Thursday, September 11, 2008
Summary: Hans Urs van Balthasar: A Theology of History
A Summary of
Hans Urs van Balthasar: A Theology of History
Any examination of the whole of history must present a subject that works within and shows itself within historical events if it is to prevent falling into gnosticism. This subject which provides the general norms can only be God or man.
It must be asked if the subject is man how does one differentiate within the philosophy of history between individual man and the essence of the human race? (St. Thomas solved this dilemma by referring to individuation in terms of matter.) The mysterious nature of communities and communion at the level of essence increases because individuals so joined are metephysically unique yet identical. This can only mean that
mankind has a common destiny. An individual's action is never irrelevant to the community. As man by his nature stands in relationships to other man this action must in some way influence
Is it possible for philosophy to explain how one man through a sin could affect every man to live after him? This man would be so dominant as to become a center of history. Or the
possibility that one man could give salvation to all and bring forth his own new doctrine? If all mankind shows the same essence how could one man have this influence? Only something philosophy could not anticipate could do this, a miracle. The union of God and man in one subject calls for a great, almost infinite, humbling of God who descends and is attached to one flesh that remains a man. The humanity of Christ is essential for the salvation of man. The 'absolute uniqueness' of God possesses a 'relative uniqueness,' man. Christ's words are not only the sounds He spoke but include His whole existence as He reveals the Father. Christ who governs history because He creates it, also is history, He becomes confined to space and time, here He reveals the Father. All of Christ's actions are revelation, He does nothing on His own. ('His self-consciousness never becomes an object for Him.') Time is real in the life of Christ. He did not anticipate the will of the Father but waited to see what the Father would bring Him. Christ must patiently await His hour which is also the Father's hour. Christ gives up His own sovereignty and places it in the hands of the Father. The events of Christ's life become a gift of the Father that sustains the Son. Christ in these events is not only vertically obedient to God but is horizontally obedient to those with natural authority.
The sins of man cause man to step outside of time. God intended to give man what is good but man was not patient and instead sought to get the good himself. Sin then consists in stepping outside of God's plan.
Christ's thirty plus years were unveiled after the resurrection when His divinity was shown to His followers. After He rose it was only believers who could see Him, whereas before He was seen by all. The two periods are related as 'concealment to unveiling.' Christ is historically present in His resurrected form in the sacraments. Christ's divinity is disguised or concealed even though it is fulfilled. Christ is also present in the Church which has become His body. The Church presents new truths that can never be exhausted because of the infinite nature of God. Within the Church are the two states of life that exist with and for each other and within the love of Christ and each contains the meaning of the other.
Man must imitate Mary, whose yielding to God was in no way passive, This surrender requires a great devotion to remove all that would prevent man from receiving God's word and
substance and living the message. Also, man must be called to a mission where what we may do is what God expects of us. The mission is the only way man fulfills the will of God.
Balthasar writes that the body of Christ, the eucharist, is the risen body of Jesus. When Jesus said the first mass at the Last Supper He has not yet suffered His passion. So how could the Eucharist at that time be the risen body? This is a mystery, (Prevenient grace)
Christ's humility before the Father is the same attitude we must take before God. At first glance this self-denial seems to only take and not give, but this allowed Christ to enjoy the surprises the Father would send. Our life, our relationship with God is deepened by being opened to these surprises.
In His glory Christ can only be seen by believers. He is present today in the poor but few can see Him there. His presence in the Church and His people is not apparent to the world except through grace. Christ once recognized must be believed.