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Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 2.djvu/721

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BONAVENTURE


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BONAVENTURE


or universally desired than that of Bonaventure. Tliat its inception was so long delayed was mainly due to the deplorable dissensions within the order after Bonaventure 's death. Finally on 14 April, 1482, Bonaventure was enrolled in the catalogue of the saints by Sixtus IV. In 1562 Bonaventure's shrine was plundered by the Huguenots and the urn containing his body was burned in the public square. His head was preserved through the heroism of the superior, who hid it at the cost of his life, but it disappeared during the French Revolution and every effort to discover it has been in vain. Bonaventure was inscribed among the principal Doctors of the Church by Sixtus V, 14 March, 1587. His feast is celebrated 14 July.

Bonaventure, as Hefele remarks, united in himself the two elements whence proceed whatever was noble and sublime, great and beautiful, in the Mid- dle Ages, viz., tender piety and profound learning. These two qualities shine forth conspicuously in his writings. Bonaventure wrote on almost every subject treated by the Schoolmen, and his writ- ings are very numerous. The greater number of them deal with philosopliy and theology. No work of Bonaventure's is exclusively philosophi- cal, but in his "Commentary on the Sentences", his "Breviloquium", his "Itinerarium Mentis in Deum" and his "De reductione Artium ad Theolo- giam", he deals with the most important and difficult questions of philosophy in such a way that these four works taken together contain the elements of a complete system of philosophy, and at the same time bear striking witness to the mutual inter- penetration of philosophy and theology which is a distinguishing mark of the Scholastic period. The "Commentary on the Sentences" remains without doubt Bonaventure's greatest work; all his other writings are in some way subservient to it. It was written, superiorum prceceplo (at the command of his superiors) when he was only twenty-seven and is a theological achievement of the first rank. It comprises more than four thousand pages in folio and treats extensively and profoundly of God and the Trinity, the Creation and Fall of Man, the In- carnation and Redemption, Grace, the Sacraments, and the Last Judgment, that is to say, traverses the entire field of Scholastic theology. Like the other medieval Smnmas, Bonaventiu-e's "Commentary" is divided into four books. In the first, second, and fourth Bonaventure can compete favourably with the best commentaries on the Sentences, but it is ad- mitted that in the third book he surpasses all others. The "Breviloquium", written before 1257, is, as its name implies, a shorter work. It is to some extent a summary of the "Commentary" contain- ing as Scheeben says, the quintessence of the theology of the time, and is the most sublime compendium of dogma in our possession. It is perhaps the work which will best give a popular notion of Bonaventure's theology; in it his powers are seen at their best. Whilst the "Breviloquium" derives all things from God, the "Itinerarium Mentis in Deum " proceeds in the opposite direction, bringing all things back to their Supreme End. The latter work, which formed the delight of Gerson for more than thirty years, and from which Bl. Henry Suso drew so largely, was wTitten on Mount la Verna in 1259. The re- lation of the finite and infinite, the natural and supernatural, is again dealt with by Bonaventure, in his "De reductione Artium ad Theologiam", a little work written to demonstrate the relation which philosophy and the arts bear to theology, and to prove that they are all absorbed in it as into a natural centre. It must not be inferred, however, that philosophy in Bonaventure's view does not possess an existence of its own. The passages in Bonaventure's works on which such an opinion


might De founded only go to prove that he did not regard philosophy as the chief or last end of scientific research and speculation. Moreover, it is only when compared with theology that he considers philosophy of an inferior order. Oansidered in itself, philosophy is, according to Bonaventure, a true science, prior in point of time to theology. Again, Bonaventure's pre-eminence as a mystic must not be suffered to overshadow his labours in the domain of philosophy, for he was undoubtedly one of the greatest philoso- phers of the Middle Ages.

Bonaventure's philosophy, no less than his theol- ogy, manifests his profound respect for tradition. He regarded new opinions with disfavour and ever strove to follow those generally received in his time. Thus, between the two great influences which de- termined the trend of Scholasticism about the middle of the thirteenth century, there can be no doubt that Bonaventure ever remained a faithful disciple of Augustine and always defended the teaching of that Doctor; yet he by no means repudiated the teaching of Aristotle. While basing his doctrine on that of the old school, Bonaventure borrowed not a little from the new. Though he severely criticized the defects of Aristotle, he is said to have quoted more frequently from the latter than any former Scholastic had done. Perhaps he inclined more, on the whole, to some general views of Plato than to those of Aristotle, but he cannot therefore be called a Pla- tonist. Although he adopted the hylomorphic theory of matter and form, Bonaventure, following Alexander of Hales, whose Summa he appears to have had before him in composing his own works, does not limit matter to corporeal lx;ings, but holds that one and the same kind of matter is the sub- stratum of spiritual and corporeal beings alike. According to Bonaventure, materia prima is not a mere indeterniimxtum quid, but contains the raliones seminale.s infused by the Creator at the beginning, and tends towards the acquisition of those special forms which it ultimately assumes. The substantial form is not in Bonaventure's opinion, essentially, one, as St. Thomas taught. Another point in which Bonaventure, as representing the Franciscan school, is at variance with St. Thomas is that which concerns the possibility of creation from eternity. He de- clares that reason can demonstrate that the world was not created ab ceterno. In his system of ideology Bonaventure does not favour either the doctrine of Plato or that of the Ontologists. It is only by completely misunderstanding Bonaventure's teach- ing that any ontologistic interpretation can be read into it. For he is most emphatic in rejecting any direct or immediate vision of God or of His Divine attributes in this life. For the rest, the psychology of Bonaventure differs in no essential point from the common teaching of the Schoolmen. The same is true, as a whole, of his theology.

Bonaventure's theological writings may be classed under four heads: dogmatic, mystic, exegetical, and homiletic. His dogmatic teaching is found chiefly in his "Commentary on the Sentences" and in his "Breviloquium". Treating of the Incarnation, Bonaventure does not differ substantially from St. Thomas. In answer to the question: "Would the Incarnation have taken place if Adam had not sinned?", he answers in the negative. Again, not- withstanding his deep devotion to the Blessed Virgin, he favours the opinion which does not exempt her from original sin, quia magis consonat fidei pietati el sandnrum auctoritati. But Bonaventure's treat- ment of this question marked a distinct advance, and he did more perhaps than anyone before Scotus to clear the ground for its correct presentation. His treatise on the sacraments is largely practical and is characterized by a distinctly devotional ele- ment. This appears especially in his treatment of