Posts Tagged With: companions

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

Sojourners On the Ways – Guest Friendship

Autumn is a time of particular beauty, with haunting colors that are the stage set for celebrations of saints and souls and sojourners.  We are all passing pilgrims.  The psalmist declares, “I sojourn with you like a passing stranger, a guest, like all my ancestors!” (Psalm 39:13)  Years circle, children grow, trees extend, blossom and flower and fruit are borne and fade, water freezes-flows-and mists.  And each moment is painfully wonderfully precious.  But we are guests upon the earth.  Here is amazing matter that absolutely matters.  But it – and we – change…  and we are not long here.  Are we invited to walk differently for this knowledge?  And can it be celebrated?

Years back, reading one of Rev. Margaret Guenther’s works, I reveled in her concept of providing to fellow journeyers the gift of ‘guest-friendship’.  There is an art to welcoming and providing a geography for grace and a haven for heart’s unfolding to one we have invited into our homes or into our lives.  We prepare and wish to make the other comfortable – so that laughter may come, stories may be shared, rest may be enjoyed, nourishment embraced and stored, tears touched, learning lived.  When we offer another guest-friendship, we offer them a home and shelter.  We create sanctuary.  

So, what if autumn tells us that we are really all guests, like all our ancestors?  We are sojourners on the ways, travelers of paths.  We root and stretch, green and grow, flower and fade, and fill with color and beauty. 

There is an awareness and practice that is important to me whenever I visit a retreat center/house.  In such sacred spaces, many guests have previously used the room I dwell within for my time there… and many more will fill this space after I leave.  I have long been mindful of those that would follow me into this space.  As I pack and remake beds and straighten and clean a bit, I stop and pray for those who will sit in this very chair, rest or stay wakeful in this bed, pace or be still in the internal acreage.  I send a blessing their way – for whatever they will need that I know nothing of.  In this way, I offer hospitality to another pilgrim to a place neither of us will remain.   I have only recently resolved to enter the room, on my arrival, gently – quietly-humbly mindful of those who trekked and prayed and rested here, grateful for their christening of the space I too will stretch and live and be nourished within.

“Friends of God and prophets”, family members and distant ancestors, saints and souls – all traveled the earth space and lived the temporal measures that you and I inhabit now.  Like us, they were as beautiful, complex, loved, and fleeting as the beautiful autumn vistas or the individual red-gold veined leaf. 

Let’s you and I live increasingly aware of – and practicing through concrete actions and choices – the unbroken chain of connection that exists between the sojourners on the ways, of which we are some.  Perhaps we can consider our time in years and generation and even cultural context as parabled in the image of my time at the retreat center – or yours, in visiting a dear friend or family member or glorious panorama.  What if we accept the guest friendship of those who have come before us and who send to us their blessings and good wishes?  What if we know – to our bones – that we are not alone in this space, for others have laughed and cried and grown and lived and died and risen here?  What if we offer our guest friendship to those who will come after us?  And what can that mean? 

At the least, it means great company before and behind, around and within.  What we’d call the communion of saints – but with us more mindfully relating to all there in the when and the then and the here and the now.  With such thin separations of centuries or styles, generations or gadgets – these others are our family and our friends.  They are part of the constant in the midst of our ever experience of change. 

Wisdom makes her own rounds, today’s first reading declared.  She seeks us, is resplendent and unfading, hastens to find us, graciously appears to us on our ways, meeting us with all solicitude.  It is enough to be so marvelously met by this creative playful companion of God who was present at creation’s making.  We are guests upon the earth.  And our lives have seasons of expansion and contraction, joy and pain, fruit and fallow.  But we are not alone.  The God of saints and souls and sojourners – and the community of all three – join us.  Let us accept and offer guest friendship as we continue in this time ‘on the ways’ where – thankfully – wisdom will ever meet us.  Let us keep watch for her!

Categories: General | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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