Posts Tagged With: Bonaventure

Trinity Love – in Jesus – Beckons, Waits


O soul, return, for Jesus Christ is calling you with hands outstretched on the cross; return, for the whole abyss of the Trinity stands ready for your coming.

See how patiently He waited – oh how long He waited for you!….He was mercifully expecting your return!…
Return, O soul: Christ is waiting for you on the cross. His head is inclined for a kiss, His arms are spread out for an embrace, and His hands open in a gesture of giving. His body is stretched in a position of total offering; His feet are attached so that He will remain with you; His side is open to let you in.

[Bonaventure, “Soliloquy on the Four Spiritual Exercises”  I:4-38, 39. Engl. trans. Jose de Vinck, Works of Bonaventure, Vol. III – Patterson, NJ: St. Anthony Guild Press, 1966, 69.]

Categories: Triduum | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Become a Companion on Christ’s Journey: Bonaventure and Infant Mysteries in The Tree of Life

SAMSUNGIn The Tree of Life, St. Bonaventure meditatively traces the mystery that is the life of Jesus as it appears in the New Testament.  This Franciscan – a scholar-peer to Thomas Aquinas at the University of Paris, religious superior/minister general who dealt with often arguing brothers in Christ, and mystic (perhaps in self defense!) – in this text enters the events of Jesus’ life with a poetic imagination.  He brings his readers along for the journey, rich in sensory images.

[Some might say such imaginative reflection is Ignatian… ah!  As Ewert Cousins notes in the foreword of the Classics of Western Spirituality volume on Bonaventure:  “Bonaventure’s The Tree of Life is in many respects a forerunner of Ignatian meditation, in both its subject matter and its techniques.”  As often happens, the saints inform one another – whether or not they are aware.  The Spirit blows where she wills!]

So, if you want in 2014 to enter into the life of the Gospel Jesus more fully through meditation that opens to contemplation, The Tree of Life might be something you might consider reading slowly.  In almost every reflection on the life of Jesus, there are inserted prayers or pleas or imperatives to the reader.  Today, I offer you a taste of portions of the text as it reflects on the Epiphany and Presentation of Jesus in the temple.


Jesus Shown to the Magi

When the Lord was born in Bethlehem of Judah, a star appeared to the Magi in the east and with its brightness showed them the way to the home of the humble King.

Do not now turn away
from the brilliance of that star in the east
which guides you.
Become a companion of the holy kings….
With gold, frankincense and myrrh,
venerate Christ the King
as true God and man.
Together with the first fruits of the Gentiles to be called to faith,
adore, confess and praise
this humble God
lying in a manger.
And thus, warned in a dream
not to follow Herod’s pride,
you will return to your country
in the footsteps
of the humble Christ.

Jesus Submissive to the Law

It was not enough for the teacher of perfect humility, who was equal to the Father in all things, to submit himself to the humble Virgin. He must submit himself also to the Law….  presented to God in the temple and that an offering should be given for him in the presence o the just who were rejoicing.

Rejoice, then,
with that blessed old man and the aged Anna;
walk forth
to meet the mother and Child.
Let love overcome your bashfulness;
let affection dispel your fear.
Receive the Infant
in your arms
and say with the bride:
I took hold of him
and would not let him go.
(Song of Songs 3:4)
Dance with the holy old man
and sing with him…

– Excerpts from The Tree of Life, 6/7

Listed below are the words/phrases that catch at my heart as I type and listen today. Which ones catch at yours?

do not now turn away

guides you

become a companion of the holy kings

humble God

return to your country in the footsteps of the humble Christ

walk forth

let love overcome


would not let him go



Categories: Christmas, Franciscan, Mystics | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

When You Are Dry and Weary

“Like a dry, weary land without water” is the self description of the psalmist  longing for God.  (Psalm 63)  I dunno about you, but I’ve been and seen in others many a dry and weary land without water.  Longing that echoes from this arid and exhausted place is a soul’s cry from its poverty. 

Lent often reminds us of deserts, of dryness, of being like an empty bowl, of our poverty.  We are told that poverty is blessed.  And in previous posts (Ashes and Fire and Desert as Destination) we explored a bit of this.  Knowing our contingency, our limits, our emptiness, our littleness is also a way of knowing and experiencing how deeply we are loved and how compassionately we are embraced.  As Clare of Assisi describes to Agnes of Prague… we relate to him “in Whose embrace we are already caught up.” 

Still, the saints who have journeyed before us – other friends of God and prophets, have experienced the ache of the cries which echo from this place.  Mary MacKillop cries, “Sometimes I almost scream with fright” and also counsels, “do not let your troubles disturb your trust in God”.  Catherine Laboure would tell us to “come to the foot of the altar”;  Julian of Norwich assure us that “all will be well”;   Jane de Chantal advise, “At a time of such radical change, it is impossible for nature not to be upset… this is why I think that you could not do better than to avoid all introspection as far as possible… Just gaze at God..  you will find in Him all you need.”

In desert, dry, weighty and weary times it seems it is not our calculations and figurings that will effect any change in our situation.  Being who we are in that moment without great flapping about it – just gazing at God – and waiting – with a desire to be confident, whether one feels it or not – this is what is advised.

These words of Bonaventure seem an apt last word from an elder brother-saint-friend:

You soul devoted to God,
whoever you are,
with living desire
to this Fountain of life and light
and with the innermost power of your heart
cry out to Him.

Run!  Do not delay.  That is the best and most secure course.  But run to God with whatever your heart holds – words or wordless, emotions or drained.  Be there.  And cry out with all you are.

As the psalmist tells us “For your love is better than life” (also Psalm 63).

Our seasons of soul-full aching cries bind us, as we actually are (not as we wish we were!), to the One who is our best refuge and strength, even (perhaps especially) in the midst of our dryness or darkness or terrors.  Perhaps we can find in the journey of Jesus and our community of saints the same moments as we draw closer to Holy Week.  All of them, and all of us, cry out from where we are.  The cries are not the end…  the embrace in which we are caught up is. 

And so, with the psalmist, from where we are we too might pray, “My lips shall speak your praise…  my mouth shall praise you with joy.”

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