Bonaventure's "real distinction" between essence and blessedness

blessedness and power belong alone to God by essence, but our blessedness comes through participation (67). This is a delightful variation on the scholastic/Aristotelian distinction between essential and participatory being. Aquinas famously argues in Summa Theologiae 1.3.4 that creatures exist only by participation, whereas only God exists by his essence, his essence being nothing other than his existence. Where creatures have being, God is being. In Bonaventure’s hands, the application of this distinction to the subject matter of Ecclesiastes results in a distinction between God being blessedness by his essence and creatures enjoying blessedness, much as they enjoy their being—for being isblessedness—to the degree that they participate in God who is blessedness himself. As Bonaventure will go on to explain, it is this blessedness-by-participation, moreover, that constitutes the metaphysical “vanity” of creation.

 

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