The Trinity in the thought of St. Bonaventure: An Eastern Orthodox perspective

Wilfred S Royer, Fordham University


Bonaventure's exemplaristic worldview centers around a Greek patristic model of the Trinity, hence forming an original synthesis of Augustinian exemplarism, modified by the Dionysian self-diffusion of the good, with a Greek trinitarian dynamism. This synthesis offers great potential toward Catholic-Orthodox dialogue--breaking beyond the barriers separating them in a common "language" of exemplarity expressed by both as the outflow of "light" by which humans can contemplate the Trinity. Moreover, the Bonaventurean synthesis, with its Greek dynamic model of the Trinity, offers many other points of convergence with the Orthodox tradition. Both start their trinitarian theology from the irreducibility of the three persons, rather than from the common divine essence, and both ground the unity of the Trinity in the primacy of the Father. Both also offer a christocentric dimension of the Trinity in the world, where Christ exists as the Ratio Aeterna, the prototype of the universal forms, and the "Cosmic Adam," the eternal exemplar of the imago Dei in humans. Therefore, Christ is the medium metaphysicum, the natural and spiritual center of the universe who unites both the created and the uncreated hypostatically in himself. The only significant difference between Bonaventure and Eastern Orthodoxy, in fact, concerns the issue of the filioque--a problem which is not insurmountable because for Bonaventure the double procession of the Holy Spirit is not essential for the purpose of distinguishing his person from the others. Finally, both Bonaventure and Eastern Orthodoxy regard the Trinity as that reality to which all human thought about the nature of being is normed, as its ultimate exemplar. Consequently, all human knowledge about the existence and attributes of God is founded on this trinitarian exemplarism, which is not only the normative basis for their trinitarian thought, but also the very foundation of their entire worldview. The universality of this trinitarian exemplaristic worldview is broad enough to encompass both Catholic and Orthodox traditions, hence offering a bridge for dialogue and possibly even a genuine pluralistic consensus which might have broader implications outside of Christianity in the arena of interreligious dialogue.

Subject Area

Theology|Religious history|Philosophy

Recommended Citation

Royer, Wilfred S, "The Trinity in the thought of St. Bonaventure: An Eastern Orthodox perspective" (1994). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9509751.