For the first time in Christian History, a man thoroughly understood the Beatitudes, of which the first one is, quite appropriately, the following: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Mt 5:3)
Without doubts, the monks had known poverty as an exercise, a sacrifice, an “asceticism”. But what was unknown to all except to Francis was that this kind of poverty simply means that the Godhead is Love.
The doctors of the Church, particularly St Augustine, meditated on the concept of the Godhead, on the depths of God within the image of the Trinity, but no one realized, as clearly as Francis did, what the Trinity means: God is the one who has nothing and the Godhead is the eternal light and love gushing forth from the Father into the Son, from the Son into the Father, and from the Father and the Son into the Holy Spirit.
Francis, who is not a doctor of the Church, who is not a scholar, speaks through images… He talks about the image of the Fire, an image that seizes him and runs through him, and this image seizes the Christian history allowing the Christian thought to overcome the impasse it was stuck in and move away from the Middle Age: if God is poverty, if God has nothing, if Godhead consists of a total and constant gift of itself, if this ocean of light and love is an eternal offering, a sharing among the three Persons, then God is no longer the Master, the Pantocrator, the Emperor and the King. God is simply love and love can only have a hold on love. All the tenderness of the world cannot do anything against a closed heart. All the tenderness of the world can only transform a life that is open to it; but if it is not, love is powerless.
This is what Francis taught us and what he lived out: the compassionate and loving God is also a God who is a victim, because God cannot do anything else but love: however, God’s love can be held in check and this check is the Cross.
“Therefore, it is true that God can die, that the creature has the power to kill God. And that’s why Francis could not stop weeping on the Passion of Jesus Christ”. He wept on his Passion until he became blind, when he sang the Canticle of Brother Sun just before he died, hardly seeing the twilight of the evening of 3 October 1226.
“Ah! He knows God is not the one who controls or overburdens us. He knows that God is the one who has given God self to us because God is nothing else but love. God cannot come back to us without our free consent, and if our heart is closed, if our soul is frozen, God is exiled, God can only die”. Thus the relationship between the humankind and God has really changed, because it is not about being ruled with a rod of iron by God but it is about working together with Love which always offers itself without imposing itself. It is about completing a creation which still remains imperfect. And, in fact, if God touches the world with God’s love, if God is the fruit of God’s tenderness, the world cannot exist in its fullness unless it offers love back and responds to God’s infinite tenderness.
Translation from the French is mine. Apologies for any mistakes.