St. Bonaventure

The nativity according to St Bonaventure

‘At length arrived at the city of Bethlehem, they found there so great a multitude of people, who had resorted thither from all parts, on the same occasion, that, by reason of their extreme poverty and distress, they could find no room in the inn. Here let tenderness excite you to compassion towards the august personage of this young and delicate Virgin. Consider her at the age of fifteen, wearied with the labours of a tedious journey, confused, terrified and abashed amidst a crowded populace: she seeks, to no purpose, a place of rest; and being everywhere refused admittance for herself and spouse, is at last reduced to seek for a shelter in a homely shed, the usual refuge of persons surprised by sudden storms of rain. In this place, we may suppose St. Joseph, who was by profession a carpenter, might probably have made a land of partition, or small enclosure for themselves, in which he fixed a rack and manger for the convenience of their beasts. And now let me earnestly entreat you to be sedulously attentive to everything that passes, concerning this subject, chiefly because what I am now going to relate, I had from a devout and holy man of undoubted credit, to whom I believe it was revealed by the Blessed Virgin herself.

‘The expected hour of the birth of the Son of God being come, on Sunday, towards midnight, the holy Virgin, rising from her seat, went and decently rested herself against a pillar she found there: Joseph in the meantime, sat pensive and sorrowful; perhaps, because he could not prepare the necessary accommodation for her. But at length, he arose too, and taking what hay he could find in the manger, he diligently spread it at our Lady’s feet, and then modestly retired to another part. Then the eternal Son of God, coming forth from his mother’s womb, was, without pain to her, transferred in an instant from thence to the humble bed of hay, that was prepared for him at her feet. His holy Mother, hastily stooping down, took him up in her arms, and tenderly embracing him, laid him in her lap; then through instinct of the Holy Ghost, she began to wash and bathe him with her sacred milk, with which she was most amply supplied from heaven: this done, she took the veil off her head, and wrapping him in it, carefully reposed him in the manger. Here the ox and the ass, kneeling down, and laying their heads over the manger, gently breathed upon him, as if endowed with reason. They were sensible, that through the inclemency of the season, and his poor attire, the blessed infant stood in need of their assistance to warm and cherish him. Then the holy Virgin throwing herself on her knees, adored him, and rendering thanks to God, said: “My Lord and heavenly Father, I return thee most grateful thanks, that thou vouchsafest of thy bounty to give me thy only Son ; and I praise and worship thee, O eternal God, together with thee, O Son of the living God, and mine.”’

– St Bonaventure, Life of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ

Happy 7th day of Christmas!

‘God descends into thee forever’

​O Lady, Our Lord has become our brother and our Savior.

Like the flame in the burning bush, and the dew in the fleece: the Word of

God descends into thee forever.

The Holy Spirit hath made thee fruitful: the power of the Most High hath overshadowed thee.

Blessed be thy most pure conception: blessed be thy virginal bringing forth.

Blessed be the purity of thy body: blessed be the sweetness of the mercy of thy heart.

Glory be to the Father, etc.

-St. Bonaventure, Psalter of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Psalm 8

‘Dip it into the sauce of the blood of Christ’

‘If ever anything sad befalls you, or anything grieves you, or if perchance something causes you weariness or bitterness of heart, or sweetness of soul turns insipid, lift up immediately your eyes to your Lord hanging nailed to the Cross. Look upon Him, His head crowned with thorns! Gaze upon the nails, the iron nails which fasten Him to the Cross, and upon the lance piercing His sacred side. In all trying moments, picture and contemplate the wounds in His hands and feet, picture to yourself the wounds in His most blessed head, the wound in His sacred side, the wounds of His whole body. Call to mind that He was wounded for your sake, that he suffered for you and that His sufferings were so great because He loved you beyond compare.

‘Believe me, a glance at such pictures and thought on such sufferings will quickly change your sadness into joy. What was heavy to bear will become light. What causes your weariness will become something to love. The rugged and the difficult will be changed into sweetness and relish, so that soon, with Holy Job, you will begin to exclaim: “The things which before my soul would not touch,” now when I look upon the “anguish” of Christ “are my meats” (Job vi, 7.) It is as though you were to say: The good things which were distasteful to my soul are now become through the passion of Christ, which I realise, sweet and savory.

‘In the Chronicles of the Franciscan Order there is related the following story (Cf. Chronicles xxiv, 3): A certain man being converted and having entered the Order eventually became impatient with the frugality of the Friars. The discipline of the Friary, too, upset him. Once, being very perturbed and lost to all patience on account of these things, he threw himself down before a crucifix. With bitter tears he enumerated the intolerable hardships he was called upon to endure: the burdens of the religious life, the scant and frugal fare, the tastelessness of the food and drink. While he poured forth his grievances, suddenly blood began to ooze from the side of the image of Christ nailed to the cross. As he continued his weeping and wailing, the bleeding image of the crucified Christ spoke to him these words: “When you find your food or drink distasteful, dip it into the sauce of the blood of Christ.”’
-St. Bonaventure, Holiness of Life, Chapter VI: Remembrance of Christ’s Passion

A late quote for St. Francis

‘How is it that we, wretched as we are, have such cold hearts that we are not prepared to endure anything for our Lord’s sake? Our hearts neither burn nor glow with love. Ardent love is a quality of the heart and the stronger this love burns in a person’s heart, the more heroic and virtuous are his deeds. Do you desire to imprint Christ crucified on your heart? Do you long to be transformed into him to the point where your heart is aflame with love? Just as iron when heated to the point it becomes molten can take the imprint of any mark or sign, so a heart burning fervently with love of Christ crucified can receive the imprint of the Crucified Lord himself or his cross. Such a loving heart is carried over to the Crucified Lord or transformed into him. That is what happened with Saint Francis.’
-St. Bonaventure’s evening sermon on St. Francis, October 4th, 1262