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Hans Urs Von Balthasar - Two Sources of Friendship

After a mother has smiled for some time at her child, it will begin to smile back; she has
awakened love in its heart, and in waking the child to love, she awakens also recognition. The
sense impressions, at first empty of meaning round the “thou;” the whole apparatus of
knowledge and understanding comes into play with its power to perceive and to conceive
because the play of love has been started by the mother. In the same way, God explains himself
before man as love. Love radiates from God and instills the light in the heart of man: precisely a
light in which he can perceive this—absolute—love.

These notes were developed from Person to Person: Friendship and Love in the Life and
Theology of Hans Urs Von Balthasar, Alba House (July 1999).

I. Divine-human relationship prefigured in mother and child

Sense of oneness. Beginning with the womb, mother and child exist together almost is if they
were one. And yet, the child is a physically and psychologically separate person.

Glimpse of divine intention. The mother-child relationship points to a deeper reality: the child’s
identity in God. This identity is formed by God’s intention for the child worked out in reality.
This intention is realized in the loving communion with another. Within the human interpersonal
communion, the relationship is open to the divine. In the loving communion with the mother, the
child glimpses the possibility of greatest good.

Openness to the other. True self-consciousness, an awakening illustrated by the miracle of a

mother’s smile, demands an attitude of openness to the “other.”

Boundless possibility of the person. Self-awareness is the result of a gift received. “The love
between a “thou” and an “I” inaugurates the reality of a world which is deeper than simple being
because of its absolute boundlessness and plenitude.

Fading of the primary gaze. Over time this innate recognition of love due to the call/gaze of the
mother can weaken and weather. Friendship may become a place where we relearn that loving
gaze. It is a gift from God to reawaken us to the mystery of His love. In some ways, this may be
what Jesus is referring to when he tells us to become little children in order to enter the kingdom
of God.

II. Triune relationship expressed in the action of Jesus Christ.

A true understanding of friendship is only possible in Christ.

Friendship involves mission.

Christocentric. True friendship implies a dynamic mutual loving encounter with the person of
Jesus Christ.

Love originates in God. The love shared between humans does not have its origin in man.
Human love, though imperfect, finds its roots in divine perfect love. Revealed in Christ, divine
love is not static. Rather the love of God is dynamic because it is triune.
Human expression of divine call. At the very source of consciousness of self there is a call from
God mediated by the call of another.

Jesus unites human-divine love. In the Christ event the command to love God become
indissolubly linked with the love for man. Jesus in word and action reveals the love for neighbor.

Love is dependent on God. Without the love of God, I am not free to simply be. Instead I am
always seeking to become and am unable to love freely. Only in the love of God can I truly learn
to love my neighbor as myself. Peter’s denial teaches us that we are incapable of love. It is only
by God’s mercy and grace.

God initiates love. The love of God revealed in Christ through the cross and resurrection, reveals
that God initiates the action of love. I am participating in His action. This connects to the divine
mission of reconciling all things in Christ.

Love leads to suffering. Our participation in God’s love leads us to willingly embrace/share in
His suffering. Love proceeds from and leads back to the cross.
David Benner – Friendship and Spiritual Formation
Notes from Sacred Companions: The Gift of Spiritual Friendship & Direction by David Benner
and Larry Crabb, InterVarsity Press (October 2004).

Spiritual friendship is not a reward for good behavior. It is a gift of God.

I. Spiritual formation is the process of fully becoming the person we were created to be.
Jesus leads us on this path of spiritual formation, and the route we follow is uniquely

A. Becoming a great love

B. Becoming whole and holy
C. Becoming our true self in Jesus Christ

II. God gives us friends to share this journey. They help us discern the presence of God and
the leading the Holy Spirit.
Spiritual Friendship is a gift of not doing: not interrupting, not attempting to solve
problems, not prematurely or erroneously advising, not assuming what works for us will
work for others.

A. Hospitality – This gift of taking another person into my space, into my life.
Soul Host – Cultivates a place of quiet within themselves. From this inner stillness they can offer
gifts of presence, stillness, safety and love.
B. Presence – This gift is to be present to another person and to the Holy Spirit.
C. Dialogue - This is beyond the chitchat of conversation to expressing the core of who we are
with one another.

III. Ideals of Spiritual Friendship

A. Love
B. Honesty
C. Intimacy (various forms of intimacy open the door for friends to share the deep reserves of
their heart; this requires attentiveness to our inner world; the danger to intimacy is
possessiveness; friendship should allow a healthy amount of space)
Spiritual intimacy
Emotional Intimacy
Sexual Intimacy
Intellectual Intimacy
Vocational Intimacy
Recreational Intimacy (laugh and play together)
Creative Intimacy
Aesthetic Intimacy
Social Justice Intimacy
D. Mutuality
E. Accompaniment (walking the journey together)
Paul O’Callaghan - Thoughts on Friendship
From The Feat of Friendship by Paul O’Callaghan, Eighth Day Pr (March 2002).

Requirements for Friendship

A. Fundamental honesty – This may begin in a limited way and progress as the friendship
B. Sufficient Wholeness – Real friendship are never seized by the coercion of neediness, they are
discovered in the exercise of free authenticity.
C. Naturalness – A lack of self-consciousness, allowing friends to make profound acts of self-
disclosure without hesitation.

Characteristics of Friendship
A. Free flow of conversation between souls. Conversation is not simply exchange of ideas but a
process of sharing intimacy and exploring who we are through mutual revelation and
B. Friendship can only be realized in absolute freedom. There can be no inducement or force of
C. Friends help constitute our moral development as well as our identity. “Friends are those who
by being lovingly and patiently attentive to us make us into a person we could never have
become on our own.”

Paul Wadell writes:

The moral life is often such retrospective activity because sooner or later we try to
understand what has made us who we are. This leads us to certain people. We remember
them, we cherish them, we are grateful to them because we realize we could not have
been ourselves without them. We call these people friends…When we think of the moral
life, it is not surprising we think of them. They taught us the good. They formed us.
Through their love they chiseled in us qualities we could not have reached alone. When
we think of the moral life, we do not remember only the decision we sometimes had to
make, even the problems that may have beset us, we also remember our friends and the
life that was shared between us. There seemed to be nothing better than to be with them,
that somehow being with them was being our self, that somehow who we were was
exactly the friendships that meant so much to us.

D. Friendship provides a place to share our struggles.

E. Friends help to draw out hidden aspects of our person from creative gifts to unformed moral
intimations. Through dialogue, they help us to express and solidify these potentialities and
convictions. Through them we see what we could not see before.
F. Distinctiveness – it develops it own language and its own secrets. (Secrecy is not kept from
others but rather the unique characteristics of the relationship.) In deep friendships, friends have
a sense that their friend actually dwells in them. David Ford calls this “the community of the
heart.” We live in their presence whether we are physically present or not. This is manifested in
sudden and dramatic ways. Like two friends who have the same idea at the same time. Even
though they may be separated by large distances, sometimes they may find they’re both reading
the same books, having the same experiences, dealing with the same problems, and even buying
the same products. This gives friends the sense of sharing the same soul.
G. The relationship between friends has an ontological reality. The sum is greater than the parts.
H. An expression of our personhood.
In relationships, we transcend our created physical limitations by uniting to the
uncreatedness of Jesus Christ.
The reality of shared experience does not exhaust the personhood of each friend.
In the relationship, we discover part of our own personhood.
I. Our particularity of love with one person does not exclude the world. Actually the reverse is
true. Love that concentrates on one person as the expression of human nature, “sees in this
person the hypostasis through which all men and all things are loved.”

Healthy Friendships Avoid

A. Over identification/possessiveness by maintaining distance. This is why two friends should be
fundamentally sound—otherwise the neediness of one will begin to control the relationship for
satisfaction. The other is not a true person but merely a role in the world of the needy individual.
B. Detailed expectations – This can become another way to control the person. Unhealthy
expectations is a false substitute for a commitment based in values, ideals and morals.
C. Mutual involvement in mundane obligations (like going into business together) can pose a
D. Crossing sexual boundaries – Sexual union eliminates the space between the two people. This
can be particularly dangerous in male/female relationships but it also poses a threat in same sex
relationships particularly two women. Women tend to share on a more intimate level than men
plus if they both share pain cause by women it may push them closer together, causing them to
eroticize their friendship.

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