"The essence of perfection is to embrace the will of God in all things, prosperous or adverse. In prosperity, even sinners find it easy to unite themselves to the divine will; but it takes saints to unite themselves to God's will when things go wrong and are painful to self-love. Our conduct in such instances is the measure of our love of God."

St Alphonsus de Liguori

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"The supreme perfection of man in this life is to be so united to God that all his soul with all its faculties and powers are so gathered into the Lord God that he becomes one spirit with him, and remembers nothing except God, is aware of and recognises nothing but God, but with all his desires unified by the joy of love, he rests contentedly in the enjoyment of his Maker alone."

St Albert the Great

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"It is well to choose some one good devotion, and to stick to it, and never to abandon it."

St Philip Neri

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St Bonaventure  (1221 - 1274)




by St Bonaventure


Ch 3. Of the Reflection of God in His Image Stamped upon Our Natural Powers.

1. The two steps mentioned above, by leading us to God by means of His Traces, whereby He shines forth in all creatures, have led us to the point of entering into ourselves, that is, into our minds in which the divine image shines. Now in the third place, as we enter into ourselves, as if leaving the vestibule and coming into the sanctum, that is, the outer part of the tabernacle, we should strive to see God through a mirror. In this mirror the light of truth is shining before our minds as in a candelabrum, for in it gleams the resplendent image of the most blessed Trinity.

Enter then into yourselves and see, for your mind loves itself most fervently. Nor could it love itself unless it knew itself. Nor would it know itself unless it remembered itself, for we receive nothing through intelligence which is not present to our memory. And from this be advised, not with the eye of the flesh but with that of reason, that your soul has a threefold power. Consider then the operations and the functions of these three powers, and you will be able to see God in yourselves as in an image, which is to see through a glass darkly [I Cor., 13, 12].

2. The operation of memory is retention and representation, not only of things present, corporeal, and temporal, but also of past and future things, simple and eternal. For memory retains the past by recalling it, the present by receiving it, the future by foreseeing it. It retains the simple, as the principles of continuous and discrete quantities--the point, the instant, the unit--without which it is impossible to remember or to think about those things whose source is in these.

Nonetheless it retains the eternal principles and the axioms of the sciences and retains them eternally. For it can never so forget them while it uses reason that it will not approve of them when heard and assent to them, not as though it were perceiving them for the first time, but as if it were recognizing them as innate and familiar, as appears when someone says to another, ''One must either affirm or deny," or, "Every whole is greater than its part," or any other law which cannot be rationally contradicted.

From the first actual retention of all temporal things, namely, of the past, present, and future, it has the likeness of eternity whose indivisible present extends to all times. From the second it appears that it is not only formed from without by images [phantasms], but also by receiving simple forms from above and retaining them in itself--forms which cannot enter through the doors of the senses and the images of sensible things. From the third it follows that it has an undying light present to itself in which it remembers unchangeable truths.

And thus, through the operations of the memory, it appears that the soul itself is the image of God and His likeness, so present to itself and having Him present that it receives Him in actuality and is susceptible of receiving Him in potency, and that it can also participate in Him.

3. The operation of the intellect is concerned with the meaning of terms, propositions, and inferences. The intellect however, understands the meaning of terms when it comprehends what anything is through its definition. But a definition must be made by higher terms and these by still higher, until one comes to the highest and most general, in ignorance of which the lower cannot be defined.

Unless, therefore, it is known what is being-in-itself, the definition of no special substance can be fully known. For can being-in-itself be known unless it be known along with its conditions: the one, the true, the good. Since being, however, can be known as incomplete or complete, as imperfect or perfect, as potential or actual, as relative or absolute, as partial or total, as transient or permanent, as dependent or independent, as mixed with non-being or as pure, as contingent or necessary (per se), as posterior or prior, as mutable or immutable, as simple or composite; since privations and defects can be known only through affirmations in some positive sense, our intellect cannot reach the point of fully understanding any of the created beings unless it be favored by the understanding of the purest, most actual, most complete, and absolute Being, which is simply and eternally Being, and in which are the principles of all things in their purity. For how would the intellect know that a being is defective and incomplete if it had no knowledge of being free from all defect? And thus for all the aforesaid conditions.

The intellect is said to comprehend truly the meaning of propositions when it knows with certitude that they are true. And to know this is simply to know, since error is impossible in comprehension of this sort. For it knows that such truth cannot be otherwise than it is. It knows, therefore, that such truth is unchangeable. But since our mind itself is changeable, it cannot see that truth shining forth unchangeably except by some light shining without change in any way; and it is impossible that such a light be a mutable creature. Therefore it knows in that light which enlighteneth every man that cometh into this world [John, 1, 9], which is true light and the Word which in the beginning was with God [John, 1, 1].

Our intellect perceives truly the meaning of inference when it sees that a conclusion necessarily follows from its premises. This it sees not only in necessary terms but also in contingent. Thus if a man is running, a man is moving. It perceives, however, this necessary connection, not only in things which are, but also in things which are not. Thus if a man exists, it follows that if he is running, he is moved. And this is true even if the man is not existing.

The necessity of this mode of inference comes not from the existence of the thing in matter, because that is contingent, nor from its existence in the soul because then it would be a fiction if it were not in the world of things. Therefore it comes from the archetype in eternal art according to which things have an aptitude and a comportment toward one another by reason of the representation of that eternal art. As Augustine says in his "On True Religion" [Ch. 39, 72], "The light of all who reason truly is kindled at that truth and strives to return to it." From which it is obvious that our intellect is conjoined with that eternal truth so that it cannot receive anything with certainty except under its guidance.

Therefore you can see the truth through yourself, the truth that teaches you, if concupiscence and phantasms do not impede you and place themselves like clouds between you and the rays of truth.

4. The operation of the power of choice is found in deliberation, judgment, and desire. Deliberation is found in inquiring what is better, this or that. But the better has no meaning except by its proximity to the best. But such proximity is measured by degrees of likeness. No one, therefore, can know whether this is better than that unless he knows that this is closer to the best. But no one knows that one of two things is more like another unless he knows the other. For I do not know that this man is like Peter unless I know or am acquainted with Peter. Therefore the idea of the good must be involved in every deliberation about the highest good.

Certain judgment of the objects of deliberation comes about through some law. But none can judge with certainty through law unless he be certain that that law is right and that he ought not to judge it But the mind judges itself. Since, then, it cannot judge the law it employs in judgment, that law is higher than our minds, and through this higher law one makes judgments according to the degree with which it is impressed upon it. But there is nothing higher than the human mind except Him Who made it. Therefore our deliberative faculty in judging reaches upward to divine laws if it solves its problems completely.

Now desire is of that which especially moves one. But that especially moves one which is especially loved. But happiness is loved above all. But happiness does not come about except through the best and ultimate end. Human desire, therefore, seeks nothing unless it be the highest good or something which leads to it or something which has some resemblance to it. So great is the force of the highest good that nothing can be loved except through desire for it by a creature which errs and is deceived when it takes truth's image and likeness for the truth.

See then how close the soul is to God and how memory in its operations leads to eternity, intelligence to truth, the power of choice to the highest goodness.

5. Following the order and origin and comportment of these powers, we are led to the most blessed Trinity itself. From memory arises intelligence as its offspring, for then do we know when a likeness which is in the memory leaps into the eye of the intellect, which is nothing other than a word. From memory and intelligence is breathed forth love, which is the tie between the two.

These three--the generating mind, the word, and love--are in the soul as memory, intelligence, and will, which are consubstantial, coequal, and coeval, mutually immanent. If then God is perfect spirit, He has memory, intelligence, and will; and He has both the begotten Word and spirated Love. These are necessarily distinguished, since one is produced from the other--distinguished, not essentially or accidentally, but personally.

When therefore the mind considers itself, it rises through itself as through a mirror to the contemplation of the Blessed Trinity--Father, Word, and Love--three persons coeternal, coequal, and consubstantial; so that each one is in each of the others, though one is not the other, but all three are one God.

6. This consideration which the soul has of its threefold and unified principle through the trinity of its powers, by which it is the image of God, is supported by the light of knowledge which perfects it and informs it, and represents in three ways the most blessed Trinity. For all philosophy is either natural or rational or moral. The first deals with the cause of being, and therefore leads to the power of the Father. The second deals with the principle of understanding, and therefore leads to the wisdom of the Word. The third deals with the order of living, and therefore leads to the goodness of the Holy Spirit.

Again, the first is divided into metaphysics, mathematics, and physics. The first concerns the essences of things; the second, numbers and figures; the third, natures, powers, and extensive operations. Therefore the first to the First leads Principle, the Father; the second, to His image, the Son; the third, to the gift of the Holy Spirit.

The second is divided into grammar, which gives us the power of expression; logic, which gives us skill in argumentation; rhetoric, which makes us skillful in persuasion or stirring the emotions. And this similarly images the mystery of the most blessed Trinity.

The third is divided into individual, family, and political [problems].[1] And therefore the first images the First Principle, which has no birth; the second, the family relationship of the Son; the third, the liberality of the Holy Spirit.

7. All these sciences have certain and infallible rules, like rays of light descending from the eternal law into our minds. And thus our minds, illumined and suffused by such great radiance, unless they be blind, can be led through themselves alone to the contemplation of that eternal light. The irradiation and consideration of this light holds the wise suspended in wonder; and, on the other hand, it leads into confusion the foolish, who do not believe that they may understand. Hence this prophecy is fulfilled: "Thou enlightenest wonderfully from the everlasting hills. All the foolish of heart were troubled" [Ps., 75, 5-6].

1. In Latin, "monasticam oeconomicam et politicam."