Monday, October 17, 2005

Required Reading for Occident-o-philes

I've had a chance to look over St. Bonaventure again, now with the benefit of knowing a bit more of his context. Rather than seeing him as I saw him before, which was essentially as a source of some scholastic doctrines different from St. Thomas, I can now recognize an incredible synthesis of Western theology in the Seraphic Doctor. So I suggest this homework assignment: read and meditate on St. Bonaventure's Itinerarium (aka, The Soul's Journey to God, The Journey of the Mind to God). If you have gleaned some of the background from the sources I have mentioned, you might begin to see this work as the lynchpin of the authentic Western Tradition as it is carried from the Fathers to the present time, perhaps even moreso than the Summa. And it even works in reverse: if you read St. Augustine in a Bonaventurian way, it opens up an entirely new horizon on Augustine's theology of love, delight, and the vision of God.

I think that people tend to define St. Bonaventure either in terms of his sources or his contemporaries, or even worse, to limit him as some kind of specialist in mystical theology with little applicability beyond that context. That neglect is probably why it took until the 20th century for people (and particularly Hans Urs von Balthasar) to take this Franciscan doctor's theological method on its own terms.