Monday, November 4

Bonaventure: The Benefits of Christ's Act

Throughout early Christian writings from the earliest followers to the leaders of the church even into modern times, the believers have written about why Jesus as the Godman came to die and rise again, the consequences of that action and the benefits of it. In the Christian worldview, the implication is that God as the Creator has left fingerprints on His creation, that the Great Painter has left his signature upon his Paintings. Just as many famous artists leave their own "signature" on their work, so too has God left his mark upon us. By looking inward we ought to be able to see the signature of God, but as St. Bonaventure points out in On Seeing God in His Image Reformed by the Gifts of Grace, "the human mind is distracted by many concerns, and hence does not enter into itself... it is drawn away by base desires, and therefore a desire for internal sweetness and spiritual joy is unable to turn the mind back to itself. Thus totally immersed in matters of the senses, the mind is unable to re-enter itself as the image of God" (176).

However, although it is much easier to see God's fingerprints in his outward creation (nature) than his inward (the human mind), we also realize that as fallen humans we need to rise up again. When Adam disobeyed a direct command of the Creator and therefore corrupted His perfect Creation, the ladder between God and Man was broken. Man did not have access to the spiritual realm, angels no longer came back and forth between heavzen and Eden, and God did not walk among us any longer. Indeed, Jacob saw the "ladder" between heaven and earth where the angels were ascending and descending and God was at the top of this ladder or stairway - but He did not Himself descend that ladder. Two thousand years ago, however, when the conditions were finally ready, the Creator descended that ladder and became a part of His own creation, taking on the form of a man - the Godman. It was with the death of God that this ladder has been repaired. St. Bonaventure claims that we may be filled with abundant knowledge and learning, but without the doorway that has now been opened by the act of Christ, we would not be able to come to the light through the darkness.

Finally, St. Bonaventure concludes, we then consider that God has given us faith, hope and love. It is with faith - which is trust - that we trust in Him and trust that He will bring us to Him after we leave this life. It is with hope that we look ahead to this coming day where we leave the present body and enter into a higher state of life (the so-called afterlife) and this hope provides a means by which we can cope with our present condition. Finally, it is with love that we realize God's sacrifice on the cross was an act of love. As he reveals in the gospels, He could at any moment call down over 70,000 angels to aid him and He could simply come off the cross, healed. But as He looked forward and saw the faces and lives of His creation - us - He stayed, and the Creator sacrificed Himself for His Creation. Thus, because of what God did, we can now come out of darkness into marvelous light.

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