Introduction to Legends and Sermons - 498 

doubtedly controversial in the anti-Joachimite milieu of the University of Paris, indicate how sensitive Bonaventure was to their implications.

The evening sermon takes a somewhat different approach as Bonaventure explores the significance of his calling, and that of his brothers, to be a Lesser Brother. While the morning sermon was dedicated to Christ's words (Mt 11:29), "Learn from me," the evening sermon developed the remaining part of the verse, ". . . for I am meek and humble of heart." "To be meek is to be a brother to everybody," he declares, "to be humble is to be less than everybody. Therefore, to be meek and humble of heart is to be a true lesser brother."14 Thus, in the evening sermon, Bonaventure lays the foundations of the universality of the fraternal relations he describes in the eighth chapter of The Major Legend.

Valuable as these insights into Bonaventure's Franciscan thought may be, those provided by his Itinerarium mentis in Deum [The Soul's Journey Into God] are even more so. The Itinerarium is the fruit of Bonaventure's stay on LaVerna where Francis had received the stigmata. At the opening of the work, the meditative General Minister writes:

Inspired by the example of our most blessed father, Francis, I wanted to seek after this peace with yearning soul, sinner that I am and all unworthy, yet the seventh successor as Minister to all the brothers in the place of the blessed father after his death. It happened that, thirty-three years after the death of the saint, about the time of his passing, moved by a divine impulse, I withdrew to Mount La Verna, as to a place of quiet, there to satisfy the yearning of my soul for peace. While I dwelt there, pondering on certain spiritual ascents to God, I was struck among other things, by that miracle which in this very place had happened to the blessed Francis, that is, the vision he received of the winged seraph in the form of the Crucified. As I reflected on this marvel, it immediately seemed to me that this vision might suggest the rising of Saint Francis into contemplation and point out the way by which that state of contemplation may be reached.15

On the cliffs of La Verna, it became clear to him that Francis's mystical experience was not only the goal of his vocation and that of his brothers, but also the road to it. A sermon Bonaventure delivered on Holy Saturday reveals his reflections on three ways of ascending into God: that of Bernard of Clairvaux,16 another of Richard of St. Victor,17 and, finally, that of Giles of Assisi, the companion of Francis himself.18 His first letter to the brothers, April 23, 1257, suggests that he may have returned to these reflections as a means recalling the Order from the paths onto which it had strayed and of finding consolation for his soul. On La Verna, however, Bonaventure, like Francis, seems himself to have had a mystical experience. His understanding of the saint deepened; his insight into the rapture of Francis's experience on La Verna and its result, the stigmata, left an indelible mark on Bonaventure's




Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 2, p. 498