Sacred Heart of Jesus, Source of Light & Life

Bonaventure reflects on the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the meaning of the blood and water flowing from the side of Christ crucified (John 19:34), the living water of sacramental grace coming from the loving heart of the Savior. He reflects especially on several lines of Psalm 36, used in the office of the feast : “Your love, Lord, reaches to heaven, your truth to the skies . . . In you is the source of life and in your light we see light.”

Take thought now, redeemed man, and consider how great and worthy is he who hangs on the cross for you. His death brings the dead to life, but at his passing heaven and earth are plunged into mourning and hard rocks are split asunder.

It was a divine decree that permitted one of the soldiers to open his sacred side with a lance. This was done so that the Church might be formed from the side of Christ as he slept the sleep of death on the cross, and so that the Scripture might be fulfilled:  They shall look on him whom they pierced. The blood and water which poured out at that moment were the price of our salvation. Flowing from the secret abyss of our Lord’s heart as from a fountain, this stream gave the sacraments of the Church the power to confer the life of grace, while for those already living in Christ it became a spring of living water welling up to life everlasting.

bonaventure - sacred heart of jesus

Arise, then, beloved of Christ! Imitate the dove that nests in a hole in the cliff, keeping watch at the entrance like the sparrow that finds a home.  There like the turtledove hide your little ones, the fruit of your chaste love. Press your lips to the fountain, draw water from the wells of your Savior; for this is the spring flowing out of the middle of paradise, dividing into four rivers, inundating devout hearts, watering the whole earth and making it fertile.

Run with eager desire to this source of life and light, all you who are vowed to God’s service. Come, whoever you may be, and cry out to him with all the strength of your heart.  O indescribable beauty of the most high God and purest radiance of eternal light! Life that gives all life, light that is the source of every other light, preserving in everlasting splendor the myriad flames that have shone before the throne of your divinity from the dawn of time! Eternal and inaccessible fountain, clear and sweet stream flowing from a hidden spring, unseen by mortal eye! None can fathom your depths nor survey your boundaries, none can measure your breadth, nothing can sully your purity. From you flows the river which gladdens the city of God and makes us cry out with joy and thanksgiving in hymns of praise to you, for we know by our own experience that with you is the source of life, and in your light we see light.

This excerpt from a work by St. Bonaventure (Opusculum 3, Lignum vitae, 29-30. 47: Opera omnia 8, 79) on the Sacred Heart of Jesus, font of sacramental graces and living water, is used in the Roman Office of Readings for the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus celebrated each year on the second Friday after the Feast of Pentecost. 

Bonaventure , St.

Born in Italy as Giovanni di Fidanza around the year 1217, St. Bonaventure entered the new religious order founded by St. Francis of Assisi called the “Friars Minor” around the year 1243, about twenty years after Francis’ death. Bonaventure studied theology under the famous Alexander of Hales and became a professor at the greatest school of theology in the medieval world, the University of Paris where he taught alongside St. Thomas Aquinas, the “Angelic Doctor.” St. Bonaventure’s theology is always written with holy passion, in the tradition of St. Augustine, and always directed towards increasing the depth and intensity of the spiritual life. Because of his burning zeal, Bonaventure became known as the “Seraphic Doctor.” St. Bonaventure was elected minister general of the Franciscan order in 1257 and played a prominent role in settling the dissension that had plagued the order since the death of its founder, St. Francis. In fact Bonaventure’s Life of St. Francis was approved by the Friars Minor as the official biography of their founder. Having been created Cardinal Archbishop of Albano in 1273, St. Bonaventure attended the Ecumenical Council of Lyon where he died in the same year that St. Thomas Aquinas died, in 1274. As a theologian, Saint Bonaventure upheld the duty and value of using the human intellect to reflect on the mysteries of faith. But for him all human wisdom was folly when compared to the mystical illumination given to the faithful Christian by God himself. This theme is most beautifully developed in St. Bonaventure’s best known work, his Itinerarium Mentis in Deum (Journey of the Mind into God). His most extensive and systematic work of theology is his Commentary on the Sentences of Peter Lombard. It is however, as a spiritual writer, that Saint Bonaventure has had his greatest and most lasting impact. Be sure to check out the poetic Prayer of Saint Bonaventure. Incorporate it into your own prayer life. It is only fitting that the first Franciscan University in the United States, located in St. Bonaventure, New York, should be named after St. Bonaventure, the greatest of all Franciscan theologians. His feast day in the Roman calendar falls on July 15.