[187] The notion of vulnerability which Dreyer highlights resonates with Balthasar’s exposition of the loving and therefore vulnerable heart of Christ. The cross is thus the work of the incarnation as it most fully reveals God’s condescension to humanity in the life of Christ.

Hierarchy and the possibility for the reductio relate not only to a completion of the world-order but, as Hayes demonstrates, Bonaventure is acutely aware of fallen humanity. Hayes articulates that there is a trinitarian dimension relating to sin in Bonaventure, whereby he classifies Lucifer’s sin as the similitude of equality. This is the sin of the desire to be on parity with the Creator. ‘Similitude of equality’ is importantly one of the titles Bonaventure uses for the Son. Sin therefore is an offence against the Trinity, and more specifically against the Son and his relation to the Father. The christological dimension emerges from the trinitarian one in that the incarnate Word is the only one within the created order who can claim a similitude of equality with the Father.[188]

The sin of Adam desiring to be “like God” is thus a sin against the Son who is like God. Here lies again the fittingness of the incarnation of the Son as the one to repair the damage caused by sin. In this sense Bonaventure incorporates the satisfaction-theory of redemption into his overall discussions. Bonaventure sees in the incarnation and by implication the cross the divine generosity acting in an “all-embracing way.”[189] Hayes argues though that this element Bonaventure takes and develops in a particular way, whereby the element of satisfaction as punishment is not prominent. Rather for Bonaventure the life and death of Christ is congruous to the relationship between God and humanity. Hayes asserts that the “way of suffering and death in Christ is at root a way of loving, filial obedience in which the reality of sin and its consequences are nullified by their opposites.”[190] The satisfaction for sin is achieved through the loving obedience of the Father’s incarnate Son in his suffering and death.

The overall framework, which Hayes finds for the notion of satisfaction in regards to Bonaventure’s soteriology, he claims is best understood as the work of cosmic-completion which “takes the form of the redemptive work of Christ.” [191] Hayes argues that these theories of redemption in Bonaventure are linked and are part of the one process. In this way Hayes, in agreement with Balthasar, sees an overall unity in Bonaventure’s christology and thus his soteriology. Balthasar though is able to highlight succinctly that the framework for Bonaventure’s christology is characterised by the notion of divine liberality, whereby the divine goodness is expressive and expressed in the incarnate Word.

The cross is the culminating point for Bonaventure following the incarnation because it is that centre where God’s love is most manifest. Hellmann in his work on the nature of divine and created order in Bonaventure expresses that the “cross is the very center of all order because the cross is the greatest testimony to love.”[192] The loving obedience, of Christ to his Father on the cross, is the restoring and completing principle. Hammond states that this is the effect of the “reciprocal self-emptying of the divine into the human and the human into the divine.” Hammond’s description reveals further his fundamental thesis that the life of Christ in Bonaventure needs to be understood in terms of the uniting of distinct realities.

This uniting of distinct realities receives special attention in Ewert Cousins’ work entitled Bonaventure and the Coincidence of Opposites. It is worth considering his understanding of Bonaventure’s christology as it has been both well received and highly criticised. Cousins proposes that the hermeneutical key to the thought of Bonaventure lies in a theory named the coincidence of opposites. Cousins uses this theory which claims that there can be opposites which when united have mutually affirming complementarity. He locates this first and foremost in the person of Jesus Christ where the hypostatic union is the greatest coincidence of opposites.[193] According to Cousins, Bonaventure employs the language of a coincidence of opposites in the final three chapters of The Soul’s Journey and in the first chapter of the Collations.[194] Bonaventure writes that when contemplating Jesus Christ, one ought to

wonder that in him there is joined the First Principle with the last, God with man, who as formed on the sixth day; the eternal is joined with temporal man, born of the Virgin in the fulness of time, the most simple with the most composite, the most actual with the one who suffered supremely and died, the most perfect and immense with the lowly, the supreme and all-inclusive one with a composite individual distinct from others, that is, the man Jesus Christ.[195]

This passage, from chapter 6 of The Soul’s Journey, is one of the clearest places where Bonaventure uses a language of opposites to guide the reader into the mystery.

Cousins’ thesis is that the coincidence of opposites found in both The Soul’s Journey and the Collations is the overall thought pattern for Bonaventure. Cousins states that the coincidence of opposites functions in Bonaventure as the “overall logic, binding together the various areas into a single unified whole,” in other words it is “the all-pervasive logic of his system.”[196] Cousins’ insights have been of significant value to Bonaventurean studies and have been largely accepted by scholars.[197] George Tavard, highly critical of Cousins’ findings, argues that Bonaventure rules out in his Commentary on the Sentences the theory of the coincidence of opposites. Tavard suggests that a better overall hermeneutical key can be found in Bonaventure’s doctrine of exemplarism.[198] To a large extent Tavard’s critique of Cousins is strong and Benson notes that he shares the reservations of Tavard.[199] The critique reveals the difficulty in applying an extraneous method of interpretation to the vast and detailed synthesis that is Bonaventure’s corpus.

Cousins’ theory of the coincidence of opposites though highlights the place of Christ’s incarnation and crucifixion within Bonaventure’s system. Bonaventure understands that Christ is the greatest medium who is thus a mediator. As the medium, that is the centre, Christ is the point through which all mediation occurs. The centre of all knowledge, history and indeed the whole created order is one that mediates. Balthasar states:

Christ as Verbum incarnatum is the midpoint of all things; there is nothing that Bonaventure declared with greater fondness and detail. But he emphasises with equal force that Christ is the midpoint as mediator, that is, a midpoint that mediates.[200]

As Christ is such a centre on the cross he is so as mediator, one who reconciles from the middle. Balthasar emphasises that this mediation is framed in Bonaventure as a nuptial mystery. Hellmann describes this mediation of the divine and created orders, achieving their unity in and through the incarnate Word on the cross. The cross for Bonaventure is “the place where the horizontal and the vertical [orders] meet to show us the very center of all order.”[201]

At the centre of Bonaventure’s thought is the incarnate Word of God who unites God with humanity. At the centre of this is the cross. Christ is the mediator for Bonaventure on the cross as he assumes that very midpoint between the divine and created orders. Christ crucified is thus the way and the door to the Father.[202] On the cross can be found the centre of all reality because Christ as medium completes his descensio begun at the incarnation so as to be in himself the way back to the Father, which is the acensio.


The Word of God as the medium of the Trinity and thus the medium of all creation unites within himself these two distinct orders. In doing so, a way back to the Father, through ordered unity is possible. The incarnate Word crucified in his flesh reveals to humanity precisely this way. Divine mystical union for Bonaventure is concerned with the identification of the person with Christ crucified. Having outlined above various discussions of Bonaventure’s christology, this chapter examines the views concerning the relationship between Christ crucified and the Christian seeking him.

4.1 The centrality of the mystery of Christ crucified

There is no other path but through the burning love of the Crucified, a love which so transformed Paul into Christ when he was carried up to the third heaven (2 Cor. 12:2) that he could say: With Christ I am nailed to the cross. I live, now not I, but Christ lives in me (Gal. 2:20). This love also so absorbed the soul of Francis that his spirit shone through his flesh when for two years before his death he carried in his body the sacred stigmata of the passion. The six wings of the Seraph, therefore, symbolize the six steps of illumination that begin from creatures and lead up to God, whom no one rightly enters except through the Crucified.[203]

In The Soul’s Journey Bonaventure outlines the path to mystical union with God as being possible only by way of Christ crucified. The soul transformed into Christ through love is illumined in the way of wisdom and is lifted into the divine. The quotation above from the prologue of The Soul’s Journey exemplifies the interplay of systematic, speculative and practical approaches which Bonaventure uses in his christology. Dreyer notes that in Bonaventure, however, speculative elements are subordinated to the practical.[204] This point is important, as we focus on the nature of the cross of Christ in reference to the soul, as it further demonstrates the centrality of the experience of Francis for Bonaventure’s christology. Francis’ love of Christ crucified and the effects of this union sets a framework for Bonaventure’s understanding of the place of Christ in the created order.

The lived out experience of Francis is arguably the most important hermeneutical key to understanding the distinctiveness of the highly mystical christology of Bonaventure. Emmett Randolf Daniel argues that Francis must be the exemplar of the Christ mysticism that especially characterises the works Bonaventure completed after leaving the University of Paris. This is not to say that there is a major change in his theology rather that he moved largely from the systematic to the speculative and practical. This can be accounted for by the change from his position as an academic within the Franciscan Order to being the General Minister responsible for protecting and encouraging the friars in their living out the ideals of Francis. Be that as it may, Daniel’s thesis is that Francis’ experience operates as a model and not a symbol for Bonaventure particularly in reference to The Soul’s Journey. However, Cousins’ interpretation as discussed previously, subordinates the key of Christ crucified to an overall Neoplatonic thrust.[205]

There are significant Neoplatonic aspects to the thought of Bonaventure and these are manifest to varying degrees across his corpus. Cousins’ locates Bonaventure’s thought within the Neoplatonic tradition.[206] His interpretation is in accord with the general thought on Bonaventure’s philosophy, which has emerged over the twentieth century, including that of Etienne Gilson. The problem which emerges in Cousins, as Daniel argues, is that applying any philosophical method to a work such as The Soul’s Journey ignores and overshadows Bonaventure’s real aim.

Central to The Soul’s Journey is the affective mystical quest of Francis on Mount La Verna with the six-winged seraph, whereby the soul progresses from the created world containing the vestigia Dei to the intelligible world. Daniel states that this quest typified by Francis is “rooted in the desire to imitate Christ, especially his passion, not in the desire to transcend sensible appearances to attain a higher reality.”[207] Francis’ deep desire to have Christ’s passion at the centre of his life is exemplified by Bonaventure’s insistence that one enters mystical union with God only through the door of the crucified Christ. It is something deeply interpersonal as it is characterised by love. Therefore, whatever Neoplatonic elements that are to be found in The Soul’s Journey must be subordinated to the overall understanding that it is a work outlining the Christian mystical experience of Francis. This experience revolves around imitation and identification of a person, namely Christ, rather than an intellectual quest.

Cousins’ interpretation serves his greater thesis that Bonaventure’s thought is a precursor to the modern theologies of Karl Rahner, Paul Tillich and the process theology of Alfred Whitehead and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.[208] Daniel’s argument is that this interpretation undermines Bonaventure’s understanding of the relationship that Francis had with Christ especially in regards to his incarnation and crucifixion. As Christ is the divine exemplar Francis is the exemplar for all that the soul can achieve through identification and imitation of the incarnate and crucified Word. Cousins fails to acknowledge the central place of Francis in the thought of Bonaventure especially in regards to his Christ mysticism.

The cross for Bonaventure is the revelation of the full condescension of God into the created order even, entering into the reality of a world fallen through sin. The completion of the created order is a fundamental part of Bonaventure’s account of the incarnation. Bonaventure does not so much argue to this conclusion in order to demonstrate the purpose of the incarnation; rather he arrives at this by reflecting solely on the actual historical events of God’s action. In the completion and fulfilment of the created order through the incarnation there is revealed something of the nature of the divine heart.

This christocentric piety of Francis is characterised by his affective meditation on the person of Christ especially in the concrete event of the cross. Christ on the cross is a transformative event for those who approach him with desire and participate in the reciprocation of love. Balthasar notes that at its origin the heart of God is vulnerable, that is open to be wounded, and that we understand this from the incarnation. This condescension reveals the humility of that vulnerability which manifests itself so clearly in the “fundamental readiness to go to the very end of love on the cross.”[209] The cross as the central and culminating event made possible through the incarnation reveals the nature of divine love to be humble and vulnerable. Balthasar further demonstrates that for Bonaventure the historical event of Jesus Christ is the bedrock for his practical theology. The foundation for this is the experience of the poor and humble Francis who wondered and meditated on the life of Christ, especially on his crucifixion. Bonaventure interprets and develops the Christian tradition within his own synthesis. Balthasar recognises from this the importance of situating Bonaventure’s thought within the Franciscan world he inhabited.

The medium of the Trinity is the mediator of divine love between God and humanity and this is most fittingly, according to Bonaventure, the Word of God. As Benson demonstrates in Bonaventure’s christology “the Word is best suited to restore divine knowledge because he is already the Word by which the Father expresses himself.”[210] As the Father’s image, the Word is restorative of divine conformity, and by his sonship he is restorative of our divine sonship. This reparative principle in Bonaventure, as Benson articulates in reference to the incarnation, reveals the work of Christ and the centrality of its significance for humanity.

The incarnation is the restorative point which heals humanity. Benson demonstrates, that for Bonaventure the medieval scholastic, the healing demands that the “medicine must precisely undo the disease.”[211] The maladies for us all resulting from the Fall are sin, sickness and death and these came through Eve. Benson highlights that Bonaventure contrasts these in the Breviloquium whereby through Mary we receive her son who gives grace, health and life.[212] It is at the annunciation that healing and the re-ordering of the created order begin to occur. Benson demonstrates the centrality of the incarnation as the event of redemption, healing and completion. This is so as Bonaventure understands that the implication of the Word becoming incarnate is that the whole life and death of Jesus Christ is his mediation between God and humanity.

In the Breviloquium Bonaventure moves from the foundational event of the incarnation to the passion of Christ. The restorative principle fittingly redeems in an orderly fashion, in other words, as Benson stated, the medicine must directly undo the disease. Benson further states that “Christ’s suffering on the cross therefore reflects Bonaventure’s principle that God’s actions in creation and redemption have a basic identity.”[213] The healing nature of the cross is the clearest example of virtue which is understood to be the culminating point of the restoration. In other words, it achieves the final reductio ad Patrem.

The condescension of God in humility and poverty into the created order directs the discussion from the cross, and thereby the incarnation, to what God has actually done. The notion of cosmic completion which is strong in Bonaventure can, as Hayes asserts, lead to interpretations of the incarnation as something of immanent necessity for the created order.[214] It would be a grave mistake to perceive Bonaventure’s thought narrowly this way, most especially as it would undermine his understanding of the nature of divine love as free and generous. Indeed, as Benson asserts, “God’s actions in history are excessive-he not only restores humanity, he completes creation itself.”[215] This is the dual understanding of the incarnation in the thought of Bonaventure.

Balthasar’s analysis holds together tightly the overall Bonaventurean system, especially in reference to the importance of the place of divine love. Condescension is the free movement of God not coerced in any way by the nature of the created order but rather moved by the very nature of divine love, which, as Balthasar highlights for Bonaventure, is itself vulnerable. This vulnerability to a certain extent is seen firstly in the nature of the created order in that the infinite God creates that which is finite. The divine creative love leaves itself vulnerable in the created order whereby nothing is able to return the love expressed in equal measure. The vulnerability of the Son of God on the cross is therefore the greatest sign of God’s love because he completes the circle forming in and by his very person the way back for all things to the Father. The imprint of the Trinity is now most perfectly imprinted in the created order through this trinitarian movement of love. Balthasar’s reading of Bonaventure once again reveals the importance of divine love as the condition for not only understanding God in himself but also the divine action ad extra. The greatest manifestation in the created world of the divine liberality is Christ crucified.

The focus for Dreyer is not on the divine liberality but rather on the cross as the reversal of expectations. Instead of representing something which is repulsive and a symbol of evil the cross reveals the condescending love of God. In other words the cross “is a most effective way to convince us of God’s love.”[216] While this is an accurate reading of Bonaventure it is far less profound than that of Balthasar. Balthasar’s explication of Bonaventure’s theology of the cross, holding it within its overall theological system, importantly reveals its correlation with trinitarian theology. The strength of Dreyer’s analysis though is her realisation that Bonaventure is not concerned with questions that direct focus away from the actual events of the incarnation and indeed the whole life of Christ. Bonaventure is concerned with understanding what God actually reveals of himself by acting in the way in which he has done in the historical life of his incarnate Word. The insights of Dreyer and Balthasar together reveal the cross as the most effective way for the soul to be convinced of God’s love as it is the highest expression in the created order of God’s condescension.

The redemption achieved by Christ on the cross is the expression of the vulnerability of the heart of God. This vulnerability, as highlighted by Balthasar and Dreyer, has the practical purpose of evoking a response on the part of the one who contemplates it, which is the lived experience of Francis. Delio argues that this results in a twofold movement for Bonaventure, stating:

By joining himself to Christ Crucified through the spirit of burning love, Francis became united to the one who is the center of all creation. In light of Francis, Bonaventure signifies that conformity to Christ Crucified leads one into God and into the world created by God.[217]

Delio argues that as Francis was conformed to Christ crucified the centre of all reality, then his soul was united to Christ and thus was united in a new way to the whole created order. Delio’s analysis places Christ crucified as the central active principle for the soul. Convinced of God’s love through meditation on Christ crucified the soul of Francis was re-ordered so as to see the whole created order as an expression of this same love.

Hammond similarly asserts this principle in his analysis of The Soul’s Journey, whereby he states that for Bonaventure “the love of Christ crucified is the only path to Christian wisdom because the innate order of creation can only be found in the re-ordering of the cross.”[218] The re-ordering which Hammond asserts expresses a deeper reality than Dreyer’s reversal of expectations. This re-ordering occurs in the very soul of the one who descends with the incarnate Word to the point of the cross. In this movement with the incarnate Christ the soul is not only re-sensitised to the created order but is also lifted up to the Father. The cross as the culmination of the incarnation is the point where the horizontal and vertical axes meet. Subsequently at this point the soul united to Christ crucified can return with him to the Father. In the cross of Christ the fullness of the perfect order established in the incarnation is fully revealed to humanity through the self-emptying of the divine love into the human and the human into the divine.

The completion of Christ’s mediation, which is the fulfilment of his reductio ad Patrem finalised on the cross, whereby the humanity of Christ totally empties itself into the divine love. Hammond argues that in Bonaventure for the Christian to “follow in the way of Christ and to enter into Christ is to climb his cross and empty oneself utterly and completely.”[219] Hammond’s analysis accords with Daniel’s argument that Bonaventure’s Christ mysticism finds its foundation in Francis’ stigmata. It is one of affective identification and imitation of Christ crucified and not an intellectual quest per se. The stigmata of Francis is the foundation for Bonaventure’s understanding of the nature of the spiritual life. Francis’ burning love for Christ crucified manifests itself in his receiving of the wounds of the One he loves. The great act of love which is the cross is thereby not something static for Bonaventure confined to the realm of past history. Bonaventure’s christology rather highlights the call for affective imitation and contemplation of the mystery of the life of the Word incarnate as a transformative revelation of the nature of God. The transformative power of this imitation is founded on Christ’s mediatorial office as the eternal medium. Balthasar states that the “stigmatisation of the father of the Franciscan Order forbids even the least doubt of the power of expression of what God said through the cross.”[220] The cross is to be at the centre of the soul as it is the greatest expression of divine love. For Bonaventure, according to Balthasar, no further word about the nature God and man can be uttered.[221]

The cross for Bonaventure is to be totally embraced and Christ crucified is to be at the centre of the soul, as this is what Francis exemplified. Christ mediates the love he expresses on the cross to the soul that contemplates and imitates him. As Balthasar asserts, in Christ the nature of love is revealed both in reference to its source and its expression. This beauty of its expression is paradoxically manifested in the “double mystery of Christ’s humility and poverty.”[222] God’s condescension to humanity, by way of poverty and humility in the incarnation and the cross, is the revelation of the nature of God’s love at its source. The love revealed by Christ crucified is a manifestation of the love that is from the fountain of love, that is, flowing forth from the Father.[223] To this view of God’s love Balthasar connects the nature of God as the highest good, that is, the fountain of love which Christ reveals on the cross. The connection may seem somewhat obvious; nevertheless his emphasis further manifests the trinitarian framework ever present in Bonaventure’s christology.

The cross is the revelation of the nature of the divine love and thus, as Balthasar states, for Bonaventure the heart of Christ reveals the heart of God.[224] On the cross is not only revealed the source of love from the Father as the highest good but also the Son’s response of love which expresses the liberality of the love that is shared between the three divine persons. The cross is thus a trinitarian event of love which for Bonaventure is never reduced solely to a portrayal of it as only a punishment for sin or an accidental event.

4.2 Poverty and humility as loving union with Christ crucified

Christ crucified, as we have seen, is the centre of this mystical journey and remains so up to that final point whereby he leads the inflamed soul over to the Father. Poverty and humility are the important virtues that the soul attains through contemplation of Christ crucified. These are the virtues of Francis that enabled the love of God to be inflamed within him. As poverty and humility serve love in the Christ mysticism of Bonaventure they find a central place within his christology. In the final chapter of The Soul’s Journey Bonaventure reflects on the spiritual and mystical ecstasy of our rest after we have been inflamed by christocentric meditation.

In this passing over, if it is to be perfect, all intellectual activities must be left behind and the height of our affection must be totally transferred and transformed into God. This, however, is mystical and most secret, which no one knows except him who receives it, no one receives except him who desires it, and no one desires except him who is inflamed in his very marrow by the fire of the Holy Spirit whom Christ sent into the world. And therefore the Apostle says that this mystical wisdom is revealed by the Holy Spirit.[225]

The passing over into being transformed by God is achieved through passing through the door which is Christ crucified, it is something beyond intellectual activities and served by the connection of poverty and humility with love.

The virtues of poverty and humility, according to Bonaventure, are manifest in the whole life of Christ. They are most prominent though in Christ’s incarnation and crucifixion. The eternal Son of God is incarnate as a poor and humble baby and this condescension is fully revealed in the poverty and humility of the cross. Francis exalted poverty making of it a virtue that he even personalized calling it affectionately “Lady Poverty.”[226] Bonaventure not only inherits the unique Franciscan tradition of the place of poverty but also must defend it at the University of Paris. The so-called poverty controversy occurs with the rising influence of the mendicant orders, namely the Franciscans and Dominicans, and their acquiring of the chairs of theology which displaced the secular clergy. What is pertinent for this discussion is Bonaventure’s defense of poverty as a virtue.

Indeed, Bonaventure understands poverty as a virtue precisely because it is acquired by imitation of Christ and the apostles. Bonaventure in his Defense of the Mendicants states:

Just as there was nothing of temporal glory or pleasure in our crucified Savior, so also he did nothing and taught nothing that might show that the riches of the world were to be sought. On the contrary, in order to inflame us with the love of perfect poverty, Christ came as the poorest, born of the poorest mother when he entered the world to assault the enemy’s stronghold. When, as a priest, he offered himself as a victim to God the Father, he was suspended naked on the cross. And all of his life was a furnace of poverty, so much so that, as in the case of perfect straightness, the intermediate state of his truth never deviated from its extremes.[227]

Bonaventure outlines that the virtue of poverty comes directly from the life lived by Jesus Christ, which includes but is not limited to his material poverty. His nakedness in the sacrifice of the cross links his role of mediator with poverty. Christ crucified in his nakedness completely reveals the virtuous and divine nature of poverty, whereby his full condescension makes possible his passing over. The poverty that the mendicants imitate, according to Bonaventure, is the evangelical perfection as lived and taught by Christ and his apostles.

Christ mediates mystical union with God by inviting the soul to climb upon the cross which can only be done if the person counts temporal glory and pleasure as nothing. The soul who contemplates Christ crucified is moved to respond with love that is characterised on the cross. In the Defense of the Mendicants poverty is dealt with in christological terms because what was at stake was the very spirituality of the friars. Hayes argues that Bonaventure understood the problem to be even more significant, whereby the accusations laid against the mendicants undermined the very nature of what the perfection of Christ and imitation of him meant in the Christian life. Hayes states that the problem lay in differing interpretations of exemplarity.[228] Those opposing the mendicants argued that as Christ is the exemplar for all then all were called to imitate him uniformly. Hayes identifies Bonaventure’s refutation of this theory through the example of Christ’s circumcision, highlighting that as an action it is not for imitation. The humility expressed by Christ in undergoing the ritual of circumcision, and not the circumcision itself, is for our imitation.[229] Imitation of Christ for Bonaventure is not reducible to an external copying of Christ’s actions. Bonaventure, on the other hand, also states that it is not possible to imitate Christ’s actions uniformly. He does assert though that all of Christ’s actions are for our instruction but not all his actions are for our imitation.

The virtue of poverty as lived and espoused by Francis is the manifestation of his personal participation in Christ. The fullness of perfection is in Christ and as such he is the exemplar of perfection in graced creatures. Hayes states that through Christ’s “influence, creatures are shaped into His likeness, but in different ways and degrees.”[230] Hayes’ point is important as it situates further Bonaventure’s christology with his notion of exemplarity. Therefore, Bonaventure’s defense of the friars’ particular insistence on evangelical poverty, which even led to it being referred to as ‘Franciscan poverty’, was that this form of life was one such way and degree of manifesting the virtue of poverty exemplified by Christ.

Christ, as exemplar of the virtues and their perfection, is the one to whom the Christian must be conformed. The transformation results from the interpersonal nature of the imitation and identification. This shaping is neither uniform in its effects nor part of an external mimicry of actions. Hayes states that “the end result of the imitation consists in the fact that human persons enter into the movement of Trinitarian life by entering into the life-movement of the Son in as far as they can personalize the fundamental values of His life in their own.”[231] For Bonaventure, according to Hayes, imitation of Christ consists in growing in the virtues that Christ himself exemplified so as to participate in the trinitarian movement of divine love. It is a very personal encounter as participation in the virtues of Christ find their expression in the particular life of each Christian.

Delio outlines that loving imitation of Christ transforms the lover of Christ further into his likeness.[232] The Christian though is not actually transformed into Christ by imitation of him, rather, in their personhood they grow in likeness to Christ who is the Word through whom they were created. Transformation is possible as Christ is the exemplar. Christ is the perfection of what the person can live out in his own actions through his imitation and identification of the incarnate Word. Poverty as a virtue in the soul of the Christian determines a certain way of living that places the person in accord with the life of Christ. Delio and Hayes both highlight that in entering into the loving movement of the triune God through Christ the Christian acts in accord with the fundamental virtues of Christ.

Balthasar recognises this movement stating that the “poverty caused by love is making room, so that the descending ray of God’s love as beauty, its species expressa, may find no hindrance precisely in the organon in which it wishes to imprint itself.”[233] Love is the initiator of the virtue of poverty and the habit of it allows for greater transformation into the likeness of Christ. Balthasar, who asserts that the cross for Bonaventure is the greatest expression of God’s communication to creatures, links the virtue of poverty to the efficacy of this communication. The divine imprint on the lover of Christ shapes one into him who is their exemplar. Poverty for Bonaventure, as Balthasar highlights, is that basic fundamental counsel because Francis understood it nuptially. If the cross is the nuptial event of Christ and the Church then the cross is where poverty is perfected.[234]

Delio, in agreement with Balthasar, states that on the cross is the highest form of poverty both on the part of God and the part of the human person who is perfected through conformity to the poor and crucified Christ.[235] The contemplation of the cross is the fundamental encounter of the poor Christ calling the Christian into ever deeper love facilitated by ever deeper poverty. Balthasar, citing the Collations, demonstrates that the connection between poverty and mystical divine union is centred on simplicity. In order to contemplate and encounter God as supremely and absolutely simple the Christian must have divested himself of all worldly things through the virtue of poverty. The simplicity of the Christian soul attained through poverty is the basic and fundamental attitude necessary for union with God who is utterly simple. To be covetous and greedy for Bonaventure is to be complicated and dependent on many things in the world.[236] The cross, as Balthasar demonstrates, is the antidote to this disposition as it teaches the soul that blessedness comes in imitation of the poverty exemplified by Christ crucified.

There is convergence here of poverty as a virtue exemplified by the life of Christ and the poverty of the creature due to sin. Timothy Johnson states that in this way poverty for Bonaventure “is a comprehensive theological category comprising the poverty of being and the poverty of sin.”[237] Johnson argues that Bonaventure understands both of these as part of humanity’s dependence on God. The importance of poverty rests in the recognition of how God acts and the realisation of the Christian of their total dependence upon God.

The virtue of poverty in regards to mystical union involves much more than a rejection of material goods. For union with God the virtue poverty in Bonaventure involves a stripping away of human intellectual knowledge. In the final stage of The Soul’s Journey Bonaventure states that the “mind reaches that point where it contemplates in the First and Supreme Principle and in the mediator of God and men, Jesus Christ, those things whose likeness can in no way be found in creatures and which surpass all penetration by the human intellect.”[238] Delio states that Bonaventure incorporates the Pseudo-Dionysian notion of apophasis.[239] However, Balthasar demonstrates that Bonaventure takes the Dionysian idea further than the transcending from the intellect into the eternal. He states that the passing over into “ecstatic rapture” is part of the nuptial experience. In characterising Bonaventure’s use of the Dionysian apophasis as nuptial, Balthasar asserts the role of the loving bridegroom. The bridegroom is the source of the unitive love in which the person is not only carried above himself but in being united to the bridegroom he enters God and is lost in him.[240] It is the burning love for the crucified Christ that takes the human person out of himself and unites him to Christ and thus to the Father.

The stripping away of all things in Franciscan poverty is the via negativa that leads the soul into ecstasy which is given by God as grace. And as Balthasar states this “fundamental experience”, according to Bonaventure, is ultimately “nothing other than the human realization of the objective revelation.”[241] Bonaventure cannot be accused of mere spiritual sentimentality. The Christian who contemplates the historical events of Jesus Christ, especially his incarnation and crucifixion, is illumined affectively and intellectually. These aspects Bonaventure highlights in both The Soul’s Journey and The Tree of Life. Johnson argues in relation specifically to The Tree of Life that the response of the soul, who contemplates the mysteries of the life of the Word made flesh, is a result of the devout desire to be in complete union with Christ.[242]

The completion of the journey is in the passing over from activities of the self into God through the doorway of Christ crucified. The particular historical events of the life, death and resurrection of Christ have consequences for all of history. The imitation of Christ crucified in the life of Francis is nothing sentimental but a real participation in Christ’s life and therefore in the divine life itself. Poverty is thus a vehicle out of oneself into the crucified Christ and therefore into the Father. The Christian, who participates through poverty in the condescension of God the Son in the incarnation and the crucifixion, can then join with him in the reductio ad Patrem.

The fundamental virtues of the perfection of Christ obviously extend further than poverty, but this particular aspect of the mendicants’ lives caused great problems. Indeed, Bonaventure saw that a challenge to poverty undermined the whole understanding of what it means for the Christian to follow and imitate Christ. As Hayes asserts, Bonaventure’s way of addressing what it means to imitate Christ was to look and see the fundamental values and virtues that he expressed on earth. Francis had elevated specifically the counsel of poverty to be nuptial as Balthasar expresses.

Bonaventure in defending ‘Franciscan poverty’ also expresses the central importance of the other evangelical counsels as vehicles for the imitation of Christ. These were not just vows for religious in Bonaventure’s view but also virtues which Christ had revealed himself to be the perfection of on earth. Hayes notes that in different writings Bonaventure’s lists of virtues are more or less comprehensive. The virtues of humility and love accompany Bonaventure’s discussions of the evangelical counsels, in both his mystical writings and also his sermons.[243] Christ as the perfection of these fundamental virtues directs the Christian’s imitation of them to find shape and expression only in their own historical reality. A christocentric spirituality understood this way is far from a mimicry or sentimental outward imitation of Christ.

Bonaventure’s particular emphasis on the place and role of poverty in Christian life is due firstly to the Franciscan world he inhabited. The prominence given to poverty is secondly understood due to the need to defend evangelical poverty against attacks by the secular clergy. Be that as it may, he places equal significance on the humility of Christ, which with poverty leads intimately into the highest virtue which is love. Indeed, what has been stated above in reference to poverty in Bonaventure’s christology and spirituality is applicable to his vision of humility. Dreyer highlights that the interrelationship of poverty and humility operates for Bonaventure in this way: to admit one’s poverty is to allow for the virtue of humility.[244] Balthasar states this with more force arguing that the very foundation of Bonaventure’s system is the mystery of poverty and humility.[245] Balthasar’s interpretation stresses that poverty and humility are not just a gloss or pious rhetoric in the Seraphic Doctor’s thought but inform the construction of a Franciscan theology. Francis who, had Christ at the centre of his soul, exemplifies the virtues which Christ himself is the perfection of, precisely because he manifested them at the centre of his person. If Christ is to be at the centre of the Christian soul one must embrace poverty and humility which he exemplifies on the cross.

The poverty and humility of the incarnation and the cross are not accidental to what God desires to reveal through his Son. Delio argues that the poverty of the cross reveals God’s “radical openness to and acceptance of humanity.”[246] The virtue of poverty draws the Christian into the poverty and suffering of the cross which in turn draws one into the Father’s love for the world revealed through his Son. Furthermore, the Christian then participates in the Son’s response of love through total surrendering.[247] In the poverty of the cross Christ’s self-surrendering becomes his exemplification of humility. Hayes highlights that, for Bonaventure, “the direct opposite of such an outward directed, generous life-style is covetousness and the proud egoism that accompanies it.”[248] Christ is the foundation and the way out of pride and sinfulness as he exemplifies a life lived in generosity and loving service of others.

Christ provides the concrete example of humility which is to be lived both internally and externally. Pride destroys the dignity of human nature precisely because humanity is created in the image and likeness of God, and the fullness of this image is Christ the eternal Word. This was particularly visible above in relation to Bonaventure’s account of the sin of Adam and the fall of Satan, according to which he describes their pride as a desire for the similitude of equality. It is only Christ who can claim to be the perfect and full likeness of the Father. Interestingly, Hayes emphasises that, for Bonaventure, pride inhibits the work of Christ in the reductio ad Patrem of all things. Christ not only exemplifies the virtue of humility but demonstrates that this virtue is central to restoring grace and the leading back of all things to the Father.[249]

Bonaventure’s discussion of the sin of pride manifests not only a rich and deep understanding of the virtue of humility but is complemented by his treatment of poverty and love. These hold central place in Bonaventure’s overall system because he regards them to be far greater than pious rhetoric or mere moralising. Indeed Francis exemplified them in his affective christocentric mysticism. Hayes states that the “language of humility, poverty and love which occurs first at the level of religious experience … is traced to a true ontological and historical grounding.”[250] Poverty, humility and love form the core virtues in the thought of Bonaventure which effect the reverse movement of the order of sin. However, they are not merely utilities in the redemption of humanity. Hayes demonstrates their christological and trinitarian foundation stating that in the “humility and poverty of the incarnate Word is the historical manifestation of the Son who is the pure receptiveness of being and the full loving response to the Father.”[251] The humility and poverty manifested in the life of Christ reveals an ontological and historical reality. The Christian then participates in this movement, which is effected especially by the virtues of humility and poverty, and so is drawn by Christ into loving union with the Father.


Bonaventure presents a detailed and expansive christocentric system. His christology is at the core of his theological, mystical and cosmological vision. He achieves a genuine contribution to christology as he takes the tradition and re-presents this, at least partly, through the lens of the experience and insights of Francis of Assisi. In reference to the contemporary need for a recovery in authentic christology this study demonstrates the value of understanding the contribution of Bonaventure.

Edward Oakes highlighted that there is a separation between christology and trinitarian studies that has developed over the centuries and remains with us today in varying degrees. His study explores the works of contemporary theologians where there is not this divide. Oakes highlights from the tradition in particular the intimate relationship in Bonaventure’s thought between the Trinity and his christology. Oakes references Hayes’ analysis that for Bonaventure trinitarian theology is a function of christology.[252] One of the key and fundamental contributions of Bonaventure’s christocentric vision is that it flows forth from the Trinity. Indeed it is the Father as the primal fontal fullness who as the highest good is the source of the emanations. Everything begins with the Father, and by adopting Dionysian metaphysics Bonaventure understands the good to be self-diffusive and, as such, everything finds it source in the Father.

The Word as the centre of the two emanations is the centre of the dynamic relations of the trinitarian persons. Hayes demonstrates that the Son in Bonaventure is both receptive and communicative of the divine essence of love. The Father is only communicative and the Spirit is only receptive, which for Bonaventure means that the Son is the medium of the Trinity. Hellmann notes that as medium the Son is also mediator, however not in the normal sense of resolving distinction or separation. The Son mediates in the Trinity since he is the divine exemplar who reveals by personal relationship the Father and the Spirit which is the trinitarian significance of all reality.

There is discussion concerning whether Bonaventure’s understanding of the incarnation contains within it a certain necessity on the part of God. The discussion centres on the reasons he puts forward for the incarnation, which are twofold: the completion and fulfilment of the created order and the redemption of humankind from sin. Hellmann and Balthasar argue persuasively in light of this debate. Hellmann understands that the completion of creation at the incarnation is by way of fulfilling its total dependency. This dependency is only exacerbated through the incursion of sin. The incarnation thus fulfils the dependency which includes the healing of the rupture caused by sin. Balthasar argues that we must consider the second emanation which is per modum liberalitatis as the defining aspect. The divine liberality is the supremely generous nature of God. Balthasar argues that it is not even a consideration for Bonaventure to search for a cause for the incarnation. In other words Bonaventure’s system is outside the Thomist-Scotist debate.

The incarnation for Bonaventure also makes possible the reductio ad Patrem of the created order. Christ in assuming a human nature is able to simultaneously touch God and humanity.[253] Hayes demonstrates that Bonaventure strives to show the integral human nature of Jesus Christ, acknowledging that anything else would constitute a deceit on the part of God. The discussions in reference to the relationship between the human will and knowledge united to a divine person demonstrate Bonaventure’s explicit desire to present Christ as having the fullness of a human nature. After establishing the integrity of Christ’s human nature, Bonaventure asserts that the human sufferings of Christ were more intense due to the perfect ordering of his soul. Balthasar asserts that these inner sufferings of Christ the medium are revelatory of Christ’s heart and thus the divine heart. The heart as the midpoint of man in Christ is opened and vulnerable revealing the nature of divine love in the thought of Bonaventure.

Hammond’s study importantly demonstrates that, for Bonaventure, the cross implies the incarnation and vice versa. This is significant for understanding Christ as the centre of all reality. It is on the cross that Christ completes the descencio begun at his incarnation and enables the ascencio. Hellmann’s and Hammond’s analysis is that on the cross the vertical and horizontal axes meet and the divine and created orders are united in Jesus Christ. Accordingly this is the very centre of all reality for Bonaventure. For a true understanding of reality one must know Christ crucified.

This understanding of Christ the centre as the mediator between God and humanity is fundamental to Bonaventurean studies. In the background of this are debates over what is the overall hermeneutical key to Bonaventure’s thought. Cousins claims that it is the coincidence of opposites. Others, even while acknowledging the valuable contribution of Cousins, have reservations with his theory. Balthasar and others concentrate on Bonaventure’s work stemming from his Franciscan world.

Bonaventure’s insights provide a foundation for a healthy dialogue with the contemporary strive for the rediscovery of an authentic christology. Bonaventure is well worth further study in our contemporary situation due to his developed christocentric system. Furthermore, his system’s value lies in the fact that it not only presents itself in his systematic treatments of christology but finds its highest expressions in his deeply mystical works. Further work and discussion is needed in seeking to grasp the overall vision of Bonaventure informing all parts of his vast and complex system. The influence of the insight and experience of Francis especially his receiving of the stigmata is an indispensable key. This is clearly highlighted by the way in which Bonaventure’s christocentric vision holds as its own centre Christ crucified.

Indeed, in examining the Christ mysticism of Bonaventure, especially in reference to the virtues of poverty and humility, this thesis has shown that it is clearly based on the affective journey of Francis. The personal imitation and identification of Francis with Christ crucified is for Bonaventure the guiding hermeneutic for his developing radical christocentric vision.

Approach, O friend, with the feet of your affections to your wounded Jesus, to Jesus crowned with thorns, to Jesus affixed to the tree of the cross, and with blessed Thomas the apostle not only gaze at the wounds in his hands made by the nails, not only put your finger into the holes made by the nails, not only put your hand into the wound in his side, but totally through the opening in his side enter the very heart of Jesus where, transformed into Christ by your most ardent love for the crucified, pierced with the nail of the fear of God, transfixed by the lance of cordial love, thrust through by the sword of intimate compassion, you may seek nothing else, desire nothing else, or be consoled by nothing else except that you may die on the cross with Christ.[254]


Critical Edition

Bonaventura. S. Bonaventurae opera omnia. Quaracchi: Collegii S. Bonaventurae, 1882-1902. 10 volumes in folio.

English Translations

Bonaventure, Cardinal and Saint. Works of Bonaventure, Vol. I, Mystical Opuscula. Translated by Jose de Vinck. Patterson, N.J.: St. Anthony Guild Press, 1960.

__________________________. Works of Bonaventure, Vol. V, Collations on the Six Days. Translated by Jose de Vinck. Patterson, N.J.: St. Anthony Guild Press, 1970.

Bonaventure. Bonaventure: The Soul’s Journey Into God, The Tree of Life, The Life of Saint Francis. Translation and Introduction by Ewert H. Cousins. The Classics of Western Spirituality. New York: Paulist Press, 1978.

Works of Saint Bonaventure. General Editor: Robert J. Karris, O.F.M. Saint Bonaventure University: Franciscan Institute Publications, New York.

Vol. I. De Reductione atrium ad theologiam. Translation, Introduction and Commentary by Zachary Hayes, O.F.M., 1996.

Vol. III. Disputed Questions on the Mystery of the Trinity. Translation and Introduction by Zachary Hayes, O.F.M., 2000.

Vol. IV. Disputed Questions on the Knowledge of Christ. Translation and Introduction by Zachary Hayes, O.F.M., 2005.

Vol. VIII. Commentary on the Gospel of Luke. Translation and Introduction by Robert J. Karris, O.F.M., 2001.

Vol. IX. Breviloquium. Translation, Introduction and Notes by Dominic Monti, O.F.M., 2005.

Vol. X. Writings on the Spiritual Life. Introduction and Notes by F. Edward Coughlin, O.F.M., 2000.

Vol. XV. Defense of the Mendicants. Translation by Jose de Vinck and Robert J. Karris, 2001.

Secondary Sources

Von Balthasar, H. U. The Glory of the Lord: A Theological Aesthetics II: Clerical Styles. Translated by A. Louth, F. McDonagh, and B. McNeil. San Francisco; New York: Ignatius Press; Crossroads Publications, 1984.

_______________. Theo-Logic: Theological Logical Theory: Truth of God (Vol. II). Translated by A. J. Walker. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004.

Barron, Robert. The Priority of Christ: Toward a Postliberal Catholicism. Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2007.

Benson, Joshua. “The Christology of the Breviloquium”. In A Companion to Bonaventure. Edited by Hammond, Jay M., Hellmann, J. A. Wayne, and Goff, Jared, 247-288. London: Brill, 2014.

Bougerol, Jacques Guy. Introduction to the Works of Bonaventure. Paterson, NJ: St. Anthony Guild Press, 1964.

Copleston, Frederick. Medieval Philosophy. New York; Harper and Brothers, 1961.

Cousins, Ewert H. Bonaventure and the Coincidence of Opposites. Chicago: Franciscan Herald Press, 1978.

Cullen, Christopher M. Bonaventure. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.

Daniel, E. Randolf. “Symbol or Model? St Bonaventure’s use of St Francis.” In Blanco, Francisco, Editor. Bonaventuriana. Rome: Edizioni Antonianum, 1988.

De, Gaál Emery. The Theology of Pope Benedict XVI: The Christocentric Shift. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010.

Delio, Ilia. Crucified Love: Bonaventure’s Mysticism of the Crucified Christ. Quincy, IL: Franciscan Press, 1998.

________. Simply Bonaventure: An Introduction to His Life, Thought, and Writings. Hyde Park, NY: New City Press, 2001.

________. “Theology, Spirituality and Christ the Centre: Bonaventure’s Synthesis”. In A Companion to Bonaventure. Edited by Hammond, Jay M., Hellmann, J. A. Wayne, and Goff, Jared, 361-402. London: Brill, 2014.

Dreyer, Elizabeth. “Bonaventure’s Theology of the Cross.” Edited by Elizabeth Dreyer, The Cross In Christian Tradition. New York: Paulist Press, 2000.

Gilson, Etienne. The Philosophy of St. Bonaventure. Translated by Illtyd Trethowan and F. J. Sheed. Paterson, N.J.: St. Anthony Guild Press, 1965.

Goff, Jared. Caritas in Primo. Bedford, MA: Academy of the Immaculate, 2015.

Hayes, Zachary. The Hidden Center: Spirituality and Speculative Christology in St. Bonaventure. New York: Paulist Press, 1981.

____________. “Bonaventure’s Trinitarian Theology.” In A Companion to Bonaventure. Edited by Hammond, Jay M., Hellmann, J. A. Wayne, and Goff, Jared, 189-245. London: Brill, 2014.

____________. “Christology and Metaphysics in the Thought of Bonaventure.” The Journal of Religion 58 (1978).

Hellmann, J. A. Wayne., and Jay M. Hammond. Divine and Created Order in Bonaventure’s Theology. St. Bonaventure, NY: Franciscan Institute, 2001.

John Paul II. Redemptor Hominis. March 4, 1979. (accessed February 8, 2017).

Johnson, Timothy. The Soul in Ascent: Bonaventure on Poverty, Prayer, and Union With God. Quincy, IL: Franciscan Press, 2000.

LaNave, Gregory. Through Holiness to Wisdom: The Nature of Theology according to St. Bonaventure. Rome: Istituto Storico dei Cappuccini, 2005.

Martignetti, Richard S. Saint Bonaventure’s Tree of Life: Theology of the Mystical Journey. Grottaferrata (Roma): Frati Editori Di Quaracchi, 2004.

O’Collins, Gerald. Christology: A Biblical, Historical, and Systematic Study of Jesus Christ. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995.

Oakes, Edward T. Infinity Dwindled to Infancy: A Catholic and Evangelical Christology. Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans Pub., 2011.

Ocáriz, Fernando, Mateo Seco, and José Riestra. The Mystery of Jesus Christ: A Christology and Soteriology Textbook. Dublin: Four Courts Press, 1994.

Quinn, John Francis. The Historical Constitution of St. Bonaventure’s Philosophy. Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 1973.

Ratzinger, Joseph. Introduction to Christianity. Translated by Barnes and Oates Publishers. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004.

Ratzinger, Joseph. Theology of History in St. Bonaventure. Translated by Zachary Hayes, Chicago: Franciscan Herald Press, 1989.

Tavard, George. “The Coincidence of Opposite: A Recent Interpretation of Bonaventure.” Theological Studies 41 (1980).


  1. Bonaventure, Collations on the Six Days, I, 2. The Works of Bonaventure, translated by Jose de Vinck. (Patterson, N.J.: Saint Anthony Guild Press, 1970).
  2. John Paul II, Redemptor Hominis, (March 4, 1979), n. 1. (accessed February 8, 2017).
  3. John Paul II, Redemptor Hominis, n. 2.
  4. Joseph Ratzinger, Introduction to Christianity, translated by Barnes and Oates Publishers (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 194.
  5. Ratzinger, Introduction to Christianity, 194-5.
  6. Ratzinger, Introduction to Christianity, 196-7. Ratzinger refers critically to the role of Wolfhart Pannenberg in forcing this divide between faith and history.
  7. John Paul II, Redemptor Hominis, n. 8, quoting Gaudium et Spes, Constitution on the Church and the Modern World, no. 22 (John Paull II’s emphasis).
  8. Edward T. Oakes, Infinity Dwindled to Infancy: A Catholic and Evangelical Christology (Michigan: Eerdmans, 2011), 401.
  9. Zachary Hayes, The Hidden Center: Spirituality and Speculative Christology in St. Bonaventure (New York: Paulist Press, 1981), 221.
  10. H. U. Von Balthasar, The Glory of the Lord: A Theological Aesthetics: Clerical Styles (Vol. II), translated by A. Louth, F. McDonagh, and B. McNeil (San Francisco; New York: Ignatius Press; Crossroads Publications, 1984), 263.
  11. Jared Goff, Caritas in Primo (Bedford, MA: Academy of the Immaculate, 2015), see chapter two, 13-55. Goff’s recent study outlines in particular the differing thoughts of contemporary theologians in reference to Bonaventure’s Disputed Questions on the Mystery of the Trinity.
  12. Ewert Cousins, Bonaventure and the Coincidence of Opposites (Chicago: Franciscan Herald Press, 1978), 2.
  13. Term of endearment for Francis of Assisi literally meaning ‘Little Poor One’.
  14. Bonaventure, The Life of St Francis, translated by Ewert Cousins (New York: Paulist Press, 1978), 305-06.
  15. His biography of St Francis is a richly developed theology of his life, and reflects very little of what would be considered a biography in our contemporary times.
  16. Collations, 1, 24, pg. 13.
  17. Zachary Hayes, “Christology and Metaphysics in the Thought of Bonaventure,” The Journal of Religion, Vol. 58, Supplement. Celebrating the Medieval Heritage: A Colloquy on the Thought of Aquinas and Bonaventure (1978), S95.
  18. Hayes, “Christology and Metaphysics in the Thought of Bonaventure,” S82.
  19. Joseph Ratzinger, The Theology of History in St. Bonaventure (Chicago: Franciscan Herald Press, 1989).
  20. Von Balthasar, The Glory of the Lord: A Theological Aesthetics (Vol. II), 358.
  21. Cousins, Bonaventure and the Coincidence of Opposites, 2.
  22. De reductione artium ad theologiam, translation, introduction and commentary by Zachary Hayes, O.F.M., in Works of Saint Bonaventure (Vol. I), General Editor Robert J. Karris, O.F.M. (Saint Bonaventure University: Franciscan Institute Publications, 1996). This is the argument of the entire work but see for example paragraph number 8, pg. 47.
  23. Hayes, “Christology and Metaphysics in the Thought of Bonaventure,” S82.
  24. This is a central point to Hayes’ article. Hayes, “Christology and Metaphysics in the Thought of Bonaventure.”
  25. Goff, Caritas in Primo, see footnote number 51, 33.
  26. Collations, I, 2.
  27. Collations, I, 1.
  28. Collations, I, 1.
  29. Christopher M. Cullen, Bonaventure (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), 117-18.
  30. Cullen, Bonaventure, 118.
  31. Cousins, Bonaventure and the Coincidence of Opposites, 44.
  32. Cousins, Bonaventure and the Coincidence of Opposites, 44.
  33. Goff, Caritas in Primo, 3.
  34. Goff, Caritas in Primo, 3.
  35. Goff, Caritas in Primo, see chapter four “Master and Minorite,” 97-124.
  36. Two significant works in relation to the philosophical influences of Bonaventure’s thought over the Twentieth Century are: Etienne Gilson, The Philosophy of St. Bonaventure, translated by Illtyd Trethowan and F. J. Sheed (Paterson, N.J.: St. Anthony Guild Press, 1965), and John Francis Quinn, The Historical Constitution of St. Bonaventure’s Philosophy (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 1973). Gilson for example argues in favour that Bonaventure is a philosopher in his own right.
  37. Cullen, Bonaventure, 118.
  38. Cullen, Bonaventure, 122-2.
  39. Cousins, Bonaventure and the Coincidence of Opposites, see especially chapter II “Bonaventure’s Life and Thought”, pp. 29-68. Cullen, Bonaventure, see especially chapter 1 “Introduction”, 1-22.
  40. Goff, Caritas in Primo, see chapter 2 “The Historical Context of the Rediscovery of the De mysterio Trinitatis and Subsequent Scholarship”, 13-55.
  41. Goff, Caritas in Primo, see for example his critique of the work of Zachary Hayes, 39-43.
  42. Cullen, Bonaventure, 120-21.
  43. Zachary Hayes, “Introduction”, Disputed Questions on the Mystery of the Trinity (Vol. III), translation, introduction and commentary by Zachary Hayes, O.FM., in Works of Saint Bonaventure, General Editor Robert J. Karris, O.F.M. (Saint Bonaventure University: Franciscan Institute Publications, 2000), 32-36.
  44. Bonaventure, The Soul’s Journey into God, translated by Ewert Cousins, (New York: Paulist Press, 1978), I, pg. 59.
  45. The Soul’s Journey, VI, pg. 102.
  46. Cullen, Bonaventure, 124.
  47. The Soul’s Journey, VI: 1, pg. 102.
  48. Zachary Hayes, “Bonaventure’s Trinitarian Theology,” in Jay M Hammond; J A Wayne Hellmann; Jared Goff, A Companion to Bonaventure (Boston: Brill, 2013), 207.
  49. Hayes “Introduction”, in Disputed Questions on the Mystery of the Trinity, 30.
  50. Hayes, The Hidden Center, 14.
  51. Hayes, The Hidden Center, 14.
  52. Collations, I,14.
  53. Hayes, The Hidden Center, 12.
  54. Hayes, “Bonaventure’s Trinitarian Theology,” 207.
  55. H. U. Von Balthasar, Theo-Logic: Theological Logical Theory: Truth of God (Vol. II), translated by A. J. Walker (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 165.
  56. Hayes, The Hidden Center, 14.
  57. Von Balthasar, Theo-Logic (Vol. II), 163.
  58. Von Balthasar, Theo-Logic (Vol. II), 163-64.
  59. Cullen, Bonaventure, 118-9.
  60. Cullen, Bonaventure, 118.
  61. Hayes, “Bonaventure’s Trinitarian Theology,” 207-8.
  62. Cullen, Bonaventure, 119.
  63. Hayes, “Bonaventure’s Trinitarian Theology,” 209.
  64. Bonaventure, Breviloquium, translation, introduction and notes by Dominic Monti, O.F.M. (Vol. IX), in Works of Saint Bonaventure, General Editor: Robert J. Karris, O.F.M. Saint Bonaventure University: Franciscan Institute Publications, New York, 2005), II, 2.
  65. Von Balthasar, The Glory of the Lord: A Theological Aesthetics (Vol. II), 290.
  66. Hayes, “Bonaventure’s Trinitarian Theology,” 209.
  67. Hayes, “Bonaventure’s Trinitarian Theology,” 214-15.
  68. Cousins, Bonaventure and the Coincidence of Opposites, 52-53.
  69. Ilia Delio, Simply Bonaventure: An Introduction to His Life, Thought, and Writings (Hyde Park, NY: New City Press, 2001), 13.
  70. Hayes, The Hidden Center, 13.
  71. Hayes, “Bonaventure’s Trinitarian Theology,” 214.
  72. Breviloquium, I,3:8.
  73. Bonaventure, Sent. I, d. 27, p. 2, q. 3, quoted with annotations in von Balthasar, Theo-Logic (Vol. II), 166.
  74. Hayes, “Bonaventure’s Trinitarian Theology,” 223.
  75. See Ilia Delio, “Theology, Metaphysics, and the Centrality of Christ,” Theological Studies 68 (2007), 259-60, and Zachary Hayes, introduction to Disputed Questions on the Mystery of the Trinity, translation and introduction by Zachary Hayes, O.F.M., in Works of Saint Bonaventure, General Editor: Robert J. Karris, O.F.M. (Saint Bonaventure, New York: Franciscan Institute Publications, 2000), 43-4.
  76. Delio, “Theology, Metaphysics, and the Centrality of Christ,” 259.
  77. Hayes, introduction to Disputed Questions on the Mystery of the Trinity, 37.
  78. Hayes, “Bonaventure’s Trinitarian Theology,” 212-13.
  79. Goff, Caritas in Primo, 243.
  80. Goff, Caritas in Primo, 243.
  81. Goff, Caritas in Primo, 243-4.
  82. Hayes, “Bonaventure’s Trinitarian Theology,” 222.
  83. Hayes, “Bonaventure’s Trinitarian Theology,” 223-4.
  84. J. A. Wayne Hellmann and Jay M. Hammond, Divine and Created Order in Bonaventure’s Theology (St. Bonaventure, NY: Franciscan Institute, 2001), 63.
  85. Hellmann, Divine and Created Order in Bonaventure’s Theology, 63.
  86. Collations, I, 8.
  87. Von Balthasar, Theo-Logic (Vol. II), 165.
  88. Von Balthasar, Theo-Logic (Vol. II), 165.
  89. Von Balthasar, Theo-Logic (Vol. II), 166-7.
  90. The close relationship between trinitarian theology and christology that we find in Bonaventure basically disappeared as they became two separate subject areas until the 20th Century where once again their importance of standing together is seen again. Bonaventure presents as one to look to in regards to the importance and fruitfulness of their close relationship. See Oakes S.J., Infinity Dwindled to Infancy, 7-9.
  91. Hayes, introduction to Disputed Questions on the Mystery of the Trinity, 47.
  92. Frederick Copleston, Medieval Philosophy (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1961), 76.
  93. Hayes, introduction to Disputed Questions on the Mystery of the Trinity, 46-8.
  94. Collations, IX, 1, pg. 133.
  95. Collations, IX, 2, pg.133.
  96. Von Balthasar, The Glory of the Lord: A Theological Aesthetics (Vol. II), 290.
  97. “Introduction”, Breviloquium, pp. XIV-XV. Dominic Monti in his introduction argues for the acceptance of the commonly held position that the date of the Breviloquium is 1257.
  98. Collations, IX, 2, pg. 133.
  99. Breviloquium, 4, 1:1, pg. 131.
  100. Hayes offers a detailed summary of the Bonaventure’s position of why the Second Divine Person became incarnate and not the other two or all three from the Commentary on the Sentences. See Hayes, The Hidden Center, 53-63.
  101. Breviloquium, 4, 1:1, pg. 131.
  102. Joshua Benson, “The Christology of the Breviloquium”, in A Companion to Bonaventure, ed. by Jay M. Hammond, J. A. Wayne Hellmann, and Jared Goff (London: Brill, 2014), 266-7.
  103. Hellmann, Divine and Created Order in Bonaventure’s Theology, 72.
  104. Hellmann, Divine and Created Order in Bonaventure’s Theology, 72-3.
  105. Hayes, The Hidden Center, 87.
  106. Hellmann, Divine and Created Order in Bonaventure’s Theology, 74-5.
  107. Hellmann, Divine and Created Order in Bonaventure’s Theology, 76.
  108. Hellmann, Divine and Created Order in Bonaventure’s Theology, 76.
  109. Hellmann, Divine and Created Order in Bonaventure’s Theology, 76.
  110. Hellmann, Divine and Created Order in Bonaventure’s Theology, 76.
  111. Hellmann, Divine and Created Order in Bonaventure’s Theology, 77.
  112. Hellmann, Divine and Created Order in Bonaventure’s Theology, 77.
  113. Hellmann, Divine and Created Order in Bonaventure’s Theology, 76. See footnote no. 69 in reference to the article by Ewert Cousins, “Teilhard de Chardin et saint Bonaventure,” Études Franciscaines 19 (1969).
  114. Hellmann, Divine and Created Order in Bonaventure’s Theology, 77.
  115. Von Balthasar, Theo-Logic (Vol. II), 163.
  116. Von Balthasar, Theo-Logic (Vol. II), 164-65. Paraphrasing Bonaventure, The Commentary on the Sentences, d. 6, q. 3, c [1:129].
  117. Von Balthasar, Theo-Logic (Vol. II), 164.
  118. Von Balthasar, Theo-Logic (Vol. II), 164. See footnote no. 22. This is von Balthasar’s translation of the text from The Commentary on the Sentences, d. 6, q. 3, c [1:129].
  119. Von Balthasar, Theo-Logic (Vol. II), 168.
  120. Von Balthasar, Theo-Logic (Vol. II), 168.
  121. Von Balthasar, Theo-Logic (Vol. II), 191.
  122. Von Balthasar, The Glory of the Lord: A Theological Aesthetics (Vol. II), 358.
  123. Hellmann, Divine and Created Order in Bonaventure’s Theology, 76.
  124. Hellmann, Divine and Created Order in Bonaventure’s Theology, 76.
  125. Breviloquium, 4, 1:4, pg. 134.
  126. Richard S. Martignetti, Saint Bonaventure’s Tree of Life: Theology of the Mystical Journey, (Grottaferrata, Roma: Frati Editori Di Quaracchi, 2004), 72. Martignetti points to the live re-enactment of the Nativity by St Francis and followers at Greccio.
  127. Hayes, The Hidden Center, 67-8.
  128. Hayes, The Hidden Center, 67-9.
  129. Hayes, The Hidden Center, 69-70.
  130. Hayes, The Hidden Center, 71.
  131. Hayes, The Hidden Center, 75. Hayes outlines the position of Bonaventure from his Commentary on the Sentences III, d. 1, a. 1, q. 1.
  132. Tree of Life, 1, 3, pg. 127.
  133. Christ as the door is a central theme in The Soul’s Journey. See for example the prologue, 3, pg. 55.
  134. Tree of Life, 1, 4, pg. 129.
  135. Breviloquium, 4, 1:4, pg. 134.
  136. Von Balthasar, The Glory of the Lord: A Theological Aesthetics (Vol. II), 353.
  137. For a detailed discussion of illumination in The Soul’s Journey see Hammond, “Order in the Itinerarium mentis in Deum,” 262.
  138. Hayes, The Hidden Center, 103-7.
  139. Hayes, The Hidden Center, 107.
  140. Hayes, The Hidden Center, 108.
  141. Hayes, The Hidden Center, 107-17.
  142. Hayes, The Hidden Center, 108.
  143. Gerald O’Collins, Christology: A Biblical, Historical, and Systematic Study of Jesus Christ (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995), see especially chapter 3 ‘The Human History’. O’Collins’ work speaks directly into the modern concern to examine whether the biblical evidence relating to him does indeed correlate with the subsequent christological statements about him.
  144. Hayes, The Hidden Center, 117.
  145. Hayes, The Hidden Center, 109. Hayes cites Bonaventure, Commentary on the Sentences, III, d. 14, a. 1, q. 2.
  146. Hayes, The Hidden Center, 109.
  147. The Soul’s Journey, VII, 1, pg. 111.
  148. Hayes, The Hidden Center, 110.
  149. Hayes, The Hidden Center, 112.
  150. The Soul’s Journey, VII, 1, pg. 111.
  151. Hayes, The Hidden Center, 114.
  152. Hayes, The Hidden Center, 119-20.
  153. Tree of Life, prologue, 1, pg. 119.
  154. Hayes, The Hidden Center, 126.
  155. Cullen, Bonaventure, 145.
  156. Breviloquium, 4, 8:2, pg. 157.
  157. Breviloquium, 4, 8:3, pg. 157.
  158. Hayes, The Hidden Center, 126.
  159. Breviloquium, 4, 8:5, pg. 159.
  160. Breviloquium, 4, 8:2, pg. 160.
  161. Cullen, Bonaventure, 145.
  162. Breviloquium, 4, 9:5, pg. 163.
  163. Breviloquium, 4, 9:6, pg. 163.
  164. Hayes, The Hidden Center, 127.
  165. Von Balthasar, The Glory of the Lord: A Theological Aesthetics (Vol. II), 355. See footnote no. 437.
  166. Von Balthasar, The Glory of the Lord: A Theological Aesthetics (Vol. II), 355.
  167. Von Balthasar, The Glory of the Lord: A Theological Aesthetics (Vol. II), 353.
  168. Hayes, The Hidden Center, 126-7.
  169. Collations, 1, 22, pg. 12.
  170. Collations, 1, 24, pg. 13.
  171. Collations, 1, 24, pg. 13.
  172. J.M. Hammond, “Order in the Itinerarium mentis in Deum,” Appendix to Hellmann, Divine and Created Order in Bonaventure’s Theology, 263.
  173. Von Balthasar, The Glory of the Lord: A Theological Aesthetics (Vol. II), 353.
  174. See for example Fernando Ocáriz, Mateo Seco, and José Riestra. The Mystery of Jesus Christ: A Christology and Soteriology Textbook (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 1994), 218-22. Ocariz et al point specifically to the texts of Rom 5:12-17 and 2Cor 5:18-19.
  175. Hammond, “Order in the Itinerarium mentis in Deum,” 262. See his footnote no. 239.
  176. Hayes, The Hidden Center, 152-5.
  177. Hayes, The Hidden Center, 152-3.
  178. Hayes, The Hidden Center, 152-3.
  179. Hayes, The Hidden Center, 154.
  180. Hayes, The Hidden Center, 157.
  181. Hayes, The Hidden Center, 157-8.
  182. Hayes, The Hidden Center, 159.
  183. Hayes, The Hidden Center, 160-1.
  184. Hayes, The Hidden Center, 162.
  185. Hayes, The Hidden Center, 163.
  186. Breviloquium, 4, 2:4, pg. 137.
  187. Elizabeth Dreyer, “Bonaventure’s Theology of the Cross,” in Elizabeth Dreyer (ed.), The Cross In Christian Tradition (New York: Paulist Press, 2000), 196.
  188. Hayes, The Hidden Center, 166-7.
  189. Breviloquium, 4, 3:2, pg. 140.
  190. Hayes, The Hidden Center, 175.
  191. Hayes, The Hidden Center, 182.
  192. Hellmann, Divine and Created Order in Bonaventure’s Theology, 5.
  193. Cousins, Bonaventure and the Coincidence of Opposites, 84-5.
  194. Cousins, Bonaventure and the Coincidence of Opposites, 69.
  195. The Soul’s Journey, 6, 5, pg. 107.
  196. Cousins, Bonaventure and the Coincidence of Opposites, 69.
  197. These include but not limited to Zachary Hayes, Ilia Delio, Wayne Hellmann and Jay Hammond.
  198. George Tavard, “The Coincidence of Opposite: A Recent Interpretation of Bonaventure,” Theological Studies 41 (1980), 576-84.
  199. Benson, “The Christology of the Breviloquium”, 250, fn. 9.
  200. Von Balthasar, The Glory of the Lord: A Theological Aesthetics (Vol. II), 326.
  201. Hellmann, Divine and Created Order in Bonaventure’s Theology, 5.
  202. The Soul’s Journey, 7, 1, pg. 111.
  203. The Soul’s Journey, prologue, 3, pp. 54-5.
  204. Dreyer, “Bonaventure’s Theology of the Cross,” 192.
  205. E. Randolf Daniel, “Symbol or Model? St Bonaventure’s use of St Francis,” in Francisco Blanco (ed.), Bonaventuriana, vol. 1 (Rome: Edizioni Antonianum, 1988), 55-6.
  206. Cousins, Coincidence of Opposites, 2-4.
  207. Daniel, “Symbol or Model?”, 57.
  208. Cousins, Coincidence of Opposites, see chapter VII, 229-67.
  209. Von Balthasar, The Glory of the Lord: A Theological Aesthetics (Vol. II), 356.
  210. Benson, “The Christology of the Breviloquium”, 267.
  211. Benson, “The Christology of the Breviloquium”, 268.
  212. Benson, “The Christology of the Breviloquium”, 268. Benson here is examining Bonaventure, Breviloquium, 4, 3.
  213. Benson, “The Christology of the Breviloquium”, 279.
  214. Hayes, The Hidden Center, 182.
  215. Benson, “The Christology of the Breviloquium”, 269.
  216. Dreyer, “Bonaventure’s Theology of the Cross,” 198.
  217. Ilia Delio, Crucified Love: Bonaventure’s Mysticism of the Crucified Christ (Quincy, IL: Franciscan, 1998), 76.
  218. Hammond, “Order in the Itinerarium mentis in Deum,” 262.
  219. Hammond, “Order in the Itinerarium mentis in Deum,” 264-5.
  220. Von Balthasar, The Glory of the Lord: A Theological Aesthetics (Vol. II), 356.
  221. Von Balthasar, The Glory of the Lord: A Theological Aesthetics (Vol. II), 356.
  222. Von Balthasar, The Glory of the Lord: A Theological Aesthetics (Vol. II), 356. The virtues of poverty and humility are examined further in the next section.
  223. Von Balthasar, The Glory of the Lord: A Theological Aesthetics (Vol. II), 356.
  224. Von Balthasar, The Glory of the Lord: A Theological Aesthetics (Vol. II), 356.
  225. The Soul’s Journey, VII, 4, pg. 113.
  226. The Sacred Exchange between Saint Francis and Lady Poverty, in Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, Vol. I, “The Saint”, edited by Regis J. Armstrong, J. A. Hellmann and William J. Short (New York: New City Press, 1999), 529-54. The work is a spiritual allegory of Francis’ relationship with poverty. The author and the date are unknown for this very early work in the history of the Franciscans. It was however completed sometime in the immediate years after Francis’ death (see the introduction to this work, 523-8).
  227. Bonaventure, Defense of the Mendicants (Vol. XV) translation by Jose de Vinck and Robert J. Karris, O.F.M., in Works of Saint Bonaventure, General Editor: Robert J. Karris, O.F.M. (Saint Bonaventure University, New York: Franciscan Institute Publications, 2001), 220.
  228. Hayes, The Hidden Center, 129.
  229. Hayes, The Hidden Center, 130-1.
  230. Hayes, The Hidden Center, 133.
  231. Hayes, The Hidden Center, 133.
  232. Delio, Crucified Love, 98.
  233. Von Balthasar, The Glory of the Lord: A Theological Aesthetics (Vol. II), 356.
  234. Von Balthasar, The Glory of the Lord: A Theological Aesthetics (Vol. II), 356-7.
  235. Delio, Crucified Love, 99.
  236. Von Balthasar, The Glory of the Lord: A Theological Aesthetics (Vol. II), 357.
  237. Timothy Johnson, The Soul in Ascent: Bonaventure on Poverty, Prayer, and Union With God (Quincy, IL: Franciscan Press, 2000), 46.
  238. The Soul’s Journey, VII, 1, pg. 111.
  239. Delio, Crucified Love, 99.
  240. Von Balthasar, The Glory of the Lord: A Theological Aesthetics (Vol. II), 269-70.
  241. Von Balthasar, The Glory of the Lord: A Theological Aesthetics (Vol. II), 270-1.
  242. Johnson, The Soul in Ascent, 45-6.
  243. Hayes, The Hidden Center, 138.
  244. Dreyer, “Bonaventure’s Theology of the Cross,” 200.
  245. Von Balthasar, The Glory of the Lord: A Theological Aesthetics (Vol. II), 263.
  246. Delio, Crucified Love, 100.
  247. Delio, Crucified Love, 100.
  248. Hayes, The Hidden Center, 139.
  249. Hayes, The Hidden Center, 142.
  250. Hayes, The Hidden Center, 143.
  251. Hayes, The Hidden Center, 142.
  252. Oakes, Infinity Dwindled to Infancy, 401.
  253. Breviloquium, 4, 1:4, pg. 134.
  254. Bonaventure, On the Perfection of Life, VI, 2, from Writings on the Spiritual Life, introduction and notes by F. Edward Coughlin, O.FM., Vol. X, in Works of Saint Bonaventure, General Editor: Robert J. Karris, O.F.M. (Saint Bonaventure, New York: Franciscan Institute Publications, 2000), 176.