Filtering by Category: Hans Urs von Balthasar

new book manuscript - god alone

Added on by Matthew Sutton.

Good news. I just submitted my next book maunscript - God Alone: Meditations on Holy Saturday, Mercy, and Compassion. I'm so excited for you all to read it. 93,000 words of goodness.

Here's a few lines from the Preface:

This book is about compassion — true, authentic compassion. The book comes most immediately out of my involvement with a religious movement called Heart’s Home who have used the spirituality of Adrienne von Speyr (1902–1967) and Catherine Doherty (1896–1985) to serve the poorest of the poor through offering their compassionate presence. ... I believe that God alone has loved us to the utmost extent and God alone can save us. This book in eleven chapters seeks to make a complete sketch of a compassionate theology of Holy Saturday in which one theological moment will be used to interpret the most important aspects of Christianity with the hope that this theology makes Christianity relevant to you. Or, put differently, you will come to know the compassionate presence of Jesus Christ in your life.

The book will be available through Fortress Press, who published my previous book. We will have some work to do to bring it to you as soon as possible, but please keep praying and following here for news about when it is available. I can't wait for you to read it!

balthasar on the creed

Added on by Matthew Sutton.

I loved using Hans Urs von Balthasar’s book, Credo: Medications on the Apostles Creed, for teaching the significant meanings of the most important creed for understanding Christianity. I don’t use the book any more for various reasons including curriculum changes with our intro to Christianity course. Still, I loved it and here are my reading assignment sheets for it:

Reading Comprehension Sheets:

  1. Introduction and Chapter 1: Assignment 1
  2. Chapters 2 - 7: Assignment 2
  3. Chapters 8 - 12: Assignment 3

Hans Urs von Balthasar. Credo: Meditations on the Apostle’s Creed. San Francisco: Ignatius Press. 2000. ISBN: 9780898708035 Paperback Kindle

beauty and the perfection of being

Added on by Matthew Sutton.

Beauty and the Perfection of Being - Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires

On October 23, 2014, I presented a review of Dynamic Transcendentals: Truth, Goodness, and Beauty from a Thomistic Perspective by my colleague, Alice Ramos.1

Before I begin, I’m reminded of a scene in Woody Allen’s Play It Again Sam (1972). youtube

Allen: That's quite a lovely Jackson Pollock, isn't it?

Woman: Yes, it is.

Allen: What does it say to you?

Woman: It restates the negativeness of the universe. The hideous lonely emptiness of existence. Nothingness. The predicament of man forced to live in a barren, godless eternity like a tiny flame flickering in an immense void with nothing but waste, horror, and degradation, forming a useless, bleak straitjacket in a black, absurd cosmos.

Allen: What are you doing Saturday night?

Woman: Committing suicide.

Allen: What about Friday night?

Here in this exchange we see the desolation of not seeing dynamic beauty as a participation in the God who is Beauty Itself. The consequence is suicidal.

Two Alices

Not much more illustrates the ideas in Prof. Ramos’ book than knowing that there are two Alice Ramoses (Ramoi) in the world. One on the cover of Playboy magazine and one a professor of philosophy. One has given her body for the pursuit of perverted beauty and the other has given her mind for the pursuit of perfected beauty. There is so much at stake in getting the purpose of beauty right, especially in this postmodern age.

Beauty as Form and Splendor

I love Alice Ramos’ book and think you should read it. I’m going to focus my comments on chapter four “Beauty and the Perfection of Being.”

The thesis of the chapter is: “The purpose of this essay will be to show how a consideration of the beautiful and its features coincides with a discussion of first and second perfections in Aquinas, how such a consideration of perfection is related to the order of that universe in its static and dynamic dimensions, and how this order is a work of divine wisdom and beauty, requiring in its turn the cooperation of intellectual creatures.”2

God as Divine Artist is Beauty Itself and he creates beautiful things who have their beginning and end in him. The Triune God has created the marble and slowly with hammer and chisel breaks it into a beautiful statue. It’s beginning is beautiful and its end is beautiful. But it has to go through the breaking.

But let’s take a step back.

Beauty for Aquinas is the coinciding of form and splendor; harmony and brilliance; due proportion and radiance; as such, it is objective.

Beauty is objectively located at the intersection of the two intersecting moments of form and splendor. And the encounter of these is also characterized by the two moments of beholding and of being enraptured - beholding and being beheld.

Next, Let us define first and second perfections in Aquinas.

First perfection - a thing is perfect in its substance - in its creation.

Second perfection - a thing is perfect in its end.

The going out of God and the coming in toward God (the exitus and reditus) are all of God’s perfect activity and therefor participate in his beauty.

God as pure Act is these two perfections - he is the Alpha and Omega - the beginning and the end.

Part two - The part where this becomes dynamic beauty is in the entelechy. Ordination of the universe to the end is in the intellectual being who is grasped and grasps toward its perfect end in God.

Attaining second perfection - performance of beings proper operations toward greater degree of actuality.

This perfection is done by grace, by created actuation by uncreated Act.3

But here’s where I want to add the more to this really well done chapter.

I want more Jesus.

Our theology of Beauty is a theology of Glory but that also means then a theology of the Cross.

What we first encounter of God is manifestation - revelation - God’s active potent presence expressed - that presence express love by being present.

From today’s reading - Paul prays for the Ephesian church that they may come “to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Eph 3:19). And what we know of the love of Christ is that he has become broken for me. So beauty (Christian beauty) must understand that “Unless the grain of wheat falls and dies” (Jn 12:24), there is no actualized, perfected beauty.

I am convinced that beauty is the glory of God manifesting itself through created beauty, but through its being broke, cracked, and torn open. God as Beauty Itself converts us about his truth and goodness through beauty.

“In the experiences of extraordinary beauty — whether in nature or in art — we are able to grasp a phenomenon in its distinctiveness that otherwise remains veiled. What we encounter in such an experience is as overwhelming as a miracle, something we will never get over.”4

In this passage, Balthasar helps me understand that extraordinary beauty can overwhelm by its own power of being beautiful. The miracle of beauty can make a person never get over what they have just seen.

We first enter into relational trust (love) before or during which we learn the good and the true.5

“God does not come primarily as a teacher for us (“true”), as a useful “redeemer” for us (“good”), but to display and to radiate himself, the splendor of his eternal triune love in that ‘disinterestedness’ that true love has in common with true beauty.”6

He is saying here that the human encounter with the revelation of God is known through his radiating beauty glory.

It is the glory of the Lord manifested in the cloud of smoke by day and the pillar of fire by night that convinces Israel to leave Egypt and head toward the promised land (Ex 13:17-22). It is the glory of the Lord that settles on Mount Sinai manifesting the potent, fiery presence of the Lord who gives the Law to Israel through Moses (Ex 19:16-20). It is the glory of the Lord that comes upon the first temple built by Solomon revealing God’s kingly dwelling in the Holy of Holies in Jerusalem (1 Kgs 8:1-11). It is the glory of the Lord that rushes upon Mary who conceives in her womb by the power of the Holy Spirit the Son of God incarnate (Lk 1:26-38). It is the glory of the Lord in his disfigured crucified state that after he breathes his last makes the earth quake and the temple curtain torn in two such that the veil between the world and the Holy of Holies reveals that the “glory of the Lord fills the whole earth” and the centurian representing the world believes “Truly this was the Son of God” (Mt 27:50-54). It is the glory of the Lord represented by tongues of fire that comes upon the apostles on the feast of Pentecost manifesting God’s dwelling presence with his Church (Acts 2:1-13). For von Balthasar, in the Old and New Testaments, it is the glory (beauty) of the Lord that manifests the Father’s potent presence in the world through the Son and Holy Spirit and reveals the goodness and truth about his love for the world. The Son of God did not just come to teach or to be useful, he came to reveal God’s love. That our perfection is in our end, through the cross of his grace.

Consider these two apples - which is more beautiful?

If we have a static view of beauty the whole apple; if we have Alice’s dynamic view - the answer is the second.

  1. Alice Ramos, Dynamic Transcendentals: Truth, Goodness, and Beauty from a Thomistic Perspective (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 2013).
  2. Ramos, Dynamic Transcendentals, 72.
  3. Matthew Lewis Sutton, “Mysterium Christi: The Christologies of Karl Rahner and Maurice de la Taille," International Journal of Systematic Theology, 10 (October 2008): 416-430.
  4. Hans Urs von Balthasar, Love Alone is Credible, trans. D. C. Schindler (San Francsico: Ignatius Press, 2004), 52-53.
  5. Here we see the Bonaventure moment in Balthasar.
  6. Hans Urs Von Balthasar, My Work: In Retrospect, trans. Kenneth Batinovich and Brian McNeil (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1993), 80.

god's compassion for our suffering

Added on by Matthew Sutton.

On March 9, 2013, I gave a powerful talk on God’s Compassion for Our Suffering during a conference on Three Things Talks at St. John’s University. I was so happy to speak about the compassion of our Father who reaches out to us through his Son and Holy Spirit.

In the course of the talk, I lead the audience through thinking about the story of the Prodigal Son (Lk 15:11-32).

Luke 15:11-32

The Parable of the Prodigal and His Brother

11 Then Jesus said, ‘There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger of them said to his father, “Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.” So he divided his property between them. 13 A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and travelled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. 14 When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. 16 He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. 17 But when he came to himself he said, “How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! 18 I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.’ ” 20 So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. 21 Then the son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” 22 But the father said to his slaves, “Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; 24 for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!” And they began to celebrate.

25 ‘Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. 27 He replied, “Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.” 28 Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. 29 But he answered his father, “Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!” 31 Then the father said to him, “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.” ’

a compelling trinitarian theology

Added on by Matthew Sutton.

Happily my article “A Compelling Trinitarian Theology: Hans Urs von Balthasar’s Theology of the Trinitarian Inversion and Reversion” has just been published by the International Journal of Systematic Theology. If your institution gives you access to the journal’s articles, you can find it here.

The abstract of the article:

In trinitarian theology, the problematic place of the Holy Spirit in the taxonomy of the immanent Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) does not seem to correspond to what is revealed in the economy (Father, Holy Spirit and Son). Because of this pneumatological problem, some theologians have abandoned the traditional trinitarian taxonomy. This approach, however, does not provide a finally convincing answer that is consistent with both the biblical witness and the theological tradition. In this article, I argue that Hans Urs von Balthasar’s theology of the trinitarian inversion and reversion does provide a convincing answer to the trinitarian taxonomy problem. After supporting my thesis by first referencing the traditional trinitarian taxonomy offered in Augustine’s de Trinitate and then examining the possibility of abandoning the taxonomy given by Jürgen Moltmann and Leonardo Boff, I will offer von Balthasar’s solution as the most compelling trinitarian taxonomy, especially in light of the ecumenical dialogue between the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches.