Apocalyptic Spirituality: Treatises and Letters of Lactantius, Adso of Montier-En-Der, Joachim of Fiore, the Franciscan Spirituals, Savonarola

By Bernard McGinn | Go to book overview

PETER JOHN OLIVI Letter to the Sons of Charles II 1

Greetings in the special love of Christ Jesus to the Lords Louis, Robert, and Raymond Berengar, revered sons of the famed King of Sicily, 2 from the poor little man called Brother Peter John Olivi. In life I am a sinner, in dress a Franciscan who ever gazes on the great deeds of Christ's Cross and glories triumphantly in his Passion. You are distinguished beyond all others and particularly endowed in a marvelous manner because of your royal and Catholic ancestry.

When we look at the order of the universe, the sacred law that Christ solemnly promulgated presents itself in many and admirable ways--"Unless the grain of wheat falls dead upon the ground, it will remain alone; if it has died, it will bear much fruit."3 This law is the foundation of the whole process of natural change and movement according to which the corruption of one thing is the generation of another. 4 By means of this law the potency of matter passes from the unformed to the formed state; even more remarkably, the very lack of form itself serves at the same time as the stable source and foundation of forms. In imperial fashion, every external act of God has its beginning from this law. The fundamental preamble of creation is that God make his work out of nothing and that works already created be subject to the rule of Almighty God in such a way 5 that they may be changed from one thing into another as he wishes and at his simple pleasure. This is why the root of all grace, both in the celestial and the terrestrial Church, stands in the center, that is, in humility. If I may so speak, it receives its foundation and its increase in the central nothing. From this divine law comes that hidden and ineffable mystery of our redemption by which the Only-Begotten Son of God the Father, equal to Him in all things, emptied himself and took the form of a servant, suffering the death of the cross for the just at the hands of the unjust. 6

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