Tuesday, July 19, 2011

St. Bonaventure's "Itinerarium Mentis ad Deum" (part 2)

"Itinerarium Mentis ad Deum" is St. Bonaventure's masterwork of mystical theology.   According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, mystical theology is "the science which treats of acts and experiences or states of the soul which cannot be produced by human effort or industry even with the ordinary aid of Divine grace."  A mystical theologian, then,  is not only a theologian but also a mystic; a person who has, by grace, been granted mystical union with God.  With the mystical theologian's assistance, those of us to whom the grace of mystical union has not been granted can still in some small measure appreciate the overpowering glory of the mystical experience.  In "Itinerarium," St. Bonaventure provides a mystically illuminated description of God, using theological terms and categories from Augustianian theology. The following excerpts from "Itinerarium" are from the chapter entitled "On The Sight Of The Divine Unity Through Its Primary Name, Which Is ‘Being’:"

"Moreover since it happens that God is contemplated not only outside of us and within us, but also above us: outside through vestige, within through image [imaginem] and above through the light, which has been marked upon our mind, which is the light of Eternal Truth, since  « our very mind is formed immediately by Truth Itself » (St. Augustine); ....

Whence it most truly appears, that « as the eye of the evening holds itself towards the light, so the eye of our mind holds itself towards the most manifest things of nature »; because accustomed [assuefactus] to the shadows of beings and to the phantasms of sensibles, when it looks upon [intuetur] the light itself of Most High ‘Being’, it seems to it that it sees nothing; not understanding, that that darkness is the Most High Illumination of our mind, just as, when the eye sees pure light, it seems to it that it sees nothing….

Whence if “God” names the primary, eternal, most simple, most actual, most perfect ‘being’; it is impossible that It is thought to not to be, nor to be but the Only One.  Listen therefore, O Israel, God thy God is one.  If you see this in the pure simplicity of (your) mind, you will in some wise [aliqualiter] be filled with the brightening of eternal light.

Returning again (to this) let us say: that therefore the most pure and absolute ‘being’, which is simply ‘being’, is primary and last, is for that reason the Origin and consummating End of all things.     Because It is eternal and most present, It for that reason comprises [ambit] and enters all durations, as if existing at the same time as their center and circumference.   Because It is most simple and the greatest, for that reason wholly within all and wholly outside, and through this « it is an intelligible sphere, whose center is everywhere and circumference nowhere ».    Because It is most actual and most immutable, for that reason « remaining stable It grants that all [universa] be moved ».    Because it is most perfect and immense, for that reason it is within all things, not as included, outside of all things, not as excluded, above all things, not as lifted up, below all things, not as prostrated.    On the other hand, because It is most highly one and in every measure, for that reason It is all in all [omnia in omnibus], although all things be many and It itself is not but one; and this, because through the most simple unity, the most serene truth, (and) the most sincere goodness there is in Him every virtuosity, every exemplarity and every communicability; and through this, from Him and through Him and in Him all things are, and this, because (He is) the omnipotent, omniscient and in every measure Good, which to see perfectly is to be blessed, as is said by Moses: I shall show thee every good."

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