Saint Bonaventure

Doctor of the Universal Church





1.  One is your Master, the Christ, Matthew, chapter 23.1  In this verse it is declared, that there is a fontal principle of cognitive illumination, namely the Christ, who since He is the splendor of the Father’s glory and the figure of His Substance, bearing all things by the word of His virtue, just as is said to the Hebrews, chapter 1;2  is Himself, the One who is the Origin of every wisdom, according to that (verse) of Ecclesiasticus, chapter 1:3  The Fount of wisdom, the Word of God on high.  For He is the Way, the Truth and the Life, John, chapter 14.4  —  For indeed threefold is the step of certain [certitudinalis] and right cognition, according to that which Hugo (of St. Victor) says in De Sacramentis:5  « There are three steps for the promotion of the Faith, by which growing faith tends and/or climbs thoroughly to perfection [ad perfectum . . . conscendit]:  the first, (is) to choose through piety; the second, to approve through reason; the third, to apprehend through truth ».  According to this (verse) it appears, that threefold is the manner of cognizing, of which the first is through the credulity of pious assenting, the second through the approbation of right reason,6  but the third through the clarity of clean contemplation.  The first looks to the habit of the virtue, which is faith; the second to the habit of the gift, which is understanding; the third to the habit of the beatitude, which is cleanliness of heart.


2.  For indeed Christ according to which He is the Way is the Master and Principle of the cognition, which is through the Faith.  For this cognition is had in a twofold way, namely through revelation and through authority.  For just as (St.) Augustine says in the book De Utilitate credendi:2  « What we understand, we ought to for a reason; what we believe, by an authority ».  Moreover there would be no authority, unless revelation had preceded it; on account of which the first chapter of the Second (Letter) of (St.) Peter (says):3  We have a firmer prophetic sermon, to which you do well to be attentive as to a lamp giving light in a shadowy place.  In which he hints at the authority of the prophetic sermon, and subjoins a reason for this:  For prophecy has not at any time come about by a human will, but holy men of God have spoken, inspired by the Holy Spirit.  —  Therefore since by these two ways one happens to come to the cognition of the faith [cognitionem fidelem], this cannot be but through Christ the giver, who is the Principle of every revelation according to His advent in the mind, and the firmament of every authority according to His advent in the flesh.



3.  Moreover He comes into the mind as a light revealing all the visions of the prophets, according to that (verse) of Daniel, chapter 2:4  He reveals things profound and hidden away and knows the things constituted in the shadows, and the Light is with Him;  the light, namely, of the Divine Wisdom, which is Christ, according to that (verse) of John, chapter 8:5 I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me walks not in the shadows, and chapter 12:  While you have the Light, believe in the Light, so that you may be sons of the Light; because, as is said in John, chapter 1, He gave them power to become sons of God, those who believe in His Name.  Without this Light, which is Christ, no one can penetrate the Sacraments of the Faith.  On account of which Wisdom, chapter 9 says:6  Send Her — speaking of Wisdom — from Thy holy Heaven and from the throne of Thy Majesty, so that She may be with me and work with me, that I may know, what has been accepted before Thee.  For what man can know the counsel of God, or who can ponder, what God may want etc., up to Thy sense, etc..  From which one is given to understand, that one cannot come to a certain revelation of the Faith except through the advent of Christ in the mind.



4.  He comes also into the flesh as the word approving all the sayings of the prophets;  Hebrews, chapter 1:7  In a manifold manner and in many ways etc..  For because Christ Himself is the speech [sermo] of the Father full of power, according to that (verse) of Ecclesiastes, chapter 8:8  His speech is full of power, and no one can say to Him:  why hast Thou done thus? He is also9 the speech full of truth, nay the Truth Itself, according to that (verse) of John, chapter 17:10  Sanctify them in the truth.  Thy speech is Truth, — the Gloss reads:11  « In the truth that is in Me, who am the Truth, (the sense of) which opens by substituting:  Thy speech is truth, which is, I am the Truth:  in Greek logos, in Latin Verbum » — therefore because authority is due to the powerful and the truthful, and Chris is the Word of the Father, and through this the Virtue and Wisdom o God, for that reason in Him is founded both stably and consummately every stability of authority.



5. And for that reason the whole authentic Scripture and its preachers have their power of sight trained on Christ coming into the flesh as the foundation of the whole Christian Faith, according to that (verse) of the First (Letter) to the Corinthians, chapter 3:12  According to the grace, which has been given to me, as a wise architect I have laid the foundation.  For another foundation no one can lay, except that which has been laid etc..  For He is the foundation of the whole authentic doctrine, whether apostolic or prophetic, according to each Law, the new and the old.  On account of which (it is said) to the Ephesians, chapter 2:13  You have been built up upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, with that most high cornerstone, Christ Jesus.  Therefore it is clear, that Christ is the Master of cognition according to the Faith, and this, inasmuch as He is the Way, according to His twofold advent, namely, in the mind, and in the flesh.


6.  He is also the Master of the cognition, which is through reason, and this, inasmuch as He is the Truth.14  For there is necessarily required for the cognition of knowledge [cognitionem scientialem] immutable truth on the part of the knowable, and infallible certitude on the part of the knower.  For every (something), which is known, is in itself necessary and to the very knower certain. 


7. Therefore, on the part of the knowable immutable truth is required.  Moreover, (a truth) of this kind is not a created truth, simply and absolutely (speaking); but rather a creating truth, which has a full immutability.  On account of which there is said in the Psalm:2  And Thou in the beginning, Lord, has founded the Earth, up to here:  shall not fail.  But this, as the Apostle says to the Hebrews, chapter 1,3  is said regarding the Son of God, who is the Word, the Art and the Reason of the Omnipotent God, and for that reason the Sempiternal Truth, according to that (verse) of the Psalm:4  In eternity, Lord, shall Thy Word remain, and unto the Age of age Thy Truth.  Since, therefore, things have ‘being’ [esse] in their own genus, they also have ‘being’ in the Eternal Reason; nor is their ‘being’ entirely immutable in the first and second manner, but only in the third, that is, insofar as they are in the eternal Word:  it remains, that nothing can make things perfectly knowable, unless Christ, the Son of God and Master, be there.



8.  Whence (St.) Augustine (says) in the second chapter of De Libero Arbitrio:5  « In no manner will you have denied, that there is an incommutable Truth, containing all these things, which are incommutably true, which I cannot say is yours and/or mine and/or of any man, but is ready at hand to all discerning incommutable truths and offers itself commonly (to all) ».  This very (passage) is had in the fourteenth chapter of De Trinitate.6  When the impious see the rules, according to which anyone ought to live; « where do they see them?  For neither in their own nature, though without doubt these are seen in the mind — and let one grant [constet] that their minds are mutable —  however it sees that these rules are immutable, and anyone among them could see this; nor in the habit of their mind, since those rules belong to justice, but their minds, it is granted [constat], are unjust.  Where then are those rules written, whereby even the unjust acknowledges and7 discerns, that ‘what be just’ has to be that which he himself does not have?  Where, therefore, have they been written except in the book of that light, which is called the Truth, whence every just law is described, and (whence) justice, not by migrating into the heart of a man, but as if by being impressed is transferred »?  This very (discourse) is said in the book De Vera Religione8  and in the sixth book of De Musica and in the book Rectrationum.


9.  There is also required, second, for cognition of this kind, certitude on the part of the knower.  But this (certitude) cannot be on the part of that, which can fail, and/or from that light, which can be obscured.  Moreover, the light9 of such (a cognition) is not the light of the created intelligence, but of the uncreated Wisdom, which is Christ.  On account of which (there is said) in Wisdom, chapter 7:10  God gave me true knowledge of those things, which are, that I may know the disposition of the world and the virtues of the elements, the start and the consummation and middle of the seasons.  And after this:  For the Artisan of all things has taught me, Wisdom.  And the reason is subjoined:11  For She is a vapor of the virtue of God and a certain, sincere emanation of the Omnipotent God, and for that reason nothing iniquitous is found in Her.  For She is the shining whiteness of the Eternal Light and the mirror without spot of the Majesty of God.  She is more beautiful than the sun, and above every disposition of the stars, compared to the light She is found (to be) first. Therefore She reaches from end unto end strongly and disposes all things sweetly.  On account of which there is said in John, chapter 1:12  He was the true Light, which illumines every man etc., where the Gloss13 says, « that which is not the true light, is that which lights not from itself, but from another ».


10.  Therefore the light of the created intellect is not self-sufficient for a certain comprehension of whatever thing without

the light of the Eternal Word.  Whence (St.) Augustine (says) in the first book of his Soliloquiorum:1  « As in this it is licit to advert only to a certain three: what is, what shines, what illumines, so also in that most secrete God there are a certain three:  what is, what understands, what causes all others to be understood ».  Whence he even a little before this prefaces (this), (saying) that « just as the Earth could not be seen except it be brightened by light, so those things which are handed down in the (academic) disciplines, though everyone without doubt concedes2 that they are understood to be most true, it must be believed, that they could not be understood, unless they were brightened by Him as if by their sun ».  Likewise, in the twelfth book of De Trinitate, the last chapter,3  speaking of the boy, who was correctly answering (questions) concerning geometry without a master, and reproving the Platonic position, which says, that souls imbued with bodies are infused beforehand with knowledge [scientiis], says that this is not true. « But rather it must be believed, he says, that the nature of the intellectual mind has been thus established, that having been subjected to intelligible things in the natural order, by the disposition of the Founder, sees these in a certain, corporeal, sui generis light, in the same manner as [sic . . . quemadmodum] (a man) sees, with the eyes of his flesh, those things which in this corporeal light lie before him [contraiacent], of which light, as one capable, he has been created fit for it. ».4  —  what, moreover, be that light, is spoken of [dicitur] in the second book of De Libero Arbitrio:5 « That beauty [pulchritudo] of truth and wisdom, which neither is driven along by time, nor migrates from place to place [locis], nor is cut off by the night, nor closed in by shadow nor lies beneath the senses of the body; having converted to Herself from the whole world, those who love Her, is near to all, sempiternal to all, is in no place, is lacking in nothing, admonishes without, teaches within;  no one judges of Her, no one judges well without Her.  And through this, it is manifest, that She is without doubt more powerful than our minds, each of which by Her [ab ipsa una] become wise and judge not of Her, but through Her concerning all other things ».  This very (passage) is said in the book De Vera Religione6  and in the eighth book of De Trinitate and in the book De Magistro, where (St. Augustine) proves throughout the whole book this conclusion:  that One is our Master, the Christ.


11. Lastly, Christ, inasmuch (as He is) the Life, is the Master of contemplative cognition,7  about which the soul exerts herself in a twofoldmanner, according to the twofold difference of pasture, namely of the one interior in His Deity, and of the one exterior in His Humanity, according to which there is a twofold manner of contemplating, that is the ingressive and the egressive, to which one cannot arrive except through Christ.  On account of which He Himself says in John, chapter 10:8  I am the gate; if anyone will enter through Me, he shall be saved, and he shall step in and step out find pasture.


12.  For indeed there is an ingress to Christ according to which (He is) the uncreated Word and the food of Angels, of which (there is said) in John, chapter 1:  In the beginning was the Word.  Of this ingress there is said in the Psalm9 according to the other translation: I shall step into the place of the admirable tabernacle even unto the house of god, in a voice of exsultation and confession, of the sound of a priest offering a sacrificial feast [sonus epulantis].  This is said of that supernal Jerusalem, to contemplate which no one steps in, except through the uncreated Word, which is Christ, he be introduced.  Whence Dionysius (says) in the first book of De Angelica Hierarchia:10  « Therefore invoking Jesus, the Light of the Father, which is indeed the True (Light), which illumines every man comming into this world, through which to the principle Light, the Father, we have access, we look back, as much as is possible, into the illuminations of the most sacred utterances [eloquiorum], handed down from the Father, and we will consider, as much as we are able, the hierarchies, of celestial souls, manifested symbolically and anagogically to us by these (illuminations), (as we) look back to the principle and superprinciple Divine Clarity of the Father with the immaterial and untrembling eyes of our mind ».


13.  Moreover, there is an egress to the incarnate Word, which is the milk of children, of which (there is said) in John, chapter 1:11  The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.  Of this egress (there is said) in Canticles, chapter 3:12  Step forth, daughters of Zion, and see king Solomon with his diadem, with which his mother crowned him on the day of his betrothal and gladness of heart.  This diadem, with with the true, peaceful Solomon is crowned by His Mother, is His immaculate flesh — which He assumed from the Virgin Mary — which is called a diadem of betrothal, because through it He betrothed to Himself Holy Mother Church, which

was ...had been... formed from His side, just as Eve (was) from the side of her man.  And for that reason through it the whole ecclesiastical hierarchy was purged, illuminated and perfected;  and for that reason it is to be looked upon as the vivifying pasture of the whole Church, according to that (verse) of John, chapter 6:1  My Flesh is truly food, and My Blood is truly drink.  And on that account He says further on:2  Who eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood has eternal life.



14.  And this is what is said in the book De Anima et spiritus:3  « Twofold is the life of the soul:  one, that by which it lives in the flesh; and the other, that by which it lives in God.  Two indeed are the senses in man:  one interior, and one exterior; and each has its own good, in which it is refected:  the interior sense in contemplation of the Deity, the exterior sense in the contemplation of the Humanity.  For on this account God has become man, to beatify the whole man in Himself, so that he might step in or step out, find pasture in his Maker, pasture without in the Flesh of the Savior and pasture within in the Divinity of the Creator ».  —  Moreover this ingress to the Divinity and egress to the Humanity is nothing other than the ascent to Heaven and the descent to Earth, which is done through Christ as through a ladder [scalam], of which Genesis, chapter 28 (says):4  Jacob say in his dream a latter standing upon the earth, and its top touching Heaven, and also the Angels ascending and descending by it.  By ladder there is understood Christ, by the ascent and descent of the Angels the illumination of contemplative men, ascending and descending.  —  Here too a twofold manner of contemplation is understood through interior  and exterior reading of the book written inside and out, of which Apocalypse, chapter 5 (speaks):5  I saw at the right hand of the One seated on the throne a book written inside and out, sealed with seven seals; and there is said further on there, that no one could neither in Heaven nor on earth nor beneath the earth open the book nor even look upon it [respicere]; and there is said further on there, that the Lion of the tribe of Judah has conquered, He who is worthy to open the book and loose its seven seals.  —  If therefore He is properly to be called the Teacher [doctor], He who opens the book and loosens its seals; (then) such even is the Christ, who was the Lion rising and the slain Lamb;  therefore it appears, that One is our Master, the Christ, in every difference of cognition, according to which He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.


15. From the aforesaid, therefore, there appears, the order by which and the author by whom one arrives at Wisdom.  —  For the order is, to begin from the stability of the Faith and procedes through the serentity of reason, to arrive at the savoriness of contemplation; which Christ hinted at, when He said:   I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  And in this manner is fulfilled that (verse) of Proverbs, chapter 4:6  The path of the just as a splendid light goes forth and grows even unto the perfect day.  To this order did the Saints hold, attentive (as they were) to that (verse) of Isaiah,7  according to the other translation:  Unless you will have believed, you will not understand.  This order the philosophers ignore, who neglecting the Faith and totally founding themselves on reason, could in no manner arrive at contemplation; because, as (St.) Augustine says in the first book of De Trinitate,8  « the sickly keeness [invalida acies] of the human mind is not fixed in such an excellent light, unless it be cleansed through the justice of the Faith ».


16.  It is also clear, who be the Author and the Teacher:  because Christ, who is the Director and Helper of our intelligence not only generally, as in all works of nature, nor so specially, as in the works of grace and meritorious virtue, but in a certain middle manner between both.  —  For an understanding of which it must be noted, that in creatures there is found a threefold manner of conformity to God.  For certain (creatures) are conformed to God as a vestige, certain ones as an image, certain ones as a similitude.  Moreover vestige means a comparison to God as to a causative principle; image on the other hand not only as to a principle, but even as to a motive object ; « For for this reason the soul is an image of God », as (St.) Augustine says in the fourteenth (book) of De Trinitate,9  « that it is capable of Him and can be a participant (in Him) », that is, through cognition and love [amorem].  Moreover, a similitude looks back to God not only according to the measure [per modum] of a principle and object, but also according to the measure of infused gift.


17.  Therefore, in these activities [operationibus] of the creature, which belong to it, inasmuch as it is a vestige, as are natural actions [actiones] universally, God cooperates as Principle and Cause.  But in those, which belong to it, inasmuch as it is an image, as are the intellectual actions, by which the soul perceives immutable Truth itself, He cooperates as Object and motive Reason.  However, in those, which belong to it, inasmuch as it is a similitude, as are the meritorious activities, . . .

He cooperates as a Gift infused through grace.  And on this account (St.) Augustine says in the eighth (book) of De Civitate Dei,1  that « God is the cause of being, the reason of understanding and the order of living ».


18.  Moreover that He be called the reason of understanding, must be sanely understood, not that He be the sole, nor the bare, nor the whole reason of understanding.  —  For if He were the sole reason, cognition of a science would not differ from cognition of Wisdom, nor cognition in the Word from cognition in it proper genus.  —  Again, if He were the bare and open reason, cognition of the way would not differ from cognition of the fatherland, which indeed is false, since that is face to face, but this through a mirror and in mystery; 2  because our act of understanding [intelligere] according to the state of the way is not without the phantasm.  —  Lastly, if He were the whole reason, we would not need the species and (its) reception (in the senses) to cognize things; which manifestly we see to be false, because, admitting one sense, we have to necessarily admit that (there is) one science.3  Whence though according to (St.) Augustine the soul has been conjoined [connexa] to the eternal laws, because in some manner it attains to that light according to the supreme keenness of the agent intellect and the superior portion of reason; nevertheless it is indubitably true, according to what the Philosopher says,4  that cognition is generated in us by way of the sense, memory and experience, from which within us there is gathered the universal, which is the principle of art and science.  Whence because Plato5 turned the whole of certain cognition [totam cognitionem certitudinalem] toward the intelligible or ideal world, he was for that reason deservedly reprehended by Aristotle; not because he said badly, that there are ideas and eternal reasons, since in this (St.) Augustine praises him:6  but because, having despised the sensible world, he wanted to reduce the whole certitude of cognition to those ideas; and by posing (the argument) in this manner, though it would seem that he stabilized the way of wisdom, which proceeds according to eternal reasons, he nevertheless destroyed the way of science, which proceeds according to created reasons; which way Aristotle on the contrary stabilized, having neglected that superior one.  And for that reason it seems, that among philosophers the sermon of wisdom is given to Plato, but to Aristotle the sermon of science.  For the former looked principally to superior things, but the latter principally to inferior ones.


19.  Moreover each speech, that is, of wisdom and of science, was given through the Holy Spirit to (St.) Augustine, as the chief expositor of the whole of Scripture, sufficiently excellent, just as appears from his writings.  —  However, in a more excellent manner was it in Paul and Moses, in one as in a minister of the Law of figure, in the other, however, as in a minister of the Law of grace.  For indeed of Moses there is said in Acts, chapter 7,7 that he had been instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians; and again, on Mount (Sinai) there was said to him:8  Inspect and make it according to the exemplar, which has been shown to you on the Mountain.  —  However of (St.) Paul, as he himself says, that when among the simple he would not show himself to know (anything) but Christ Jesus, and Him crucified; nevertheless among the perfect spoke of wisdom, just as is said in the First (Letter) to the Corinthians, chapter 2.9  Moreover this wisdom he taught, when he was rapt unto the third heaven, Second (Letter) to the Corinthians, chapter 12.12  —  But most excellent was it in Our Lord Jesus Christ, who was the principle Law-giver and simultaneously the perfect Wayfarer and Comprehensor; and for that reason He alone is the principle Master and Teacher.


20.  Therefore He as the principle Master is principally to be honored, to be heard, to be questioned.  —  For indeed He is principally to be honored, as there is attributed to him the dignity of the Magisterium, Matthew, chapter 23:11  Do not be called Rabbi; for one is your Master, but all you are brothers.  Moreover He wanted to reserve the dignity of the Magisterium to Himself, according to that (verse) in John, chapter 13:12  You call me, Master and Lord; and well you say it, for indeed I am.  —  He is to be honored, moreover, not only with words [vocaliter] in speech, but also really in imitation; on account of which there is said further on:  If I, therefore, was your feet etc.; because, as is said in Luke, chapter 14:13  who comes not after Me cannot be My disciple.


21.  He is also principally to be heard through the humility of the Faith, according to that (verse) of Isaiah, chapter 50:14  The Lord gave me a learned tongue, that I may know how to support him who is wearied by the word:  He raised in the morning, in the morning He raised my ear, that I may hear Him as my Master.  Twice it says He raised, because it is not sufficient, that our ear be raised to understand (Him), unless it also be raised to obey (Him).  On account of which there is said in Matthew, chapter 13:15  Let him who has ears to hear, hear!  For Christ teaches us not only by word, but also by example; and for that reason one is not a perfect hearer, unless he accommodate his understanding to His words and his obedience to His deeds; on account of which (there is said) in Luke, chapter 6:1  He will be perfect, if he be just as His Master.


22.  He is also principally to be questioned through the desire of learning, not as the curious and the incredulous did, who interrogated Him by tempting Him, Matthew, chapter 12:2  Certain of the Scribes answered Him, saying:  Master, we want to sign a sign from you.  Signs indeed they had seen and were seeing, and nevertheless they still were seeking a sign, so that there be shown through this, that human curiosity has no end and does not merit to be lead to the truth.3  Whence they were given the reply, that a sign will not be given them except the sign of Jonah the prophet.  —  Not in this manner is Jesus to be questioned, but rather studiously, just as Nicodemus questioned Him, of which in John, chapter 3,4 there is said, that he came to Jesus at night and said to Him:  Rabbi, we know, that Thou, Master, hast come from God etc.; and there is added further on there, that Jesus opened the mysteries of the Faith to him, for the reason that he was not seeking signs of virtue, but the text-books of the Truth [documenta veritatis].


23.  Moreover, this Master is to be questioned concerning those things which pertain [spectant] to science, to discipline and goodness, according to that (verse) of the Psalm:5  Goodness and discipline and science teach me.  For indeed science consists in knowledge of the true, discipline in caution against the bad, goodness in choosing the good. The first respects the truth, the second respects holiness, the third respects charity.  —  Therefore He is to be questioned concerning those things which pertain to the truth of science, not by striving to tempt Him [studio tentandi], as the disciples of the Pharisees used to tempt Him, Matthew, chapter 22:6  Master, we know, that you are truthful etc..  And because they were questioning with an evil intention, for that reason they were given the response:  Why tempest thou Me, hypocrites?  However, because the question (was) a good one, for that reason He gave a true response:  Render, therefore, the things which are Caesar’s to Caesar; and the things which are Gods, to God.  —  Second, He is to be questioned concerning those things which pertain to holiness of discipline, just as that adolescent questioned Him in Mark, chapter 10:7  Good Master, what shall I do, to posses eternal life?  And he was given the response, that he should observe the commandments, and if he wanted to be perfect, (that) he should observe the counsels, in which consist the perfect disciple of morals, in cautioning against those thing which incite us to sin.  —  He is to be questioned also concerning those things which pertain to the charity of benevolence, after the example of the doctor of the Law, in Matthew, chapter 22:8  Master, what is t at commandment in the Law?  He said to him:  Love the Lord thy God with thy heart, and with thy mind etc.., where He shows, that the fullness of the Law is love [dilection].


24.  Therefore there are three things, which are to be asked from Christ as from a master, and to which the whole Law of Christ has been ordained, and for that reason every doctrine of a servant-teacher [ministerialis doctoris] ought to be to be ordained to these three, so that under that Most High Magisterium the office of master might be worthily put into execution [exsecutione mandare].  —  For indeed a servant-master ought to direct his attention [intendere] to the science of the truth of the Faith, according to that (verse) of the First (Letter) to Timothy, chapter 2:10  I speak the truth and I do not lie, a teacher of the gentiles in the Faith and in the Truth.  On account of which the Second (Letter) of Peter, chapter 1 (says):11  For we have not, (by) having followed doctored fables, made known to you the virtue and present of Our Lord Jesus Christ, but were made eyewitnesses [speculatores] of His Greatness.


25.  He ought to also direct his attention to the discipline of the holiness of the spirit [animi], according to that (verse) of the Second (Letter) to Timothy, chapter 1:12  I, Paul, have been set as a preacher and apostle in the Gospel, for which cause I also suffer these things, because, according to what is said in Proverbs, chapter 19,13  the doctrine of a man is known through his patience.  For just as it is not decent that the foolish teach wisdom, so it is not decent that the impatient teach patience, nor the undisciplined teach discipline.