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Friar’s E-Spirations: John Duns Scotus: His View of Christ, Part Two

I would like to add a few thoughts to the E-spiration I wrote last month regarding John Duns Scotus’ teaching that Christ is the final goal of creation. Indeed, Christ provides the pattern and model for the whole of creation. The Letters of St. Paul, moreover, speak about Christ’s primacy in these matters.

In his Letter to the Colossians, for example, we read Paul’s most celebrated passage about the “primacy of Christ,” that is, about Christ’s having first place and being the central focus of creation: “[Christ] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For in him were created all things in heaven and on earth, the visible and invisible…all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:15-17).

Franciscans and the “Primacy of Christ”

Most Franciscans have, in one way or another, embraced this vision. Whether conscious of it or not, we tend to see all created things as pieces of a beautiful puzzle that only makes sense when fitted into the larger framework, that is, into the image of Christ.

For several years, I’ve kept an audiotape on St. Paul’s letters to the Ephesians and Colossians by Stephen Doyle, OFM, a well-known Franciscan Scripture scholar and popular preacher. I’ve often listened to these tapes because I find in them an engaging explanation of the Franciscan/Scotist approach to the primacy of Christ. Franciscan spirituality simply exudes naturally from this friar as he talks about Paul’s view of Christ, “the firstborn of all creation.”

According to Father Stephen, “There is nothing in this world that makes sense apart from Jesus Christ” and “whatever exists in this world was made for the sake of Jesus Christ.” He waxes poetic: “If we looked around and listened to this world about us, and if the singing birds could be formed into a chorus and the rustling breeze and tinkling rain could have a voice and the roar of the ocean could be put into words, they would all have one thing to say: ‘We were made for the sake of Jesus Christ.’”

More from Father Stephen

The friar also offers a good answer to the riddle: How can it be that Christ, who came after Adam and Eve, nonetheless came before them in the mind of God? How can the Incarnate Word be first and last at the same time? Borrowing a popular analogy found in St. Francis de Sales’ Treatise on the Love of God, Father Stephen explains:

If you wanted to make wine, what would you do? First of all, you would have to plant a vineyard. Then you would have to fertilize the vines. You would have to trim them, pick the grapes and let them ferment. Finally, you would get some wine.

What was the first thing on your mind? The wine.
What was the last thing you got? The wine.

In the same way, Jesus’ late arrival on the scene, notes Father Stephen, does not contradict his holding first place in God’s mind at the creation of the universe. Christ is the first and the last, the Alpha and the Omega.

I hope my two E-pirations help explain John Duns Scotus’ awesome view of Christ as the “head over all things” (Ephesians 1:22) and the glorious destination toward which all creation is straining.

Friar Jack’s discussion of John Duns Scotus will conclude in his next E-spiration.

Dear Friar Jim: Beautifully stated! The truth will set you free! Father Leo

Dear Friar Jim: Thank you for your thoughts on Reconciliation and Lent. It’s so easy to forget the power of this sacrament. Your words that God is about forgiveness and new life and not about blame are a powerful reminder of God’s intense love for us. May God continue to bless you in your work. Marion

Dear Friar Jim: Thank you for this lovely reflection. I am a catechist preparing a group of motivated children for first Reconciliation and Eucharist — a catechist who is sometimes a little discouraged that a few of the parents seem less motivated than their children. I hope sharing your reflection in my weekly parent email may spark a new flame in their hearts, as it did in mine. Sharon

Dear Friar Jim: As usual, you’ve made my day. Thank you for reminding us that Jesus awaits us with a greeting of peace rather than blame when we approach this important sacrament, especially during the coming Lenten season. Please keep us in your prayers as you are in ours. Marianna

A:Thanks to one and all for the kind words! We are blessed, as you all mentioned, to have the Sacrament of Reconciliation as part of the practice of our faith. Jesus knew being honest with ourselves would not be easy. Yet, the whole Gospel is about self-honesty and recognition of God’s love and care for us. Friar Jim