Thought for the Day – 15 July by Pope Benedict XVI – 10 March 2010 on St Bonaventure
“Of these his writings, which are the soul of his government and show the way to follow either as an individual or a community, I would like to mention only one, his masterwork, the “Itinerarium mentis in Deum,” which is a “manual” of mystical contemplation.
This book was conceived in a place of profound spirituality: the hill of La Verna, where St. Francis had received the stigmata. In the introduction, the author illustrates the circumstances that gave origin to his writing:
“While I meditated on the possibility of the soul ascending to God, presented to me, among others, was that wondrous event that occurred in that place to Blessed Francis, namely, the vision of the winged seraphim in the form of a crucifix. And meditating on this, immediately I realised that such a vision offered me the contemplative ecstasy of Father Francis himself and at the same time the way that leads to it” (Journey of the Mind in God, Prologue, 2, in Opere di San Bonaventura. Opuscoli Teologici / 1, Rome, 1993, p. 499).
The six wings of the seraphim thus became the symbol of six stages that lead man progressively to the knowledge of God through observation of the world and of creatures and through the exploration of the soul itself with its faculties, up to the satisfying union with the Trinity through Christ, in imitation of St. Francis of Assisi.
The last words of St. Bonaventure’s “Itinerarium,” which respond to the question of how one can reach this mystical communion with God, would make one descend to the depth of the heart:
“If you now yearn to know how that happens (mystical communion with God), ask grace, not doctrine; desire, not the intellect; the groaning of prayer, not the study of the letter; the spouse, not the teacher; God, not man; darkness not clarity; not light but the fire that inflames everything and transport to God with strong unctions and ardent affections. … We enter therefore into darkness, we silence worries, the passions and illusions; we pass with Christ Crucified from this world to the Father, so that, after having seen him, we say with Philip: that is enough for me” (Ibid., VII, 6).
Dear friends, let us take up the invitation addressed to us by St. Bonaventure, the Seraphic Doctor, and let us enter the school of the divine Teacher. We listen to his Word of life and truth, which resounds in the depth of our soul. Let us purify our thoughts and actions, so that He can dwell in us, and we can hear His divine voice, which draws us toward true happiness”. Pope Benedict XVI – 10 March 2010 on St Bonaventure
St Bonaventure, pray for us!