In light of the stigmatized Francis, Bonaventure suggests that consummation of the world can take place only when the human person is in union with Christ and, specifically, Christ Crucified, who is the perfection of divine love in the world. This means a constant spiritual program of conforming one’s life to the Crucified, imitating Christ in word and deed, entering into the events of his life and allowing this experience to open one up to the presence of God hidden in Christ.
Francis was a true lover of Christ, according to Bonaventure, because he was perfectly conformed to the Crucified Christ both in spirit and in flesh. The stigmatized Francis signifies to Bonaventure that if one desires happiness and peace, one must contemplate God and strive for mystical union through conformity to Christ Crucified, the Word of God.
For Bonaventure, as for Scotus, Christ’s redemptive work relates to the overcoming of sin, but it does so in a way that brings God’s creative action in the world to completion. This notion of redemption-completion, underscoring the primacy of Christ, allows for a broader view of salvation, one focused not on sin but on the primacy of love. In this respect, redemption is creative; it is that healing of the brokenness within humanity and Creation that enables the cosmic process to be completed, in which completion itself is a dynamic process of continuous Creation that is oriented toward the new Creation. Redemption, therefore, is not being “saved from” but rather being made “whole for” the healing and wholeness of God’s Creation, and this wholeness is ultimately the transformation of created reality through the unitive power of God’s creative love.
His [St. Francis] response to the world around him was so much more than intellectual appreciation or economic calculus, for to him each and every creature was a sister united to him by bonds of affection. That is why he felt called to care for all that exists. His disciple Saint Bonaventure tells us that, “from a reflection on the primary source of all things, filled with even more abundant piety, he would call creatures, no matter how small, by the name of ‘brother’ or ‘sister’”. Such a conviction cannot be written off as naive romanticism, for it affects the choices which determine our behaviour. If we approach nature and the environment without this openness to awe and wonder, if we no longer speak the language of fraternity and beauty in our relationship with the world, our attitude will be that of masters, consumers, ruthless exploiters, unable to set limits on their immediate needs. By contrast, if we feel intimately united with all that exists, then sobriety and care will well up spontaneously.
Bonaventure highlights the idea that the one who dwells in Christ dwells in the other, because the fullness of who we are in Christ can only be found in the other. The difference of the other, therefore, was not an obstacle for Francis in his search for God but rather a celebration of God. For he found his own identity in God and he found God in the fragile, wounded flesh of his brothers and sisters. It is prayer, according to Bonaventure, that impelled Francis to see the world with new vision, a contemplative vision that penetrated the depths of reality. The world became Francis’ cloister because he found it to be permeated with the goodness of God.
When the hour of his death approached, Francis asked that all of the brothers living with him be called to his death bed and softening his departure with consoling words, he encouraged them with fatherly affection to love God. He spoke of patience and poverty and of being faithful to the Holy Roman Church, giving precedence to the Holy Gospels before all else. He then stretched his hands over the brothers in the form of a cross, a symbol that he loved so much, and gave his blessings to all followers, both present and absent, in the power and in the name of the Crucified. Then he added: “Remain, my sons, in the fear of the Lord and be with him always. And as temptations and trials beset you, blessed are those who persevere to the end in the life they have chosen. I am on my way to God and I commend you all to His favor.”
With this sweet admonition, this dearly beloved to God, asked that the book of the Gospels be brought to him and that the passage in the Gospel of St. John, which begins before the Feast of the Passover be read. Finally, when all God’s mysteries had been accomplished in him, his holy soul was freed from his body and assumed into the abyss of God’s glory, and Francis fell asleep in God.
Carried away by the force of his preaching, great numbers of people adopted the new rule of penance according to the form instituted by St. Francis which he called the “Order of the Brothers of Penance.” The way of penance is common to all those who are on the road to heaven and so this way of life includes members of both sexes, clerics and lay folks, married and single. How meritorious it is in the eyes of God is clear from the numerous miracles worked by some of those who followed it.
~ Saint Francis of Assisi, Bonaventure, Major Life via Portiuncula: the Little Portion
The way to the goal of the spiritual journey, therefore, is only through the most burning love. But love demands a price. Insofar as the specific object of St. Francis’s reflection is the crucified Christ, when the religious subject is bound to such an object in the furnace of burning love, it becomes clear why at least the spirit of St. Francis would be deeply marked by the cruciform love of Christ. But because of the intensity of this experience, that which marked the soul poured over into his body as well. As the Journey of the Soul into God puts it: “his spirit shone through his flesh” (JS prol. 3 [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][5:295]).
~ Zachary Hayes OFM, Bonaventure: Mystical Writings[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]
The harsh statements of Bonaventure refer not to God’s creation as such but to distorted forms of human relations to the world of created things. These texts are concerned with the ways in which we give more weight to created goods than they can bear. To appreciate them as creatures of God that awaken us to a sense of the divine is one thing. To allow them to replace God in our spiritual journey is quite another thing. Created things are good and true, but theirs is a limited goodness and truth, had only by reason of participation in the divine goodness and truth.
~ Zachary Hayes OFM, Bonaventure: Mystical Writings
Reflect over and over on the following thought—not simply as something you have heard, but as something you have actually experienced: not only on the basis of words, but also on the basis of facts: how unstable is worldly wealth, how insecure is worldly success, and how futile is worldly fame.
~ St. Bonaventure, Soliloquium