Father Hans Urs von Balthasar: The Kneeling Theologian (A Handful of Catholics Book 3)

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The aim of the Ignatius Pew Missal, says editor Br. A wonderful exposition of the liturgical thought of Romano Guardini. Clarifying and exemplary [thanks to Fr Stravinskas on Guardini, Pieper et al]. Stravinskas rightly highlights that truth from which all else liturgical flows. Half a century of Novus Ordoism has brought about a fundamental shift in how the majority of baptized Catholics view the Church.

Even to many regular Sunday Mass attendees, Mass is regarded as a social gathering at which the priest is no longer an alter Christus offering the Holy Sacrifice on the Calvary that is the altar, on our behalf. Rather, to many he now has the function of an emcee at a social event, and sasdly many priests do little or nothing to disabuse us of this false notion. The result has not been a reanimation, but devastation.

In place of the liturgy, fruit of a continual development, they have placed a fabricated liturgy. They have deserted a vital process of growth and becoming in order to substitute a fabrication. They did not want to continue the development, the organic maturing of something living through the centuries, and they replaced it, in the manner of technical production, by a fabrication, a banal product of the moment. The emerging reality is that a counterfeit liturgy has produced a counterfeit Church with a counterfeit hierarchy that is in turn producing seismic schisms in doctrine and discipline.

Ad orientem, Latin, sacred music, tabernacle in the center, kneeling including at the altar rail, and silence. There is also at least one traditional form of the Mass each day. Kevin, you submit a list of things you say your parish does properly in its Novus Ordo Mass.

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I pray that every Catholic who wants to be faithful to Christ take some time to study the differences in these two Masses. I am blessed to be able to attend the Tridentine Rite Mass nearly every Sunday. I pray that this is a moment of insanity within our Church and that, paraphrasing Paul, above, our counterfeit liturgy and counterfeit hierarchy will be eclipsed. If so, it will be another act of a merciful God towards an undeserving people. Such a large gap had to be filled by something. It all seems like tragic irony considering that it all came coincidental to what we can imagine to be the moral homosexual decline in priestly formation.

Reading this three things jumped out immediately as to why the liturgy has been such a trial for so long.

Instead of the heart being guided by reason the liturgists have tried to appeal to emotions. The liturgy has also been guided by the cult of the slob. And the liturgy has been directed by pride, egoism, and narcissism. Reams of works critical of the Novus Ordo are available for those who actually want to know the truth about who and why this abomination was foisted upon us.

I would not dishonor God by attending this abominable service. It is an invention of man, man-centered and as fake as our daily fake news. They have deserted a vital process … to substitute a fabrication. They replaced it … by a fabrication, a banal product of the moment. Oh, yes, Pope Paul VI, one of our instant saints, the supreme wreckovator of our age.

The reform was going badly enough, but got much, much worse due to the active intervention of Paul VI, and his gullibility to the machinations of Annibale Bugnini. For love, she would always put others first. I prefer to live in faith. As tuberculosis ravaged her body, new miseries struck: doubts about her profession, about the goodness of creation, even about the intentions of God.

S o ended the speeded-up life of St. The Story of a Soul was also, as Cavanaugh takes pains to point out, heavily bowdlerized. This is not to suggest that her unexpurgated autobiography is free of mawkishness. Even now few can read the book without wincing at the innumerable metaphors about flowers, little angels, little queens, and the like. But these are infelicities, not fatal flaws. The book, largely through word of mouth, became a best-seller; the public, it seems, does not mind a bit of sugar in its saints.

She was beatified in and, after letters attesting to miracles started arriving at the Vatican at the rate of one thousand per day, canonized in The Story of a Soul found its way into millions of homes, entrancing Protestants and even Hindus, Buddhists, and Muslims , as well as Catholics. She had become not only the greatest and most provocative saint of modern times, but the most popular as well.

His manner is dry, formal, and understated. Why, then, should she rank alongside Augustine, Aquinas, and Anselm as a doctor ecclesiae? Payne begins, in workmanlike fashion, by recounting the etymological history of the title. During the patristic era, it became an honorific attached to those outstanding in evangelical skill and zeal. This handful of doctors soon became a multitude, as Aquinas, Bonaventure, John Chrysostom, Basil, Gregory Nazianzen, and others joined the ranks.

The list, now thirty-three strong, ranges from the famous Bernard of Clairvaux, John of the Cross to the obscure Ephraim the Syrian, Lawrence of Brindisi. All satisfy the three defining criteria of outstanding holiness, eminence of doctrine, and an official proclamation by pope or general church council. D oes the Little Flower meet these qualifications?

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From the very beginning, she had her advocates; the abbot of Gethsemane Abbey in Louisville, Kentucky, seems to have been the first to propose her for the doctorate, just three years after her canonization. The first worldwide petition circulated in and gathered, within a year, the signatures of bishops. The assembled experts had no difficulty dealing with the first doctoral criterion of outstanding sanctity. One must first acknowledge that a new kind of doctor has emerged in the Church, a master of spirituality rather than theology, and that the definition of doctor ecclesiae must evolve to keep pace.

This granted, her preeminence becomes apparent. Her Little Way, with its radical insistence upon childlikeness and absolute love, constitutes an original and profound elaboration of gospel principles. The influence of her doctrine is enormous and seems likely to last. In Divini Amoris Scientia , his apostolic letter announcing the doctorate, the Pope goes even further. U nless, of course, one sees her as a closet neurotic, a masochist and fetishist, a hysteric driven by forces beyond her control.

It is what she does with these events that raises eyebrows, then hackles. Here and there, Harrison seems to realize the inadequacy of her approach. In one passage Harrison suggests indirectly, by way of rhetorical questions, that neurosis and supernatural revelation might mingle in the same religious experience. But this she fails to do. The battered reader may turn with relief from Harrison to the lucid, down-to-earth presentations of Bernard Bro and Thomas Keating, each of whom advances, albeit incrementally, our understanding of the saint.

The shortest of the books under review, it has the merits of concision, clarity, and simplicity. We can say, 'Lord, Lord! Furthermore, the mere proclamation of the word of salvation — which is incumbent upon us — will not elicit faith if the herald himself does not fashion his life into a dramatic word of testimony. Neither faith, contemplation nor kerygma can dispense us from action.

And the libretto of God's saving drama which we call Holy Scripture is worthless in itself unless, in the Holy Spirit, it is constantly mediating between the drama beyond and the drama here. It is not a self-sufficient armchair drama; its very form shows it to be a multifarious testimony pointing to an action at its core that goes beyond all words.

This study completes Aidan Nichols' presentation of the great theological trilogy of Hans Urs von Balthasar. Here is a comprehensive summary and interpretation of Balthasar's logic. Aidan Nichols also considers the way in which the early volume The Truth of the World points forward to the theological aesthetics and dramatics and also how Theo-Logic's concluding volumes pick up the themes of The Glory of the Lord and Theo-Drama. He looks particularly at how Balthasar relates revelation of divine beauty and divine goodness to the unfolding of divine truth.

Excerpt: With the present work, I come to the end of my task of providing Balthasar's prolix trilogy - Herrlichkeit, Theodramatik, Theologik - with an interpretative summary. The last member of the trio, the theological logic, is also the shortest. But since it contains, in its opening volume, Balthasar's metaphysics and epistemology - a synthesis of Christian Scholasticism and the classical German philosophical tradition, theologically re-worked - it is hardly the least demanding.

The effort of understanding is rewarded, however, with a fuller grasp of Balthasar's contentions in the aesthetics and dramatics, as well as in the remaining volumes of Theologik itself. But of logic as ordinarily understood - whether the traditional syllogistic variety, or the modal logic favoured in the later Middle Ages as again today, or the symbolic logic of the mathematically inclined, they will find little if any trace in Say It Is Pentecost. As with Hegel, Balthasar's logic is his ontology, his study of being - though to be sure there are discussions here of language, in which being comes to expression.

Not that the second and third volumes of Theologik - on the difference made to ontology by Christology and Pneumatology - are an afterthought in this respect. For Balthasar, as his separate Epilog to the trilogy, also discussed here, points out, understanding of the missions of Son and Spirit not only confirms the judgments about the world's being as divine epiphany made in the opening ontology but also shows the being of the world flowering under the sun of transfiguring grace.

Balthasar did not his complete his theological logic until he had written his theological aesthetics and dramatics. But before he started on his aesthetics and dramatics he had already written the first volume of that logic. Containing as it does his general ontology, it is important for its expression of certain general principles of Christian thought later presupposed by the theological aesthetics and dramatics, and for introducing us for the first time to some of the root philosophical concepts set to theological use in those works!

In the foreword to the original, , edition, Balthasar insists that he does not want to be so original as in any way to displace those fundamental principles relevant to the theme of truth which the masters of the Western tradition, from Aristotle to Aquinas, have put forward, and which subsequent Christian philosophy from the high mediaeval period to the time of writing has the more solidly established. And yet, alternatively, human thought will surely never exhaust the truth which is its own proper object.

So Balthasar's aim will be to introduce into the traditional theses some 'new developments', developments which cohere with what he calls the 'ever renewed perspective' that the passage of time brings in its train. The ethos of his study will be faithfulness to the spirit rather than the letter of the philosophia perennis. When re-published in as the opening volume of a trilogy under the overall title of Theologik, the foreword to Wahrheit der Welt, 'The Truth of the World', turned out to have expanded so as to take in Balthasar's now widened conception, the second and third instalments of which would be called respectively 'The Truth of God' and 'The Spirit of Truth'.

The overall aim of Balthasar's theological logic — in effect his ontology, for, like Hegel, he can think of no logic which is not 'onto-logic', the truth of being — is now re-defined in Trinitarian terms. A 'theo-logic' addresses the question of what is meant by 'truth' in the context. But Balthasar regards this as a question which can hardly be raised until we have clarified what we mean by the 'truth of being' in the first place, for this is the most fundamental question of all, unavoidable if we are to grasp something of the Logos, the foundation of 'logic'. So despite the concern of volumes II and III of the Theologik with Father, Son and Spirit, and the re-definition of theological truth which their self-manifestation brings in its train, Balthasar remained convinced of the appositeness of Volume I, which links his work to Scholastic metaphysics, and indeed to the entire tradition of ontological thinking, both pagan and Christian, in the Western world.

As he writes, situating the task of Volume I in the context of the three great serial trilogies as a whole:. From the outset, the whole trilogy has been articulated in terms of the transcendental determinations of being, and indeed with reference to the analogical relationship which they bear, by their validity and their form, in the being of the world, and in divine Being: there is a correspondence in the 'aesthetics' between worldly 'beauty' and divine 'glory', and in the 'dramatics' between a worldly-finite and a divinely-infinite freedom.

Here, accordingly, in the theological logic we shall be pondering the relation between the structure of created truth and that of divine truth. Following this, we must look into the question as to whether divine truth can represent itself within the structures of created truth and in diverse forms come to expression there. Theological findings about God's glory, goodness and truth naturally presuppose not only a formalistic or gnoseological but also an ontological structure in the being of the world.

Without philosophy, no theology. The settled conviction of Catholic divinity that it cannot do without a philosophical mediation if it is both to grasp as fully as it can the content of its own divine resources and 'give a reason for the hope that is in' believers faced with a sceptical world cf. In the Foreword to the ontological trilogy Balthasar makes it clear that the question of the analogy of being, so far from constituting a separated natural theology, paralleling, in uneasy independence, the deliverances of revealed doctrine, is intimately connected with the latter.

For ontological thinking is crucially relevant to the Incarnation. The Incarnation is literally unthinkable unless a positive answer can be indicated to the question, Is 'worldly logos' — the intelligibility implicit in the world's being — capable of bearing the weight of the divine Logos were he to make himself known in his own world? And anticipating somewhat his own response, Balthasar speaks of the way in which being has a 'polarity structure' — a term he drew from his one-time mentor, the Polono-German Jesuit Erich Przywara to whose contrasting poles of essence and existence, general and individual, he adds others which come to light both in aesthetics such as form and radiance and ethics like obedience and freedom.

This polarity structure of all existence, while manifesting the ontological difference between the being of the creature and that of the Creator because, owing to the divine simplicity, the latter 'is' all that he 'has' , also suggests a 'positive moment' where the creature displays a certain likeness and so comparability with its God. For between these poles there plays a fullness of inner life — a continuous epiphany of the divine liveliness.

Still, for Balthasar, to show how finite being might be considered the image and likeness of absolute being is only possible once we have begun to think in a thoroughgoing Trinitarian fashion. The first volume, Wahrheit der Welt, will therefore play a role at once modest yet crucial. Exploration of the inner-worldly structure of truth —that is, of the ever-deeper strata of being as no less ever-deepening ways in which truth explicates itself to the knower: this is Balthasar's subject. He will remind readers of many points familiar to the ancients and the Fathers yet subsequently lost to view — without, however, departing from the main lines of the Thomist tradition, the 'great' tradition, as he terms it.

Religion Christianity

Balthasar realises that, to the reader unforewarned, it may seem strange that he can pass, in the second volume of Theologik, to an unashamedly theological account of the same topic: treating the truth God has made known through his free revelation as the final norm of worldly truth. The first volume simply presumes that divine revelation does not cancel out worldly truth but rather fulfils it in raising it up. First, and taking up a major emphasis of his principal Francophone teacher, Henri de Lubac:7 in its concrete existence the world is already placed in a supernatural dimension by the grace of God.

There is no such thing as a theologically neutral world for philosophy to investigate. It follows that, while philosophy may certainly abstract from the supernatural in order to lay out some basic structures of the world and our knowledge thereof, the closer it comes in this task to its object in the latter's concrete character, and the deeper it penetrates our equally concrete modes of knowledge, the more it will have to do with theological data — whether the philosopher concerned is aware of this or not.

For the supernatural is at work as a leaven in the natural, or is present in another metaphor as its atmosphere. It would be foolish, in Balthasar's opinion, to attempt to banish supernatural truth from the philosophical enterprise. It is one thing for a Plato or an Aristotle to incorporate de iure theological elements within a de facto philosophy without being able to know that is what they were doing.

It is quite another for one to undertake, after the Gospel's definitive illumination of rationality, a 'purification' of philosophy in a secularising spirit — though of course such a reductive return to a purely immanentist philosophical truth is the common denominator linking modern rationalisms of various kinds. A Catholic thinker by contrast will, in Balthasar's words:.

Moreover, and in particular, there may be truths pertaining to the 'first gift' of created nature which are available now only through the enlightening power of revelation. Balthasar proposes this as a way of understanding the First Vaticanum's claim that the divine existence is accessible to human reason. His hopes, at this juncture, of the possible conversion to Catholicism of the great 'Neo-Orthodox' Protestant dogmatician Karl Barth may have influenced him here, for such an interpretation would have enabled that doughty exponent of revelatione sola, 'by revelation alone', to accept the Council's dogmatic decree on faith and reason.

In the world of antiquity, so Balthasar notes, people havered indecisively between a polytheism of personally conceived deities, as with Homer, and an impersonal mysticism of unity, as in Plotinus. The only way to overcome the unsatisfactory finitude of the many gods appeared to be through the positing of a non-personal principle of unity behind the divine world.

By contrast, after the coming of Christianity, a thinker like Aquinas is able to speak of a 'natural' desire for the vision of the only and personal God. But did such a desire come to light naturally or supernaturally? Leaving that question open, Balthasar for his part will set out to describe the 'truth of the world' without distinguishing what in his understanding comes from natural, and what from supernatural, sources. In practice, in the construction of a Christian ontology, this demarcation line cannot be precisely drawn.

This does not mean, however, as Balthasar is at pains to point out, that he proposes to sink philosophy and theology as mere ingredients in some vast soup, for in the remaining volumes of the ontological trilogy his task of describing truth as conditioned by the Incarnation and Pentecost will be completely determined by the historic revelation.

Indeed, Balthasar uses this opportunity to enter a caveat against any 'Rahnerian' misunderstanding of his project. There will be no question here, as in Karl Rahner's Theological Idealism, of dismembering the divine self-manifestation into on the one hand 'categorial' and on the other 'transcendental' aspects, such that the line of particular historical development which links Christ, the Spirit and the Church is to be distinguished as merely 'categorial' from some more comprehensive, historically all-embracing, 'transcendental' sphere, with the concomitant danger that Christian truth becomes at best a key to, and at worst simply an illustration of, what is in any case already given in the universal God—world relationship.

Here, looking back from the vantage point of , he could appeal to his own Theology of History, published in ,11 to suggest an alternative scheme. The mystery of the active influence of Christ's Holy Spirit must itself be understood in so universal a way and Christ, in his historical and resurrectional reality, be grasped as so much the 'concrete universal' that it strikes us as perfectly natural for the radiant light of the Spirit of Pentecost and the Christ of the Paschal Mystery to penetrate to the furthest boundaries of space and time.

But there is a second reason too which legitimates the apparently effortless transition, within the Theologik, from the philosophical programme of Volume I to the Christological and Pneumatological interpretation of the truth of the world within the mystery of God in volumes II and III. The inner fulness of philosophical truth — quite apart from any theological light which may fall upon it — is much richer so Balthasar claims than many post-Renaissance philosophical systems will concede.

If, following the example given by St Thomas in his integration of the contrasting Platonic and Aristotelian world-views, a variety of philosophies, each with their own favoured insights, are permitted to 'infiltrate' each other, then natural reality has a chance to appear in its own largeness, fullness and manysidedness.

And this in turn makes possible a proper evaluation of the work of grace, for grace can only display itself in its true colours where just such a 'fulness' offers itself as its raw material — as the matter' which grace will penetrate, form, raise up and perfect in its activity. If this preparatory philosophical homework is neglected, then theology will be the sufferer. Balthasar's ideal, then, is that philosophy and theology should 'draw life from each other'. A philosophy that renounces the transcendent ends up, he believes, of necessity, with what amounts to forms and varieties of Positivism, sterile systems that go by various names: functionalism, logicism, linguistic analysis.

Then truth itself as a transcendental determination of being becomes perfectly superfluous. Theology finds itself left hanging in the air, and can take refuge only in the most unsatisfactory of solutions, whether some kind of existentialism, or an exegetical rationalism, or a political theology that turns belief into praxis. Here what are at best partial aspects of theological truth, now left un-integrated, lead into the sand. But, Balthasar thinks, a programme of re-integrating philosophy with theology is only plausible if the analogy between divine prototype and worldly reflection is restored to its former centrality in Western thought.

Kant and Nietzsche were not far wrong in centering their attack on traditional metaphysics on the transcendentals — for the latter give us access to the heart of the God—world relation. And in any case clear-eyed modern man, contemplating his world, can only treat the transcendentals as illusory: where is this all-governing truth, goodness and beauty?

Alas, the perversions of being and its basic determinations which human freedom has whether maliciously or negligently perpetrated in the history of culture have had the effect of suppressing our awareness of the mysterious depth of reality, and so leading us to misdescribe it. In reality, in the last analysis, everything knowable must have a 'mysteric' character, on the simple grounds that all objects of knowledge have a creaturely character, which must mean that the final truth of all things is 'hidden in the mind of the Creator who alone may utter [their] eternal names. Clark Publishers Hardcover — continues with this survey of his early writings, which are predominantly philosophical in character.

So far they have received very little attention. Indeed, it is doubtful whether more than a handful of people have read them throughout. But they are not only of considerable interest in and for themselves. More than this, they provide an indispensable clue to the genesis and development of Balthasar's thought. It investigates Hans Urs von Balthasar's early explorations of music and the other arts, before launching into a ramifying but controlled survey of his often highly original interpretations of major thinkers in the European tradition from the Early Modern period until the s.

Taking in a rich range of figures from classical German philosophers to dramatists, novelists and other major thinkers, Nichols shows how Balthasar seeks not only to discover elements of truth, goodness and beauty in these figures, but also to prove that writers who had lost a living contact with the biblical revelation carried by Christianity were incapable of reconstituting a synthesis of ideas about the goal of man and the universe, which were taken for granted in the High Medieval epoch. At the same time, Nichols's exploration demonstrates how the modern writers Balthasar investigates add, in his view, crucial enhancements of human understanding which must be factored into any new overall vision of the future of the human soul and indeed the human species in its cosmic environment.

Above all, Apokalypse der deutschen Seele, the vast three-volume work which dominated Balthasar's life and work as a young man, furnishes numerous concepts and images that proved indispensable to the crafting of his trilogy and the rest of his theological work. In its light the scope and implications of his theology look markedly different. It is easier to see how he sifted late modern thought for its possible contributions to orthodox theology as well as its snares and tripwires.

It also emerges how presciently he trod. These chapters are investigations of a doctor of the Church for the postmodern age. For Balthasar, what is attractive about the modern period is that it completes the Scholastic clarification of what the Fathers achieved. It makes it plain that God's sovereignty and indeed totality is not won at the cost of the world. God is so much God that he can be himself in everything that is not he. The patristic sense of the objectivity of divine revelation in its representation of God does not become in Christian modernity subjectivism and anthropocentrism as some would have it.

Balthasar was thinking there of the criticisms made of theological modernity both by exclusively neo-patristic theologians and by Thomists of the strict observance. On the contrary, this patristic sense of objectivity and representation comes to its climax in the modern Christian sense of subjectivity wherever — and this is a vital qualification — this sense is properly contextualized by a consciousness of Christian mission.

It is a mistake to think that the Fathers have a theocentric, ontological, liturgical piety and the moderns an anthropological, subjective, psychological one. Here Balthasar will most likely have in mind the Benedictine theologians of the school of Maria Laach. The difference between them lies really only in this: the Fathers, owing to Platonically originated limitations, did not yet understand subjectivity as itself a function of the total Christian representation.

Over against the erroneous naturalism of our times — here now at last Balthasar formulates his programme — we have to make the fundamental law of dying into the new redeemed world of Christ tangible to our contemporaries. For this the Fathers and the patristic ethos will always remain our most lively image. We shall never have a better model to follow — once we have been tutored by Thomas in how to appreciate this best. But we must carry out this same dying specifically as a personal — in the fullest sense —mission into a world affirmed in its humanity and 'worldliness', a world which is the locus of epiphany of the ever-greater and ever more incomprehensible God.

In these phrases, Balthasar foreshadowed, without knowing it, his literary oeuvre and even the Secular Institute he was to found with the woman he met during the following year: Adrienne von Speyr. Here are marching orders for a lifetime of dogmatic work. What remained before Balthasar could dive into the depths was a reckoning with his own cultural tradition, the world of Germanistik.

A few remarks by way of general orientation may be in place before we take a deep breath and launch into the great sea of this massive work.

For the Balthasar of Apokalypse, aesthetic experience — the subject of his earliest essays — only leads into religious experience by way of a radical purification. The chief point of such purification is to ensure that aesthetic appreciation does not lead in the contrary direction to religion, by an incongruous exaltation of the 'I'.

What one should be seeking is not, with Idealism, the non-finite 'transcendental' ego nor, with Romanticism, the depths of the soul, but rather, with the Gospel, the ever-greater God in his sovereign beauty. As a Flemish interpreter of Balthasar's project puts it: 'Only then can religious experience enjoyed on the basis of aesthetic find its way back to its original source. Otherwise the religiosity of the "presentiment of the infinite" deviates irremediably towards an anthropological aesthetic, where human beauty finally encounters nothing save its own image.

This might seem to imply that Balthasar would be best advised to leave these writers alone. But a number of the German Idealists had already recognized the need for a 'moment' of self-abandonment in the genesis of thought and action. Finite spirit must submit to infinite Spirit so as really to be spirit in the Infinite.

It was widely recognized that the Absolute cannot be truly infinite if the Absolute and we are mutually 'heteronomous', each a law unto ourselves. In this fashion, Idealism recovered the religious sense of what was in many ways its parent philosophy, neo-Platonism. But Balthasar parted company with Idealism whenever it espoused a doctrine of what he termed 'mystical potentiality': treating the human being as a potency that is self-creative in its mystic grandeur. This was the Idealists' version of the drive to pseudo-spiritual self-deification he had already identified as the chief symptom of original sin in 'Patristik, Scholastik und wir'.

Here grace was completely misconstrued as self-elevation to the level of the Absolute. For such a misjudged philosophy, man, conquering his own limits, would grant himself the boon of true freedom, his victory placing him in contact with the Absolute itself. Neo-Platonism gets twisted out of true. No longer as with the genuine article are we brought to fulfilment by gracious favour of the One, which allows us to participate in its fullness.

Rather, by a modern caricature, it is we ourselves in our own becoming who are the source of all that is sublime in the world. Whatever Balthasar's criticisms of the Platonist tradition in other contexts, he considered that, once its ties with neo-Platonism are broken, Idealism slides into anthropocentrism of an inner-worldly kind.

Catholicism. Art. Distraction.

This may be in Promethean fashion, with an emphasis on self-mastery, self-emancipation. Or it may be in a Dionysian way, by ecstatic transport to the heights of consciousness. Thinking of Kant, Fichte, Schelling, Nietzsche, Balthasar finds their idea of beauty: too tragic, and also too artificial, to be the revelation of the moving beauty of the God who is Love who, under the deformed traits of his Suffering Servant, comes to share human misery. Neither the high and mighty status of Prometheus the ravisher nor the tragic personality of Dionysus broken by his rapture, bears comparison with the divine-human figure in whom the unnamed God speaks his name, by way of the radiance of his grace and glory of his kenosis.

That splendid formulation by Georges de Schrijver can provide the reader with a helpful orientation in the ramifying enquiry that follows. How, then, does Balthasar proceed in this work? His introduction goes some way toward explaining his fundamental method. Though the language of eschatology may only be allusive, what it houses is 'the meaning and kernel of the whole'.

Its indirectness argues not at all against its objective truth and universal validity.

Balthasar Introduction

Each sphere of knowledge has its own 'relative eschaton': what is most final and comprehensive in it. A decent methodology is concerned with protecting the jurisdiction of each such 'science' — as is well-known, the German word Wissenschaft extends well beyond the natural sciences — in its own special realm.


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It is plausible to say, Balthasar suggests, that as understanding is progressively unified we shall find such 'relative eschata' themselves pointing to an ultimate and unconditional eschaton, just as every eschatology — every account of what is ultimately valid — points tb 'a logos [a true thought] about the eternal eschaton'.

Is philosophy the appropriate discipline to provide this 'logos' or true thinking about ultimate reality? As the study of 'being qua being' and so an exploration which transcends all 'categorial' — the term is Aristotle's — distinctions between things in the world, metaphysical philosophy, at any rate, might seem an obvious candidate for this task. But philosophy requires detachment, something not necessarily in place here, while the 'apocalypse of the soul' always seeks that reality which is the most concrete of all — a demand that 'being' as apparently the lowest common denominator of things would seem ill-prepared to meet.

Still, eschatology can certainly use philosophy as a means, ein Mittel. At the same time, however, eschatology can also invoke both theology — an account of the unique God in his address to a humanity consisting of particular persons, and art — whose theme is 'showing what is most universal in an unrepeatable moment'. Philosophy, theology, art, then: these three witnesses agree. Or at least this is the hope.

Brad Jersak - The Hopeful Inclusivism of Von Balthasar and Kallistos Ware

Balthasar intends to exploit their resources in the service of 'eschatology' in the sense he gives that word. This is, of course, just what we would expect from our scanning of his early essays. Now the situation eschatology addresses is that of the individual, time-bound human being whose destiny is mysteric in its proportions. Hence the relevance to our topic not only of philosophical and theological enquiry but also of literature — for this drama of existence is the latter's chief stuff. Here we catch a glimpse of the future author of Theodramatik, Balthasar's 'theological dramatics'.

The soul discovers itself in encounter with other things: the environment, other persons, history, God. These, however, are not means to its own self-realization shades of St Augustine's distinction between means and ends — realities it is appropriate to use, and realities it is appropriate to enjoy. Nonetheless, they are factors in its destiny.

They are realities in whose path it is placed and which in one way or another it has to make its own. And yet the 'horizon' to which particular persons must be pointed is not, in this enquiry, that of individuals as such, but of humanity at large. Hence the need to incorporate in the discussion not only history — including the history of salvation, but also ideas — not least those that find their genesis in revealed truth.

Balthasar could, he says, have dealt with the topic of eschatology in a 'positive' fashion, mapping the sources with which religious studies presents us when we survey beliefs about ultimate destiny in different cultures or philosophical systems. Fascinating though such a 'scientific' study might be, its focus on the 'possible objective conditions of another world' merits Christ's warning to his disciples that it is not for them to know 'times and seasons' in the divine scenario.

The advantage of an 'existential' eschatology — counterposed here to its 'positive' rival — is that it seeks to explain only what will clarify the situation in which the soul encounters an ultimate dimension. Such an approach cannot dispense with the mythological language studied by comparative religion, but it differs from comparative religion in treating 'existentiality' as the 'measure of the livingness of eschatological myth'.

It accepts myth to the degree that the latter is the necessary expression of lived existence, lebendige Dasein. But the aim throughout is, very simply, to show the soul's relation to its last end. Obviously, something needs to be said by way of comment here on how Balthasar uses in this work the slippery — and, in theological English, hopelessly compromised — term 'myth'.

In a summary of Apokalypse, Balthasar elsewhere offered bemused readers definite help. A 'myth', he wrote, is the form of truth which gives expression to a world-interpreting or religious idea in equal distance from 'pure' concept and 'pure' percept [sensuous image]. The 'Christ-myth' is the eternal Truth become flesh, time, [biological] conception: it is not, therefore, in any sense unhistorical, but as a mythos can nevertheless enter into a conversation with the mystical sense of ultimacy in German Idealism and the 'philosophies of life' Bergson, Nietzsche, etc.

In a simpler formulation by J. Tolkien which influenced C. Lewis: with Christianity, myth — in this case, the myth of a humanized, and dying and rising, God — became fact — in the Incarnation and the Atonement. But it did so without ceasing to be myth: a form of truth expressed as only eternal truth can be, in a way which is neither concept nor image but draws on both.

An 'existential' approach, as Balthasar understands it, does not mean one uninformed by the reflections of past writers. Indeed, as he now explains, he proposes to draw on a range of philosophers and poets, chiefly in the German-speaking realm, from the time of the Enlightenment to his own. Their philosophical and aesthetic understanding of the human condition will suggest ways towards a sense of what is final. By itself, however, that can hardly be decisive. Without the 'religious pole' — and he adds, in its 'concrete appearance as Christianity' — a simply human eschatology will be incomplete.

It calls for some answer coming from without — whether that answer be profound agreement or outright contradiction. Balthasar candidly admits there is an obvious sense that the book will not be 'real theology' — even if towards its conclusion it takes up a more confessionally Christian stance. It will offer no 'theoretical further development of the Word of God in human systematics, but only a bare portrayal of the standing, Stehen, of the soul in this Word'. If literary images throw light on the Bildung, the formative culture, within which intellectual life is played out, philosophy can be said itself to explore the 'fullness of being' by means of 'essential images', Wesensbilder.

Nor does Balthasar rule out a place in his investigation for the natural sciences, from physics to pathology. They too can sometimes cross the limits of empirical observation and light up the wider situation of human life in time. He is anxious to distinguish his project from that stigmatized by his mentor Erich Przywara as 'eschatologism': an outlook which is interested in events only as divine judgment bears on them, and so deprives the world, natural and human, of intrinsic value, out of enmity for 'earth and culture'. Balthasar intends to avoid that, as well as its contrary — the attempt to eternalize time by finding beatitude in culture.

Finding the right balancing point between polarities the term was Pryzwara's favourite is crucial to Balthasar's manner in Apokalypse. Three more instances of it merit mention before concluding an introduction to this massive work. Balthasar has already touched on the polarity of social and individual eschatology. In fact, this division can only be a distinction. Whether social or individual, it is all a matter of the same concrete spirit either in its relative uniqueness or in its relative bondedness in community.



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