Spiraling into God

Katherine Wrisley Shelby, Spiraling into God: Bonaventure on Grace, Hierarchy, and Holiness (Catholic University of America Press 2023).

Spiraling into God: Bonaventure on Grace, Hierarchy, and Holiness offers a systematic account of the Seraphic Doctor’s doctrine of grace across his speculative-academic, mystical, hagiographical, and pastoral texts. It does so by arguing that an account of this kind can only be provided by also attending to his theology of hierarchy, a methodology derived from Bonaventure’s claim in the Major Legend of St. Francis that Francis of Assisi was a "vir hierarchicus," or hierarchical man. As the book explores in great depth, this appellation relies upon Bonaventure’s reading of a Victorine Dionysian interpreter by the name of Thomas Gallus, whose "angelic anthropology"—or notion of the hierarchical soul—becomes a crucial component within the Seraphic Doctor’s teaching on grace as he interprets the sanctity of St. Francis. Throughout the course of his career, Bonaventure will define sanctifying grace as a created "inflowing" (influentia) that "hierarchizes" human beings by purifying, illuminating, and perfecting them from within, thus causing them to become a similitude of the Trinity. This book explains what this means and why it matters.

Most existing scholarship on this subject in Bonaventure’s thought interprets it as a subtopic with respect to other themes—for example, with respect to his Christology or his Trinitarian theology—rather than taking the time to understand his doctrine of grace in its own right. Alternatively, scholarly treatments of his doctrine of grace will treat it at length, but will only examine the topic as it appears in his more speculative-academic texts—most especially his Commentary on the Sentences or his famous Itinerarium Mentis in Deum—without bringing these into conversation with his pastoral works, sermon literature, or hagiographical texts. This book provides the first unified treatment of Bonaventure’s doctrine of grace across all these different genres of his known corpus, and in so doing, fills a massive lacuna in both Bonaventurean scholarship and in the field of medieval historical theology.

Order the book here.