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Selected texts on the Metaphor of the Nature's Book


A Selection of Quotes from the Works of  Bonaventure of Bagnoregio

According to the Apostle, ever since the creation of the world, his invisible attributes have been able to be understood and perceived in what he has made, as if this sensible world were a public book, in which everyone is able to read God’s wisdom.

Invisibilia Dei, apostolo teste, a creatura mundi per ea quae facta sunt intellecta conspiciuntur, et est velut communis quidam liber et catena ligatus sensibilis mundus iste, ut in eo sapientiam Dei legat quicumque voluerit.

Sermones, De Diversis, IX, 1

"Beauty" of things, according to the variety of light, figure, and color in bodies simple and mixed and even composite, as in the celestial bodies, minerals, stones and metals, plants and animals, obviously proclaims the three mentioned divine attributes [Power, Wisdom and Goodness]. "Plenitude" of things – according to which matter is full of forms because of the seminal reasons; form is full of power because of its activity; power is full of effects because of its efficiency – declares the same manifestly. "Operation," multiplex inasmuch as it is natural, artificial, and moral, by its very variety shows the immensity of that power, art, and goodness which indeed are in all things the cause of their being, the principle of their intelligibility, and the order of their living. "Order," by reason of duration, situation, and influence, as prior and posterior, upper and lower, nobler and less noble, indicates clearly in the book of creation the primacy, sublimity, and dignity of the First Principle in relation to its infinite power. The order of the divine laws, precepts, and judgments in the Book of Scripture indicates the immensity of His wisdom. The order of the divine sacraments, rewards, and punishments in the body of the Church indicates the immensity of His goodness. Hence order leads us most obviously into the first and highest, most powerful, wisest, and best.

Pulchritudo autem rerum secundum varietatem luminum, figurarum et colorum in corporibus simplicibus, mixtis et etiam complexionatis, sicut in corporibus caelestibus et mineralibus, sicut lapidibus et metallis, plantis et animalibus, tria praedicta [potentia, sapientia et bonitas Dei] evidenter proclamat. Plenitudo autem rerum, secundum quod materia est plena formis secundum rationes seminales; forma est plena virtute secundum activam potentiam; virtus est plena effectibus secundum efficientiam, id ipsum maniteste declarat. Operatio multiplex, secundum quod est naturalis, secundum quod est artificialis, secundum quod est moralis, sua multiplicissima varietate ostendit immensitatem illius virtutis, artis et bonitatis, quae quidem est omnibus "causa essendi, ratio intelligendi et ordo vivendi". Ordo autem secundum rationem durationis et influentiae, scilicet per prius et posterius, superius et inferius, nobilius et ignobilius, in libro creaturae insinuat manifeste primi principii primitatem, sublimitatem et dignitatem quantum ad infinitatem potentiae; ordo vero divinarum legum, praeceptorum et iudiciorum in libro Scripturae immensitatem sapientiae; ordo autem divinorum Sacramentorum, beneficiorum et retributionum in corpore Ecclesiae immensitatem bonitatis, ita quod ipse ordo nos in primum et summum, potentissimum, sapientissimum et optimum evidentissime manuducit.

Itinerarium mentis in Deum, I, 14

This can be explained in the following way. The First Principle reveals itself to our minds through the Scriptures and through creatures. In the book of creation it manifests itself as the effective Principle, and in the book of Scripture as the restorative Principle. Now, the restorative Principle cannot be known unless the effective Principle is also known. Thus it follows that Holy Scripture, even though it is concerned mainly with the works of restoration, must necessarily also deal with the works of creation, insofar as they lead to the knowledge of the first effective and recreating Principle.' Hence, this knowledge is both sublime and saving: sublime, because it is knowledge of the effective Principle, which is God the Creator; saving, because it is knowledge of the restorative Principle, which is Christ our Savior and Mediator.

Ratio autem ad intelligentiam praedictorum haec est: quia, cum primum principium reddat se nobis cognoscibile et per Scripturam et per creaturam, per librum creaturae se manifestat ut principium effectivum, per librum Scripturae ut principium reparativum; et quia principium reparativum non potest cognosci, nisi cognoscatur et effectivum: ideo sacra Scriptura, licet principaliter agat de operibus reparationis, agere nihilominus debet de opere conditionis, in quantum tamen ducit in cognitionem primi principii efficientis et reficientis.


Breviloquium, Pars II, ch. 5, in Works of St. Bonaventure, edited by Dominic V. Monti, (Ashland: Franciscan Institute Publications, 2005), vol. 9, pp. 72-73.

These things may be explained as follows. The First Principle made this sensible world in order to make itself known, so that the world might serve as a footprint and a mirror to lead humankind to love and praise God, its Maker. Accordingly, God composed two books: one written within, which is the Eternal Art and Wisdom of God; the other written without, which is the perceptible world. Now there was one type of creature, the angel, which had an internal sense for understanding the interior book, and another, the brute animal, which had all of its senses external. Thus, in order to complete the universe, there ought to have been another creature, endowed with a double range of senses mentioned above, so that it might have knowledge of both the inner and outer books, that is, of Wisdom and its works. And because in Christ eternal Wisdom and its work coincide in the same person, he is called the book written within and without for the restoration of the world.

Primum Principium fecit mundum istum sensibilem ad declarandum Se ipsum, videlicet ad hoc, quod per illum tamquam per speculum et vestigium reduceretur homo in Deum artificiem amandum et laudandum. Et secundum hoc duplex est liber, uno scilicet scriptus intus, qui est aeterna Dei ars et sapientia; et alius scriptus foris, mundus scilicet sensibilis. Cum igitur esse una creatura, quae sensum habebat intus ad cognitionem libri interioris, ut Angelus; et alia, quae totum sensum habebat foris, ut quodlibet animal brutum: ad perfectionem universitatis debuit fieri creatura, quae hoc sensu duplici esse praedita ad cognitionem libri scripti intus et foris, id est Sapientiae et sui operis. Et quia in Christo simul concurrit aeterna Sapientia et eius opus in una persona; ideo dicitur liber scriptus intus et foris ad reparationem mundi.


Breviloquium, Pars II, ch. 11 in ibidem, p. 94.

From all we have said, we may gather that the cre- ated world is a kind of book reflecting, representing, and describing its Maker, the Trinity, at three different levels of expression: as a vestige, as an image, and as a likeness. The aspect of vestige ('footprint') is found in every creature; the aspect ofimage, only in intelligent creatures or rational spirits; the aspect of likeness, only in those spirits that are God-conformed. Through these successive levels, comparable to steps, the human intellect is designed to ascend gradually to the supreme Principle, which is God.

Ex praedictis autem colligi potest, quod creatura mundi est quasi quidam liber, in quo relucet, repraesentatur et legitur Trinitas fabricatrix secundum triplicem gradum expressionis, scilicet per modum vestigii,imaginis et similitudinis; ita quod ratio vestigii reperitur in omnibus creaturis, ratio imaginis in solis intellectualibus seu spiritibus rationalibus, ratio similitudinis in solis deiformibus; ex quibus quasi per quosdam scalares gradus intellectus humanus natus est gradatim ascendere in summum principium, quod est Deus.

Breviloquium, Pars II, ch. 12, in ibidem, p. 96.

To understand this, we must note that, to make the foundation of the Christian faith truly credible, and for it to remain firm, we need three testimonies, through which we are led by hand to faith, we are sustained and elevated. This triple witness is provided to us by three books: the Book of Creatures, the Book of Scripture and the Book of Life. The first book provides an efficacious testimony, the second a more efficacious one and the third a very efficacious one.

Ad cuius intelligentiam notandum quod cum illum verum credibile sit fundamentum totius fidei christianae, ad hoc, ut illud fundamentum maneat inconcussum, triplex habet testimonium, per quod ad istud credendum manuducimur, astringimur et levamur. Hoc autem triplex testimonium attenditur secundum triplicem librum, qui est liber creaturae, liber Scripturae et liber vitae. Primus liber dat testimonium efficax, secundum dat testimonium efficacius, tertius vero efficacissimum.

Quaestiones disputatae de Mysterio Trinitatis, q. I, a. 2, conclusio.

If we want to contemplate spiritual things, we need to take up the cross as if it were a book. [...] Christ himself is this book of wisdom, who is written inside by the Father, as he comes from the power of God, and outside, when he took on a bodily form. However, this book was open on the cross, and it is this book that we have to read in order to understand the depths of God’s wisdom.

Si volumus spiritualia contemplari, oportet tollere crucem ut librum; quo erudiamur; de quo libro in Deuteronomio: Tollite librum istum et ponite eum in laterae arcae foederis Domini [cf. Dt 31,26]. Arca foederis Dominiest beata Virgo, in qua omnia arcana sunt recondita. Liber sapientiae est Christus, qui scriptus est intus apud Patrem, cum sit ars onnipotentis Dei; et foris, quando carnem assumpsit. Iste liber non est apertus nisi in cruce; istum librum debemus tollere, ut intellegamus arcana sapientiae Dei.

Sermones de Tempore, Feria VI in Parasceve, sermo II, n. 2.