OXFORD THEOLOGICAL MONOGRAPHS

Editorial Committee J. DAY P. S. FIDDES O. M. T. O’DONOVAN M. J. EDWARDS D. N. J. MACCULLOCH C. C. ROWLAND

O X F O RD T HEOLOGI CAL MONOGRA PH S CHRISTIAN MORAL REALISM Natural Law, Narrative, Virtue, and the Gospel Rufus Black (2001) KARL RAHNER AND IGNAT IAN SPIRITUALITY Philip Endean (2001) E Z E K I E L AND THE ETHI CS OF EXILE Andrew Mein (2001) THEODORE THE ST OUDITE The Ordering of Holiness Roman Cholij (2002) H I P P O LY T U S B E T W E E N E A S T A N D W E S T The Commentaries and the Provenance of the Corpus J. A. Cerrato (2002) FA I T H , R E A S O N , A N D R E V E L AT I O N I N T H E THOUGHT OF THEODORE BEZA Jeffrey Mallinson (2003) RICHARD HOOKER AND REFORMED THEOLOGY A Study of Reason, Will, and Grace Nigel Voak (2003) THE COUNTESS OF HUNTINGDON’S CONNEXION Alan Harding (2003) THE A PPROPRIATION O F D IV IN E LIFE I N C YRIL O F AL E X A N D R IA Daniel A. Keating (2004) T H E M A C A R I A N L E G AC Y The Place of Macarius-Symeon in the Eastern ChristianTradition Marcus Plested (2004) P S A L M O D Y A N D P R AY E R I N T H E W R I T I N G S O F E VAG R I U S P O N T IC U S Luke Dysinger, OSB (2004) O R IG E N ON T H E S O N G O F S O N G S A S T H E S P I R I T O F SCRIPTURE The Bridegroom’s Perfect Marriage-Song J. Christopher King (2004)

The Eschatology of Hans Urs von Balthasar
Being as Communion

NICHOLAS J. HEALY

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Great Clarendon Street, Oxford ox2 6dp Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford. If furthers the University’s objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide in Oxford New York Auckland Cape Town Dar es Salaam Hong Kong Karachi Kuala Lumpur Madrid Melbourne Mexico City Nairobi New Delhi Shanghai Taipei Toronto With offices in Argentina Austria Brazil Chile Czech Republic France Greece Guatemala Hungary Italy Japan Poland Portugal Singapore South Korea Switzerland Thailand Turkey Ukraine Vietnam Oxford is a registered trade mark of Oxford University Press in the UK and in certain other countries Published in the United States by Oxford University Press Inc., New York ß Nicholas J. Healy 2005 The moral rights of the author have been asserted Database right Oxford University Press (maker) First published 2005 All rights reserved. No part of this may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior permission in writing of Oxford University Press, or as expressly permitted by law, or under terms agreed with the appropriate reprographics rights organization. Enquiries concerning reproduction outside the scope of the above should be sent to the Rights Department, Oxford University Press, at the address above You must not circulate this book in any other binding or cover and you must impose this same condition on any acquirer British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data Data available Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data Data to follow Typeset by SPI Publisher Services, Pondicherry, India. Printed in Great Britain by Biddles Ltd., King’s Lynn, Norfolk ISBN 0–19–927836–9 9780 19 927836 7 1 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

For the completion of this book, I owe a special debt of gratitude to several individuals. Above all, I would like to thank my parents, who generously supported many years of study. To my teacher and adviser, Thomas Weinandy, I owe thanks for his wisdom and boundless patience. I would also like to thank Fergus Kerr and David L. Schindler, who examined this essay in its doctoral guise, for their corrections and searching questions. An extra debt of gratitude is due to the latter, whose writings first introduced me to the thought of Hans Urs von Balthasar, and whose generosity of spirit and service to the Church remain the guiding example for my own work as a teacher. I would like to thank the editors of the Oxford Theological Monographs series for their encouragement and interest in my work. Special thanks are due to Paul S. Fiddes for reading the entire manuscript and suggesting many improvements. I would also like to express my gratitude to Lucy Qureshi and the editorial staff of Oxford University Press. Among the many teachers and friends to whom I am indebted I would like to mention Alice von Hildebrand and John F. Crosby, under whose tutelage I began to study philosophy; Anton Schmid, who both taught me German and shared the depth of his knowledge of von Balthasar; the members of the ‘Arkwood Group’, for seven years of fruitful conversation; and Adrian Walker, who read through the entire manuscript, correcting and improving my work on every level. He was able to discern my fundamental intention better than I. Thanks are also due to Adrian Walker for allowing me to use his manuscript translation of Theologik II, which eventually will be the published version of this work. Finally, I would like to thank David C. Schindler for years of true friendship and for his book Hans Urs von Balthasar and The Dramatic Structure of Truth: A Philosophical Investigation, which is the main source and inspiration for this study. ˇ This book is dedicated to my wife Maruska.
N.J.H. Gaming, Austria Advent, 2004

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CONTENTS

Abbreviations 1. The Idea of a Christian Eschatology 2. The Analogy of Being 3. The Hypostatic Union 4. Within the Divine Life General Conclusion: Eschatology as Communion Bibliography Works by Hans Urs von Balthasar Select writings on relevant themes in Balthasar Other works cited Index

viii 1 19 91 159 210 217 217 220 222 230

ABBREVIATIONS

hans urs von balthasar
ADS i–iii CathPhil CSL GL i–vii MP MTG MW OT TD i–v TheoHist TL i–iii UBC Apokalypse der deutschen Seele ‘On the Tasks of Catholic Philosophy in Our Time’ The Christian State of Life The Glory of the Lord, vols. i–vii Mysterium Paschale ‘Movement Toward God’ My Work: In Retrospect Our Task: A Report and Plan Theo-Drama, vols. i–v A Theology of History Theologik, vols. i–iii Unless You Become Like This Child

thomas aquinas
Comp. theol. Contra gent. De ente De pot. De ver. In Boeth. de heb. In Boeth. de trin. In div. nom. In Sent. Summa theol. Compendium theologium Summa contra gentiles De ente et essentia Quaestiones disputatae de potentia dei Quaestiones disputatae de veritate In Boethii de hebdomadibus In Boethii de trinitate In Dionysii de divinis nominibus In Libros Sententiarum Summa theologiae

other
DS PG PL ¨ Enchiridion Symbolorum, ed. Denzinger-Schonmetzer Patrologia Graeca, ed. J.-P Migne Patrologia Latina, ed. J.-P Migne

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The Idea of a Christian Eschatology
Introduction At the conclusion of the final volume of the Theo-Drama, Hans Urs von Balthasar tentatively proposes that we consider the question of eternal damnation not so much from the anthropological perspective—‘what does man lose if he loses God?’—as from the standpoint of God: ‘What does God lose if he loses man?’1 Now, to pose such a question implies that it is really possible for God to ‘lose’ something, and that such a loss would be a tragedy for God. According to Balthasar, the eschaton, the ultimate destiny of the world, is dramatic not only for creation but also for God. From the time of its birth, philosophy has engaged in criticism of mythological and anthropomorphic notions of the divinity. Xenophanes of Colophon (565–470 bc) was the first to launch an attack on the ‘old hackneyed tales’ of Homer and Hesiod.2 The anthropomorphic character of the mythical gods was seen as irreconcilable with a truly rational conception of the divine. In the Republic, Plato banishes the dramatic poets from the polis, noting the ‘long-standing quarrel between poetry and philosophy’.3 Only those myths which have submitted to the demands of critical reason are welcome: ‘If dramatic poetry, whose end is to give pleasure, can show good reason why it should exist in a wellgoverned society, we for our part should welcome it back.’4 At first glance, it appears as though Balthasar has sided with the dramatic poets against the philosophers. At the centre of his trilogy is a five-volume Theo-Drama which structures the central dogmatic tracts on Christology, soteriology, and eschatology
Balthasar, Theo-Drama: Theological Dramatic Theory, v. The Final Act [¼ TD v], trans. Graham Harrison (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1998), 506. 2 Xenophanes, fr. 1 (Diels), cited in The Presocratics, ed. Philip Wheelwright (New York: The Odyssey Press, 1966), 35. 3 Plato, The Republic, in Complete Works, ed. John M. Cooper (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 1997), 607b. 4 Ibid. 607c.
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within a horizon of dramatic theory.5 Not only does Balthasar make use of dramatic categories to describe God’s relation to creation, but God’s very nature as Trinity is understood by analogy to drama. ‘It is’, he writes, ‘the drama of the ‘‘emptying’’ of the Father’s heart, in the generation of the Son, that contains and surpasses all possible drama between God and the world.’6 It is, then, perhaps surprising to find Balthasar pointing to the metaphysics of Thomas Aquinas as the indispensable foundation for his own understanding of the relationship between God and creation. Balthasar’s proposal for a dramatic eschatology in which God himself ‘hopes for the salvation of the world’7 has provoked sharp criticism from disciples of Thomas Aquinas.8 Yet Balthasar increasingly relied on Thomas’s account of the real distinction between being and essence to explicate the God–world relation—a relation established at creation and consummated in

5 Composed from 1961 to 1987, the trilogy consists of fifteen volumes: Herrlichkeit, in seven volumes (translated into English as The Glory of the Lord ¼ GL), Theodramatik in five volumes (Theo-Drama in English ¼ TD), and Theologik (Theo-Logic in English ¼ TL) in three volumes. The numbering of the volumes in the English translation is different from the original German. The final German version has three volumes for Herrlichkeit: an introductory volume, a double-volume on ‘theological styles’ and a concluding ‘volume’ that actually consists of four books. The final German version of Theodramatik has four volumes: a prolegomenon, a double-volume, and two additional volumes. The complete list of German titles and corresponding English translations may be found in the bibliography. 6 ¨ TD iv. 327: ‘Vielmehr ist zu sagen, daß mit der ‘‘Entleerung’’ des vaterlichen Herzens ¨ beim Hervorbringen des Sohnes jedes mogliche Drama zwischen Gott und einer Welt immer schon miteinbeschlossen und u ¨berholt ist’, Theodramatik, iii. Die Handlung (Einsiedeln: Johannes Verlag, 1980), 304. 7 See TD v. 181–8. 8 In a recent article in The Thomist, ‘Balthasar and the Theodramatic Enrichment of the Trinity’, 64 (2000): 499–519, Guy Mansini argues that Balthasar’s account of the Trinity undermines the classical act/potency distinction and thereby threatens the transcendence and perfection of God. In short, Mansini charges that Balthasar’s claim that God can ‘receive’ from his creatures necessitates positing change in God. And, according to Mansini, ‘[t]here is no analysis of change, a location of the principles of change, except that of Aristotle. . . . Change requires passive potency; it requires composition in the subject of change. To speak of change that is not like this, that does not involve a passage from potency to act, is not to speak of anything at all’, 518. Needless to say, we do not agree that Mansini’s Aristotle provides an exhaustive account of the meaning of ‘change’ and the meaning of ‘act’—an account that is in fact refined and deepened in significant ways by Aquinas himself. Balthasar’s creative, transformative retrieval of this Thomistic deepening will, we argue, provide a philosophically rigorous underpinning for Balthasar’s ‘enrichment of the Trinity’ that avoids the intellectual absurdities into which Mansini believes they necessarily fall. See also Bernhard Blankenhorn, ‘Balthasar’s Method of Divine Naming’, Nova et Vetera, 1 (2003), 246–67; and Matthew Levering, Scripture and Metaphysics: Aquimas and the Renewal of Trinitarian Theology (Malden, Mass.: Blackwell Publishing, 2004).

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the eschaton.9 ‘The non-subsistence of the actus essendi’, writes Balthasar, ‘is the creative medium which suffices for God to utter His kenotic word of the cross and glory by sending his Son into the world to experience death and Resurrection.’10 We can therefore formulate the import of Balthasar’s proposal for a theodramatic eschatology in the following more technical terms: the Thomistic analogy of being, fulfilled in the person of Christ, is both the abiding precondition of, and is ultimately disclosed in, the drama between God and the world whose form takes shape within Christ’s return to the Father through his being given for and into the world in the Holy Spirit. This book represents a study of the meaning of ‘the end’ in the writings of Hans Urs von Balthasar that highlights both the originality and the fruitfulness of his vision of a reciprocal drama between God and the world. I will argue that the ultimate form of the end, and thus the measure of all that is meant by eschatology, is given in Christ’s eucharistic and pneumatic gift of himself—a gift that simultaneously lays bare the mystery of God’s trinitarian life and enables Christ to ‘return’ to the Father in communion with the whole of creation. Insofar as Christ reveals the trinitarian life and the mystery of creation in their dramatic interplay, he establishes the form of eschatology as a participation in God’s engagement with the world. Under the sign of the Holy Spirit, Christian eschatology involves a sharing in Christ’s double movement into the world and, together with the world, into God. For those who would follow Christ with eschatological definitiveness, the path back to God is into the heart of the world. My aim, then, is not a comprehensive portrayal of Balthasar’s doctrine of the last things in all of its details.11 This means that
9 In the metaphysics volume of The Glory of the Lord (GL iv. 393), Balthasar describes the ‘definition of esse and its relation to essences’ as the ‘major creative achievement’ of Thomas, whom he elsewhere identifies as ‘the greatest of Christian thinkers’, ‘On the Tasks of Catholic Philosophy in Our Time’ [¼ CathPhil], Communio: International Catholic Review, 20 (1993): 147–87, at 159. In a brief introduction to his writings composed shortly before his death, Balthasar suggests that the ‘real distinction’ of Thomas Aquinas is ‘the source of all the religious and philosophical thought of humanity’, My Work: In Retrospect [¼ MW] (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1993), 112. 10 GL v. 631–2 [trans. altered]. Balthasar returns to this seminal idea in Epilog (Einsiedeln: Johannes Verlag, 1987), 95–6: ‘Incarnation and the cross have their ‘‘place’’ where the ‘‘actus completus non subsistens’’ releases the created real into being, which only realizes itself in individual entities.’ 11 Such an overview of Balthasar’s eschatology has already been admirably achieved by Karl Wallner in Gott als Eschaton: Trinitarische Dramatik als Voraussetzung gottlicher Universalitat bei ¨ ¨ Hans Urs von Balthasar (Vienna: Heiligenkreuz Verlag, 1992).

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many topics usually treated in tractate theology, as well as some of the better-known themes of Balthasar’s theology itself (notably, Christ’s descent into hell), will be not be considered for their own sake, but only insofar as they illuminate the central axis of integration: Christ’s ‘return’ to the Father in the Spirit through a eucharistic gift to the world as the nature and form of Christian eschatology. This is fitting inasmuch as the meaning of Balthasar’s doctrine of the end cannot be confined to theology understood in a narrowly academic sense. Thus, without blurring the distinction between theology and other disciplines, a critical engagement with Balthasar’s writings on the eschaton such as I propose must attend to what might be called the original philosophical, indeed, metaphysical scope of Balthasar’s doctrine of the last things. This doctrine, far from being a narrow theological positivism, reveals the ultimate meaning of being as such. In his introductory essay to Balthasar at the End of Modernity, Fergus Kerr remarks that ‘the deepest problem in Roman Catholic theology since Vatican II, has been the disappearance of serious engagement with philosophy’.12 Kerr goes on to claim that, in spite of Balthasar’s constant engagement with a broad spectrum of philosophers in nearly all of his theological works, the major weakness in Balthasar’s thought is the lack of a genuine philosophy. The problem, according to Kerr, is that in Balthasar ‘metaphysics seems to be absorbed into theology’.13 ‘It is hard to see much development of Catholic Christian theology, or of Balthasar’s theology in particular,’ Kerr concludes, ‘without serious re-engagement with metaphysics.’14 Following, at least partially, Kerr’s suggestion, I intend to demonstrate that Balthasar’s understanding of ‘the end’ includes a rigorous, and properly philosophical, reflection on being. In this sense, this study will help to fill a lacuna that exists in secondary scholarship on Balthasar.15
12 Fergus Kerr, ‘Foreword: Addressing this ‘‘Giddy Synthesis’’ ’, in Balthasar at the End of Modernity (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1999), 1–13, at 13. 13 Ibid. 13. Kerr draws support for his judgement from Donald MacKinnon, ‘Some Reflections on Hans Urs von Balthasar’s Christology with Special Reference to Theodramatik ii/2, iii, and iv’, in John Riches (ed.), The Analogy of Beauty: The Theology of Hans Urs von Balthasar (ed.) (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1986), 164–79. 14 Ibid. 13. 15 Among the growing body of monographs and dissertations on Balthasar’s thought in English, there is, to our knowledge, only one study of Balthasar’s philosophy: D. C. Schindler, Hans Urs von Batlhasar and the Dramatic Structure of Truth. A Philosophical Investigation (New York: Fordham University Press, 2004).

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There are several reasons why Balthasar’s theology has not yet been assimilated by contemporary theology. In the first place there is the formidable breadth of his writings coupled with a difficult style reminiscent of German Idealism. Then there is the complex issue of his relation to the medical doctor and mystic Adrienne von Speyr. Balthasar repeatedly insisted that the unifying centre of his life and his writings can only be discerned in light of the ecclesial mission he received together with von Speyr, whose writings he valued above his own.16 To these difficulties I would add the problem of a persistent theological rationalism or positivism in contemporary theology. Following Gustav Siewerth, Balthasar argues that the crisis in contemporary culture is due in part to the heritage of late medieval rationalism which reduced the mystery of being to a univocal concept.17 This suggests one of the fundamental contributions that this study hopes to make: to show how, for Balthasar, the mystery of being is both the precondition and abiding medium for theological reflection.18 In this spirit I propose to show that Balthasar’s writings on eschatology contain a renewal of metaphysics capable of shedding light on the ultimate nature of reality as a whole from within the dramatic engagement
16 ‘[T]he activity of being a writer remains and will always remain, in the working out of my life, a secondary function, something faute de mieux. At its centre there is a completely different interest: the task of renewing the Church through the formation of new communities that unite the radical Christian life of conformity to the evangelical counsels of Jesus with existence in the midst of the world. . . . All my activity as a writer is subordinated to this task; if authorship had to give way before the urgency of the task of which I have spoken, to me it would not seem as if anything had been lost; no, much would have been gained’, MW 95. In this same essay, Balthasar adds a ‘concluding word’ in order to ‘remove the impression that in the books that I have mentioned, and in others, I have simply expounded my own convictions. The greater part of so much of what I have written is a translation of what is present in more immediate, less technical fashion in the powerful work of Adrienne von Speyr’, MW 105. 17 See Gustav Siewerth, Das Schicksal der Metaphysik von Thomas von Aquin bis Heidegger (Einsiedeln: Johannes Verlag, 1959). Catherine Pickstock has also traced the connection between Duns Scotus’s univocal conception of being and various forms of modern rationalism and positivism: After Writing: On the Liturgical Consummation of Philosophy (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1998). 18 In TD ii. 286, Balthasar describes ‘a certain blindness to the primal value of being. This sick blindness is called Positivism, and it arises from regarding reality as raising no questions, being ‘‘just there’’—for the phrase ‘‘the given’’ already says too much, since there is no one who ‘‘gives’’. In fact the only question that arises is: ‘‘What can we do with this material?’’ When men are blind to the further question, it signifies the death of philosophy and even the death of theology. For philosophy begins with the astonished realization that I am this particular individual in being and goes on to see all other existent entities together with me in being; that is, it begins with the sense of wonder that, astonishingly, I am ‘‘gifted’’, the recipient of ‘‘gifts’’.’

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of God and the world in Christ, and, in this way, can contribute unexpected resources for the ecclesial renewal envisaged by the Second Vatican Council and its missionary ‘opening to the world’. Balthasar’s proposal for a theo-dramatic eschatology obviously has significant areas of contact with the themes and concerns of traditional eschatology. The point that I wish to highlight is simply that Balthasar always revisits these themes and concerns in a way that releases the metaphysical import of their properly theological content. In this respect, we can say that Balthasar’s eschatology is a creative response to what might be called the three constitutive tensions in Christian eschatology, tensions that have called forth a rich diversity of theological models in the tradition. Accordingly, my first step in the present chapter is to identify these three constitutive tensions in order to exhibit the main architectonic questions that Balthasar’s eschatology is meant to address in their systematic, indeed metaphysical implications. Having done so, I will provide a brief overview of Balthasar’s writings in the area of eschatology in order to highlight the direction of my reading of the Swiss theologian relative to his own treatment of the topic. Staging the Question of Eschatology Christian eschatology is traversed by (at least) three constitutive tensions. These tensions ineliminably structure Christian discourse about ‘the end’. But their inevitability does not dictate how Christian theologians must respond, or have responded, to them. Certainly, the temptation to univocity is always near at hand in the status viatorum. Our purpose here is not so much to resolve these tensions as it is to indicate their basic shape, to suggest just what the poles are that Christian eschatology must strive to hold together. I hope to show in this essay the fruitfulness of Balthasar’s eschatology as an original attempt to grapple with these tensions and some of the questions and positions that they have generated in the history of theological reflection on the ‘last things’.19
19 There are, of course, additional tensions that have structured theological reflection on the last things; for example, the tension between immortality of the soul and resurrection of the body, and the tension between judgement immediately after death and judgement at a cosmic ‘last day’. With regard to the former tension, Joseph Ratzinger introduces the

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The first difficulty in Christian eschatology, often characterized in terms of a tension between ‘realized’ and ‘future’ eschatology, involves a determination of the meaning of ‘the end’. For traditional dogmatics, eschatology, or a doctrine of the ‘last things’, concerns those future events surrounding an individual’s death and the return of Christ at the end of the world—judgement, eternal salvation or damnation, the resurrection of the body, etc.20 Beginning with the work of Johannes Weiss at the end of the nineteenth century, this conception of eschatology has undergone a radical transformation.21 According to Weiss, Jesus’ message was essentially apocalyptic. That is, Jesus had (mistakenly) expected the imminent arrival of God’s kingdom in the form of an inner-worldly cataclysm that would bring an end to the present evil age.22 Weiss’s thesis was soon supported by Albert Schweitzer, whose Von Reimarus zu Wrede (1906) traced research into the life of Jesus from its beginnings in the German Enlightenment down to the end of the nineteenth century.23 His conclusion is worth recalling:
The study of the life of Jesus has had a curious history. It set out in quest of the historical Jesus, believing that when it found Him it could bring Him straight into our time as a teacher and savior. It loosed the bands by which He had been riveted for centuries to the stony rocks of ecclesiastical doctrine, and rejoiced to see life and movement coming into the figure once more . . . But He does not stay; He passes by our time and returns to His own.24

This Christ who ‘returns to His own [time]’ understood his mission solely in terms of announcing the in-breaking of the kingdom of God and the imminent end of the world. Now, one of the reasons why the thesis of Weiss and Schweitzer has exercised such a powerful influence on twentieth-century exegesis and theology is that even those who reject their conclusions
current state of the question in Catholic theology in Eschatology: Death and Eternal Life, trans. Michael Waldstein (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1988), 104–61, 241–71.
20 See Christian Schutz, ‘Allgemeine Grundlegung der Eschatologie’, in Mysterium ¨ Salutis, v (Zurich: Benziger, 1976), 553–700. 21 Johannes Weiss, Jesus’ Proclamation of the Kingdom of God, trans. and ed. Richard Hyde Hiers and David Larrimore Holland (London: SCM Press, 1971). 22 See Norman Perrin, The Kingdom of God in the Teaching of Jesus (London: SCM Press, 1963), 16–23. 23 Albert Schweitzer, The Quest of the Historical Jesus: A Critical Study of its Progress from Reimarus to Wrede (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998). 24 Ibid. 399.

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have tended to accept their point of departure; namely, an authentically Christian eschatology must be grounded in a consideration of Jesus’ own relation to the end.25 As a result, the theme of eschatology has ceased to be a discreet treatise situated at the end of dogmatics but concerns the form and content of the whole of Christian revelation and theology. Karl Barth’s oft-quoted statement illustrates this shift in perspective: ‘A Christianity which is not wholly eschatology and nothing but eschatology has nothing to do with Christ.’26 Among the initial responses to the ‘thoroughgoing (konsequente) eschatology’ proposed by Weiss and Schweitzer, the writings of C. H. Dodd and Rudolf Bultmann deserve special mention. Dodd, a British New Testament scholar, maintained that Jesus’ message about the kingdom cannot be reduced to apocalyptic expectation; the message is rather, ‘the kingdom has arrived’. In his seminal work, Parables of the Kingdom (1935), Dodd argues that Jesus ‘used parables to enforce and illustrate the idea that the Kingdom of God had come upon men there and then. The inconceivable had happened: history had become the vehicle of the eternal.’27 Dodd coined the phrase ‘realized eschatology’ to express the thesis that the life and death of Jesus ‘are eschatological events in the full sense; that is to say, they are . . . unique and final events, in which the God beyond history intervened conclusively to reveal his Kingdom on earth’.28 In Germany, the exegete and philosopher Rudolf Bultmann dealt with the problem of Jesus’ imminent expectation by transposing the eschatological imagery of the New Testament into a call for existential authenticity in the present moment. ‘Always in your present’, he writes, ‘lies the meaning of history. . . . In every moment slumbers the possibility of being the eschatological moment.’29 Even more radically than with Dodd, in Bultmann’s
25 For a survey of the development of eschatology in the twentieth century, see Chris¨ toph Schwobel, ‘Last Things First? The Century of Eschatology in Retrospect’, in David Fergusson and Marcel Sarot (eds.), The Future as God’s Gift: Explorations in Christian Eschatology (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 2000). 26 Karl Barth, The Epistle to the Romans, 6th edn., trans. Edwyn C. Hoskyns (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1933), 314. 27 C. H. Dodd, The Parables of the Kingdom, rev. edn. (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1961), 159. 28 C. H. Dodd, History and the Gospel (London: Nisbet & Co., 1938), 35. 29 Rudolph Bultmann, History and Eschatology, Gifford Lectures, 1955 (Edinburgh: University Press, 1957), 155.

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thought the concept of eschatology is stripped of any horizontal temporal dimension, and refers instead to a mode of human existence:
The coming of the Kingdom of God is not therefore actually an event in the course of time, which will come within time and to which a man will be able to take up a position, or even hold himself neutral. . . . If man stands in the crisis of decision, and if this is the essential characteristic of his being as a man, then indeed every hour is the last hour, and it is understandable that for Jesus the whole contemporary mythology should be pressed into the service of this conception of human existence.30

The publication in 1964 of Jurgen Moltmann’s Theology of Hope ¨ marks the beginning of a new epoch in Christian eschatology. Against what he takes to be certain excesses of realized eschatology, Moltmann attempts to recover the importance of history and the struggle for a future liberation as the medium of Christian eschatology. ‘From first to last’, he writes, ‘and not merely in epilogue, Christianity is eschatology, is hope, forward looking and forward moving, and therefore also revolutionizing and transforming the present.’31 Moltmann thus raises crucial questions for a ‘realized’ eschatology (Dodd or Bultmann), ‘which lays such stress on the definite nature of the Christ-event that the future history of the world is simply ‘‘swallowed up’’. Instead he argues that the mission of Christ to establish his kingdom in the world awaits further fulfilment.’32 One of the most significant and fruitful aspects of Moltmann’s eschatology is the reintroduction of Jewish themes into present-day Christian theology. His thought has also provided a powerful stimulus for the development of the theology of liberation in Latin America. However, it remains an open question as to whether Moltmann’s emphasis on the future obscures to some extent the true nature of the communion with God
Rudolph Bultmann, Jesus and the Word, trans. Louise Pettibone Smith and Erminie Huntress (London: Ivor Nicholson & Watson, 1935), 51. Regarding the atemporality of Bultmann’s eschatology, see Joseph Ratzinger, Eschatology: Death and Eternal Life, 48–9: ‘[Bultmann’s] solution is purchased at too dear a price. For it depends on displacing Christianity from its home in the midst of reality and resettling it on the pinhead of the present moment. A faith which cannot come into conflict with history, and with experienced reality in general, no longer has anything to say to the historical process.’ 31 Jurgen Moltmann, Theology of Hope, 5th edn., trans. James W. Leitch (London: SCM ¨ Press, 1967), 15; see also Jurgen Moltmann, The Coming God: Christian Eschatology, trans. Margaret Kohl (London: SCM Press, 1996). 32 Gerard F. O’Hanlon, ‘May Christians Hope For a Better World?’, Irish Theological Quarterly, 54 (1988): 175–89, at 176.
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that has already been bestowed through the life, death, and Resurrection of Christ. So far, I have examined three approaches to the first tension that is woven into the fabric of Christian eschatology: the approaches, respectively, of imminent apocalyptic, of realized eschatology, and of engagement for future liberation. Each of them contains some element of truth, although none of them appears to be fully satisfactory. Taken together, all of them illustrate the constitutive tension between the fact that the decisive event has already occurred in the life, death, and Resurrection of Jesus and the fact that it is not yet fully consummated in relation to the rest of creation. If the ‘end’ for which Christians hope is already present in history in the person of Christ, what remains of the ‘end’ which lies in the future? Conversely, if the ‘end’ lies in the future, what significance does this future event have for the present moment of history? A theologically coherent response to this double question does not unilaterally resolve the tension in favour either of the ‘already’ or of the ‘not yet’ but rather explains just how the tension as a whole belongs intrinsically to the form of Christian hope. The second fundamental difficulty in Christian eschatology concerns the possibility and nature of a true union between God and the finite world. Since the early Church, the concept of ‘theosis’ or ‘deification’ has been used to express the final union between God and creatures.33 In the classical statement of Athanasius, ‘God was made man so that man might be made God.’34 What does it mean for man to become God? The difficulty in articulating a doctrine of deification consists in holding together two seemingly incompatible truths. First, the difference between God and the finite world established in the act of creation remains an abiding condition of the eschaton. Secondly, God desires to communicate himself to the creature. The gift bestowed in Christ is nothing less than divinity itself.35 How is it possible for a creature
33 ¨ ¨ On the patristic understanding of deification, see Christoph Schonborn, ‘Uber die ¨ richtige Fassung des dogmatischen Begriffs der Vergottlichung des Menschen’, Freiburger Zeitschrift fur Philosophie und Theologie, 34 (1987): 3–47. ¨ 34 Athanasius, De Incarnatione, 54. 3. 35 In the concise teaching of Augustine, ‘the gift of the Holy Spirit is nothing but the ¨ Holy Spirit’, De Trinitate, xv. 9. Christoph Schonborn, God’s Human Face: The ChristIcon, trans. Lothar Krauth (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1989), 26, identifies this teaching as the ‘fundamental experience’ of Christianity: ‘this has been the faith and experience of the Church since the beginning: that the gift of the Holy Spirit, bestowed on the believer,

The Idea of Christian Eschatology

11

to share truly in the divine life, to ‘participate’ in the divine nature, while remaining a creature? It is helpful to situate this question in terms of the medieval debate about the nature of the visio dei. There are a series of passages in the New Testament which describe the gift of divine life in terms of sight or a vision of God (Matt. 5: 8; [1 Cor.] 13: 12; 1 John 3: 2; Rev. 22: 4). However, as soon as one begins to interpret these texts one must account for an alternative series of passages which assert that no one can see God, ‘who . . . dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has ever seen or can see’ (1 Tim. 6: 15–16; cf. Exod. 19: 21; 33: 20; Lev. 16: 2). This tension is sharply expressed in the First Letter of John which asserts both that ‘when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is’ (3: 2) and that ‘no one has seen God’ (4: 12). Vladimir Lossky frames the issue as follows: ‘If the essence of God is unknowable by definition, how will we be able to see God as He is, according to the word of St. John? On the other hand, if in the age to come His essence is to be an object of beatific knowledge for created intellects, in what sense must we conceive the unknowable nature of God as affirmed by the Scriptures?’36 In the fourteenth century, two opposing answers to this dilemma were put forward by the Latin scholastics and the Orthodox theologian Gregory Palamas. In 1336, in Avignon, Pope Benedict XII issued a papal bull declaring that for ‘the souls of the faithful who died after receiving the holy baptism of Christ . . . the divine essence immediately manifests itself to them, plainly, clearly and openly, and in this vision they enjoy the divine essence’.37 Beginning less than ten years later, a series of Orthodox councils in Constantinople in 1341, 1351, and 1368 affirmed a teaching set forth by Gregory Palamas that it is strictly impossible for a creature to see the essence of God. ‘Illumination or divine and deifying grace’, Palamas writes, ‘is not the essence but
is the gift of God himself, that communion with Christ means communion with God. The Fathers of the Church in the fourth century express this point in their language by saying that the gift of salvation which we receive from Christ in the Holy Spirit is our divinization. But the Son and Spirit can only divinize us if they themselves are God. One can hardly over-estimate the importance of this ‘‘fundamental experience’’ of Christianity.’
36 Vladimir Lossky, The Vision of God, trans. Asheleigh Moorhouse (London: The Faith Press, 1963), 9–10. 37 DS 1000, cited in J. Neuner and J. Dupuis (eds.), The Christian Faith, 5th edn. (New York: Alba House, 1990), 768–9.

12

The Idea of Christian Eschatology

the energy of God.’38 ‘We find ourselves’, comments Lossky, ‘confronted by two formulae neatly opposed, the first of which resolutely denies all possibility of knowing the essence of God, while the second explicitly insists on the fact that it is the actual essence of God which must be the object of beatific vision.’39 Of course, much more needs to be said to clarify the respective positions of the medieval Latins and the Orientals. At this point, it suffices to note that any explanation of creaturely deification, whether this is understood in terms of a ‘vision of the divine essence’ (Aquinas), or ‘mystical union with God’s energies’ (Palamas), or ‘being born into the eternal birth of the Son from the Father’ (Balthasar), requires some determination, not only of the nature of the creature and the nature of God, but of the nature or form of the final relationship between God and creature. Once again, there are two extreme unilateral positions that must be avoided simultaneously in order to do justice to the mystery. On the one hand, if the relationship is characterized by an identity in the sense of an immediate unity that is inimical to otherness, then it will ultimately entail a reduction of both the nature of the creature and the transcendence of God. On the other hand, the idea of deification implies a deeper and more profound union than juxtaposition. Both the Gospel of John and the First Letter of John describe the final union with God in terms of reciprocal indwelling or ‘abiding’ within the other ( John 17: 21–6; 1 John 4: 12–16). The problem of deification, then, involves working out an understanding of unity that can account for difference, and an understanding of difference that can account for unity. In short, how can the otherness of the creature be fulfilled in its being-taken-into the divine identity? The third difficulty is of a different order from the tension between ‘realized’ and ‘future’ eschatology, and unity and difference in theosis; it concerns the universality of salvation. Will it really be all who are saved? According to Balthasar, this issue has rarely been treated as a genuine question in the history of theology. Origen and Augustine, the two patristic theologians whose writings did most to shape the development of Christian eschatology, both short-circuited the question, albeit from opposite directions.
38

Gregory Palamas, Physical and Theological Chapters 68–9, cited in Lossky, Vision of God, Lossky, Vision of God, 10.

157.
39

The Idea of Christian Eschatology

13

With his doctrine of limited predestination, Augustine knew in advance that most of humanity would be eternally damned, whereas Origen seems to have known with certainty that, because evil was essentially limited, all would be saved in the end (apokatastasis panton).40 From Balthasar’s perspective, both of these posi¯ tions entail an unjustified reduction of the dimension of Christian hope. The question of the universality of salvation presupposes the two prior questions even as it lends a dramatic character to the whole of Christian eschatology. While it is not a question that a theologia viatorum can answer with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’, it nevertheless demands the engagement of one’s whole existence within the redemptive mission of Christ. For it is precisely the mission of the Son to redeem all of creation—to return to the Father in communion with the whole creation. In the preceding pages, I raised three fundamental questions provoked by the problem of eschatology. The questions, so far, have been left open. The matter for the rest of this study, therefore, will be to unfold the metaphysical and trinitarian meaning of ‘the end’ in the writings of Hans Urs von Balthasar and to show the fruitfulness of his thought in relation to the threefold problematic sketched above. It is appropriate at this point to say a word about Balthasar’s writings on eschatology and the selection of texts to be used in the present study. Hans Urs von Balthasar’s Writings on Eschatology Every ten years, from 1945 until 1975 (and again in 1988), Balthasar wrote a short essay intended to help guide readers through ‘the quickly spreading thicket of books written and published by him’.41 In 1955, he offered the following signpost: ‘Almost my entire work . . . can be understood under this heading: as an attempt not to underestimate the utterly mysterious step that revelation takes beyond the eschatology of the Old Covenant (which
40 A comprehensive and balanced treatment of Augustine’s theology of predestination can be found in Margaret Harper McCarthy, ‘Recent Developments in the Theology of Predestination’, Ph.D. diss. (Rome: Istituto Giovanni Paolo II per studi su Matrimonio e Famiglia, 1994). 41 Cornelia Capol, ‘Foreword’, in MW 7.

14

The Idea of Christian Eschatology

must be understood prophetically!) into the eschatology of the New and eternal Covenant.’42 This remark is somewhat surprising given the fact that of the twenty-five books and one hundred or so articles Balthasar had published by 1955 only his doctoral dissertation and the three-volume Apokalypse der deutschen Seele could lay claim to being works explicitly concerned with the theme of eschatology. And even here, the theme is not the eschatology of the Old Covenant or the eschatology of the New Covenant, but ‘the relation of the soul, insofar as it can be observed as a unity, to its definitive or eternal fate (Schicksal)’.43 Nevertheless, ‘the mysterious step . . . into the eschatology of the New and eternal Covenant’ is at the heart of Balthasar’s theology. In what sense is this the case? The texts of Balthasar that deal explicitly with eschatology can be divided into four categories. In the first place, there is the doctoral dissertation Geschichte des eschatologischen Problems in der modernen deutschen Literatur (1930) together with Apokalypse der deutschen Seele (1937–9), a work that developed out of his doctoral research. Balthasar would later say that his ‘fundamental aim’ in the latter ‘was the desire to reveal (apokalyptein means, of course, ‘‘to reveal’’) the ultimate religious attitude, often hidden, of the great figures of modern German literature. I wanted to let them, so to speak, ‘‘make their confession’’.’44 Yet he also admits that ‘the work was of insufficient maturity, and most of the chapters ought to be rewritten’.45 Secondly, there is a series of articles published between 1957 and 1981 including, ‘Eschatologie’ (1957), ‘Eschatologie. Die Theologie der Letzten Dinge’ (1959), ‘Glaube und Naherwartung’ (1965), ‘Bibel und Endzeit’ (1966), ‘Eschatologie im Umriß’ (1974), and ‘Zu einer christlicher Theologie der Hoffnung’ (1981).46 While there are important indications of the
MW 25. Balthasar, Geschichte des eschatologischen Problems in der modernen deutschen Literatur, 2nd edn. (Einsiedeln: Johannes Verlag, 1998), 13. In the introduction to the first volume of Apokalypse der deutschen Seele: Studien zu einer Lehre von letzten Haltungen, 3rd edn. (Einsiedeln: Johannes Verlag, 1998), 8, Balthasar promised a concluding theological volume on Christian eschatology. As with the promised theological conclusion to Wahrheit, i. Wahrheit der Welt (Einsiedeln: Benziger Verlag, 1947), it is only in the trilogy that these works are brought to completion. 44 Balthasar, Our Task: A Report and a Plan [¼ OT], trans. John Saward (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1994), 37. 45 Ibid. 46 Balthasar, ‘Eschatologie’, in Fragen der Theologie heute (Einsiedeln: Benziger, 1957), 403–21 [ET ¼ ‘Some Points of Eschatology’, in Explorations in Theology, i. The Word Made
43 42

The Idea of Christian Eschatology

15

development of Balthasar’s thought in each of these essays, Angelo Scola seems correct in describing them as ‘drafts’ for Balthasar’s definitive work in eschatology, Theodramatik, iv. Das Endspiel (1983).47 The Final Act [Das Endspiel] is the locus of Balthasar’s most important treatment of eschatology and thus the key text for this study. I will consider the aim and structure of this work below. Finally, there are two short polemical works that respond to accusations about his views on universal salvation, Was durfen wir ¨ hoffen? (1986) and Kleiner Diskurs uber die Holle (1987). ¨ ¨ The first sentence of The Final Act situates the problem of eschatology within the Theo-Drama as a whole: ‘After the first volume of this work (Prolegomena), the second volume was anthropological, the third christological, and the fourth soteriological; this concluding volume is trinitarian.’48 The progression of these terms is not accidental. It is, in fact, crucially important for understanding the nature and scope of Balthasar’s eschatology. The meaning of this assertion is filled out in a brief section titled, ‘The Subject Matter of This Volume’. Here Balthasar writes:
it is clear that the Trinity, and not Christology, is the last horizon of the revelation of God in himself and in his dramatic relationship with the world. This is the true eschaton as seen from the theocentric, not the anthropocentric perspective. . . . The real ‘last thing’ is the triune life of God disclosed in Jesus Christ. Naturally this Omega also implies the Alpha; it is what is present, first and last, in every ‘now’. And what is this but being itself ? For apart from being there is ‘only nothing’, while within it there is that mysterious vitality disclosed through christological revelation, so that everything that comes from absolute Being must bear its seal, with revelation giving us access to the fount of God’s life. TheoDrama, in its final act, in its final aspect can only be trinitarian.49

These words repeat, with a slight variation, a definition of eschatology found in Balthasar’s first essay on the subject:
Flesh (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1989), 255–77]; ‘Eschatologie. Die Theologie der Letzten Dinge’, in Theologie Heute. Vierzehn Vortrage aus der Sicht der beiden Konfessionen (Munich: ¨ C. H. Beck, 1959), 131–40; ‘Glaube und Naherwartung’, in Zuerst Gottes Reich. Zwei Skizzen zur biblischen Naherwartung (Einsiedeln: Benziger, 1966); ‘Bibel und Endzeit’, in Zuerst Gottes Reich; ‘Eschatologie im Umriß’, in Pneuma und Institution (Einsiedeln: Johannes Verlag, 1974) [ET ¼ ‘Eschatology in Outline’, in Explorations in Theology, iv. Spirit and Institution, trans. Edward T. Oakes (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1995), 423–67]; ‘Zu einer christlicher Theologie der Hoffnung’, in Munchener Theologische Zeitschrift, 32 (1981): 81–102. ¨
47 Angelo Scola, ‘Jesus Christ, Our Resurrection and Life: On the Question of Eschatology’, Communio: International Catholic Review, 24 (1997): 311–25, at 320. 48 49 TD v. 13. TD v. 57.

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The Idea of Christian Eschatology

God is the ‘last thing’ of the creature. Gained, he is heaven; lost, he is hell; examining, he is judgment; purifying, he is purgatory. He it is to whom finite being dies, and through whom it rises to him, in him. This he is, however, as he presents himself to the world, that is in his Son, Jesus Christ, who is the revelation of God and, therefore, the whole essence of the last things.50

In these two passages we have an initial answer to the question posed earlier: What does Balthasar mean by the eschatology of the New Covenant? The study of eschatology is concerned with the life of the Trinity, as revealed by Jesus Christ and as the origin and final destiny of the whole created cosmos. Important in this context is Balthasar’s contrast between a ‘theocentric’ as opposed to an ‘anthropocentric’ perspective. The meaning of this contrast is reflected in the overall structure of The Final Act. Following an introductory chapter that engages various developments in twentieth-century eschatology, The Final Act is divided into three main parts: (i) The World Is From God, (ii) Aspects of the Final Act, and (iii) The World in God. While this threefold division clearly utilizes the exitus–reditus scheme that also structures the Summa Theologiae of Thomas Aquinas, Balthasar’s work is conceived within a more explicitly trinitarian horizon. This is particularly evident in part i, which considers the finite realities of time, space, becoming, and reciprocity as grounded in and thus imaging the trinitarian exchange between Father, Son, and Spirit. The consideration of creaturely being as an imago trinitatis provides a foundation for the most characteristic feature of Balthasar’s writings on the eschaton: the traditional themes of eschatology such as death, judgement, resurrection, purgatory, heaven, hell, etc. are considered first as christological and trinitarian events. This approach does not entail a disregard of the anthropological eschata— man’s death, judgement, and final destiny—but a shift of perspective such that the latter are considered as occurring within the person and mission of Christ, and ultimately within the Trinity. ‘Theocentric’, then, is defined in terms of this trinitarian ‘within’: eschatology is the revelation of the origin and destiny of the whole created cosmos precisely insofar as it is the revelation of the trinitarian life through Jesus’ eucharistic return to the Father in the Spirit—a return that surpassingly unveils the original meaning of worldly being ‘from the beginning’. In this respect, Balthasar’s
50

Balthasar, ‘Some Points of Eschatology’, 260–1.

The Idea of Christian Eschatology

17

´ ´ 1955 resume of his work is right; eschatology understood in this sense is the hidden heart of his theological mission. My purpose, I said, was to present an account of the nature or form of Christian eschatology in the writings of Hans Urs von Balthasar. I went on to formulate three basic questions provoked by the problem of eschatology: (1) the tension between ‘realized’ and ‘future’ eschatology, (2) the relation of unity and difference in deification, and (3) the question of universal salvation. Finally, I provided an overview of Balthasar’s writings on the last things, together with a preliminary definition of the formal object of eschatology: ‘The real last thing is the triune life of God disclosed in Jesus Christ.’51 Having said all this, I am ready to articulate the plan of the present work. Following this introductory chapter, the book is divided in three parts: Chapter 2, ‘The Analogy of Being’; Chapter 3, ‘The Hypostatic Union’; and Chapter 4, ‘Within the Divine Life’. Each chapter approaches the meaning of ‘the end’ from three different, but interrelated perspectives. Chapter 2 presents Balthasar’s understanding of the inexhaustible fullness of the gift of being (actus essendi ). As Thomas Aquinas suggests, when the mind makes contact with being (esse), the whole of reality is given, including (implicitly) the eschatos, namely, God.52 From another perspective, the event of the hypostatic union (Chapter 3) represents the true ‘end’—the consummation within history of the relation between God and the finite world. It is not possible to imagine a more perfect union between human and divine than that which occurs when the Son assumes a human nature into his person. Finally, Chapter 4 examines Balthasar’s account of the life of the Trinity as the end of the whole created cosmos. The initial emphasis on being is decisive for everything that follows. To be sure, God does not fall under the sway of a univocal concept of being. Rather, being, as gift, already in some sense contains the ultimate presence of the giver who reveals himself as Trinity in Jesus Christ. Now, the fact that the end is already in some real sense present in the beginning does not contradict a progressive unfolding or ‘making concrete’ that occurs as we move from a discussion of metaphysics to Christology to the trinitarian form of deification. In fact, the exposition unfolds in such a way
51 52

TD v. 57. ‘All knowers know God implicitly in any object of knowledge’, De ver., q. 22, a. 2, ad. 1.

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The Idea of Christian Eschatology

that each successive chapter represents a further, irreducible step in the development of our argument. However, what is not in some way anticipated, at least in principle, in the beginning will not be able to be included later except as an extrinsic addition. This means that the ‘progression’ from metaphysics to the hypostatic union to an explicit consideration of the Trinity is simultaneously an unveiling of the hidden depths of what has already been given in the gift of being. This is the reason why Balthasar can claim that ‘[t]he real ‘‘last thing’’ is the triune life of God disclosed in Jesus Christ. . . . it is what is present, first and last, in every ‘‘now’’. And what is this but being itself ?’53
53

TD v. 57.

2

The Analogy of Being
The central question of Balthasar’s eschatology concerns the meaning of the world to God: Was hat Gott von der Welt? What would God, who wills the salvation of all, ‘lose’ if a portion of his creation were to suffer eternal damnation? The difficulty with this question is that it seems to presuppose that God is capable of receiving something from creation. How can God, who is actus purus, ‘receive’ something from finite creatures? If the world ‘adds’ anything to God, then God is not the fullness of being and is not truly infinite. On the other hand, if the world simply adds nothing to God then has a gift truly been given? Is it good that the world exists as ‘other’ than God? The possibility of developing a theo-dramatic eschatology in which God is able to receive (or lose) something from the creature without loss of his infinite perfection depends upon being able to demonstrate two related philosophical claims. The first is that the creature is other, not only from God, but also for God. The second is that ‘receptivity’ is somehow intrinsic to the meaning of act in its fullness. The connection between these two claims lies in a revaluation of what has hitherto been considered exclusively a function of creaturely dependence upon God—receptivity—as in fact included in the original meaning of God’s own perfection. Now, any account of creaturely ‘deification’ in the eschaton involves some sense of the creature becoming like God and thus presupposes an understanding of God’s nature and perfection. In its most comprehensive sense, the question of the creature’s eschatological movement toward perfect union with God (beatific knowledge) coincides with the question of how we attain analogical knowledge of God’s perfection already in this life. Both Thomas and Balthasar view knowledge of God through the medium of creatures as the beginning and the end of human knowing. Even in the eschaton, the immediacy of the beatific vision is nevertheless mediated by the created lumen gloriae.1 It follows that our
1 Thomas articulates the mysterious mediation of the lumen gloriae as follows: ‘this light is to be described not as a medium in which God is seen, but as one by which He is seen; and

20

The Analogy of Being

understanding of the role of ‘negation’ in attaining analogical knowledge of God in this life is intimately bound up with the decisive issue of the ultimate status of the finite world in the next. The main question here would be: In what sense is the finite order ‘left behind’ in the creature’s movement to God? Following Aquinas, Balthasar teaches that the only way to attain analogical knowledge of God’s perfection is through knowledge of the goodness of created beings. Balthasar also follows Thomas in seeing esse as the ground and abiding source of all the goodness or perfections of the finite order. Now, to characterize created being as good or ‘positive’ in relation to God does not exempt one from the need to transcend, and thus negate, the finitude of the world. However, this act of transcendence is only possible on the basis of an affirmation of the positivity or goodness of the finite.2 In other words, in the process of removing or negating everything finite, one must simultaneously affirm that whatever perfection is found at the finite level exists supereminently in God.3 Thomas writes: ‘God cannot lack any excellence that belongs to any given thing.’4 And, ‘no perfection that is appropriate to this or that thing is lacking in Him.’5 The philosophical question that we must ask in this chapter is whether or not such perfection can include receptivity. Only an affirmative answer can sustain the double claim that God can ‘receive’ something from the world and that even the world’s otherness from God is included in the eschaton—precisely because it is rooted somehow in God’s own fullness of perfection. We thus touch upon the reciprocal revelation of the Trinity and creaturely being that occurs uniquely in Christ. This does not mean that we can resolve the question by appealing to a premature theological
such a medium does not take away the immediate vision of God,’ Summa theol. ia, q. 12, a. 5, ad. 2.
2 ‘The idea of negation’, writes Thomas (De pot., q. 7, a. 5), ‘is always based on an affirmation: as evinced by the fact that every negative proposition is proved by an affirmative: wherefore unless the human mind knew something positively about God, it would be unable to deny anything about him.’ 3 This programme of affirming God’s transcendent perfection corresponds, of course, to the triplex via of Dionysius (via causalitatis, via negationis, and via eminentiae), which Thomas makes his own. For the background of Aquinas’s appropriation of the triplex via, see Harry A. Wolfson, ‘St. Thomas on Divine Attributes’, in Melanges offerts a Etienne Gilson (Toronto: ´ ` ´ Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 1959), 673–700; Michael B. Ewbank, ‘Diverse Orderings of Dionysius’s Triplex Via by St. Thomas Aquinas’, Mediaeval Studies, 52 (1990): 82–109. 4 5 Contra gent. i, ch. 28. Contra gent. i, ch. 28.

The Analogy of Being

21

positivism. What it does mean, however, is a philosophy aware of reason’s natural ordination to the ‘supernatural’ end of the visio Dei —a philosophy aware, in other words, that it is always already involved in the reciprocal revelation of the two ultimates, being and the Trinity. The key to such a philosophy is the classical theme of the analogy of being, deepened in the light of Christ, who is the concrete mediator of the reciprocal revelation of creaturely and trinitarian being. Such an account of analogy provides the distinctively philosophical underpinnings for sustaining the claim that God can ‘receive’ something from a world whose otherness is included within the creature’s deification because it is rooted first in God’s own fullness as actus purus. Throughout his writings, Balthasar keeps his gaze fixed on the great mystery of God’s being ‘all in all’ (1 Cor. 15: 28; Sirach 43: 27) and yet the world having a genuine existence that is other than God. Following his teacher Erich Przywara, Balthasar names this mystery the ‘analogia entis’.6 According to Balthasar, analogy, in its first and deepest meaning, is neither a logical principle nor a linguistic tool governing speech about God, but is the ontological relationship that obtains between God and creation.7 The most original aspect of Balthasar’s understanding of analogy concerns what he calls the ‘concretization’ of the analogy of being within the person of Jesus Christ. The relation which is established in the act of creation is ordered to a gratuitous fulfilment within the person and mission of Christ, who is the pattern, the primary instance, and the accomplisher of the unification of God and
See Erich Przywara, Analogia Entis: Metaphysik. Ur-struktur und All-rythmus, 3rd edn. (Einsiedeln: Johannes Verlag, 1996). In 1955, Balthasar refers to Przywara, together with Adrienne von Speyr, as ‘the two most important’ influences on his thought, and notes that ‘many of the chief themes in my work go back to things pointed out by him’, MW 19. In an introductory essay, ‘Erich Przywara’, in Tendenzen der Theologie im 20. Jahrhundert: Eine Geschichte in Portrats (Stuttgart–Berlin: Kreuz Verlag, 1966), 355, Balthasar offers the follow¨ ing account of Przywara’s doctrine of analogy: ‘He lives like the mythical salamander, in fire: there, where finite created being is at the point of springing forth from the Infinite, where the unsurpassable mystery which Przywara named Analogia Entis reigns. How is it possible that creation can come from God, who is everything, in such a way that God remains everything in creation and yet creation is not God?’ Balthasar’s earliest engagement with the thought of Przywara is found in ‘Die Metaphysik Erich Przywaras’, Schweiz. Rundschau, 6 (1933): 489–99. 7 The background to Balthasar’s ontological and ultimately christological understanding of analogy is sketched by Georges de Schrijver in Le Merveilleux Accord de l’Homme et de Dieu: ´ ˆ Etude de l’Analogie de l’Etre chez Hans Urs von Balthasar (Louvain: University Press, 1983).
6

22

The Analogy of Being

creation. In his movement from birth to death and resurrection, Christ provides the final measure for both the similarity and the distance between created and uncreated being. In this sense, Christ can be called the ‘concrete analogy of being’,8 or ‘the analogy of being in person’.9 In the classical formulation of the Fourth Lateran Council (1215), the principle of analogy states that ‘between creator and creature there can be noted no similarity so great that a greater dissimilarity cannot be seen between them’.10 Invoked against Joachim of Fiore, this formula recapitulates a long tradition of apophatic theology which sought to protect the mystery and transcendence of God against various forms of rationalism and gnosticism. Now, apophasis involves what Aquinas calls the ‘remotion’ of creaturely imperfections. It is important to recognize how Balthasar makes this apophatic tradition his own even as he proposes a certain development of it. If, in fact, Christ is the concrete analogy of being, then his kenotic entrance into the otherness of the creature—including the utter passivity of its death—cannot be without influence on how we determine the original meaning of perfection and imperfection. The positivity of the finite, already emphasized in the tradition by figures like Aquinas, receives a renewed emphasis. The very finitude of the finite is a perfection that belongs, analogously, within the divine life. Christ discloses the ultimate form of this belonging, but it already has pertinence to how we understand the perfection and imperfection of finitude philosophically. This last statement is important: according to the doctrine set forth at the Council of Chalcedon (451), the union of human and divine accomplished in the person of Christ represents the assumption rather than the absorption of a human nature. In other words, ‘the distinct integrity of creation and its union with the divine are reciprocally conditioning poles of one and the same mystery’.11 Precisely for this reason,
Balthasar, A Theology of History [¼ TheoHist] (London: Sheed and Ward, 1964), 74. Balthasar, Epilog (Einsiedeln: Johannes Verlag, 1987), 69. 10 Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils, ii. Nicaea I to Lateran V, ed. Norman P. Tanner (Washington: Georgetown University Press London: Sheed and Word, 1990), 232. 11 Adrian Walker, ‘Creation and Human Freedom in Maximus the Confessor: A Philosophical Study of Creation Out of Nothing as the Metaphysical Foundation of Human Freedom in Light of Selected Works of Maximus the Confessor’, Ph.D. diss. ` (Rome: Pontificia Universita Gregoriana, 2000), 18.
9 8

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Balthasar’s account of the ‘concretization’ of the analogy of being within the person and mission of Christ includes a genuine metaphysics of creation.12 Accordingly, my task in this chapter is to introduce Balthasar’s properly philosophical account of the analogy of being. Only after we have gathered a sense of what the mystery of being means for Balthasar will it be possible, in Chapter 3, to interpret his account of the christological fulfilment of analogy. While writings on metaphysics are scattered throughout his work, Balthasar’s most comprehensive treatment of the subject is found in volumes four and five of The Glory of the Lord, titled The Realm of Metaphysics. The first thing to be noted in this work is the unusual conception of metaphysics guiding Balthasar’s dialogue with representative figures of the tradition. The classical definition of Aristotle, metaphysics as the science of ens inquantum est ens, is not denied, but it is reinterpreted to include both ‘myth’ and ‘religion’ as revelatory of the meaning of being. Alongside the traditional figures of Parmenides, Heraclitus, and Plato are found Homer, Pindar, and the tragedians, whose metaphysics form the subject of extensive meditations. The medieval synthesis is represented not only by Thomas Aquinas, Eckhart, and Nicholas of Cusa, but in a chapter entitled ‘The Metaphysics of the Saints’, Balthasar traces the understanding of being implicit in the writings of Angela of Foligno, Catherine of Siena, and Ignatius of Loyola. In the modern period, Goethe, Dostoyevsky, and Rilke are brought into dialogue with Hegel, Nietzsche, and Heidegger. Within the broad sweep of Balthasar’s history of metaphysics, Thomas Aquinas occupies a unique role. According to Balthasar, Thomas’s doctrine of being gathers together the inheritance of the
12 Balthasar consistently affirms the need for a philosophy that is both prior to and consequent upon Christian revelation: ‘It is possible only for the one who is also (and first of all) a philosopher to be a theologian in a serious manner’, TL i, p. viii. ‘If one neglects this preliminary philosophical work then it is theology that suffers most because of this: either it will have to support itself on the basis of a few dry, abstract concepts, or else, totally neglecting the philosophical foundations, it will improvise a rough-and-ready philosophical foundation for itself and will tend to draw support from ideologically-colored material which it has not thought through’, ibid., p. xiv. ‘Since the question about being as such is the basic question of metaphysics, the theologian cannot get around it; for him the only conclusion of this fact is that he cannot be a theologian ex professo without at the same time being a metaphysician, just as, correspondingly (the Greeks were well aware of this, nor was the theology of the Fathers and of High Scholasticism any less so), a metaphysics which refused to be theology would fail to recognize and to accept its own object’, TL ii. 159.

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ancient world and brings it to completion.13 The modern period is interpreted as a fragmentation of the synthesis achieved by Aquinas. Even when Thomas is not explicitly referred to, Balthasar often develops his own metaphysics through a hidden dialogue with him. What Balthasar identifies as the heart of Thomas’s philosophy, the ‘real distinction’ between esse and essence, becomes the key to his reading of the history of philosophy.14 Figures as diverse as Plotinus, Nicholas of Cusa, Goethe, and Hegel are measured in terms of their implicit openness to the real distinction. Shortly before his death, Balthasar composed a brief introduction to his writings in which he claims that the ‘real distinction’ of Thomas Aquinas is ‘the source of all the religious and philosophical thought of humanity’.15 Why does the ‘real distinction’ or ‘ontological difference’ between being and essence figure so prominently in virtually all of Balthasar’s philosophical and theological writings?16 Why, for example, does Balthasar include a treatment of the real distinction in the final volume of the Theo-Drama, a work explicitly dedicated to eschatology? As we have seen, Balthasar claims that only if the world is affirmed as good precisely in its otherness from God—an otherness rooted somehow in God’s own fullness of actuality—can otherness be an abiding condition of the eschaton. Even in the highest possible union of ‘deification’, the creature remains a creature and thus other than God. For Balthasar, this abiding otherness or difference is itself part of the content and structure of a perfected relation of deification. On the other hand, the goodness of creation in relation to God cannot mean that it has some perfection that is simply other than or outside of God’s perfection. Besides entailing a denial of the world’s status as created, such a
13 ‘Thomas’s experience of being gathered within itself and embodied the inheritance of antiquity in its entirety’, GL iv. 13. 14 In ‘The Philosophy of Hans Urs von Balthasar’, in Hans Urs Von Balthasar: His Life and Work (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1991), 165, Peter Henrici argues that ‘the doctrine of the ontological difference [between Sein and Wesen, esse and essentia] must be the heart of his philosophy. Not only does he dedicate the final chapter of the metaphysics volumes of the Aesthetic to it, but he also sees the entire history of metaphysics under this aspect. Already in the early essay ‘‘On the Tasks of Catholic Philosophy in Our Time’’, the real distinction is portrayed as the center of Catholic philosophizing.’ 15 MW 112. 16 Already in the major work of his youth, Apokalypse der deutschen Seele (in three volumes), Balthasar indicates that ‘the entire thematic of the last two volumes stands expressly under the sign of the ‘‘real distinction’’ between essence and being’, ADS iii. 436.

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conception of the world’s ‘positivity’ would ultimately reduce the relation of analogy (as well as the consummation of this relation in deification) to juxtaposition. Now, in Balthasar’s view, the key to understanding how there can be a genuine otherness between God and the world that does not reduce to juxtaposition lies in attending to the act-character of being as gift and the consequent ‘real distinction’ between esse and essence. The gift of esse is the source of all the perfections within every created entity, and yet, paradoxically, created esse is itself dependent upon essence to attain subsistence. ‘Esse’, writes Thomas, ‘signifies something complete and simple, but nonsubsistent.’17 Thus, while esse as act points to an inexhaustible fullness and supra-essentiality at the heart of created reality, as non-subsistent it is ‘affected’ by the otherness of essence without for all that losing its ‘simple completeness’. Indeed, Balthasar will argue, this ‘affection’ is intrinsic to its very nature as plenary actuality in the first place. This account of the ‘real distinction’ leads us into the heart of Balthasar’s development of an analogia entis capable of undergirding the reciprocal revelation of worldly and trinitarian being in Christ. In fact, Balthasar’s understanding of the analogy of being develops Aquinas’s thought in a way that legitimates in metaphysical terms the twofold claim that God can ‘receive’ something from the world, and that the otherness of the creature is ensheltered within the eschatological opening of the trinitarian life. An extended engagement with Thomas Aquinas’s thought is thus necessary insofar as Balthasar’s own philosophical writings represent a creative retrieval and development of Aquinas’s achievement. This suggests the main divisions of the present chapter. I will begin with an exposition of Thomas Aquinas’s teaching on the ‘real distinction’ between esse and essence in order to secure on Thomistic terms an account of the ‘positive’ character of finite being in relation to God. I will frame the discussion of the systematic significance of the ‘real distinction’ in terms of Thomas’s doctrine of the divine names. This places our discussion immediately in relation to the notion of analogy. On the ground of the principle of causal likeness, Thomas builds an account of analogical predication that suggests that the
17

De pot., q. 1, a. 1.

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positivity of the finite is not left behind, but embraced—in a properly divine way—within the fullness of God’s pure actuality. In the triplex via of analogical predication, negation serves supereminence. Having highlighted the basic thrust of Thomas’s doctrine of the divine names—and thus of the analogia entis—we can go on to embed the ‘real distinction’ within this account. This distinction, while securing the infinite difference between God and the creature, simultaneously guarantees the positivity of creaturely otherness, opening for it a place within the divine fullness of actuality. Thomas’s doctrine of analogy affirms that God pre-contains all the perfections of creatures inasmuch as he is ipsum esse subsistens. Nevertheless, Thomas does not systematically include receptivity within these perfections. The claim that God can ‘receive’ something from the creature, that the creature’s receptivity has an analogical foundation in the fullness of actuality itself—this enrichment of the analogia entis requires a step beyond the letter of Thomas, although not, as I shall have shown, beyond his fundamental spirit. This step is the focus of the second section of this chapter. After some initial reflections on Balthasar’s philosophical method, which emphasizes the concreteness of the starting-point of metaphysics, I will interpret a text from The Glory of the Lord that represents his development of the ‘real distinction’. This development locates the revelation of the fullest meaning of the actus essendi in relations of love between persons. To help set into relief the distinctiveness of Balthasar’s ‘dialogical’ point of departure, I will take up thematically the question of receptivity as a divine perfection to which I have alluded in these introductory comments. This will lead into the relationship between the real distinction and the trinitarian difference as the ultimate ground of the ‘positivity’ of creation, and thus the ultimate ground of an eschatological union between God and the creature that preserves their mutual otherness as part of the perfection of the eschaton. Thomas Aquinas and the ‘Real Distinction’ between Esse and Essence The middle years of the twentieth century witnessed a profound renewal of Thomistic metaphysics through the writings of such ´ figures as Etienne Gilson, Cornelio Fabro, Joseph de Finance,

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Gustav Siewerth, and Ferdinand Ulrich.18 The shared concern of these otherwise diverse scholars was a reappraisal of Thomas’s writings in light of esse seen as the ground and central core of all the positive qualities or perfections of real beings. We can begin to gather a sense of this Thomistic renewal if we consider that the highest principle of actuality in Aristotle’s universe is form. Aquinas, illumined by the revelation of a Creator whose power extended to the production of matter, discerned at the heart of reality a transformal principle of actuality that, unlike Aristotle’s form, did not merely actuate pre-existing material potency. By the same token, this transformal principle of actuality accounted not just for a substance’s being this or that, but for its being at all. Thomas had thus discovered the transformal actuality of being tout court — an actuality to which he gave the notoriously untranslatable Latin word esse, the verbal infinitive of ‘to be’, which is meant to convey this actuality of being (actus essendi ) in its very act-character. Esse, as Thomas understands it, is the supra-essential act of being that is thus the quintessence of all actuality; it is the ‘perfection of all perfections’.19 As such, it has a curious Janus-like status. On the one hand, it is the proper name of God, whom Aquinas, following Aristotle, calls actus purus—understanding this ‘pure act’ as ipsum esse subsistens.20 On the other hand, precisely because of its gift-character, esse is also the most intimate principle of every created being; it is a gift that transparently contains God’s generosity as Creator:
Divine love did not allow him to ‘remain in himself without fruit’, that is, without the production of creatures, but love ‘moved him to operate’ according to a most excellent mode of operation according as he produced all things in being (esse). For from love of his goodness it proceeded that he willed to pour out and to communicate his goodness to others,
18 ´ Etienne Gilson, Being and Some Philosophers, 2nd edn. (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 1952); Cornelio Fabro, La nozione metafisca di partecipazione secondo ˆ ` S. Tommaso d’Aquino (Turin: Societa Editrice Internazionale, 1939); Joseph de Finance, Etre et agir dans la philosophie de Saint Thomas, 2nd edn. (Rome: Gregorian University Press, 1965); Gustav Siewerth, Der Thomismus als Identitatssystem (Frankfurt: Gerhard Schute-Bulmke, ¨ 1939); Ferdinand Ulrich, Homo Abyssus: Das Wagnis der Seinsfrage, 2nd edn. (Einsiedeln: Johannes Verlag, 1998). It is also noteworthy that Erich Przywara, in the Foreword to the first edition of his Analogia Entis I (1932), 7, suggests that the roots of his teaching on the analogy of being lay in a study of Aquinas’s real distinction. ‘The decisive impulse for this work same from a study of Thomas Aquinas’s Quaestiones disputatae and De ente et essentia in the years 1912–13. The issue was the question of the distinction between essence and existence.’ 19 20 De pot., q. 7, a. 2, ad. 9. Summa theol. ia, q. 13, a. 11.

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insofar as it is possible, namely by way of similitude, and thus his goodness did not remain in him, but flowed out into others.21

Creation for Aquinas is the act by which ipsum esse subsistens establishes participation in itself by bestowing esse on that which is not ipsum esse subsistens. The result of this bestowal is the production of the whole of substantial being nullo praesupposito. Now, if God is ipsum esse subsistens, apart from God esse cannot be subsistent. Conversely, the substance that receives esse cannot be ipsum esse subsistens. It must differ from ipsum esse subsistens by essence. But because the essence of ipsum esse subsistens is nothing other than esse itself, the substance in which esse attains subsistence must differ from esse by essence. It follows from this that in every created being, esse is distinct from that being’s essence. There is, then, a real distinction between esse and essence in every created being. Now, to claim that there is a ‘real’ as opposed to a ‘conceptual’ distinction between esse and essentia is to plunge mid-stream into a seven-hundred-year old debate—a debate that has pitted order against order, with the Dominicans defending the distinction, the Franciscans denying it, and the Jesuits divided.22 There are a number of peculiarities to the debate. In the first place, Thomas never uses the language of ‘distinctio realis’; instead, he preferred to speak of a compositio of esse and essentia, or simply diversum est esse et id quod est. The debate about the ‘real distinction’ was first initiated by Giles of Rome two years after the death of Thomas. From the outset, the debate was marked by a fateful confusion. Giles of Rome seems to have understood the distinction as a composition of two things (duae res). This formulation, although foreign to Aquinas, was read back into his texts and often enough became the standard framework within which the question was debated. This has prejudiced both supporters and opponents of the real distinction such as Duns Scotus and Suarez. The issue is also complicated by the fact that Thomas never treats the question ex professo, and his language seems to shift from context to context. At a deeper level, however, the textual misunderstandings that emerged so shortly after his death seem partly due to the novelty of his position. As Gilson writes, ‘Thomas Aquinas could not posit
In div. nom., ch. 4, lect. 9. John Wippel provides a summary of the essence–esse debate after Thomas’s death in ‘Essence and Existence in Later Medieval Philosophy’, in Cambridge History of Later Medieval Philosophy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982), 385–410.
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existence (esse) as the act of a substance itself actualized by its form, without making a decision which, with respect to the metaphysics of Aristotle, was nothing less than a revolution.’23 ‘Paradoxically enough,’ Gilson suggests, ‘what was perhaps deepest in the philosophical message of Thomas Aquinas seems to have remained practically forgotten since the very time of his death.’24 In what follows, I will not consider the question of whether Aquinas held a ‘real’ as opposed to a ‘conceptual’ distinction. I take it as sufficiently established that he did affirm a real distinction between esse and essence.25 Nor will I survey the various types of arguments used by Thomas to establish a real distinction.26 My aim is rather to consider the significance of the real distinction for Thomas’s understanding of the analogia entis. My exposition will focus on the remarkable implication of the account of the analogia entis underlying Thomas’s doctrine of the divine names: the perfection and transcendence of God is not adequately secured unless and until the finite world is seen as an image of God’s perfection and affirmed as good in its finite otherness. The negative aspect of the movement of analogy (via negativa), which secures the infinite difference between God and the creature, is embraced within a simultaneous affirmation of God and the creature that anticipates in germ the form of the eschaton as the reciprocal revelation and glorification of God and the creature. The negative moment is made possible by, and serves, the difference between Giver and gift, thanks to which we can receive the gift of creation as an image of God. As is well known, Thomas teaches that we cannot know what God is, only that he is: ‘By its immensity, the divine substance surpasses every form that our intellect reaches. Thus we are unable to apprehend it by knowing what it is. Yet we are able to have some knowledge of it by knowing what it is not.’27
24 Gilson, Being and Some Philosophers, 174. Ibid. 154. In De ver., q. 1, a. 27, ad. 8, Thomas speaks of a ‘real composition’, and in In Sent. i, d. 13, a. 1, ad. 3, a ‘real diversity’. I owe these references to Armand Maurer’s ‘Introduction’ to Thomas Aquinas, On Being and Essence, trans. Armand Maurer (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 1968). 26 For such an analysis of texts, see Leo Sweeney, ‘Existence/Essence in Thomas Aquinas’s Early Writings’, Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association, 37 (1963): 97–131; Germain Kopaczynski, Linguistic Ramifications of the Essence–Existence Debate (Washington, DC: University Press of America, 1979); John F. Wippel, Metaphysical Themes in Thomas Aquinas (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1984). 27 Contra gent. i, ch. 14. Cf. ‘Concerning God we cannot grasp what he is, but what he is not, and how other things are related to him’, Contra gent. i, ch. 30. 25 23

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In continuity with the Greek fathers, Thomas suggests that the only appropriate way to approach the mystery of God is through apophatic theology.28 Thomas calls the application of this way of knowing ‘remotion’. This path is justified by the limits of the human knower on account of the intrinsic weaknesses of human intelligence (according to Thomas, the human intellect is related to God’s essence as the eye of an owl to the sun) together with the infinite distance separating God from creation,29 and, positively, by the fact that ‘we know each thing more perfectly the more fully we see its differences from other things’.30 We see Thomas’s programme of remotion at work in (among many other texts) the first book of the Summa contra gentiles. After having demonstrated that there exists a first being whom we call God (ch. 13), Thomas proposes to demonstrate what this being is through its properties. But, because we cannot know what God is, his demonstration consists in the remotion of creaturely properties. Thus, travelling the via remotionis, chapters 15–27 proceed by excluding various creaturely modes of existence and duration from God: passive potency (ch. 16), matter (ch. 17), composition (ch. 18), violence (ch. 19). Chapters 20 and 21 pause to reflect on the identity of esse and essence in God before continuing to remove accidents (ch. 23), substantial difference (ch. 24), genus (ch. 25), and formal presence in creation (chs. 26 and 27). Faithful to his proposed method, Thomas has described ‘the properties of God’ by removing every possible semblance of finitude. In this context, chapter 28 comes as something of a surprise. Here Thomas turns to consider the divine perfection and begins
A number of recent studies have emphasized the fundamental importance of Thomas’s appropriation of the via negativa: Brian Davies, The Thought of Thomas Aquinas (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993), 40–79; Fran O’Rourke, Pseudo-Dionysius and the Metaphysics of Aquinas (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1992), 48–61; John F. Wippel, ‘Quidditative Knowledge of God according to Thomas Aquinas’, in Lloyd Gerson (ed.), Graceful Reason: Essays in Ancient and Medieval Philosophy Presented to Joseph Owens, CSSR, on the Occasion of his 75th Birthday (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 1983), 273–99; David Burrell, Aquinas: God and Action (Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1979), 12–26. 29 To cite just one representative text: ‘Manifestum est autem quod inter Deum et hominem est maxima inaequalitas, in infinitum enim distant’, Summa theol. i–ii, q. 114, a. 1. Cf. De ver., q. 2, a. 3, ad. 16; q. 2, a. 11, ad. 4; q. 23, a. 7, ad. 9. The history of the spatial metaphor is recounted in Edward P. Mahoney, ‘Metaphysical Foundations of the Hierarchy of Being according to Some Late-Medieval and Renaissance Philosophers’, in Parviz Morewedge (ed.), Philosophies of Existence Ancient and Medieval (New York: Fordham University Press, 1982). 30 Contra gent. i, ch. 14.
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with the following summary statement: ‘God, Who is not other than His being, is a universally perfect being. And I call universally perfect that to which the excellence of no genus is lacking.’31 At first glance, this passage seems to run counter to Thomas’s whole programme of remotion. God’s perfection is not affirmed by removing finite perfections, but precisely by including every finite perfection. Thus he writes: ‘He cannot lack any excellence that belongs to any given thing’;32 and ‘no perfection, consequently, that is appropriate to this or that thing is lacking to Him.’33 This seeming contradiction should alert us against a simplistic reading of remotion or the via negativa. In the process of removing or negating everything finite, we must simultaneously affirm that whatever perfection is found at the finite level exists supereminently in God. What is the basis for Thomas’s assertion that God contains all the perfections that exist in created beings? This question is answered in the subsequent chapter entitled ‘On the likeness of creatures to God’. There must be a likeness between creatures and God because creatures are an effect of God, and ‘every agent produces its like’.34 For Thomas this is what it means to be caused, namely, to be ‘like’ the cause by participating in its communicated perfection. Conversely, any perfection found in creatures must not only come from God, but be originally one with God’s essence as actus purus essendi. Indeed, here the essentially positive thrust of the foregoing programme of remotion becomes evident. Such remotion aims at making clear the difference between God and the creature. This difference obviously involves some ‘negation’ in the sense of a non-identity. But this non-identity is fundamentally positive, insofar as it is the non-identity of the difference between Giver and receiver. Remotion thus presupposes affirmation in two directions at once. On the one hand, it does not cancel creaturely perfections, but finds them again in God, indeed, existing ‘supereminenter’ as God. This does not mean, of course, that remotion secretly takes possession of the divine essence. Rather—and this is the second point—it is an affirmation-without-comprehension of God as the
32 33 Contra gent. i, ch. 28. Ibid. Ibid. The principle ‘omne agens agit sibi simile’ is omnipresent in Thomas’s writings. See Mark D. Jordan, ‘The Names of God and the Being of Names’, in Alfred J. Freddoso (ed.), The Existence and Nature of God (Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1983), 169–75, and the bibliographical notes there. 34 31

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generous source of creaturely being in its otherness and unity. Remotion thus presupposes an affirmation not only of God as the supereminent abundance of perfection, but also of the positivity of the creature as the likeness of that perfection. One cannot go to God by remotion without taking the creature in its otherness along with one. It is worth noting that only after having introduced the divine perfection and the likeness of creatures to God does Thomas turn, in chapter 30, to the question of ‘The names that can be predicated of God’.35 This suggests that the principle of causal likeness just enunciated remains the foundation for knowledge of God’s perfection. ‘Since it is possible’, Thomas writes, ‘to find in God every perfection of creatures, but in another and more eminent way, whatever names unqualifiedly designate a perfection without defect are predicated of God and of other things.’36 To be sure, the likeness on which such predication is based is qualified by the fact that created effects fall radically short of the divine cause. Thus, coincident with likeness, there is an even greater unlikeness. Thomas finds both this likeness and unlikeness in Scripture: ‘Let us make man to our image and likeness’ (Gen. 1: 26); and, ‘O God, who shall be like Thee?’ (Isa. 40: 18).37 Thus while it is possible to say that creatures are like God, it is not proper to say that God is like creatures. Causal likeness is a relation of likeness within greater unlikeness—a relation, then, of analogy. The subsequent five chapters of the Summa contra gentiles establish that this predication of names is neither univocal nor equivocal but analogous. Thomas introduces a number of important distinctions to clarify the meaning and use of analogy. In particular, two distinctions clarify how his use of analogous predication does not contradict, but sets the context of, his programme of remotion. First, Aquinas distinguishes between names which in their formal meaning refer to perfections, such as ‘goodness, wisdom, being’, and names which properly designate something created, such as ‘man’ or ‘stone’. Only the first sort of names designate perfections whose unlimited actual intensity is originally identical with the
35 Thomas follows a similar pedagogical ordering in the Summa theologiae, where question of the divine names (q. 13) follows a reflection on God’s perfection and the similarity of creatures to God (q. 4). 36 Contra gent. i, ch. 30. 37 Contra gent. i, ch. 28.

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divine essence and are thus alone properly predicable of God. With regard to these names, Aquinas further distinguishes between the thing signified (res significata) and the mode of signifying (modus significandi ). The res significata is the perfection itself, which originally exists in its fullness in, indeed, as God. The modus significandi is the way we talk about that perfection based on its refraction through a created participation in this perfection. Thomas’s point, in other words, is that we cannot predicate perfections of God without giving the impression that we are speaking about a creature. But, even though this modus attends the form of our predication of God— we say that God is wise as if we were speaking of a substance having the property of wisdom—it does not necessarily affect the content of it. We can affirm the res significata properly of God insofar as he is the subsistent fullness of that perfection—even while negating the modus significandi that properly befits creatures. Yet even here, the negation of the modus significandi serves an affirmation God’s supereminence. The way of negation presupposes the affirmation of the creature in its otherness from God inasmuch as God’s supereminent distance from creation is the gratuitous positing of the creature in that otherness. In this regard, negation is a way of attaining God, not by leaving the creature behind, but by thematizing the original affirmation of the creature so to speak from the point of view of the Giver—a ‘view’ which we can achieve only from within the difference between Giver and gift, hence, on the receiving end of the experience of being given the gift. We go to God in his difference from creatures, not by leaving creatures behind, but by experiencing them more and more fully as the gifts that they are. To summarize, in the Summa contra gentiles Thomas introduces the question of analogy in the context of his doctrine of the divine names. The theory of predication developed there reflects the basic structure of the God–world relation as an analogia entis based on creatures’ likeness to their Creator through participation in his perfection, a likeness that rests within a greater unlikeness. Thomas’s understanding of the analogia entis, as a likeness within a greater unlikeness, makes use of the via remotionis in order to highlight the infinite difference between God and the creature. But, as we have seen, this difference is the difference between Giver and gift. It follows from this that the via remotionis thematizes

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a structural principle of the analogy of being—the greater unlikeness—but in a way that presupposes the supereminent fullness of God and the positivity of the creaturely participant precisely in its otherness from him. The analogia entis, then, means that God’s greater unlikeness is a supereminence of perfection that is also sheer self-communication, hence, sheer positing of the creature in its otherness from God. This same argument will be followed and deepened in Thomas’s subsequent considerations of the divine names. About seven or eight years separate book 1 of the Summa contra gentiles (1258–9) and the disputed questions anthologized as De potentia (1265–6).38 The first two articles of question 7 of De potentia establish the absolute simplicity of God and the identity of essence and esse in God. After excluding God from any genus, Thomas asks in article 4 whether ‘good’, ‘wise’, ‘just’, and the like are predicated accidentally of God. The answer is no. Having established the identity of essence and esse in God, Thomas has excluded the possibility of accidental features in God. But if there are no accidental features in God, what do the above predicates signify? This is the theme of article 5, which asks, ‘Do these names signify the divine substance?’ After a series of objections based on texts from Dionysius, Aristotle, John Damascene, and Augustine, Thomas develops his own answer by setting forth two previous responses to the question, one by Maimonides and the other by Dionysius. According to Aquinas, Maimonides denies that any term can signify the divine essence. How, then, do they signify? Thomas interprets Maimonides as holding that there are two possibilities. The first is that the terms predicated of God indicate him as the cause of what the name signifies (but not as the subsistent fullness of it). For instance: ‘ ‘‘God is good’’ means no more than that God is the cause of goodness in things.’39 The second possibility [is that] terms predicated of God signify him simply ‘by way of negation’.40 This second possibility is explained as follows: ‘when we say God lives we do not mean that life is something in him, but that God has not that mode of existence which is in things inanimate.
38 A chronological catalogue of Thomas’s works can be found in James Weisheipl, Friar Thomas d’Aquino: His Life, Thought, and Works (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1983). 39 40 Summa theol. ia, q. 13, a. 2. De pot., q. 7, a. 5.

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Likewise when we say that God is an intelligent being, we do not mean that intelligence is really in him, but that he has not that mode of existence whereby dumb animals exist, and so on.’41 Thomas rejects both of these possibilities as insufficiens et inconveniens. The core of Thomas’s argument is that Maimonides’s extreme form of negation is unable to account for the fact that some words are meaningfully predicated of God, while others are not: ‘If names were applied to God only in order to deny things of him, just as when we say that God is living because according to him (Rabbi Moses), God has not being in the same way as inanimate creatures: even so might we say that God is a lion because he has not the mode of being of a bird.’42 The reasons Thomas gives in support of meaningful predication of God are particularly noteworthy. In the first place, Maimonides’s account ‘is contrary to the view taken by the saints and prophets in speaking of God: since certain things they affirm of him and deny others: for they assert that he is living, wise, and the like, and deny that he is a body or subject to passions’.43 Secondly, Thomas argues that ‘the idea of negation is always based on an affirmation: as evinced by the fact that every negative proposition is proved by an affirmative: wherefore unless the human mind knew something positively about God, it would be unable to deny anything about him’.44 Thomas concludes his critique of Maimonides with an appeal to the authority of Dionysius: ‘Hence following Dionysius, we must hold that these terms signify the divine essence, albeit defectively and imperfectly: the proof of which is as follows. Since every agent acts inasmuch as it is actual and consequently produces its like, the form of the thing produced must in some manner be in the agent.’45 As in the Summa contra gentiles, Thomas bases his defence of the divine names on the principle of causal likeness. Meaningful predication of God is possible because God’s perfection is reflected in his created effects. To be sure, these effects fall infinitely short of the divine perfection. The fact that all human knowledge is derived from
42 Ibid. Ibid. De pot., q. 7, a. 5. In the Summa (ia, q. 13, a. 2), Thomas repeats this argument with an interesting variation: ‘this is not what people want to say when they talk about God. When a man speaks of the ‘‘living God’’ he does not simply want to say that God is the cause of our life, or that he differs from a lifeless body.’ 44 45 De pot., q. 7, a. 5. Ibid. 43 41

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knowledge of creatures ensures that difference remains an essential and abiding component of every likeness:
Since then our intellect takes its knowledge from creatures, it is informed with the likeness of perfections observed in creatures, namely of wisdom, power, goodness and so forth. Wherefore just as creatures by their perfections are somewhat, albeit deficiently, like God, even so our intellect is informed with the species of these perfections. Now whenever an intellect is by its intelligible form assimilated to a thing, that which it conceives and affirms in accordance with that intelligible species is true of that thing to which it is assimilated by its species: inasmuch as knowledge is assimilation of the mind to the thing known. Hence it follows that whatsoever the intellect informed with the species of these perfections conceives or asserts about God, truly exists in God who corresponds to each one of these species inasmuch as they all are like him. Now if such an intelligible species of our intellect were equal to God in its likeness to him, our intellect would comprehend him, and the intellect’s conception would be a perfect definition of God, just as a walking animal biped is a perfect definition of a man. However, this species does not perfectly reflect the divine essence, as stated above, and therefore although these terms which our intellect attributes to God from such conceptions signify the divine essence, they do not signify it perfectly as it exists in itself, but as it is conceived by us. Accordingly we conclude that each of these terms signifies the divine essence, not comprehensively but imperfectly.46

This rules out any univocal predication of terms of God and creatures. Predication of God can be literally true, but it is always analogous, where analogy indicates a simultaneity of likeness and greater unlikeness. This has important implications for our
De Pot., q. 7, a. 5. Exactly what Thomas means by an imperfect signification of God’s essence is difficult to determine. As Wippel, Metaphysical Themes, 232–3 n. 56, notes, Maritain and Gilson were sharply divided on how to interpret this passage. In Distinguish to Unite or The Degrees of Knowledge, 4th edn., trans. Gerald B. Phelan (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1959), 425, Maritain writes: ‘Names signifying, although only ananoetically, ‘‘id quod est divina substantia’’ do indeed tell us in some manner what God is’, in a ‘moreor-less imperfect, but always true fashion.’ In The Christian Philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas, trans. L. K. Shook (New York: Random House, 1956), 458 n. 47, Gilson criticizes Maritain’s reading: ‘In using this text . . . we must keep in mind the exact thesis which St. Thomas is developing, namely, that the divine names signify the substance of God, that is, they designate it as actually being what the names signify. It does not follow from this that these designations give us a positive conception of what the divine substance is.’ It remains axiomatic for Thomas that knowledge of God’s essence is not possible for a human intellect in this life. Yet the distinction between comprehensive and imperfect knowledge of God’s essence indicates just how far Thomas was willing to go to secure the positive signification of language.
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systematic understanding of Thomas’s use of the via negativa. Greater unlikeness, in fact, is nothing but the obverse of divine supereminence. The meaning of remotion is thus qualified by the fact that God contains supereminently all the perfections of creatures. We negate in order to super-affirm what is infinitely beyond our power to affirm because it is what first affirms us in being. This tension between negation and affirmation is enacted in Thomas’s pedagogical ordering of the treatment of the divine names. The question of these names is introduced only after establishing the divine perfection and the causal likeness between God and creatures. As we have just seen, the De potentia further qualifies the meaning of negative theology in at least two ways. In the first place, it allows, against Maimonides, that some names can be applied to God substantially.47 Thus certain names such as goodness, life, and being positively signify God’s essence, although imperfectly. Secondly, and most importantly for us, Thomas argues that every negation depends on a prior affirmation. I have suggested that Thomas qualifies the meaning of negative theology. This should not be misunderstood. The difference is not that Maimonides remains faithful to the project of negative theology, while Thomas compromises to allow a partial glimpse of God’s essence. It is rather that Maimonides’s account fails to secure an adequate account of God’s transcendence and hence his distance from the finite world. This requires further explanation. Every negation depends on a prior affirmation. By denying that God, in his being, is good, wise, loving, etc., Maimonides cannot adequately affirm the true nature of God’s perfection, and hence his transcendence. It is important to see that God’s causality establishes both the likeness and the unlikeness between God and creatures. By denying the possibility of meaningful language, Maimonides undermines the unlikeness as much as the likeness. In a strange paradox, it is Maimonides who cannot maintain an adequate distance between God and the world. In this sense, Thomas develops a more thoroughgoing negative theology, inasmuch as negation’s true meaning emerges only insofar as it is seen
47 Wippel notes that prior to De potentia, Thomas does not seem to have explicitly defended the possibility of names applying to God substantially. He suggests that this ‘development’ may have occurred, ‘because Thomas came to take Moses Maimonides’s restrictive position concerning the divine names very seriously’, Metaphysical Themes, 240.

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as sustained by, and placed in the service of, a deeper affirmation of creation as an image of God’s generosity.48 As will be recalled, the larger context for the discussion of names in the Summa contra gentiles was a doctrine of remotion in which ‘we know each thing more perfectly the more fully we see its differences from other things’.49 However, the difference at stake here is that between Giver and receiver. An affirmation of the goodness of creation as an image of God is the first step in the movement of negation that is required to attain true knowledge of God. The via remotionis transforms this affirmation into a superaffirmation of the source of the creature. This super-affirmation, however, while pointing to something that infinitely surpasses the creatures that we affirm, does not simply deny those creatures. Rather, it finds them again, not only insofar as their perfections pre-exist unitedly in and as God, but also because for these perfections to pre-exist as God is for them to pre-exist as the selfcommunicating source of the creature’s participation in them. The analogia entis culminates in the via supereminentiae. This does not do away with the original affirmation on which the analogical ascent to God is based, but rather takes it up again from the point of view of the one who is the affirmation of the creature in person—a viewpoint that we attain, not by placing ourselves in God’s shoes, but by remaining faithfully within the experience of receiving, hence, participating in, the gift of being that set the ascent in motion. If, as Thomas (following Dionysius) teaches, ‘our soul is joined to God, in ascending by negations’, then negation does not mean leaving the finite behind.50 Rather, the perfection and transcendence of God is not adequately secured unless and until the finite world is seen as an image of God’s supreme perfection. The analogia entis —and here we can see its eschatological import—is already the beginning of a return to God, not in spite of creatures, but together with them in their otherness from him.

48 The sense of ‘negative theology’ I mean here will become evident in subsequent chapters. I presuppose that it is not the case such that the more we know of someone, the less mysterious he or she becomes. In knowledge between human persons, which sheds light on the structure of knowledge as such, knowledge and mystery reciprocally condition and deepen each other. Likewise, when God reveals himself in Christ as trinitarian love, he becomes precisely more mysterious. 49 50 Contra gent. i, ch. 14. In div. nom., ch. 13, lect. 3.

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At the heart of Thomas’s understanding of the analogy of being is the notion of esse as the intrinsic act of every real being: ‘Every created substance attains likeness to God through the very act of being ( per ipsum esse). . . . Therefore, esse itself has this status with respect to all created substances: it is their act.’51 The inquiry of the present section thus revolves around the role of esse in securing the positivity of finitude within the real distinction. My aim is to establish an account of the analogia entis as a structure of unityin-difference such that the affirmation of the transcendent perfection of God always includes the affirmation of the goodness of its finite participant and image precisely in its otherness from him. In the fourth question of the prima pars of the Summa theologiae, Thomas asks if creatures can be said to resemble God. He begins by noting that similitudo results from sharing a common form. He then describes three different ways of sharing a form. The first kind of similarity results when two things share a form of the same type to the same degree. This is perfect likeness. The second results when two things share a form of the same type, though to different degrees. For example, something white can be similar to something less white. Thirdly, things can be described as similar because they share a form, though not of one type. The example is the relation between a cause and effect which do not share the same genus. This is the most remote sort of likeness. Now, because he is committed to preserving an infinite difference between God and creatures, Thomas excludes the possibility of God and creatures sharing a common genus or nature. On the other hand, Thomas’s account of God’s perfection depends on some remote similarity. For this reason, then, he will say that the third type of similarity obtains between the creature and God. As became evident in Thomas’s critique of Maimonides, without some similarity, the possibility of meaningful language about God is lost. The originality of Thomas’s position is to have grasped the third type of similarity outlined above as a single principle combining at once both the infinite difference and the unity that exists between God and creature. Aquinas’s name for this principle is analogia:
[ The similarity between creatures and God] is the sort of analogy that holds between all things because they have esse in common. And this is
51

Contra gent. ii, ch. 53.

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how things resemble God; for precisely as beings [entia] they resemble the primary and universal source of all esse.52

The implication of this ontological analogy is further developed in question 8 of the prima pars, where Thomas turns to consider how God ‘exists everywhere in everything’.53 Throughout the four articles which make up this question, Thomas is careful to avoid pantheism. God does not exist as a part of the creature. The perfection of his nature places God infinitely above everything created. However, this transcendent perfection does not preclude God’s immanence in creation. Indeed, because God is ipsum esse subsistens, he is immediately present to the esse of creatures, which comes forth from him ceaselessly as ignited flame from igniting fire:
[S]ince God’s nature is esse itself, created esse must be his proper effect, just as it is fire itself that sets other things on fire. Now God causes this effect in things not only when they first begin to be, but as long as they are preserved in esse. . . . Therefore as long as a thing has esse, God must be present to it, according to its mode of esse. Now esse is more intimately and profoundly interior to things than anything else, for everything as we said is potential when compared to esse. So God must be in all things innermostly.54

With respect to the analogy of being, the crucial question that emerges from the two texts cited above is this: if, as Thomas holds, esse is analogically common to both God and creatures, what is the difference between created esse and uncreated esse? Mark Jordan frames the issue as follows: ‘Much recent debate has centered on understanding how it might be that esse could be participated by creation without abolishing the distinction between creature and creator. Alternately, how is it that created acts can stand apart from God while still standing in an original and ongoing participational dependence on him?’55 How, in other words, is esse a principle at once of unity and difference such that there can be an analogia entis as a structure of likeness within greater unlikeness?
52 Summa theol. ia, q. 4, a. 3: ‘Sed secundum aliqualem analogiam sicut ipsum esse est commune omnibus. Et hoc modo illa quae sunt a Deo assimilantur ei inquantum sunt entia, ut primo et universali principio totius esse.’ 53 Summa theol. ia, q. 8, prol: ‘Quia vero infinito convenire videtur quod ubique et in omnibus sit, considerandum est utrum hoc Deo conveniat.’ 54 Summa theol. ia, q. 8, a. 1. 55 Mark D. Jordan, ‘Modes of Discourse in Aquinas’ Metaphysics’, The New Scholasticism (1980): 401–46, at 445.

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In order to answer this question, which is crucial for understanding the analogia entis as an affirmation of the positivity of the finite, it is necessary to gain a better understanding of how Thomas conceives the relation between esse and essence. The text De ente et essentia, written as an aid for Thomas’s fellow Dominican students, provides a helpful point of entry. Thomas begins by citing Aristotle’s dictum that a slight initial error eventually grows to vast proportions. Since ens and essentia are the ‘first conceptions of the intellect (as Avicenna says)’, Thomas proposes to explore their meaning and to consider how they are found in different things. In chapter 4, Thomas considers the manner in which essence exists in separate substances; that is, human souls, angels, and the first cause. After noting the absolute simplicity of the first cause, he takes issue with the then widely held view that there is a matter-form composition in created separate substances. Thomas argues for the complete immateriality of separate substances on the basis of their power of understanding. Forms are intelligible only when they are separate from matter, hence ‘every intellectual substance’, which grasps the intelligible in act, ‘must be completely free of matter’.56 Having established the immaterially of souls and angels, Thomas must show that there is some composition in these substances. This is required to secure their distinction from the first cause, for there can only be one absolutely simple being. Thomas’s solution is to say that, while there is no matter-form composition in separate substances, ‘there is in them a composition of form and esse . . . and by form is here understood the quiddity itself or simple nature’.57 At this point, Thomas presents the following argument in defence of a real composition between esse and form or essence. First, he notes that whatever is not included in the concept of essence comes to it from outside and thus enters into composition with it. Now it is possible to have a concept of an essence without knowing whether or not it exists in reality. Thomas offers the following examples: ‘I can have a concept of man, or phoenix, without knowing whether they exist in nature.’58 It follows that ‘esse is something other than the essence or quiddity’.59
57 58 De ente, ch. 4. De ente, ch. 4. De ente, ch. 4. A detailed analysis of the nature and validity of this so-called ‘intellectus essentiae’ argument can be found in Joseph Owens, ‘Quiddity and Real Distinction in St. Thomas Aquinas’, Mediaeval Studies, 27 (1965): 1–22; John F. Wippel, Metaphysical Themes in Thomas 59 56

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In Thomas’s later writings the distinction between esse and essence introduced to account for the fact that separate substances are both immaterial and distinct from the first cause will increasingly be used as a privileged way of establishing the fundamental difference between creation and God. Here, too, Thomas proceeds to transpose the composition that characterizes spiritual substances into a general account of the relationship of causal dependence on God:
It follows that everything whose being [esse] is distinct from its nature must have being from another. And because everything that exists through another is reduced to that which exists through itself as to its first cause, there must be a reality that is the cause of being for all the other things, because it is pure being [esse tantum]. If this were not so, we would go on to infinity in causes, for everything that is not pure being has a cause of its being, as has been said. It is evident, then, that an intelligence is form and being, and that it holds its being from the first being, which is being in all its purity; and this is the first cause, or God. Everything that receives something from another is potential with regard to what it receives, and what is received in it is its actuality. The quiddity or form, therefore, which is the intelligence, must be potential with regard to the being it receives from God, and this being is received as an actuality. Thus potency and act are found in the intelligences, but not form and matter.60

Note Thomas’s decision to associate the esse/essence distinction with the Aristotelian couplet of act and potency—a decision that will remain characteristic of his thinking about these matters to the very end. According to both Thomas and Aristotle, for a metaphysical composition to result in a real and intrinsic unity (a single ens), the two principles of composition must be related to each other as act and potency: ‘In every composite there must be act and potency. For several things cannot become absolutely one unless among them something is act and something potency.’61 Thomas also follows Aristotle in understanding act as perfection in se and per se. By its very nature, act is prior and more perfect than potency. For Aristotle, the paradigmatic instance of the act/ potency relation is the composition of form and matter, where matter is in potency to the actuality of form. The summit of
Aquinas, 107–32; Walter Patt, ‘Aquinas’s Real Distinction and Some Interpretations’, The New Scholasticism, 62 (1988): 1–29.
60

De ente, ch. 4.

61

Contra gent. i, ch. 18.

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Aristotelian perfection is act as form or essence.62 In conceiving esse as actual in relation to the potency of essence (the formal element), Thomas in effect reverses the relation of form and act.63 The significance of this difference becomes clearer when we consider Thomas’s notion of perfection in relation to Aristotle’s. Both Thomas and Aristotle locate perfection in act. But whereas Aristotle identifies the perfection of act with limit, for Thomas the perfection of act is precisely unlimited: ‘actus non limitatur nisi per potentiam’.64 The perfection of act can become unlimited because Thomas has introduced a new principle of actuality that transcends form. For Aristotle, form was the highest principle of actuality that gave determination and limit to the indeterminacy of matter. For Aquinas, the doctrine of creation, which presupposes a self-communication of that which lies beyond worldly forms—God—to creatures, indicates a transformal principle of actuality that combines the limitlessness formerly ascribed to matter with something whose determinacy cannot be captured by any form:
Esse, as we understand it here, signifies the highest perfection of all: and the proof is that act is always more perfect than potentiality. Now no signate form is understood to be in act unless it be supposed to have esse . . . Wherefore it is clear that esse as we understand it here is the actuality of all acts, and therefore the perfection of all perfections.65

Now, this revision of the notion of act in the light of the discovery of esse has profound implications both for (1) the understanding of God as actus purus that Thomas takes over from Aristotle and (2) for the construal of the difference-in-unity between God and the creature. (1) Thomas agrees with Aristotle in excluding everything accidental and potential from God. God is pure act. Aquinas’s God,
See Joseph Owens, ‘Aristotle and Aquinas’, in The Cambridge Companion to Aquinas (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), 39: ‘For Aristotle, being and essence are identical in each particular instance. At most there could be a conceptual distinction between them, although it was more advantageous for practical purposes to regard them as identical.’ 63 See esp. Contra gent. ii, chs. 52–4; Summa theol. ia, q. 3, a. 4. 64 Comp. theol., ch. 18; cf. Contra gent. i, ch. 43. In a seminal article first published in 1952, W. Norris Clarke traces the background of this principle in ancient philosophy and its adoption by Thomas: ‘The Limitation of Act by Potency in St. Thomas: Aristotelianism or Neoplatonism’, in W. Norris Clarke, Explorations in Metaphysics: Being, Person, God (Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1994), 65–88. 65 De pot., q. 7, a. 2, ad. 9.
62

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unlike Aristotle’s ‘prime mover(s)’, can remain a subsistent intellectual form only on the condition of being the unlimited fullness of act, which means, in turn, that he must be incompositely one with that fullness. The divine simplicity thus becomes an important theme in Aquinas; God is the simple, unlimited fullness of actuality. Recall that Thomas’s introduction of a transformal principle of actuality—esse —relativizes form to something that, together with matter, is potential with respect to esse. For God to be the unlimited fullness of actuality, he must not only have esse, but be substantially one with its unlimited fullness. If essence is the name for that which embraces both form and matter as potential with respect to esse, it follows that God’s fullness of actuality, hence, his unlimited act-character, requires that in him essence (the word for actual being in Aristotle!) and esse be identical. ‘Qui est ’ is, in fact, the most proper name for God.66 (2) If, by contrast, we return once more to created beings, we see that they must be characterized by a limit that distinguishes them from God. They must therefore be non-simple; they must be dual, in the sense of having their unity in the real composition between two principles of being. One of these principles must be actual, the other potential. The only composition with a wide enough extension to cover all finite beings is the distinction between esse and essence. If God is substantially one with the simple fullness of esse, then the creature must by definition be a composition of esse and essentia. The resulting ‘real distinction’ between the two principles thus provides the key to understanding how the creature can be one with God—its participation in the esse with which God himself is substantially one—and different from him—this participation presupposes a complexity rooted in the limit that, so to say, keeps the participation in esse from attaining the subsistent divine fullness of it:
Everything which comes after the first being, since it is not its own esse, has an esse which is received in something by which the esse is limited; and thus in every creature the nature of the thing which participates in esse is one thing, and the participated esse is something else. And since every thing participates in the first act by assimilation insofar as it has esse, the participated esse in each thing must be related to the nature which participates (in) it as act to potency.67

66

In Sent. i, d. 8, q. 1, a. 1.

67

De spiritualibus creaturis, a. 1.

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Every created substance is composed of potency and act. For it is manifest that only God is his own esse, as though essentially existing, insofar, that is, as his act of existing [suum esse] is his substance. And this can be said of no other being: subsistent esse can be only one. It is therefore necessary that any other thing be a being by participation, such that in it the substance participating in esse is other than the esse itself that is participated. But every participant is related to what it participates as potency and act, that is, of that which is and its act of esse.68

It appears, then, that Thomas ascribes an intrinsic infinity of perfection to esse that is limited—‘accidentally’ to the nature of esse —by a non-identical essence. If this is the case, then our insistence on the positivity of the finite within the analogia entis would appear to be in jeopardy. Is the finitude that is secured by esse’s relation to a non-identical essence a mere limit that is simply left behind upon attaining the intrinsically unlimited fullness of actuality? The answer to this question depends on the response to another interrogative: What is the difference between divine esse and created esse? It should be noted that this is not the same question as ‘What is the difference between God and the creature?’ This latter question can be answered by pointing to the real distinction. There is a composition of esse and essence in every real being, while esse and essence are one in God. The question we are now posing concerns esse as one of the constitutive principles of every finite being. It should be clear from our account so far that much rides on this question. On the one hand, a distinction between divine esse and created esse is absolutely essential if we are to avoid pantheism. God cannot be a constitutive part of the creature. There must be an infinite difference between God’s esse and created esse.69 On the other hand, esse is both absolutely simple and one. It is not possible to introduce a new principle of distinction that comes from outside of esse, because outside of esse there is precisely nothing.70 We cannot solve the problem by introducing an unacceptable juxtaposition of God and the creature. How,
Quaestiones quodlibetales, iii, q. 8, a. 20. ‘The more closely a creature approaches God, the more it possesses of esse. . . . But since a creature approaches God only in so far as it participates in a finite esse, yet its distance from God is always infinite, it is said to have more non-esse than esse’, De ver., q. 2, a. 3, ad. 16. Regarding Thomas’s use of the spatial metaphor of ‘distance’, see the references in n. 29 above. 70 De pot., q. 7, a. 2, ad. 9.
69 68

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then, can we affirm created esse as the key to an analogy of being that secures the positivity of the finite within a relation of simultaneous unity and difference, likeness and unlikeness, between Creator and creature? Thomas’s answer respects both sides of the dilemma sketched above: ‘esse significat aliquid completum et simplex, sed non subsistens’.71 Created esse is complete and simple, but not subsistent. ‘For just as one cannot say that running runs’, writes Thomas, but rather that ‘the runner runs’, so ‘one cannot say that esse exists’.72 On the one hand, created esse remains the image of God’s fullness and so the source of all the perfections within a creature.73 On the other hand, it does not have the subsistence of ipsum esse subsistens. This does not mean that esse is now some thing that is different from God; created esse is other than God precisely as non-subsistent. It follows that created esse can maintain its oneness with ipsum esse subsistens only insofar as it attains subsistence by being united with an essence that is irreducibly other than itself. Balthasar therefore sees Thomas’s teaching on the non-subsistent fullness of created esse as the key to understanding how God can be wholly immanent in creation while radically transcending everything finite. A text from Balthasar’s discussion of Thomas in The Glory of the Lord develops the implication of esse’s nonsubsistence relative to the positive character of the essential forms of creation:
[ I ]t is from Denys that Thomas derives his most characteristic philosophical opinion, namely, the doctrine of the actus essendi as the primary, immediate and comprehensive cosmic operation of God. Thomas speaks of the processus essendi a divino principio in omnia existentia; nomen entis designat processum essendi a Deo in omnia entia [‘The procession of existence from the divine principle into all existing things; the name being designates the procession of existence from God into all beings’]. . . . But because esse does not subsist, it cannot even be said to release natures from itself as its ‘possibilities’; it is only in them that it comes to ‘standing’ and subsistence. . . . It is precisely here that a new kind of intimacy of God in the creature becomes clear, an intimacy which is only made possible by the distinction between God and esse. Allowing natures to participate
De pot., q. 1, a. 1. In Boeth. de heb. q. 2; cf. ‘Strictly speaking, being cannot be said to be, but only something which is in virtue of being’, In div. nom., ch. 8, lect. 1. 73 ‘Ipsum esse est similitudo divinae bonitatis’, De ver., q. 22, a. 2. ad. 2.
72 71

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in reality—God’s most proper prerogative—is not to be understood as the disintegration or diminution (on the part of the creature) of God’s being and unicity (which is how it is invariably seen outside the Christian tradition) and the essences of things must not appear as simply the fragmentation of reality, in a negative sense, but must be seen positively as posited and determined by God’s omnipotent freedom and therefore are grounded in the unique love of God. In what we might call the ‘real distinction’ (circumspectly, because here we are dealing with an inexplicable mystery) . . . it is precisely when its essential finitude shows it to be something quite different from God that it knows that, as a real being, it has had bestowed upon it that most extravagant gift—participation in the real being of God. Thus esse, as Thomas understands it, is at once both total fullness and total nothingness: fullness, because it is the most noble, the first and most proper effect of God, because ‘through being God causes all things’ [In div. nom., ch. 5, lect. 1] and ‘being is prior and more interior than all other effects’ [De pot., q. 3, a. 7]. But being is also nothingness since it does not exist as such, for ‘just as one cannot say that running runs’, but rather that ‘the runner runs’, so ‘one cannot say that existence exists’ [In Boeth. de hebd., lect. 2].74

Now, the composition of esse and essence is understood by Thomas in terms of act and potency. If any perfection is attributed to essence prior to or outside of esse, both the simplicity of esse and the fundamental unity of the created being would be called into question. We would be left with something like a unity of two things, rather than a single being (ens). Recall that for Thomas, ‘In every composite there must be act and potency. For several things cannot become absolutely one unless among them something is act and something potency.’75 On the other hand, if essence is simply viewed negatively, that is, as a partial limitation of esse’s perfection, then it becomes impossible to affirm as good that an entity is this particular existent and not some other. The integrity and goodness of creation seem to be called into question. The problem cannot be resolved by making created esse responsible for the distinct essences because esse does not subsist. To be sure, all of the perfections of finite being come from esse. In this sense, the ‘positivity’ that the essential form brings to the finite entity cannot come from ‘outside’ of esse. Nevertheless, to posit created esse as the efficient ground of the distinction would entail either re-identifying created esse with God or turning it into a substance in its own right. In either case, we would reify esse and
74

GL iv. 401–4.

75

Contra gent. i, ch. 18.

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thus call into question the need for a ‘real distinction’. Thus, even if all the perfections of essence have their source in esse, essence is irreducible to esse inasmuch as its sharing in esse does not result from a decision on the part of the act of existence, which is nonsubsistent, but on the part of the ipsum esse subsistens the mediation of whose self-communication esse creatum is. This last statement authorizes us to take the bold step of affirming that because the non-subsistence of esse prevents it from being the efficient cause of its own participation by creatures, its sourcing of creaturely perfections bespeaks a dependence of esse upon creaturely essences. Esse creatum cannot be the simple fullness of actuality except as always united to a non-identical essence. All the perfections of finite being—indeed, all of the being of finite being— comes from a creature’s esse, even as esse itself is completely dependent upon essence. Esse, then, is a unity (it contains all the perfections of being) that, without ceasing to be one, contains a polarity within itself. We could express this polarity in the following way: Esse, because non-subsistent, cannot be ‘itself ’ except insofar as it belongs to something else that is other than it by essence. At the same time, the inscription of dependence in created esse distinguishes it from the divine esse, not as one thing is distinct from another, but as God’s own fullness as ‘given-away’ is distinct from the Giver. Thus, the fact that created esse cannot be the fullness of actuality without being simultaneously exercised as the actuality of what is not esse by essence, signifies neither a decomposition of the unity of esse nor a diminution of esse’s simple fullness, but points to a limitless generosity that allows true otherness to come from itself. Esse’s relation to essence is precisely the revelation—within ever greater unlikeness—of a ‘self-surrender’ built into the original meaning of actuality. Following Ferdinand Ulrich, we can describe this paradoxical dependence of created esse upon essence as poverty, or rather the unity of poverty and wealth that Ulrich takes to be a sign of true love.76 Esse is rich in being the source and image of God’s supreme perfection, and yet poor in its non-subsistence, which again points back to God as the ultimate ground of both esse and essence in their reciprocal relation. We thus arrive at an answer to the question about the difference between divine and created esse. It is the difference between the
76

Ulrich, Homo Abyssus, 46–60.

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Giver who gives himself away in his gift and the gift that, as nonsubsistent, is allowed to image God’s own giving. On the one hand, the non-subsistence that this difference entails for created esse inscribes a radical dependency into the heart of esse’s actuality. On the other hand, this dependency is not a mere negative, but is the poverty coincident with the fullness of being as gift in which the self-giving of the Giver is itself present in the gift. This essentially positive dependency, in turn, puts into our hands the key to our question about the positivity of finitude. Is finitude as such a mere limit that is simply left behind upon attaining the intrinsically unlimited fullness of actuality? The answer, we now see, must be in the negative. Of particular importance in this context is the idea that the non-subsistence of esse grounds the positive character of the essential forms of creation. If one abstracts from esse’s non-subsistence, it becomes impossible to view the positing of finite beings as anything other than a fragmentation or falling away from a prior unity. This follows because essence, as a principle which is in potency to act, would appear simply as a principle of limit, of imperfection.77 On the other hand, the inscription of a dependency on the ‘other’ into the heart of the actuality of esse, without undermining the truth that essences limit esse, suggests that this limitation is not a foreign imposition upon it, but is somehow intrinsic to it—not as a part, or as an internal division, but as wholly coincident with it being God’s being . . . as truly given away. It remains for me to relate Thomas’s account of how we name God from creatures with his doctrine of a real distinction between esse and essence. This will enable me to complete an account of how, for Thomas, the ‘real distinction’, read in the light of the non-subsistence of esse, secures the analogia entis as a structure of unity-in-difference such that the affirmation of the transcendent perfection of God always includes the affirmation of the goodness of its finite participant and image precisely in its otherness from him.
77 I take William Carlo’s interpretation of the real distinction as an example of this tendency. In ‘Commentary on ‘‘The Being of Creatures’’ by G. Phelan’, Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association, 31 (1957), 128, Carlo writes: ‘Essence must rise out of the flood of esse like Thetis from the frothy wave. Essence flows from the esse. Esse gives rise to essence. Essence is the intrinsic modification of the dynamism of actual exercise of the act of being. Why not describe essence, then, as the place where esse stops, bordered by nothingness? After all, esse is even the source of all cognoscibility and all intelligibility. . . . Esse possesses within itself all perfection.’

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We saw that, according to Thomas, analogous knowledge of God is finally possible because of the causal likeness between God and creatures. We also noted the seeming paradox that Thomas’s programme of remotion or the via negativa must negate all finite modes of being in approaching God’s perfection, even as God’s perfection precisely includes in a supereminent manner all the perfections proper to creation. In considering the real distinction, we saw that God’s causal likeness is mediated by the gift of esse, a ‘likeness of God’s goodness’ and the ‘perfection of all perfections’. Yet created esse does not subsist, but is only realized in essences. There is, then, a radical primacy of esse as act simultaneous with a polarity between esse and essence such that each requires the other. Recalling the foregoing discussion of the positivity of the finite, I want to suggest now that remotion cannot consist in simply negating essence as the ‘finite’ or ‘potential’ constituent of created being in order then to press on to establish God as pure Esse. This is not to deny that God is pure Esse (actus purus, esse tantum). The crucial point is that the meaning of esse as act, and thus our knowledge of God, is mediated by esse’s paradoxical ‘dependence’ upon essence. Thomas had occasion to reflect on the goodness of creaturely diversity on several occasions. Against Averroes, he defended the idea that divine knowledge and providence extend to singulars. In developing a highly original account of divine ideas, he argues that there is a divine idea for every concrete singular.78 More pertinently, Thomas traces the cause of diversity back to the creative will of God. This question is explicitly discussed in at least four texts: Summa contra gentiles (ii, chs. 39–45); De potentia (q. 3, a. 16); Compendium theologium (chs. 71–2); and Summa theologiae (ia, q. 47, a. 1). In De potentia he asks, ‘Whether a multitude of things can proceed from one first cause?’ Elsewhere this question comes under the title ‘the distinction of things’. I will take the text from the Summa contra gentiles as representative of Thomas’s position. As will be recalled, the subject matter of Book Two of the Summa contra gentiles is creation. In chapter 5, Thomas determines the following order of procedure: ‘We shall treat of . . . first, the bringing forth of things into being; second, their distinction; third, the
78 Summa theol. ia, q. 15, aa. 1–3; De ver., q. 3. A good account of Thomas’s doctrine of divine ideas can be found in Mark D. Jordan, ‘The Intelligibility of the World and the Divine Ideas in Aquinas’, Review of Metaphysics, 38 (1984): 17–32.

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nature of these same things.’79 Chapter 39 begins the discussion of the cause of distinction among things. In typical fashion, Thomas first sets out to exclude various possible ways of explaining the cause of distinction. The distinction of things does not result from chance (ch. 39), matter (ch. 40), a contrariety of agents (ch. 41), secondary agents (chs. 42 and 43), merits or demerits of rational creatures (ch. 44). In the process of arguing against these alternatives, Thomas makes his own position clear enough: God is the cause of distinction among things. It is important to see just what this question is about. At issue is the universality of God’s causality and the fundamental goodness of created beings. If the cause of distinction among things can be traced back to something other than God, such as prime matter, then God’s causality would not be infinite. Alternatively, if the distinction among things does not come from God, then distinction or difference must be viewed as a privation or negation; the universe would be better without it (as is the case with evil). Thomas argues as follows:
Since every agent intends to introduce its likeness into its effect, in the measure that its effect can receive it, the agent does this the more perfectly as it is the more perfect itself. . . . Now, God is the most perfect agent. It was His prerogative, therefore, to include His likeness into created things most perfectly, to a degree consonant with the nature of created being. But created things cannot attain to a perfect likeness to God according to only one species of creature. For, since the cause transcends the effect, that which is in the cause, simply and unitedly, exists in the effect in composite and multiple fashion—unless the effect attain to the species of the cause; which cannot be said in this case, because no creature can be equal to God. The presence of multiplicity and variety among created things was therefore necessary that a perfect likeness to God be found in them according to their manner of being.80

In book three of the Summa contra gentiles he returns to the same point:
In order that the likeness of divine goodness might be more perfectly communicated to things, it was necessary for there to be a diversity of things so that what could not be perfectly represented by one thing might be, in more perfect fashion, represented by a variety of things in different ways . . . the perfect goodness which is present in God in a unified and simple manner cannot be in creatures except in a diversified manner and through a plurality of things.81
79

Contra gent. ii, ch. 5.

80

Contra gent. i, ch. 45.

81

Contra gent. iii, ch. 97.

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The significance of Thomas’s position should not be overlooked. The persistent temptation to view worldly difference and multiplicity as a fragmentation or falling away from a prior unity is turned on its head. Difference is precisely part of the positive content of the creaturely imago Dei. As Thomas writes, ‘even the difference between one being and another is a being. Wherefore since God is not the cause of a thing tending to non-being, but is the author of all being, he is not the principle of evil, but he is the cause of multitude.’82 I can appeal here to the previous discussion about the non-subsistence of created esse: esse is a unity—it contains all the perfections of being—that, without ceasing to be one, contains a polarity within itself such that it depends on another. Difference is inscribed in the heart of the unity of being as something fundamentally positive. Thomas consistently teaches that we only know God through his created effects. Negatively, this serves as a sobering reminder of the weakness of the human intellect. Positively, it implies that God is present in creation. The generosity of God can be perceived in all the diverse forms of nature—foremost in being itself (esse) and, through the mediation of being, in every single created entity (ens). That is, there is no aspect whatsoever of created being that does not contribute to a deepening of our knowledge of God’s perfection. The only way to know the act of being in its unlimited fullness (visio beatifica) is to receive every essential form as an expression of the inexhaustible plenitude of esse. The analogical movement toward God can leave behind precisely nothing created if we are to attain perfect knowledge of God. And yet, God is present in the gift of creation as one who infinitely transcends his gift. Even if—per impossible —one were able to know all of the created effects of God, this knowledge would only serve to heighten God’s distance from creation. The fundamental structure of analogy, with its maior dissimilitudo, is this: the more creation is affirmed in its causal dependence on God, the greater the distinction between God and the world appears. And yet, insofar as the infinite distance or distinction between God and the world unfolds within esse, it is not an unbridgeable abyss or chasm, but a positive distinction that unfolds between giver and gift: ‘Consequently it is not unfitting for there to be a similar kind of proportion between God and the creature, although they
82

De pot., q. 3, a. 16, ad. 3.

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are infinitely remote from one another; and so a union (even) between them is possible.’83 Being as Gift This chapter began with a question: If God is truly ‘all in all’, how is it possible to explain the otherness of creation with respect to God? In pursuing this question, I exhibited the understanding of the analogia entis underlying Aquinas’s account of the God–world relationship in terms of the so-called ‘real distinction’ between esse and essentia. I began with Thomas’s doctrine of the divine names, which centres on an account of analogical predication. Here it was shown that, for Aquinas, the relation of similarity or causal likeness between God’s being and the being of the world is the ground of analogical knowledge of the divine perfection. ‘It is through esse itself ’, writes Thomas, ‘that every created substance is likened to God.’84 This led to a discussion of the real distinction between esse and essence as the structure of created being. The non-subsistent fullness of created esse was shown to be the key to understanding God’s transcendence and immanence in creation, as well as the positivity of creation in its otherness from God. Thanks to the ‘definition’ of esse as the non-subsistent fullness of actuality, I was able to show how Thomas’s doctrine of the divine names implies that the negation of the finite required by the eschatological ascent to God is embraced by a double affirmation of the divine supereminence and of finitude itself. This analogy of being clearly involves non-identity between the world and God. Read in the light of the ‘real distinction’ and the non-subsistence of esse, however, this non-identity is best understood as the positive difference between the creature and the Creator that he brings into existence. Insofar as creaturely otherness is not a deficit, but a gratuitous ‘extra’, a novelty resulting from the fruitfulness of the divine giving, we can say that the analogia entis, as a relation between God and the creature characterized by likeness within greater unlikeness, is the simultaneity of the divine totality of perfection and the positivity of creaturely otherness—a simultaneity founded on divine (self -) giving.
83 84

In Sent. iii, d. 1, q. 1, a. 1.

Contra gent. ii, ch. 53.

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Thomas’s account of analogical predication suggests an understanding of the God–world relation such that attainment of God’s perfection beyond the world coincides with the reception and affirmation of his giving within the world. It follows from this that the act of transcendence into God cannot merely leave the creature behind, but must bring the creature along in its very otherness from God. Christ’s return to the Father through a selfsurrender into the heart of the world thus suggests itself to be the horizon of the analogia entis already in its consistency as a ‘philosophical’ item. Indeed, once analogy is read in the light of Christ, the radicality of the simultaneous affirmation of God’s transcendence and the creature’s otherness comes fully to light for the first time—again, with consequences also for the philosophical understanding of the God–world relation. Now, this philosophical deepening of analogy as an expression of creation as gift, while prepared by Aquinas, must await Balthasar for its full development. The core of this contribution lies in showing that being as gift is (a) revealed paradigmatically in interpersonal love, and (b) that this experience thus opens the real distinction from within to the christological revelation of God’s triune being. The remainder of the present chapter will therefore focus on Balthasar’s contribution to this metaphysical scheme. I cited a text earlier in which Balthasar claims that the ‘real distinction’ of Thomas Aquinas is ‘the source of all the religious and philosophical thought of humanity’.85 In the course of unfolding this claim, he writes that ‘the infant is brought to consciousness of himself only by love, by the smile of his mother’.86 The substance of Balthasar’s contribution to metaphysics bears on the relationship between these two passages. The Thomistic distinction between esse and essence provides the foundation and framework, yet this distinction is reinterpreted through a concrete phenomenology of love. Whereas for Thomas the real distinction functions as a principle by which the creature is distinguished from God, in Balthasar’s writings the distinction also becomes a positive image of love—the love of God for creation, and, more profoundly, the love within the Trinity.87 This link will be explored in the final part of the present chapter.
86 MW 112. MW 114. In TD v. 75, Balthasar speaks of the ‘real distinction’ as ‘a structural reflection of triune being’. Cf. TL iii. 209. 87 85

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To claim that the real distinction is best understood in terms of the phenomenology of intersubjective love raises three fundamental questions that must be answered before we can consider creaturely being as an imago Trinitatis. The first question has to do with method: does not the particularity and concreteness of intersubjective love restrict, rather than open, our understanding of the limitless fullness of being in its universality? As we shall see, the key to this question is that being is gift. Now, to say that being is gift is to say that being contains ‘more’ than itself. This is, of course, a delicate affirmation. Nonetheless, it is possible to make it, thanks to the non-subsistence of the act of being, which secures the concrete diversity of essences as integral to the unity of being without, for all that, dividing this unity up into distinct ‘parts’. But if this is true, then analysis of metaphysical principles must occur within the context of the whole in which the interplay of esse and essence is contained—a whole that, for us, is defined by interpersonal encounter. This leads to the second question: is this interpersonal startingpoint accidental? Through analysis of Balthasar’s meditation on the so-called ‘fourfold difference’ in The Glory of the Lord, where he offers his personal rethinking of the real distinction, I will show that interpersonal love, as the context of the awakening of consciousness, is the beginning and the end of the meaning of the difference-within-unity in being. Once again, the operative principle is that there is a generosity in being that allows being to be ‘more’ than itself. This brings us to the theme of receptivity, a perfection that Balthasar’s account of the real distinction seems to build into the nature of actuality itself. An answer to this question will make explicit the principle that underlies our discussion throughout: The unity of being is mysteriously polarized in a way that affects both esse and essence simultaneously such that each is concretely one with the whole—but in asymmetrical relation to the ‘other’. Otherness is not outside the unity of being because the unity of being is more than just self. The affirmative answer to the question of receptivity as essential to the very nature of actuality will enable us to valorize the difference that opens within the unity of worldly being as an imago trinitatis —an image structure that I will secure through a christological interpretation of the real distinction.

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According to Aquinas, being is both the most intensively perfect and the most universal ‘object’ of intellection. ‘Being is that which the intellect first discovers as most known and into which it resolves all other conceptions.’88 Thomas also insists that ‘[the term] being is taken from the act of existing (actus essendi)’.89 It is esse understood as act which grounds both the comprehensive universality and the perfection of being: ‘Nothing can be added to esse that is extraneous to it, since nothing is extraneous to it except nothing (non-ens).’90 Most contemporary interpreters of Aquinas agree that the unlimited perfection of esse as act lies at the heart of his metaphysics. In Thomas’s later writings this is the key principle that allows one to conclude to God’s infinity and perfection.91 It is not, then, an unimportant question to ask how Thomas demonstrates this understanding of esse as unlimited act—as the ‘perfection of all perfections.’ The significance of this question is heightened once we realize that perfect knowledge of esse can be nothing less than the beatific vision. Wippel broaches the issue as follows:
The view that act as such or that existence (esse) as such is not self-limiting frequently recurs in Thomas’s writings. At the same time, I must admit that I have never succeeded in finding a demonstration or even an attempted demonstration of this point in his texts. One might suggest that he bases it on the infinity of God. This will not do, however, since on many occasions he turns to this principle to prove that God is infinite. Hence my strong suspicion is that for Aquinas it is a self-evident axiom.92

But where does this axiom come from? How does one obtain knowledge that esse as act is unlimited? One might answer this question by saying that Thomas bases his understanding of esse on his experience of concrete reality. What could be more self-evident than the existence and goodness of real beings? Significantly, Thomas affirms that, although the proper object of the human intellect is being as such, its concrete approach to this proper object is mediated through sense knowledge of material things. This mediation affects both the starting-point—the
De ver., q. 1, a. 1. De ver., q. 1, a. 1. Cf. Contra gent. ii, ch. 54: ‘et ipsum esse est quo substantia denominatur ens.’ 90 De pot., q. 7, a. 2, ad. 9. 91 For a collection of such texts see Wippel, Metaphysical Themes, 158–9. 92 Ibid.
89 88

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analysis of the concrete into its metaphysical principles must begin there—and the end-point of the act of knowing of the human being (the judgement that is the apex of this act coincides with a conversio ad phantasmata). In this sense, Thomas seems to be pre-eminently a philosopher of the concrete. The problem is that this account of the act of knowing stands in a certain tension with Thomas’s understanding of metaphysics as a science. Following Aristotle, Thomas holds that the subject of metaphysics is being understood as abstracted or separated from matter. The question, then, is whether or not such ‘separation’ is by itself sufficient to do justice to being in its universal, intensive perfection. The answer to this question—an answer that requires differentiating between separation and abstraction—is complex and continues to be debated among Thomists. In his commentary on Boethius’s De trinitate, q. 5, Thomas accounts for the threefold division of the speculative sciences according to varying degrees of abstraction from matter. The objects of the natural sciences depend on matter for both their being and their being understood; mathematicals depend upon matter for their being, but not their being understood; and, finally, metaphysics deals with objects that do not depend upon matter for their being or their being understood. In a seminal article published in 1947, Louis-Bertrand Geiger drew attention to the stages of revision in the autograph manuscript of Thomas’s commentary on De trinitate.93 In later revisions, Thomas carefully distinguishes between abstraction and separatio. The understanding of being which forms the subject of metaphysics is not attained by abstraction or simple apprehension (the first operation of the mind). Only in judgement, the second operation, does the mind attain an understanding of being sufficient to begin metaphysics. Insofar as esse is discovered through judgement and not simple apprehension, Thomas’s redaction in De trinitate points to the eminently existential character of Thomistic metaphysics. The question remains, however, as to the status of the character of separatio as a ‘negative’ judgement that removes all material limitation. Balthasar brings a distinctive contribution to the discussion insofar as he thematizes the concrete circumstances under which the unlimited fullness of esse is attained as a metaphysical datum. In this sense, we can say
93 ´ ` ‘Abstraction et separation d’apres S. Thomas In de Trinitate q. 5, a. 3’, Revue des sciences philosophiques et theologiques, 31 (1947): 3–40. ´

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that Balthasar’s approach to metaphysics does not just analyse the principles of the concrete, but is itself methodologically concrete. In an essay published in 1946, ‘On the Tasks of Catholic Philosophy in Our Time’, which Henrici identifies as ‘Balthasar’s ´ true discours de la methode’,94 Balthasar writes as follows:
First principles cannot be abstract propositions, since it is precisely not on the basis of abstraction that we arrive at them: they must necessarily be concrete and immediate encounters, not only with the laws of being, but with being itself . . . the immediate encounter with being remains the basis that supports all discursive activity of the understanding. We may leave aside the question whether this intuition must be narrowed down to the mere existence of one’s own consciousness, or whether—without detriment to the discourse which is necessary for knowledge of the other things—the existence of God and existence of the world as the destruction of the solitariness of the ‘I’ is just as fundamental a given element in this first intuition as the existence of the ‘I’ itself. . . . It is possible that one would arrive, through such a concretization of the first evidential character which is prior to all discourses and remains superior to them, at an understanding of being and of knowledge that contains—once again we leave open the question how—both in being and in thinking an element of fullness and of richness that can never be wholly captured by any ontological and logical form . . . one need only to link this supposition (initially very difficult to grasp) with the ancient Thomistic teaching on the real distinction between essence and being, in order to understand that it is neither absurd nor without foundation in the tradition: for the authentic Thomistic conception, the actus essendi is unlimited in itself and signifies, over against the form of the essentia which limits it, an element of fullness.95

Two points should be noted from this passage. First, the mind’s initial contact with being and the principles of being occurs through a concrete encounter. Balthasar’s proposal for a concrete methodology (con-crescere: the organic growing together of parts) can be contrasted with a process of separation that would attain metaphysical universality by isolating esse from its material conditions and ‘limiting’ differences.96 Secondly, this concrete
Henrici, ‘The Philosophy of Hans Urs von Balthasar’, 150. CathPhil, 180–1. Schindler, Dramatic Structure of Truth, 40–1 argues that Balthasar’s approach to the start of metaphysics is ‘unique in comparison with that of other Thomists in that he insists that the openness to this superabundance of Being, or philosophy’s movement into it, does not occur in the first place through the process of abstraction, nor even through the separation
95 96 94

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encounter reveals an element of fullness and richness to being that corresponds to the Thomistic conception of the unlimited perfection of the actus essendi. Still, the crucial question of how one attains knowledge of the actus essendi through a concrete encounter is answered only indirectly in this 1946 essay. The open-endedness in the above passage—‘we leave open the question how’—is directly taken up in Balthasar’s later writings with the idea that a child awakens to self-consciousness only through the call of love of another. For Balthasar, the original and abiding access to, and measure of, the unlimited fullness and perfection of being is love between persons. This does not mean, of course, that Balthasar rules out something like Thomistic separatio. The point is rather that such separatio remains coincident, even on the methodological level, with a concrete relation to an ‘other’ that gratuitously gives itself away. Metaphysics as science is the unfolding through the totality of one’s being the implications of my being given to myself through the love of the other. Why does Balthasar connect the interpersonal event of love with the Thomistic ‘real distinction?’ I will discuss Balthasar’s answer to this question in more detail when interpreting his articulation of the ‘fourfold difference’. At this point I can say that Balthasar understands interpersonal love as a relation involving difference-within-unity such that the more perfect the unity the greater the difference between persons. Once we see how difference can be intrinsic to the unity of being, we realize (analogously) that the unity and perfection of esse are positively conditioned by its relation to essence. The non-subsistence of esse means that the complexity of the essence in its non-identity with esse is not simply a limit that is foreign to esse itself, but is rather a difference that is generously allowed by esse itself—essence truly ‘affects’ esse without, for all that, depriving it of its simple fullness. We will see that Balthasar characterizes this mysterious interplay between esse and essence as a reciprocal, asymmetrical generosity. Already at
of Being from all limiting differences (separatio)—although these are both eventually included as essential moments—but rather initially in the inexhaustible fullness of the child’s joyful awakening in love. . . . this point is crucial insofar as it keeps us from falling into a dualism of competing principles, where the superessentiality of Being would be emphasized precisely to the exclusion (separation) of the rich variety of essences, or the wealth of particular essences would be seen to overshadow the comprehensive fullness of Being. The dualism is avoided, we shall see, only by a concrete method, which attends to the fundamental, concrete experience that includes all at once the various elements that will later be distinguished.’

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the primitive level of metaphysical principles there is something analogous to love between persons. This suggests the viability of the intrinsic link between the real distinction, on the one hand, and interpersonal relations as the paradigmatic revelation of the meaning of the real distinction, on the other. Without this foundation it would be impossible to claim, as Balthasar does, that the ultimate unveiling of the meaning of being occurs in the mystery of Christ freely giving himself away out of love for the world.97 We would be left with an eschatology that is finally irrelevant to the meaning of worldly reality, and a sense of worldly reality that would, in the end, be irrelevant to our final union with God. It would be difficult, then, to exaggerate the importance of this teaching on the dialogical structure of human consciousness for Balthasar’s philosophical and theological writings.98 It forms the ´ core of his critique of Marechal and the school of transcendental Thomism.99 It provides a privileged analogy for understanding how human beings can have a natural desire to see God which does not in any way lay claim to the free gift of grace.100 More to the point, it provides the key to his interpretation of Thomas’s real distinction between esse and essentia and thus the analogy between God and the world. Balthasar’s most sustained reflection on the
‘Being itself here unveils its final countenance, which for us receives the name of trinitarian love; only with this final mystery does light fall at last on that other mystery: why there is being at all and why it enters our horizon as light and truth and goodness and beauty’, GL i. 158. 98 As a university student in Vienna, Balthasar lived with Rudolf Allers, a medical doctor, psychiatrist, philosopher, and theologian. (He translated Aquinas’s De Ente et Essentia into German, as well as the whole corpus of Anselm’s works.) According to Balthasar, it was Allers who taught him that ‘love between persons is the objective medium of human existence; it was in this turning from the ‘‘I’’ to the full reality of the ‘‘thou’’ that [Allers] saw philosophical truth and psychotherapeutic method’, MW 88–9. From around the time of Wahrheit der Welt (1947), the thesis that interpersonal love is at the origin of consciousness becomes the leitmotiv of Balthasar’s philosophy. From 1965 onward, he increasingly develops the implications of this insight for theological issues such as the relation between nature and grace, the consciousness of Christ, and the imago trinitatis. 99 In ‘Balthasar and Rahner’, in The Analogy of Beauty, 20, Rowan Williams draws attention to Balthasar’s review of the first edition of Rahner’s Geist im Welt, where Balthasar sets out his questions and reservations regarding the transcendental approach: ‘Rahner’s ´ mentor and precursor Marechal, seems, in Balthasar’s eyes, to have . . . so concentrated on the analysis of subjectivity as to make the metaphysical pre-apprehension of esse excessively formal and abstract, and virtually empty.’ See Balthasar, ‘Movement toward God’ [¼ MTG], in Explorations in Theology, iii. Creator Spirit, trans. Brian McNeil (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1993). 100 See Marc Ouellet, ‘Paradox and/or Supernatural Existential’, Communio: International Catholic Review, 28 (1991): 259–80.
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significance of the initial experience of a child is found at the end of volume V of The Glory of the Lord under the heading ‘The Miracle of Being and the Fourfold Difference’. An analysis of this text will provide the foundation for our subsequent consideration of receptivity as a divine perfection and the imago trinitatis in created being. The ‘fourfold difference’, which many regard as the copingstone of Balthasar’s philosophy, represents Balthasar’s version of Thomas’s ‘real distinction’.101 Although Balthasar occasionally speaks as if there were four separate ‘distinctions’, he is nonetheless discussing a single (fourfold) difference, ‘which opens up in four different ways’.102 The four levels of distinction are (1) the intersubjective difference between the child and his mother; (2) the dependence of the existent (Seiende) upon being (Sein); (3) the dependence of being upon the existent; and (4) the difference between God and the world.103 The unity among these four levels is significant for our theme inasmuch as the single difference that opens up in them is one of interpersonal love (1) in which the gift-character of being carried in the ‘real distinction’ (2–3) reveals the difference between God and the world (4) to be a sharing in God’s gift of self. Before I turn to consider each of these stages in turn, a preliminary observation on Balthasar’s understanding of wonder (Verwunderung) will help clarify what follows. Following Heidegger, Balthasar conceives metaphysical wonder as ‘not only the beginning of thought, but . . . also the permanent element (arche) in which it moves’.104 ‘Being as such’, Balthasar writes, ‘by itself to the very end ‘‘causes wonder’’, behaving as something to be wondered at, something striking and worthy of wonder.’105 Wonder is not merely one among many approaches to being, it is rather a methodological precondition for objectivity. Since it is the nature of being to cause wonder, being cannot be perceived except from within the experience of wonder. Wonder,
101 See Martin Bieler, ‘Meta-anthropology and Christology: On the Philosophy of Hans Urs von Balthasar’, Communio: International Catholic Review, 20 (1993): 129–46; Schindler, Dramatic Structure of Truth, 31. 102 GL v. 634. 103 Throughout this text Balthasar uses the words Sein and Seiende to articulate the real distinction or ontological difference. This usage is not fixed. In other places he distinguishes between Existenz und Wesen (TL i. 108–13), Dasein and Sosein (TL i. 218–19), or Wirklichkeit and Seiende (Epilog, 38). In the analysis below, I follow the English translators of GL v who use the terms ‘Being’ for Sein and ‘existent’ for Seiende, although I have chosen not to adopt their practice of capitalizing ‘being’. 104 105 GL v. 614. GL v. 615.

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become reflective without ceasing to be wonder, is the basic metaphysical act. In order to understand what Balthasar means by wonder and how this experience relates to the fourfold difference it is helpful to consider how he distinguishes metaphysical wonder (Verwunderung) from ‘admiration’ (Bewunderung). Admiration represents a response to the fact that ‘everything appears so wonderfully and ‘‘beautifully’’ ordered within the necessity of being’.106 That is, admiration takes for granted what is given and marvels that things exist in such and such a way. What is lacking is precisely the element of a radical surprise over the fact that things exist at all. This is why only wonder corresponds to the basic metaphysical question, Why is there anything at all and not simply nothing? The fourfold difference represents an attempt to answer this question while remaining in wonderment over being. Now, such wonder is crucial both to the meaning of the fourfold difference, because the traversal of its four levels is set in motion by the fundamental experience that my existence is a gift that is both surprising and affirming, utterly gratuitous and non-arbitrary. This fundamental experience of my being as gratuitous, yet nonarbitrary gift provokes wonder. It also goes to the core of what Balthasar means by beauty, indeed, glory. Balthasar’s concern, then, is to sustain the experience of wonder as the basic metaphysical act. But this sustaining requires a determination of what Balthasar calls the ‘place of glory in metaphysics’, which is an opening within the unity of being to a gratuitous, yet non-arbitrary freedom that, originating from God, pervades the entirety of the four levels. As noted above, the unfurling of the four levels begins within the interpersonal love of the mother and her child, whom the mother’s smile awakens into an awareness of its having been given to itself as gift. The unfolding then passes through the relationship between esse and the concrete existent. Finally, it attains God. This attainment does not, however, spell the end of wonder. The traversal of the four stages attains God, neither as a positivistic extraneity to being, nor as one entity among others, but as the original, gratuitous, yet non-arbitrary act of being as gift that opens difference, and keeps it open, as a space for the advent of gift.
106

GL v. 613–14.

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To be sure, Balthasar retains the distinction between esse and essence (levels 2–3) as an indispensable mediation between the act of creation and the interpersonal encounter. Nevertheless, Balthasar’s rereading of the real distinction as a mutual dependence between esse and essence within the unity of being suggests that the basic nature of being, of reality, is love. The real distinction, structuring worldly being as an event of reciprocal giving, tends of its very dynamic to fulfil itself in the interpersonal relation as the paradigmatic instance of that giving that is a kind of natural sacrament of the original event of divine giving. This should put us on our guard against thinking that Balthasar seeks to replace ‘ontological’ categories with ‘personalist’ categories. Rather, he seeks to show that the experience of love between a mother and child cannot be reduced to anthropology or psychology, but sheds light on the meaning of being, even as an understanding of the meaning of being is essential to grasp the full implications and breadth of love between persons. 1. The Intersubjective Difference Between the Child and his Mother The first level of distinction that opens up is between the child’s ‘I’ and the ‘other’, who is at first the child’s mother, but implicitly is everything else that will be ‘other’ to the child. This distinction is luminously present in the moment the child awakens to selfconsciousness through the call of another’s love, which is expressed in the mother’s smiling on him or her:
Its ‘I’ awakens in the experience of a ‘Thou’: in its mother’s smile through which it learns that it is contained, affirmed and loved in a relationship which is incomprehensively encompassing, already actual, sheltering and nourishing. . . . Existence is both glorious and a matter of course. Everything, without exception, which is to follow later and will inevitably be added to this experience must remain an unfolding of it. There is no ‘gravity of life’ which would fundamentally surpass this beginning. There is no ‘taking over control’ of existence which might go further than this first experience of miracle and play. There is no encounter—with a friend or an enemy or with a myriad passers-by— which could add anything to the encounter with the first-comprehended smile of the mother.107
107

GL v. 616–17.

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The import of this passage is stunning: consciousness awakens within, indeed, as the event of the opening of the difference between mother and child under the profile of gift. To be sure, the mother does not create the child’s consciousness ex nihilo. And yet there is an immediate presence of the act of creation in the event of the mother–child relation. Thus, if the mother does not simply create the child’s consciousness, neither is that consciousness a kind of dormant light merely awaiting a switch to be turned on by an outside hand in order to begin to function autonomously. From this point of view, the space of time between the conception of a child and his or her first reflexive act is ontologically significant. The child is a person from the moment of conception, and clearly stands in an intimate relation to its mother, but the ‘I’ of a child is latent, and only awakens through the call of love. In this encounter the child is not purely passive, of course, but it remains true that its activity is mediated as gift through the mother’s loving presence. In this sense, the child comes to itself as always already responding to love thanks to the initiative of love. Its original experience includes, not only being loved, but of being thereby given the gift of sharing in love: ‘By giving itself, it experiences: I give myself. By crossing over from itself into what is other than itself, into the open world that offers it space, it experiences its freedom, its knowledge, its being as spirit.’108 In a word, the original experience is one of being granted entrance into a sheltering and encompassing world of love; being and love are coextensive.109
[T]he entire paradise of reality that unfolds around the ‘I’ stands there as an incomprehensible miracle: it is not thanks to the gracious favor of the ‘I’ that space and world exist, but thanks to the gracious favor of the ‘thou’. And if the ‘I’ is permitted to walk upon this ground of reality and to cross the distances to reach the other, this is due to an original favor bestowed on him, something for which, a priori, the ‘I’ will never find sufficient reason in itself.110

MTG 16. According to Henrici, ‘The Philosophy of Hans Urs von Balthasar’, 167: ‘Here lies, in both open and hidden fashion, the key to von Balthasar’s whole work and thus also to his philosophy. Only when we succeed in seeing being as love—both as the poverty of eros and as selfless gift of self—only then do the perspectives of this immense thought come together into a simple and impressive form.’ 110 MTG 16.
109

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To draw out the significance of this starting-point, we need to consider how it sheds light on the primordial meaning of difference. The ‘I’ of the child awakens to an affirmation of the goodness of its being other than its mother. Within the comprehending love of the mother, the child’s self is a ‘more’ that is affirmed as positive, rather than a product of loss or a fall (negation). The personal and ontological relation of unity between mother and child—and, according to Balthasar, the child does not distinguish between the love of God and the love of its mother—is the ground of the child’s distinct self-consciousness. The original experience, then, is one of being given to oneself—and given for another—as a gift. This experience is characterized by the two basic, inseparable aspects mentioned above: non-arbitrariness, insofar as the child grasps that the fullness of reality, which can never be surpassed, is love; gratuity, insofar as love is inconceivable without the free initiative of the other. The experience of being granted entry into being provides the abiding context for posing the fundamental question of metaphysics—why is there something rather than nothing? The reception of a gift provokes a natural desire to know the source of the gift. To whom do I owe my gratitude? 2. The Dependence of the Existent Upon Being The second level of distinction opens when I realize that my wonder and gratitude over ‘being permitted to be’ cannot come to rest on my mother or any particular existent, because these individuals have also been granted entry into being:
Insofar as I am one existent among others . . . I now understand that all other existents stand in the same relation to being as I do myself. It evidently follows from this that, although all existents partake in being, yet—to whatever extent we were to multiply them—they never exhaust it, nor even, as it were, ‘broach’ it.111

We can relate this second stage to Thomas’s account of esse as the simple fullness of actuality. Thanks to this simplicity and fullness, in fact, being is infinitely richer than the limited existent. This corresponds to Thomas’s understanding of the unlimited character of esse as act. There is a plenitude and generosity in
111

GL v. 618.

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being, a ‘more’ which overflows both every particular being, and the totality of beings together. ‘The sum of possible beings’, writes Balthasar, ‘transcends the range of realized beings; but merely possible beings are by definition not real, so that the readiness of being to make possible entities real is greater than their sum.’112 Being itself, as distinct from any particular being, appears as limitless source and ground, and thus my wonder is directed to being. 3. The Dependence of Being Upon the Existent The third level of distinction is opened when one realizes that although each existent depends on being for its entrance into reality, there is a reciprocal dependence of being upon the existent to attain subsistence. Thus, if the second distinction corresponds to the Thomistic understanding of esse as the ‘actuality of all acts’, the third distinction highlights the non-subsistence of the act of existence of which Thomas speaks in the first question of De Potentia: ‘esse significat aliquid completum et simplex, sed non subsistens.’113 ‘The fact that an existent’, Balthasar writes, ‘can only become actual through participation in the act of being points to the complementary antithesis that the fullness of being attains actuality only in the existent. Just as existents stand in need of being, being stands in need of the existent.’114 Being is simultaneously rich and poor; rich in its fullness which continually overflows the limits of every existent, and poor in that it stands in need of the limited existent to attain reality. ‘Each ‘‘pole’’ ’, writes Balthasar, ‘has to seek and to find its ‘‘salvation’’ in the other pole: Being arrives at itself as subsistence only within the entity and the entity arrives at its actuality . . . only within its participation in being.’115 How are we to understand this reciprocal dependence of the existent upon being and of being upon the existent? Balthasar
113 114 Epilog, 38. De pot., q. 1, a. 1. GL v. 619. GL v. 625. Elsewhere Balthasar describes the ‘positive’ character of poverty thus: ‘The ability to be poor is the human person’s deepest wealth: this is revealed by the Christevent, in which the essence of being became visible for the very first time: as glory. In giving up his Son, God the Father has opened up this possibility for all. But the Spirit of God is sent to change this possibility into reality. He shows the world that the poverty of the Son, who sought only the glory of the Father and let himself be robbed of everything in utter obedience, was the most exact expression of the absolute fullness, which does not consist of ‘‘having’’, but of ‘‘being ¼ giving’’ ’, GL vii. 391. 115 112

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pursues this question in reference to sub-human forms of nature, which ‘remain a singularly illuminating touchstone for metaphysics’.116 He rejects in passing all forms of mechanistic materialism that fail to perceive any interiority in nature: ‘Anyone like Descartes and the materialists, who explains animals in a purely mechanical way has already lost.’117 Once we have attained the distinction between the existent and being and thus some form of interiority, Balthasar suggests that there are only two alternative ways to account for the existence of the multiplicity of created existents. The first may be described as the self-explication or selfexpression of being.118 In this scheme, under which he includes Plotinus, Erigena, Nicholas of Cusa, Schelling, and Hegel, being itself is made responsible for the existence of created forms. The difficulty with this idea is that self-explication or self-expression presupposes a free and responsible decision to express oneself. But it is precisely this element of freedom that non-subsistent being does not possess. ‘It is impossible’, Balthasar argues, ‘to attribute to being the responsibility for the essential forms of entities in the world.’119 This is the reason why Balthasar rejects idealist systems that explain the multiplicity of natural forms in terms of either a necessary emanation or an evolutionary sequence of stages. In both cases, the fundamentally positive value of the sub-human forms of nature is denied. If emanation fails to perceive these forms as the expression of a creative and personal freedom, evolutionary idealism deprives these forms of any intrinsic value by reducing them to mere stepping stones toward a perfection that lies solely in the future:
[Necessary emanation] cannot interpret the glorious freedom of the essential forms . . . while [evolutionary idealism] does not explain how the Spirit which is still only in search of Itself can achieve such perfection—a perfection which presupposes, not only a luminous intelligence (and not mere unconscious powers of imagination), but a superior and playful freedom beyond all the constraints of Nature. . . . [These accounts cannot] explain why a divine abundance of being should explicate itself
117 GL v. 621. GL v. 621. ‘Thus all those forms of interpretation must be rejected as ‘‘oblivious of being’’ which conceive the totality of the world-entity-reality as the (self-) explication of being, whether being (God) explicates itself statically in a world as the unitive implication of all entities ¨ (Plotinus, Nicholas of Cusa, Bohme), or whether being (God) . . . actualizes itself dynamically through a world (Fichte . . . Schelling Hegel)’, GL v. 620. 119 GL v. 629. 118 116

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precisely in beetles and butterflies and not also in entirely different, unpredictably various, forms and figures.120

The second alternative, which Balthasar makes his own, is to preserve and hold open the difference between being and the existent. But this difference, if it is to remain such, cannot be unilateral. It has to be preserved from both sides of the difference. The light of being can be preserved only if we recognize and affirm reciprocal ‘letting be’ as the structure of the ontological difference. On the one hand, it is precisely in its being nonsubsistent (and hence other than the existent and other than God) that being allows all things to participate in its infinite fullness. On the other hand, this ‘letting be’ also appears, in a different way, on the essence-side of the real distinction: ‘Just as being does not mould everything which is to itself, but lets it be, in the same way all that is must correspondingly allow being to dwell in its imperturbability, in order that its light should rise over all.’121 This does not mean, of course, that the unity of being divides into two different acts. What it does mean is that the unity of being is a joint act of letting be in which both components of the real distinction participate in irreducibly distinct ways. Balthasar will say that there is a mysterious ‘more’ at the heart of being that allows all things to come from its fullness and grace. In this sense, each essential form does come from being and thus expresses and communicates something of the inexhaustible richness of being. And yet, the fullness it communicates is a poverty that receives from the existent the gift of subsistence. The ‘more’ of which Balthasar speaks is an inner fruitfulness resident within the ontological difference as a whole. Inasmuch as this ‘more’ is richer even than the difference itself, our wonder is directed beyond the reality of the world. The original question ‘why is there something rather than nothing?’ cannot be answered at the level of a distinction between being and the existent. As non-subsistent, being cannot be the ultimate source of the existent. The mutual dependence of the existent upon being and being upon the existent points to a fourth and final distinction between God and the world. This final distinction is opened only to remain faithful to the original promise of love.
120

GL v. 621.

121

GL v. 622.

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How does God enter philosophy? D. C. Schindler notes that, for Balthasar, ‘the movement to God is not carried through in order to dispel the mystery, but in order to preserve it; and, moreover, we cannot preserve mystery from outside of it, but only from inside, which means we must work through the inner dimension of the problem on its own terms without ‘‘short-circuiting’’ it by appealing directly to a ‘‘theological response’’.’122 God does not enter philosophy merely as a solution to the ‘problem’ of how to account for the existence of the world. The unanswered question provoked by the original experience of being is: why is there something rather than nothing? To whom do I owe my gratitude? On the one hand, the source of my being cannot be one existent alongside other existents, but must be the plenitude of being and thus ‘all in all’. On the other hand, being, as non-subsistent, cannot freely ‘decide’ to create the multiplicity of created existents. Hence in order to hold the distinction open and thus preserve the positivity of creation, we must affirm the existence of subsistent Being who is sovereignly and freely responsible for both being and the existent. The fourth distinction, then, does not ‘set God over-against man as one particular being to another: rather, this relationship is mediated by the analogical ‘‘allness’’ of being’. At the same time, ‘it must be said that the relationship between God and creature is more than a relationship between a being and (created) Being, but transcends this as free personality.’123 God’s sovereign and free entrance into philosophy is required to finally guarantee the positivity of the creature. But insofar as God enters philosophy through the medium of the fourfold difference he ‘sanctions’ or holds open the preceding three levels of distinction. Only when creation is grounded in the unconditioned freedom of God does the true meaning of interpersonal communion, as well as the reciprocal dependence of being and the existent, come to light. The mysterious ‘more’ that lies at the heart of being
122 Schindler, Dramatic Structure of Truth, 44, draws attention to a lecture Balthasar gave to theology students in Freiburg, November 1975, published as ‘Evangelium und Philosophie’, Freiburger Zeitschrift fur Philosophie und Theologie, 23 (1976): 3–12, in which ‘Balthasar ¨ claims that one of the root causes of modern atheism has been the failure on the part of Christians to think through the problem of God in relation to the being of the world in a way that is philosophically responsible’. 123 Schindler, Dramatic Structure of Truth, 60.

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reaches all the way to God, who is present in creation as a gift that has been truly given away. ‘[I]t is precisely when its essential finitude shows it to be something quite different from God’, suggests Balthasar, ‘that the creature knows that, as a real being, it has had bestowed upon it the most extravagant gift—participation in the real being of God.’124 Let us review the levels of distinction before considering the understanding of actuality implicit in the ‘fourfold difference’. Within the first distinction, the comprehending act of the mother’s love allowed for the distinct ‘I’ of the child to awaken to consciousness. The second distinction brought to light the inexhaustible fullness of the act of being, but was immediately complemented by the third distinction, which showed that this fullness is not in itself subsistent, but finds its subsistence only in the relative otherness of the various existents. In order to safeguard the positive character of both being and the existent in their reciprocal dependence, it was necessary to affirm the existence of subsistent Being who is sovereignly and freely responsible for both being and the existent. Perhaps the most original aspect of Balthasar’s interpretation of the Thomistic real distinction concerns the positive character of being’s non-subsistence, which he explains in terms of a mysterious unity of wealth and poverty. If the non-subsistence or ‘poverty’ of the act of being is precisely that which allows the positive otherness of the finite essences, then the poverty of being is itself a radiant image of God’s being. Just as being lets existents be by generously allowing all things to participate in its fullness, so God freely lets being and the existent be by allowing all things to participate in his divine fullness. The supreme fullness of act consists in giving oneself away by letting others be:
And so in what is actual there reigns a mystery beyond fullness and poverty, each of which expresses it accurately but still inadequately. . . . [A]s freedom which does not hold on to itself (or gather itself together into an ‘entity’) [being] is also pure gift and love. This mystery of the streaming self-illumination of being, which was glimpsed by Plato and Plotinus and which alone explains the possibility of a world (that is, the paradoxical existence ‘alongside’ Infinite Being which fills all things and which stands in need of none), attains its transparency only when, from the sphere of biblical revelation, absolute freedom (as the spirituality and
124

GL iv. 404.

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personality of God) shines in . . . in such a way that the personal and free depths of self-giving Absolute Being first bring the mystery of creation, the ‘fourth distinction’, into the light. God is the wholly other only as the non-aliud, the not-other (Nicolas of Cusa): as He who covers all finite entities with the one mantle of his indivisible being in so far as they are able to participate in his reality at an infinite remove—as ‘entities’, which are not Him, but which owe their possibility to his power, and their wealth to his creative freedom.125

Now, Balthasar does not for all that reject the Thomistic teaching that God is actus purus as Balthasar himself suggests.126 But if the first and the highest distinction is a distinction between giver and gift, where the act of being ‘signifies the being given (and being received) of the giver . . . the radiant fullness of God’s being in the condition of its being given to the finite recipient’,127 then the ultimate perfection of actuality takes on a new significance. Since God is required to finally secure the gift character of being by holding open the first, second, third, and fourth level of distinction, it belongs to God to determine the final meaning of act. Thus, if God should want to reveal his fullness as a love that pours itself out, and as a poverty which (as love) is able to ‘receive’ from his creation, then the creature can respond only by receiving this gift in humility and gratitude:
God-given being is both fullness and poverty at the same time: fullness as being without limit, poverty modelled ultimately on God himself, because he knows no holding on to himself, poverty in the act of being which is given out, which as gift delivers itself without defence (because here too it does not hold on to itself ) to the finite entities. . . . Here, through the greater dissimilarity of the finite and the infinite existent, the positive aspect of the analogia entis appears, which makes of the finite the shadow, trace, likeness and image of the Infinite. And not in such a way that the finite ‘first’ constitutes itself as a ‘closed’ entity or subject (through the seizing and hoarding of the parcel of actuality which it is able to take into itself from the stream of finite being) in order ‘then’ (and perhaps for the rounding-out of its own perfection) to pass the surplus on. But rather in such a way that the finite, since it is subject, already constitutes itself as such through the letting-be of being by virtue of an ekstasis out of its own closed self, and therefore through dispossession and poverty becomes capable of salvaging in recognition and affirmation the infinite poverty of the fullness of being and, within it, that of the God who does not hold on to himself.128
125 128

GL v. 625–6 [trans. slightly altered]. GL v. 626–7.

126

GL v. 636.

127

GL v. 631.

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Two ideas stand forth from the two texts cited above: as a gift of love, being is the unity of poverty and wealth. Secondly, being—precisely as the unity of poverty and wealth, receiving and giving—is an image of the fullness and perfection of God’s being. The question we need to consider now is this: Can we say that receptivity is in some sense intrinsic to the ratio of actuality as such? A treatment of this question will help to show how Balthasar’s dialogical point of departure allows for a new development of Thomas’s understanding of the perfection of act. But it will also help us to complete the account of the analogy of being that this chapter is meant to develop. We saw that the analogia entis establishes a likeness—within greater unlikeness—between the creature and the Creator. Now, a positive answer to the question posed above would allow us to say that the otherness of the creature remains in the highest union with God and that this otherness reveals something about God’s own inner life, namely, his ability to receive—even from the creature itself. It would enable us, in other words, to secure the promised philosophical deepening of the analogy of being as the metaphysical infrastructure of the eschatological revelation of God and the creature in Christ. We can begin our consideration of receptivity by returning to the ambiguity present in Thomas’s account of the start of metaphysics. Recall how for Thomas a separatio stands at the threshold of metaphysical inquiry as science. While this ‘separation’ converts the concrete into an analogical springboard for knowledge of universal metaphysical principles, speculative consideration of the proper object of metaphysics (being as being) based on this act does not need to remain within the concrete as such in order to be scientific. Balthasar’s account of the ‘fourfold difference’ suggests that concrete encounter with being through interpersonal relations remains intrinsic to the method of metaphysics precisely as a speculative science. How, then, might we secure, using a concrete methodology, receptivity as intrinsic to the nature of act—in order then to affirm that such receptivity is part of the perfection even of God, who can thus ‘receive’ something from the world? The precise sense in which receptivity can be properly designated an ontological perfection has recently been the topic of a series of exchanges in the journal Communio: International Catholic

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Review.129 The debate was sparked by David L. Schindler’s review essay of W. Norris Clarke’s book Person and Being.130 For the sake of clarity, I will briefly sketch the main lines of Clarke’s argument before considering Schindler’s contribution. In Person and Being, Clarke sets forth a ‘creative retrieval and completion’ of Thomas’s dynamic understanding of being (esse) as intrinsically self-communicative and relational. On Clarke’s reading, this insight was never developed thematically in terms of Aquinas’s philosophical notion of the person. Clarke seeks to remedy this by ‘join[ing] together his dynamic relational notion of being as active, already explicitly developed, with the notion of person, already rooted by him in the act of existence, to bring into the clear the intrinsically relational notion of person’.131 Clarke’s fundamental premise is that ‘since ‘‘every substance exists for the sake of its operations’’ [Aquinas’s agere sequitor esse] . . . being as substance, as existing in itself, naturally flows over into being as relational, turned toward others by its selfcommunicating action.’132 This leads Clarke to conclude that ‘relationality is a primordial dimension of every real being, inseparable from its substantiality, just as action is from existence’.133 Furthermore, ‘receptivity is the necessary complement of active self-communication and of equal dignity and perfection as the latter. Self-donation would be incomplete without welcoming receptivity on the other side of the personal relation. And this belongs to the very perfection of the love relationship itself.’134 Clarke wishes to affirm that receptivity is a perfection that extends analogously at least from human being to the divine being itself. While agreeing with the main lines of Clarke’s argument, Schindler brings into relief a crucial ambiguity. The
129 In chronological order, David L. Schindler, ‘Norris Clarke on Person, Being, and St. Thomas’, Communio: International Catholic Review, 20 (1993): 580–92; W. Norris Clarke, ‘Response to David Schindler’s Comments’, Communio: International Catholic Review, 20 (1993): 593–8; Stephen A. Long, ‘Divine and Creaturely ‘‘Receptivity’’: The Search for a Middle Term’, Communio: International Catholic Review, 21 (1994): 151–61; George A. Blair, ‘On Esse and Relation’, Communio: International Catholic Review, 21 (1994): 162–4; W. Norris Clarke, ‘Response to Long’s Comments’, and ‘Response to Blair’s Comments’, Communio: International Catholic Review, 21 (1994): 165–71; David L. Schindler, ‘The Person: Philosophy, Theology, and Receptivity’, Communio: International Catholic Review, 21 (1994): 172–90. 130 W. Norris Clarke, Person and Being (Marquette, Wis.: Marquette University Press, 1993). This book expands an article that first appeared as ‘Person, Being, and St. Thomas’, Communio: International Catholic Review, 19 (1992): 601–18. 131 Clarke, ‘Person, Being, and St. Thomas’, 603. 132 133 134 Ibid. 607. Ibid. Clarke, Person and Being, 14–15.

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question on which this ambiguity turns is: where is relation first realized as relation? In some sense, Clarke sees esse as the ultimate ground of relation, insofar as agere flows from esse. But notice that, for Clarke, this ‘flowing’ entails a passage from the substance’s being-in-oneself, on the one hand, to its relational communication, on the other. In Clarke’s view, the former is secured by esse, while the latter is nothing other than the turning inside out of being-in-oneself that we call agere. This suggests that relation is not disclosed as such until the process of ‘turning inside out’ is complete. Now, this is obviously true in the sense that there can be no relation in the full sense without the complete involvement of the related term(s). On the other hand, insofar as he suggests a notion of esse that is first ‘in-itself’ and only consequently in relation with others, it would seem that Clarke is liable to the charge of making relation as such posterior to esse. Consider how relationality, in its primitive meaning as outlined by Clarke, is limited to a ‘capacity’, ‘tendency’, or ‘vocation’ of the person. Clarke thus leaves himself open to the charge that receptivity is exclusively a consequence of active self-relation rather than also and simultaneously the immanent and anterior condition of esse itself. If relation, indeed, receptive relation, is not rooted deeply enough in esse itself, then it becomes difficult to see how the human person’s receiving and giving can in fact be the analogical key to the perfection of actuality as such—not only on the subhuman level, but also on the super-human level of God himself. As a corrective, then, Schindler proposes that relationality and receptivity must be grounded already in esse, and not first in agere. Human beings, and by analogy all created beings, are structurally receptive before they are self-communicative: ‘in the human creature, being-receptive (esse-ab) is the anterior condition for first ‘‘possessing’’ being (esse-in) or indeed for being-for-others (esse-ad ).’135 Schindler does not mean to deny a distinction between esse and agere; the latter, he suggests, ‘consists properly in ‘‘taking over’’ and ‘‘recapitulating’’, in freedom, the being-from, and thus the receptivity’.136 The implication of Schindler’s proposal is that receptivity before God (and, in some analogous sense, receptivity before all other creatures) is the immanent condition of ‘possessing’ being and self-identity.
Schindler, ‘Norris Clarke on Person, Being, and St. Thomas’, 586. Schindler, Heart of the World, Center of the Church: Communio Ecclesiology, Liberalism, and Liberation (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1996), 287.
136 135

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The idea that receptivity is also a divine perfection—a position affirmed by both Clarke and Schindler—is made difficult by the fact that the philosophical tradition stemming from Aristotle has tended to conflate receptivity and passive potency. On this supposition, receptivity is excluded by definition from the ratio of the actus essendi. Hence the standard objection: God cannot be receptive because he is pure act. This objection, however, begs the very question at hand. What is the meaning and perfection of act? One could, of course, argue that the true meaning of act is best secured outside of the experience of love. Or, alternatively, one could argue that the more perfect the love, the less receptive to another one becomes. But in the absence of such arguments, it does not suffice simply to reply to the proposal of Clarke and Schindler by restating a supposed contrast between act and receptivity. The writings of Clarke (who draws in turn on Marcel) point to a form of receptivity far removed from the neediness of passive potency.137 As Clarke notes, ‘[t]he open, welcoming, grateful attitude involved in receptivity is at its best not simply a mere passive potency enabling one to receive, but is an active positive disposition.’138 Schindler extends this argument with a reflection on the nature of love:
As Fr. Clarke points out, love, rightly interpreted, requires mutuality: receiving and letting be are as essential for the concept of love as giving. Consider an authentic love between a husband and wife: each genuinely shares in the joys and sufferings of the other. ‘Sharing in’ entails ‘affectivity’: being affected by the other. Clearly this ‘sharing in,’ with its note of affectivity, is in some sense a perfection: we would hardly consider one who remained indifferent to his or her spouse’s joys and sufferings a good lover. Nor do we in fact intuitively think of their mutual capacity for being affected as a matter exhaustively of dependence: a kind of emptiness awaiting actualization. Were this the case, it would follow that the more actualized each partner became, the more unaffected by and indifferent to one another each would become; the more unrelated would he or she become. But we sense instinctively and immediately that this is a perversion of love rather than its perfection.139

137 See Gabriel Marcel, ‘Testimony and Existentialism’, in The Philosophy of Existence (New York: Philosophical Library, 1949); also, Homo Viator: Introduction to a Metaphysic of Hope (Chicago: Henry Regnery, 1951). 138 Clarke, ‘Response to Long’, 167. 139 Schindler, ‘The Person: Philosophy, Theology, and Receptivity’, 172.

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One might object to this line of argument as a kind of ‘wishful thinking’—‘metaphorical’ rather than strictly rational. Schindler, in fact, anticipates this objection by way of a reflection on the nature of metaphysics and its method: ‘with what do we begin when we take up metaphysical reflection?’140 Where is the perfection of esse as act concretely revealed? With this question we return to Balthasar’s proposal in the ‘fourfold difference’; the fullness of being is revealed in the mother’s smile, in the experience of having been granted entry. Schindler draws out the consequences of Balthasar’s proposal for a concrete methodology: ‘The meaning of act and hence of perfection is gotten at most properly through the acts proper to a person, among which [are] receptivity (the receptivity proper to love).’141 In interpreting the fourfold difference, I suggested that the experience of interpersonal love implicitly contains and unfolds the reciprocal relation between being and the existent, which is in turn comprehended by the God–world relation. The overall structure was described as a relation between giver and gift. However, in order to secure an understanding of God as capable also of receiving from the creature he gratuitously posits into existence, we need to examine more closely the kind of relation that obtains between giver and gift. I will begin with a consideration of the meaning of ‘gift’ as set forth by Kenneth Schmitz in the 1982 Aquinas Lecture, The Gift: Creation. After a comparison of various myths of origin with the idea of creation ex nihilo, Schmitz turns in chapter 2 to explore the meaning of gift as evident in everyday experience. A gift, he suggests, ‘is a free endowment upon another who receives it freely; so that the first mark of a gift is its gratuity.’142 This atmosphere of freedom pervades the meaning and perfection of gift. One need only compare a genuine gift to a ‘present’ given for the purpose of facilitating a business transaction. Or likewise, consider a ‘return gift’ given solely for purposes of satisfying an apparent social obligation created upon receipt of the original gift. With both of the above examples, one instinctively recognizes that something of the true nature of ‘gift’ is missing. The element of obligation or utility diminishes the freedom that is proper to a true gift.
141 Ibid. 173. Ibid. Kenneth L. Schmitz, The Gift: Creation (Milwaukee: Marquette University Press, 1982), 44. 142 140

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Yet, as Schmitz notes, there is a kind of necessity that is consonant with the gratuity of a gift. It is necessary that a gift be received; a gift that is not received remains somehow incomplete. ‘[F]or its completion a gift must not only be offered; it must also be received.’143 Because every gift calls for reception, the gift-giver is taking a risk, he is making himself vulnerable to the rejection of the gift. It is unavoidable that by extending a true gift, ‘the giver exposes himself, thereby opens up his own being to rejection’.144 In fact, this moment of vulnerability brings to light the deepest meaning of gift, the presence of the giver in the gift.
A gift may be more or less meaningful, of course, but its meaning as gift does not derive primarily from its subsistent value, that is, from its independence outside or apart from the context in which it serves as gift. That is why the widow’s mite may be a greater gift than a king’s ransom. Inasmuch as it is a gift, it draws the giver as well as the receiver into a relationship. In the act of endowment the giver makes himself present to the receiver; and in this attentive presence he does not only give what is his, he commends himself.145

To illustrate this truth, Schmitz draws attention to an everyday example of giving within a family. The parents of a small child provide the child with the means by which it can give them some small gift. Now if the measure of a gift were its independent value, then this would be a meaningless exercise. The child gives nothing that is not already within reach of the parents. But, as Schmitz notes, ‘[t]he very ‘‘nullity’’ of the little gift as a value in and of itself renders it transparent, so that perceptive parents can see the true value of the gift to lie in the child’s expression of affection. The child gives nothing of value—except itself.’146 The presence of the giver in the gift is a unique kind of presence; it is a presence that cannot bind or restrict the freedom of the other, otherwise it would not be a genuine gift—for the reception must remain free, and should be a surprise to the giver. Yet it is a presence nonetheless. A genuine gift cannot be given without simultaneously establishing a relationship. Understandably, these reflections on the logic of gift lead Schmitz to ask about the relation established when God creates ex nihilo. As noted earlier, the giving of a genuine gift seems to

143

Ibid. 47.

144

Ibid. 59.

145

Ibid. 58.

146

Ibid. 61–2.

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require ‘vulnerability’ on the part of the giver. Hence the question: is there ‘risk . . . for such an absolute giver?’147
The answer must be: yes; for at the centre of creative giving lurks the dark possibility of evil. Just because the creator is a lover and just because creation is the generosity of a thoroughly radical love, just because that love respects the integrity and dignity of the creature, and just because that love wills into existence a beloved who can respond in freedom— and therefore, badly or well,—how could such a universe be and yet not carry within it the possibility of evil?148

Here we seem to have arrived at an affirmative answer to the original question about receptivity in God. However, Schmitz proceeds to draw a curious distinction. The passage cited above continues as follows:
To be sure a bad reception of the creator’s gift does not inflict upon him a wound to his being in its subsistence; just as, in many instances, a human lover does not lose something of his proper being, the being he possessed before he offered love and was refused. But, as with human lovers, so too with divine, the creator can receive a wound to his being as a lover.149

The reasons for this distinction are clear enough; the transcendence of God seems to demand an ‘absolute non-reciprocity between the creative donor and the creaturely recipient’. ‘The medieval schoolmen’, Schmitz continues, ‘expressed this nonreciprocity by saying that God is related to creatures only by a relation of reason.’150 Now, does such a distinction between subsistent being and ‘being as a lover’ accord with the New Testament affirmation that ‘God is love’ (1 John 4: 8)? The whole direction of Schmitz’s phenomenology of gift, it seems to me, supports an understanding of analogy whereby God’s capacity to receive from his creatures, and in some mysterious sense to be ‘affected’ by his creatures, far from jeopardizing his transcendence, brings this transcendence fully into view. In my discussion of Clarke’s proposal, I suggested that the receptivity proper to love requires an active welcoming that is distinct from Aristotle’s passive potency. Schmitz develops this insight in terms of the logic of gift:
A truly human mode of receptivity calls for the recipient to rally his human resources in order to make a good reception. For example, when
147 150

Kenneth L. Schmitz, 92. Ibid. 94–5.

148

Ibid. 92–3.

149

Ibid. 93.

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we receive a guest into our home, we are attentive to his needs, so that we might make him ‘feel at home’. Now, it is just such attentive receptivity that is called for by a gift. To accept it absent-mindedly, with indifference or even hostility, would not really be to receive it at all. The gratuity inherent in the gift, moreover, requires that the receptivity be grounded in what Marcel called ‘availability’ (disponibilite ), the ontological dispos´ ition in which we are ready to accept the unexpected, to make room for it.151

What does this insight imply for our understanding of the ultimate perfection and realization of act? In fairness to Schmitz, it should be noted that he does qualify the ‘absolute non-reciprocity’ of the relation of creation. ‘It is not’, he writes, ‘that the creator is unconcerned with the fate of the creatures he has made; quite to the contrary, his concern flows from his unconditioned generosity.’152 Clearly Schmitz, or for that matter any Christian philosopher, would not want to deny that God is love. There remains, however, the question of what this means in terms of a metaphysical account of God’s relation to the world. The original question cannot be avoided: is God, in his being, capable of receiving from creatures? Our key methodological principle in this chapter is that the giving and receiving proper to persons manifests the basic meaning of act as such—even as it is found in God. Now, it bears repeating that person and being are irreducible inasmuch as both point upwards to their convergence in God, who is ipsum esse subsistens. Nevertheless, we can say that interpersonal love is not just an illustration, but the privileged enactment of the mystery of worldly being as structured by the real distinction. How, then, can we read the real distinction in the light of interpersonal love in order to shed light on the question that we have posed? Interpersonal love is a coincidence of reciprocal, asymmetrical giving and receiving. It is just such a coincidence that we find built into the very nature of worldly being. The foregoing reflections showed that being is a unity, outside of which there is nothing. Thomas secures this unity in part by reducing all of the perfections of being to the principle that he calls esse, which concentrates all of the perfections of actuality found scattered through the created universe. Esse, Thomas tells us, is ‘simple and complete’. But Thomas does not, as it were, reductively situate all of the
151

Ibid. 47–8.

152

Ibid. 94.

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perfections of reality in esse alone. Esse, after all, is not just simple and complete, but also non-subsistent; it is traversed by difference. This difference is, in the first instance, its difference from the divine ipsum esse subsistens. This difference does not pit God and created esse against each other as if they were two things having different essences. God is not one thing among many, and creaturely esse differs from him, not by having some essence other than his—God’s essence is the fullness of esse —but by lacking the subsistence that God has by virtue of the identity of his essence with his esse. The difference that traverses esse as non-subsistent act, then, does not divide it into two things or even into two parts. It thus does not compromise esse’s ability to function as a principle of the unity of being. Nevertheless, this difference does mean that esse can fulfil such a principal function only within a second difference, namely, that between esse and essence. This difference, like the first, does not distinguish esse and essence as two things. That sort of distinction belongs to the essential order, from which esse is exempt. In other words, the simple, indivisible fullness of esse not only is compatible with, but contains a relation to an irreducible ‘other’ that, while remaining within the fullness of being, is nonetheless a condition of that fullness. It follows from this that esse, as the fullness of actuality, is truly ‘affected’ by the otherness of essence. While the receptivity of essence as such belongs to essence, not to esse, that receptivity has an analogous correspondent in esse’s non-subsistence, which it manifests, so to speak, in depending on the receptivity of essence at the moment it confers upon this receptivity the status of being. Consider, then, that the dependency of esse on essence is an entailment of its non-subsistence. But the non-subsistence of esse, as we just saw, does not undermine the ratio of esse, but makes it concretely coincide with the difference between ipsum esse subsistens as Giver and esse creatum as gift. Now, as Schmitz himself acknowledges, the Giver is present as such in his gift. Thus, esse, in its dependent fullness, carries the presence of the Giver. What does this tell us about God? To be sure, the receptivity we encounter at the level of created being is bound up with neediness and imperfection. The same is true, however, of our knowledge of goodness and wisdom. The modus significandi is always marked by finitude and thus is infinitely different from its actualization in God. The question is whether receptivity does not also indicate something

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positive about the mystery of the act of being; something which language can only point to while admitting its failure to fully express it because of the infinite difference between divine and created being—a pointing which is nevertheless true. Thus, within the greater unlikeness separating God and the creature, we can say that God’s self-gift contains a dependency upon the creature whose nature is displayed—within greater unlikeness—in the dependency of esse on essence and, therefore, on their mutual, asymmetrical interplay within the unity of being. To be sure, the dependency of God is free, but this freedom is non-compositionally one with actus purus itself and thus reveals its innermost nature as a giving coincident with an asymmetrical, but real receiving from that to which it gives. I noted above that discourse about the human person and discourse about being are intimately related, but irreducible. It follows that we cannot deduce being from the person or the person from being. Nevertheless, to the extent that the perfections of being are concretely revealed in the love between persons, Balthasar, Clarke, Schindler, and Schmitz have provided good grounds for seeing receptivity as a metaphysical perfection. The implication is that act in its purity and fullness must include in some genuinely analogous sense all the perfections of love such as life, movement, even mystery and surprise. To say otherwise would be to ascribe more perfection to human love than to God’s love. We thus arrive at the terminus of our metaphysical reflection: the validation of creaturely receptivity such that it is revealed to be intrinsic to the perfection of act because rooted first in the nature of actus purus. As a result, we secure a deepening of the analogy of being required to bear the weight of a theo-dramatic eschatology in which God himself goes in search of his lost creation and returns home enriched by the gift that he has given. Before we turn to Christology, however, we need to consider briefly the theological import of Balthasar’s account of the ‘fourfold difference’. The Real Distinction and the Trinitarian Difference The transition from philosophy to theology is difficult to trace. Both seek wisdom regarding the final meaning of all that is, and

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both make claims about ultimacy. The relation is further complicated by the fact that there is a Christian philosophy that is not yet theology. That is, reason operating in the light of faith is able to see things about the natural order that would remain otherwise hidden:
It is possible that, precisely in the light of Christian revelation, the light of Being can itself shine much brighter and deeper, and that what we can call God’s revelation, his grace and his favor, can enter the philosopher’s consciousness in a wholly different and new manner, so that here philosophy—consciously or unconsciously, willingly or unwillingly, objectively or subjectively—is flooded by the light of Christ and becomes ‘Christian philosophy’. This then gives support to Guardini’s view that, besides pure philosophy (reason alone reflecting on the truths of reason) and pure theology (Christian faith reflecting on the truths of revelation), a third realm is possible in which truths of reason, illumined by the light of revelation, are contemplated by a reason that thinks in the light of faith.153

Balthasar often credits Romano Guardini for developing the idea that there are truths in the natural realm which only reveal their significance when touched by a supernatural light. This notion can be easily misunderstood. ‘Touched by a supernatural light’ does not mean that philosophy thereby becomes theology. The light of grace enters the consciousness of the philosopher at the level of primitive experience. For the philosopher, revelation as such will remain implicit, and will not enter as part of the formal structure of a philosophical argument. The philosopher will continue to make his or her case based on the evidence of worldly being, without, however, pretending that one’s experience of being is neutral to grace or faith. Philosophy starts from a reflection on the being of the world and moves toward God as the hidden source of everything created. God enters philosophy as principium et finem . . . incomprehensibilem.154 Theology, by contrast, takes its point of departure from God’s self-revelation in Christ. Until now our reflections on the analogy of being have been mainly philosophical. These philosophical reflections have served to exhibit the metaphysical structure of the reciprocal,
153 GL i. 159. For a development of this understanding of the philosophy/theology relationship in light of John Paul II’s Fides et Ratio, see David L. Schindler, ‘God and the End of Intelligence: Knowledge as Relationship’, Communio: International Catholic Review, 26 (1999): 510–40. 154 DS 3004, 3001, cited in Balthasar, Epilog, 41.

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asymmetrical unveiling of divine and worldly being that I have said is at the heart of the eschaton. It now behoves us to cross the threshold of explicit theology in order to make thematic the trinitarian dimension of analogy. This does not mean that we now abandon the terrain of analogy in order to do ‘pure theology’. Rather, in crossing the trinitarian threshold, we enter into what is at once the ultimate justification and the ultimate form of analogy itself. Indeed, the question discussed in the previous sections of this chapter remains. Creation, precisely in its otherness from God, is good. If otherness or difference, including the difference of esse and essence, is to be affirmed as something good, as something positive, it must be somehow grounded in God’s being. But this raises a question: in what sense is the real distinction good? In particular, if potency (essentia) is a constitutive element of the distinction, what happens to potency as the creature is brought into union with God?
For how could worldly difference in its ‘maior dissimilitudo’ with respect to the divine identity not be rated in the end as a degradation, and not as something ‘very good’, if this difference did not possess in God himself a root compatible with his identity? . . . A world marked by difference can spring from a God utterly devoid of it only by way of a degradation, as all the religions which have attempted a speculative penetration of the God–world relationship have had to conclude without exception.155

With this we arrive at the nub of Balthasar’s development of Thomism. There are, of course, resources in Thomas’s writing for handling the question of the ultimate significance of potency—if any—but these resources need to be balanced against a certain conception of the act/potency couplet. In the first part of this chapter the question appeared as an epistemological one in terms of how predication of God is possible. For Thomas, we have to remove created potencies to attain act in its pureness. That is, God is known by negating everything finite (via negativa). At first glance this path would seem to undermine the sense in which the finite is good. However, the genius of Thomas is to situate the via negativa within a more fundamental account of causal likeness. Every negation depends upon a prior affirmation. God contains supereminently all the perfections of created being. But precisely here the question of potency emerges with renewed urgency. If potency
155

TL ii. 159.

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is required to account for the otherness of created being, and is thus a constitutive part of the goodness of creation, then it must have some root in God. If, on the other hand, potency is sheer negativity, then the plenitude of created beings and the very goodness of creation itself seems to be called into question. It is in this context that Balthasar asks whether there is a relationship or analogy between the difference between esse and essence and the intra-trinitarian difference that constitutes the Godhead. It is important to note that this question about the Trinity can only emerge in the context of theology. Why? In a relation between persons, true knowledge of the other is possible only when the other freely reveals himself. In the act of selfdisclosure, a person reveals or expresses something of his or her interior being. It is of the essence of this hidden interior that it cannot be grasped from the ‘outside’, but only made manifest or revealed by a free act of the individual. As the mystery par excellence of God’s inner life and love, the Trinity cannot be grasped by human reason outside of God’s free self-revelation, but only accepted in faith. Thus philosophical proof or deduction of God’s trinitarian nature from the side of the world is not possible. This does not mean that, for Balthasar, theology replaces metaphysics. On the contrary, it fulfils it: ‘metaphysics’, he writes, ‘attains fulfilment in the event of revelation, if it does not want to make a definitive halt at preliminary states and thus become fatally fixed.’156 To be sure, this fulfilment involves new and unheard of things which God utters about himself and his love for the world. On the other hand, precisely these things bring to light for the first time the true meaning of creation also in its proper ontological consistency as studied by metaphysics.157 The point of these preliminary reflections on method is to clarify the source and the scope of the question about trinitarian difference. The question presupposes that God has spoken to the
GL v. 628. ‘[T]he theological vision of being . . . will remind man the philosopher that ultimate knowledge cannot, for him, lie in turning away from that which is concretely finite (a movement which seems so natural!), but in turning towards the phenomenal existent (conversio ad phantasma) as the only place where the mystery of being will shine forth for him who exists bodily and spiritually. The theological vision of being will do still more: because of that final securing of reality which the believer who encounters God in Christ experiences, the theological vision makes it possible for the first time for the philosophical act of encounter with being to occur in all its depth’, GL i. 146.
157 156

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world in the person of Christ. As I have not yet considered Balthasar’s account of Christology or trinitarian theology, the question is bound to appear either as too abstract or as an unwarranted projection of creaturely attributes onto the divine. It is not possible here to enter into a discussion of Christ and the Trinity. Nevertheless, it is important to see that to relate the intra-trinitarian difference and the real distinction requires a Christology. A single citation, in all of its abruptness, will have to suffice in setting a context for the link between Trinity, Christology, and the real distinction. The text is from the Theo-Drama, vol. iii, at the point where Balthasar interprets the mission of the Son as an expression of his eternal procession from the Father:
[I]f he-who-is-sent has essentially to reveal the love of him-who-sends, and if he is identical with his divine mission, he must (as the personal bearer of this mission of love) be the divine, that is, the eternal offspring of him-who-sends, whom he himself calls ‘Father’ in a sense that bursts all analogies. We begin to discern the meaning of ‘fatherhood’ in the eternal realm when we consider the Son’s mission, which is to reveal this Father’s love (a love that goes to ultimate lengths, for example, the parable of the prodigal son or of the vineyard): such ‘fatherhood’ can only mean the giving away of everything the Father is, including his entire Godhead (for God, as God, ‘has’ nothing apart from what he ‘is’); it is a giving-away that, in the Father’s act of generation—which lasts for all eternity—leaves the latter’s womb ‘empty’: in God, poverty and wealth (that is wealth of giving) are one and the same (F. Ulrich). As God, however, the Son must be equal to the Father, even though he has come forth from the Father. And since the Father has expressed his whole love . . . in the Son, the Son is the perfect image of the Father, apt to represent the Father’s self-giving in every respect. . . . The Old Covenant spoke of God’s ‘bowels’ (rachamim) trembling with compassionate love: this is precisely what is revealed to the world when the Father surrenders all his love, embodied in the Son.158

The meaning of the ‘trinitarian difference’ to be considered is not, in the first instance, drawn from the nature of intra-mental processions (Augustine), nor is it drawn simply from an analogy to human love (Richard of St Victor). The difference between the persons of the Trinity is expressed and made visible in the unique way Jesus relates to the Father and the Spirit. More precisely, it is the mission of Jesus that culminates in death and
158

TD iii. 518–19.

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Resurrection—the ‘hour’ in which his deeds ‘speak plainly of the Father’ ( John 16: 25)—that is the normative point of reference for all considerations of trinitarian difference. As already noted, this principle conditions our understanding of the analogy between intra-trinitarian and worldly difference. In particular, if the selfsurrender of Jesus Christ is an expression of his eternal Sonship as extended through mission, then, even though the suffering involved in this gift could not occur without his human nature, it nonetheless reveals something of the perfection of his divine sonship, indeed, of the divine paternity that manifests itself through the mission of Jesus Christ. What is revealed in Jesus’ mission is the final meaning of created esse and divine esse in their difference and unity. Returning to the question of a relation between the real distinction and the trinitarian difference, Balthasar realizes that this question ‘has not often been posed in the history of theology hitherto’.159 For Aquinas, the real distinction is precisely that which accounts for the finitude of creation in its irreducible otherness from God. In created beings, esse is distinct from essentia, whereas in God they are absolutely identical; God is ipsum esse subsistens. This is, one could argue, the defining characteristic of the first cause. If the greater dissimilarity of the analogy between cause and effect is to apply anywhere it must be here. Hence, ‘it cannot be said’, writes Balthasar, ‘that the substance possessed in common by the Divine Hypostases is like that being in which all finite beings share; after all, these finite entities are precisely not identical with their real (posited) being, whereas each of the Divine Hypostases is identical with the divine essence, otherwise there would be three gods.’160 There is, however, a reason for not resting content with this answer. As Thomas implicitly acknowledges, the real distinction, which remains characteristic of the creature in its irreducible ` otherness vis-a-vis God, is grounded and made possible by the distinction between the persons of the Trinity. Thomas writes:
There are two reasons why knowledge of the divine persons was necessary for us. It was necessary for the right idea of creation. The fact of saying that God made all things by his Word excludes the error of those who say that God produced things by necessity. When we say that in him there is a procession of love, we show that God produced creatures not
159

TL ii. 156.

160

TD v. 76.

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because he needed them, nor because of any other extrinsic reason, but on account of the love of his own goodness.161

There is, then, even for Aquinas, some relation between the ‘otherness’ of finite being in relation to God and the ‘otherness’ between the persons within the Trinity. If this analogy is denied, it becomes impossible to affirm that the structure of created being is good; that the world is good precisely in being other (as gift) from God. What remains hidden in Aquinas is the sense in which the meaning of the actus essendi receives its deepest determination from the event of Christ’s Incarnation and passion. As absolute love, Christ’s self-surrender unto death interprets anew and reveals for the first time the unfathomable mystery of the ‘letting be’ of being, and situates this mystery within the difference between Father, Son, and Spirit. Now, as I suggested earlier, the rethinking of the actus essendi in the light of the mystery of Christ is not simply an exercise of theological positivism. On the one hand, as the text from Aquinas just cited suggests, reflection on the intra-trinitarian grounding of the act of creation is far from absent in the tradition.162 From this point of view, Balthasar’s novelty consists, not in introducing the theme, but in connecting it with another theme—also present to a certain degree in Aquinas—namely, the theme of the unity of Christ’s person with his mission. The Son’s earthly life is—without ` confusion or separation—an expression of his Sonship vis-a-vis the Father and must, therefore, play a role in the intra-trinitarian grounding of creation—one that would suggest a new sense of how passio is not simply an imperfection, but a modality of the fullness of act itself understood as love. On the other hand, this rethinking of passio can appeal to a metaphysics of the real distinction reinterpreted in terms of being as non-subsistent gift. Esse, the radiant likeness of God’s being, does not overwhelm the finite essences, but, as non-subsistent, is the fullness of act only in being-given-away, in being received into the finite essences that participate in its fullness. This is why Balthasar, following Ulrich, speaks of the poverty and humility of esse as pointing forward to the radiance of God’s love on the cross—the hidden radiance of a God who gives everything away:
Summa theol. ia, q. 32, a. 1, ad. 3. For a discussion of texts on the theme of Trinity and creation in Bonaventure and Thomas, see TD v. 61–5.
162 161

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May it not be the case (as Ferdinand Ulrich seeks to show) that the final mystery of the kenosis of God in Christ has an analogous structure in the metaphysical mystery of being, which shines forth as it destroys, which mediates the radiance of the divine only by pointing forward to the utter humility of the Cross.163

I have spoken of crossing the trinitarian threshold in order to find the ultimate justification—and the ultimate form—of the analogy whose creaturely pole is a being traversed by the positive difference between Giver and gift and, therefore, the positivity of ‘receiving’ from the other. As we shall see, the one who crosses this threshold is ultimately Christ, the concrete analogy of being in person. Analogy and eschatology converge in a Christology developed against the background of the Trinity. Conclusion: Eschatology as Analogy The preceding chapter sketched the main philosophical foundations for the ‘concretization’ of analogy within the person and mission of Christ. In particular, we saw that for both Thomas and Balthasar a genuine analogy of being requires an account of the positive character of created being in relation to God, who is in all and over all. The key to understanding a relation of ‘positivity’ that is neither a juxtaposition of two things nor dialectical opposition is the non-subsistent fullness of being as gift. In terms of the real distinction, the non-subsistence of esse entails a paradoxical understanding of act in which esse mediates all of the perfections (actualitas) of being but precisely in the mode of dependence upon the essential form ( potentia). This asymmetrical, reciprocal dependence between esse and essence allows for a relation between Creator and creature such that God is wholly present in the gift of creation, but in the mode of a ‘nothingness’ that allows the creature a genuine existence in itself. In the introduction to this chapter I suggested that what is ultimately at issue in Balthasar’s interpretation of the real distinction is the meaning of the world in relation to God’s perfection. If eschatology concerns the world’s being-taken-into the divine life, then the perfection of that divine life must be vast enough to include the whole created order. Eschatology involves
163

GL iv. 38.

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a transcending movement into God’s life—a creaturely ‘return’ to God. For Balthasar, the ultimate unveiling of God’s life occurs in the life and death of Christ. Now, if this event is without relevance for determining the original meaning of worldly reality, then our understanding of the ultimate eschatological union with God will be worldless. We will have ‘returned’ to a false image of God by means of an abstract negation of his gift. For Balthasar, the ultimate meaning of the end turns on the original meaning of analogy. A ‘dialectical’ relationship would view the created world as simple negativity in relation to the positivity of God, and then would attempt to secure God’s perfection and transcendence by negating that which accounts for the world’s otherness and finitude. Balthasar’s analogia entis, by contrast, begins with an experience of the finite as a gift which reveals and points to a transcendent giver. Insofar as the ‘potencies’ of the finite order are intrinsic to the form and content of the gift and not simply negative in relation to God’s simple perfection, God must contain supereminently all of the diverse perfections that, at the creaturely level, are saturated with potentiality and finitude.164 We can only ‘return’ to God by receiving the whole of his creation as a gift. In the most comprehensive meaning of the terms, both ‘analogy’ and ‘eschatology’ represent paths for attaining knowledge of God. According to Balthasar, the relation of analogy pertains both to our approach to the mystery of God as well as the perfected form of our final union with God, i.e. beatific vision or deification. Discerning the relation between these two meanings of analogy becomes an urgent question. They do not coincide—‘for if we knew about the essence of glory, then we should already stand . . . in the new aeon, having resolved (with Hegel) God’s promise into an absolute knowledge’165—except in the mission of the Son, who is simul viator et comprehensor. This implies that the final resolution of the question of analogy lies in seeing the Son’s mission as the concrete analogy between God and the world—and
164 Rowan D. Williams, ‘Afterword: Making Differences’, in Balthasar at the End of Modernity, 178, expresses this point well: ‘The mysterious difference of God is never an abstract otherness defined simply as the negation of the predicates of contingent being . . . God is not different like that: if divine difference were the negation of all finite predicates, God would be the other belonging to a discourse about the finite world. God’s life would be subsumed under that of the world, the antitheses of the world’s thesis; and out of such a discourse, no possible language for divine freedom or love could be generated.’ 165 GL vii. 523–4.

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thus as the measure of all that is meant by deification. Chapter 3, ‘The Hypostatic Union’, will develop the thesis that Christ is the analogy of being in person. Here I will show that Christ is the one who enacts the ‘movement of negation’ by receiving creation as a gift that expresses and mediates the transcendent love of the Father. In his twofold movement—from the Father into the world and from the world to the Father—Christ accomplishes a perfect revelation of God’s being and created being in their difference and unity.

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This is the horrendous and hidden poison of your error: that you claim to make the grace of Christ consist in his example and not in the gift of Himself. augustine

As indicated in Chapter 1, Balthasar’s first essay on the theme of eschatology describes Jesus Christ as ‘the whole essence of the last things’.1 Christ is the archetype and the accomplisher of the eschatological communion between God and creation. Whereas the preceding chapter considered the relation between created and uncreated being (analogia entis) from a philosophical perspective, our task in the present chapter is to consider the relation between God and the world as established by God’s descent into history in the Incarnation of the Son. In his movement from birth to death and Resurrection, Christ provides the final measure for both the similarity and the distance between created and uncreated being. In this sense, the analogy of being becomes ‘concrete and personal’ in Christ.2 As fully human he reveals the true meaning of creation, and as fully divine he reveals the true meaning of God.3 The crucial point is that this twofold revelation occurs in and through the union of his person, even as that union requires an abiding difference between his human nature and his divine nature. My guiding assumption throughout this chapter is the idea that the hypostatic union should not be seen as an isolated event, but is intended precisely to include all of humanity and ultimately all of

1 Balthasar, ‘Some Points of Eschatology’, 260–1; cf. TD v. 57: ‘The real ‘‘last thing’’ is the triune life of God disclosed in Jesus Christ.’ 2 TheoHist 74. 3 In the words of the Second Vatican Council: ‘In reality it is only in the mystery of the Word made flesh that the mystery of man becomes clear. For Adam, the first man, was a type of him who was to come, Christ the Lord. Christ the new Adam, in the very revelation of the mystery of the Father and His love, fully reveals man to himself and brings to light his high calling’, Gaudium et Spes, 22.

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creation.4 This ‘inclusion in Christ’, which is brought about through the mediation of the Holy Spirit, is what Balthasar means by eschatology.5 Thus, to ask how a union between God and man is established in the person of Christ is simultaneously to ask how the union between God and the rest of creation will be consummated in the eschaton. If the ultimate end of creation is to share in the divine life, then the hinge and locus of this trinitarian participation is the human nature assumed by the Son. The key to Balthasar’s account of the relation between Christology and eschatology, we maintain, lies in the identity of person and mission in Christ. Christ’s mission is the eternal procession of the Son from the Father seen in relation to the Son’s participation in the trinitarian ‘opera ad extra’. The content of the Son’s universal mission needs to be understood and unfolded simultaneously in two directions, toward the Father and toward the world. In terms of the ‘twofold revelation’ mentioned above, Christ’s mission, as a prolongation of his procession from the Father, reveals the final form of ‘truly God’ to be a trinitarian exchange between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. At the same time, Christ assumes responsibility for representing and including within his person not only a single human nature, but the whole of humanity, and ultimately the whole of creation. Thus the full stature of ‘truly man’ is revealed in a eucharistic self-giving which accomplishes a gathering of the whole of creation into the body of Christ. This twofold revelation of the Trinity and creation does not fracture into a (Nestorian) dualism because the way in which the Son ‘makes known’ the Trinity is in and through the assumption of a human nature. In other words, within the one divine mission of the Son, it is precisely the human words and human deeds of Christ that
4 In the encyclical letter Dominum et Vivificantem, § 50, John Paul II articulates the cosmic implications of the hypostatic union as follows: ‘The Incarnation of God the Son signifies the taking up into the unity of God not only of human nature, but in this human nature, in a sense, of everything that is ‘‘flesh’’: the whole of humanity, the entire visible and material world. The Incarnation, then, also has a cosmic significance, a cosmic dimension. The ‘‘first-born of all creation’’, becoming incarnate in the individual humanity of Christ, unites himself in some way with the entire reality of man, which is ‘‘flesh’’—and in this reality with all ‘‘flesh’’, with the whole of creation.’ Augustine (In ep. Joh., tr. 1, 2; 2, 2) proposes a similar thesis when he presents the hypostatic union as the connubium of God with the whole of humanity. 5 In his 1957 essay, ‘Some Points of Eschatology’, 261, Balthasar suggests that the formula of Chalcedon ‘really contains a biblical and patristic theology of history. . . . According to this viewpoint, Christ in the hypostatic union of the two natures is the Eschaton which governs the time both of the promise and the fulfilment.’

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mediate and express the divine love of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. As we will argue below, the claim that the human existence of Christ ‘expresses’ or ‘mediates’ the divine life requires the full integrity of Christ’s human nature in its distinctness from the divine nature, even as precisely everything human—and by extension everything created—is enabled to participate in the Son’s mission of expressing and mediating the trinitarian life. The first step in securing the eschatological significance of the hypostatic union will be a reflection on the classical problem of understanding how Christ can be truly man, truly God, and one person. In this context we shall introduce and interpret the governing thesis that Christ is the analogy of being in person. As indicated above, this teaching needs to be unfolded in light of the identity of person and mission in Christ. Accordingly, the next section will introduce the basic concept of mission and show how Christ’s mission includes a representation of the Trinity and the whole order of creation in their difference and unity. In the logic of Balthasar’s theology, it is the Holy Spirit who ‘universalizes’ the concrete person and mission of Christ. In the final section, I shall show that it is the Holy Spirit who reveals the fully eschatological depth of Christ’s Incarnation. Christology and Analogy According to Balthasar, the central difficulty for Christology concerns the preservation and fulfilment of the analogy of being within the hypostatic union. Given the abiding distance between divine and created being as affirmed by analogy, how is a true union in Christ possible? If Christ is ‘the personal unity of a divine and human nature, must we attribute to him a single being or a twofold being? The first seems impossible, since the analogia entis that prevails between God and the creature . . . goes right through the incarnate Son of God. The second seems to threaten his personal unity and make him into a mythological chimera.’6 Balthasar’s understanding of Christ as the concrete analogia entis thus requires—and modulates—the answer to the classical christological problem: How is it possible for Christ to be fully divine, fully human and one person?
6

TD iii. 202–3.

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In responding to this question, the early Church developed a formula which distinguishes between Christ’s nature and person. Christ is one in person, dual in nature. The Council of Chalcedon (451) declared that ‘one and the same Christ, Lord, and onlybegotten Son, is to be acknowledged in two natures without confusion, change, division or separation.’7 While this affirmation sets crucial boundaries, the question of how properly to interpret Chalcedon remains intractable: ‘Here we have someone who is entirely man, an unabridged human being, who ‘‘became like us in all things but sin’’; how then, when he uses the word ‘‘I’’, can he be speaking, not as a human person, but as divine? Or, if he also speaks with a human ‘‘I’’, how can there not be two persons in him, be they ever so intimately united?’8 Thomas Weinandy has argued convincingly that the so-called ‘communication of idioms’ is foundational for a correct understanding of the doctrine of the Incarnation as taught by Chalcedon. The notion of the communication of idioms, which was formulated powerfully by Cyril of Alexandria, states that the attributes belonging to one nature can be predicated without discrimination to one and the same person. According to Weinandy, the communication of idioms is not the predication of human attributes to the divine nature and vice versa, but the predication of divine and human attributes of one and the same person.9 In fact, the ‘whole’ Christ is not the result of a composition of natures, but is the Son existing now in a distinct human nature: ‘the Incarnation is not the compositional union of natures [which would entail confusion] but the person of the Son taking on a new manner or mode of existence.’10 This understanding of
DS 301. TD iii. 202. It is here that Balthasar notes his reservation regarding Przywara’s doctrine of analogy. By emphasizing the ‘in tanta similitudine maior dissimilitudo’ to the ‘point of exaggeration’, Przywara’s account of analogy undermines the possibility of a christological union that is able to bridge the distance between man and God without abrogating the abiding distance. ‘It is no accident’, suggests Balthasar, ‘that Przywara never produced a Christology’, TD iii. 220–1 n. 51. 9 Balthasar concurs with Weinandy’s view of the communicatio idiomatum when he writes that ‘it is only possible to apply qualities and attributes of the one nature to the other because both are united in the one person of the Logos—not by way of nature, but by way of person; certainly, the natures are ‘‘undivided’’, but, however close the union, they are ‘‘unconfused’’, ‘‘the properties of each remain unimpaired [sozomenes]’’ ’, TD iii. 222. Cf. ¯ ¯ Summa theol. iii, q. 16, aa. 4–5. 10 Thomas Weinandy, ‘The Incarnation: The Impassible Suffers’ (unpublished paper delivered to the Oxford Patristics Seminar, 1999).
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the communication of idioms founds a threefold account of the nature of incarnational union as taught by Chalcedon:
(1) It is truly God the Son who is man. Here, the emphasis is focused upon the full divinity of the Son. (2) It is truly man that the Son of God is. Here the emphasis is focused upon the full and complete humanity. (3) The Son of God truly is man. Here the emphasis is focused upon the ontological union between the person of the Son and his humanity.11

I take this threefold affirmation as a benchmark for the subsequent discussion of the hypostatic union. However, my purpose in the present section is not to discuss the substance of the Chalcedonian doctrine on its own terms, but to highlight the refocusing of the christological question of the unity of true divinity and true humanity in Christ that is required to affirm, with Balthasar, that Christ is the concrete ‘analogy of being’. Now, this refocusing involves attending to a difficult methodological question. That is, there seems to be an unavoidable circularity in approaching the mystery of Christ: On the one hand, we must in some sense ‘already know’ the meaning of ‘truly man’ and ‘truly God’ in order to understand how the two are united in Christ; on the other hand, the way in which these terms are understood must be intrinsically open to revision and even transformation precisely in light of Christ as the definitive revelation of God and of man.12 To preclude, in advance, the possibility that a deeper understanding of the person of Christ might reveal something new and unexpected about the nature and perfection of man and the nature and perfection of God represents an undue rationalization of the mystery. Such a methodological preclusion would seem particularly dubious insofar as Christ claims to be both the ‘new Adam’ (Rom. 5: 14 f.) and the one who ‘makes known’ ( John 1: 18) the invisible God. The burden of Balthasar’s claim that Christ is
Weinandy, Does God Suffer? (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 2000), 173–4. I do not propose to resolve the question of circularity here, but it should remain in focus as I present Balthasar’s Christology. We can anticipate somewhat Balthasar’s response by appealing to a principle he develops in engaging the historical-critical methods of exegesis: ‘From the very nature of its sources Christology has an elliptical structure, insofar as the testimony of the primitive Church to Jesus of Nazareth is a testimony of faith. According to this testimony, it is only the inner eye of Easter faith that can see what the object of the testimony really was. . . . [We are invited] to enter by faith into the circle so that, once within it, we may discern God’s Word-made-flesh—who both creates faith and is its object—and acknowledge him in his truth, indeed, as truth itself ’, TD iii. 59. The extent to which the ‘eyes of faith’ are essential to a proper understanding of ‘truly human’ and ‘truly divine’ will become clearer in the course of this chapter.
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the concrete analogia entis is that the final and deepest meaning of ‘truly man’, as well as the final and deepest meaning of ‘truly God’, are given in and through the person of Christ, even as this ultimate revelation does not leave behind, but surpassingly presupposes what we ‘already knew’. Thus, to speak of Christ as the analogy of being is to do more than to say that he reproduces in himself the analogically structured relation between God and the creature. It is also to say that he enacts that relation in himself. His doing so obviously presupposes the reality of God and the reality of the creature. On the other hand, he is the primary measure that regulates the relation between them. As such, Christ is the concrete locus in which the experience of the reality of God and of the reality of the creature presupposed to Christology takes its truest shape. But this means that Christ’s ultimate norming is not only not opposed to the reality presupposed to it, but in some sense includes it. Of course, such an inclusion does not leave that reality untouched. On the other hand, it does not overwhelm it. On the contrary, Christ, as the concrete analogia entis, is the definitive revelation of God and the creature precisely because both the divine and the human are able to come into their own as actors within that revelation. Christ is, as stated above, the eschatological mediator in whom God and the creature unveil themselves to each other in asymmetrical reciprocity. To say that Christ is the concrete analogy of being is thus to say that he is the personal ‘apocalypse’ of triune and creaturely being. How, then, does Christ’s enactment of the dramatic coming into their own of the divine and the human realities show us the deepest meaning of both? A number of commentators have interpreted the idea of ‘from above’, or katalogy, as the key characteristic which distinguishes Balthasar’s theology from other contemporary models.13 Given Balthasar’s emphasis on the descending movement of God into history, and his claim that the doctrine of the
13 John J. O’Donnell, Hans Urs von Balthasar (London: Geoffrey Chapman, 1992), 44, stands for several authors when he writes: ‘Whereas many contemporary authors choose a christological method from below, beginning with the humanity of Jesus, Balthasar unashamedly chooses a method from above. His Christology is based on the Johannine theology of the Word become flesh, and the guiding principle of his reflection could be found in John 3: 13 where Jesus says, ‘‘No one has ascended into heaven but he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.’’ . . . Jesus descends in the flesh so that humanity can be elevated to share his divinity.’ Wallner, Gott als Eschaton, 37 n. 52, lists a number of additional commentators who characterize Balthasar’s method as ‘von oben’.

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Trinity is the interpretative context for understanding Jesus’ mission and consciousness, this description is understandable. However, while not simply false, the notion of a Christology ‘from above’ can be misleading. It is possible to assume an abstract sense of ‘from above’ and thus miss the full import of Balthasar’s claim that Christ is the concrete analogy of being. To avoid this misunderstanding, it is essential to reflect on the historical circumstances of God’s coming ‘from above’. Attending to what Balthasar calls the ‘logic of the Incarnation’ requires that we consider the concrete manner and place in which Christ’s two natures are united.14 If we return to the communication of idioms, it is helpful to see how Christ’s relation to Mary concretizes questions of their meaning and use. This was true historically during the christological controversy of the fifth century, but more importantly for our purposes, it suggests that the way in which Christ enters ‘from above’ is in the mode of a child who stands in a relation of receptivity and dependence upon his human mother.15 For Balthasar, the mystery of the Incarnation, before anything else, is a mystery of childhood. Thick veils cover the childhood of Christ. With the exception of the scene of Jesus in the temple, the infancy narratives reveal little about Christ’s existence as a child. Balthasar realizes that we must approach this initial stage of Jesus’ existence circumspectly.
14 Balthasar introduces the phrase the ‘logic of the Incarnation’ in TD iii. 175, in the context of disputing Thomas Aquinas’s thesis that while Jesus could learn from things, he could not learn from other human beings. 15 In 429, Nestorius initiated a series of public lectures in the cathedral of Constantinople on the nature of proper faith in Christ. In the first lecture, delivered by his chaplain Anastasius, it was declared that Mary should not be called Mother of God for she was but a woman, and it is impossible for God to be born of a woman. For Nestorius the title of Theotokos seemed to undermine the meaning of truly human and truly God in both directions. That is, it falsely elevates Mary, who is ‘but a woman’, and denigrates God, who, as immutable, cannot possibly be born in history. The response of Cyril of Alexandria is well known. For Cyril, a denial of Mary’s role as mother of God implied a denial of the Incarnation. Why? If Mary is merely the mother of the human nature, and not the mother of a single divine person, then Christ exists in two distinct subjects. For Cyril, a union of two subjects is not an Incarnation. Athanasius, C. Arian. iii. 30 (PG 26. 388a), had already established the principle that ‘the Word became man: he did not come into a man’. In his dispute with Nestorius, Cyril, Or. ad dominas (PG 76. 1228c), articulates the same argument: ‘God did not become Logos in a man; he became truly man, while remaining God.’ If Mary cannot be affirmed as the mother of God, then it is not possible to affirm that it is truly the Son of God who has become man. At the Council of Ephesus (431), the title of Theotokos was formally accepted. One and the same who exists from all eternity with the Father, has come down from heaven, was born of the Virgin, and suffered and died for our sake: ‘the Word, uniting to himself in his person the flesh animated by a rational soul, became man’ (DS 250).

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‘However,’ he suggests, ‘we must remember one overarching fact: Jesus speaks with such familiarity about the child’s specific manner of being and dignity that such knowledge must be rooted in his own experience.’16 What characterizes the ontological status of childhood? ‘To be a child’, writes Balthasar, ‘means to owe one’s existence to another.’17 A child exists in a relation of dependence and neediness. However, and this is decisive, a child experiences this neediness and poverty as an integral part of the richness of its relation to his or her parents. Within the relation of love that constitutes the child’s being, poverty and receptivity are not experienced as a lack or deficiency that needs to be overcome, but as grounds for gratitude for having been given existence. The child is poor insofar as it can do nothing on its own, but this very poverty reveals the simultaneous richness of childhood insofar as the child is capable of receiving life and love from its parents:
The child sees clearly that love is realized only in reciprocity, in an oppositeness that is encounter and not opposition, a relationship that is held together in its very difference by the spirit of love and that, far from being endangered by mutuality, is rather strengthened by it. Love, too, is what enables the child to experience its absolute neediness as something other than a threat, since it is lived as the situation in which the mother’s ever-latent love may be realized always anew.18

Without fully entering into this relation of childhood, ‘God’s Word would not have really become flesh. For being in-the-flesh always means receiving from others.’19 At this point we touch the nerve of our whole endeavour. Balthasar’s account of Christ as the analogia entis in person entails that God himself ‘take responsibility’ for the final and definitive form of the relation between finite and infinite being. It is God, and not the creature, who provides the measure of the nearness and distance that should prevail between God and man. However, in Christ’s relation to Mary we have what appears to be a complete reversal of this principle.
16 Balthasar, Unless you become like This Child [¼ UBC ] (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1991), 28. 17 UBC 49. Balthasar’s account of the metaphysics of childhood owes much to two German philosophers, Gustav Siewerth and Ferdinand Ulrich. See esp., G. Siewerth, Metaphysik der Kindheit (Einsiedeln: Johannes Verlag, 1957); and F. Ulrich, Der Mensch als Anfang: Zur philosophischen Anthropologie der Kindheit (Einsiedeln: Johannes Verlag, 1970). 18 UBC 19. 19 TD iii. 177.

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In entering the world as a child, God enters into a relation of neediness and poverty with respect to his human mother. This reversal, I submit, provides the key to answering the question posed above: how does Christ’s enactment of the dramatic coming into their own of the divine and the human realities show us the deepest meaning of both? The first aspect of the christological reversal involves a deepening and a transformation of our understanding of human perfection. Against those, such as Nestorius, who presuppose a certain abstract limit to what is possible for a human being, it is necessary to see that God’s condescension in the Incarnation involves the infinite potentiation of human nature as capax dei. Through grace, Mary is allowed to participate in the divine life to the extent of bearing and giving birth to the Son of God. This is the burden of the teaching of Ephesus on Mary as Theotokos.20 The second requirement is a deepening and transformation of our idea of God’s perfection and transcendence. If God should decide, in the freedom of his love, to enter fully into a relation of vulnerability and dependence upon a human mother, then the meaning of ‘truly God’ cannot be conceived so abstractly that a real relationship to humanity would jeopardize his transcendence. In other words, in Christ’s relation to Mary one can begin to discern a new image of transcendence more in accord with the perfection of love. The metaphysical principle developed in the preceding chapter, that receptivity is part of the perfection of act, is confirmed in Christ’s relation to Mary. Indeed the reversal—God governs the God–creature relation in such a way that he ‘submits’ to the creature—is the core of the analogical structure outlined in the previous chapter, wherein the manifestation of the divine transcendence goes hand in hand with the exaltation of precisely that in the creature which seemed
20 The patristic teaching on Mary as a Realsymbol of the Church provides a foundation for understanding Mary’s continued mediation in the relationship between God and man. The Church, as a prolongation of the event of the Incarnation, is the place or ‘womb’ wherein God and man are sacramentally united. The Church acts as mother in helping, in the words of Eckhart, to bring God to birth in the hearts of believers. The other side of this mystery is that God, in some sense, continues to be born into the world. The assumption of human flesh that occurs definitively in the event of Christ’s Incarnation in the womb of Mary is—through the mediation of the Church—ordered to God’s ongoing ‘assumption’ of all of created being. For an exposition of Balthasar’s understanding of the relation between Mary and the Church, see Brendan Leahy, The Marian Profile in the Ecclesiology of Hans Urs von Balthasar (London: New City, 2000).

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to be most opposed to this transcendence. To affirm that Christ is the concrete analogia entis is to affirm that he himself is the personal enactment of this very relation. By the same token, Christ’s relation to the Father and to Mary, mediated by the Holy Spirit, is the measure of the God–creature relation and, therefore, of all that we mean by ‘true God’ and by ‘true man’. This measure does not reduce God and man, but includes a free and reciprocal self-unveiling of the trinitarian life and of creaturely being. Christ, the concrete analogia entis, is the locus and form of this eschatological revelation. It is to this concrete analogicity that I now turn. In 1949, amidst intense dialogue with Karl Barth, Balthasar published a short essay entitled ‘Drei Merkmale des Christlichen’. Here he writes that ‘ultimately there is only one synthesis in which God has established his relationship to the world, namely Christ, the incarnate Word of the Father. He is the measure of nearness and distance from God; he is the analogia entis in concrete form.’21 In A Theology of History (1950), the same idea is taken up and expanded:
In this sense Christ can be called the only concrete analogia entis, since he constitutes in himself, in the union of his divine and human natures,
Balthasar, ‘Drei Merkmale des Christlichen’, Wort und Wahrheit, 4 (1949): 401–15; republished as ‘Merkmale des Christlichen’, in Skizzen zur Theologie, i. Verbum Caro (Einsiedeln: Johannes Verlag, 1960) [ET ¼ ‘Characteristics of Christianity’, in Explorations in Theology, i. The Word made Flesh (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1989), 177.] Balthasar’s claim that Christ is the concrete analogy of being draws together two of the central concerns outlined in his book The Theology of Karl Barth: Exposition and Interpretation, trans. Edward T. Oakes (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992). Firstly, Balthasar identifies the meaning of analogy as the formal principle of the controversy between Catholicism and Protestantism. Secondly, Balthasar points to Barth’s christocentrism, that is Barth’s radical centring of theology on the activity of God in Jesus Christ, as the chief merit of his theology. Balthasar also credits Barth for understanding the fundamental unity of these two concerns: ‘Karl Barth is absolutely right that the problem of analogy in theology must finally be a problem of Christology’ (55). On the basis of christocentrism, Barth sought to replace the analogia entis, which he had famously called ‘an invention of the anti-Christ’, with an analogia fidei. Balthasar’s response is twofold: first he argues that Barth’s polemic against the analogy of being is based in part on a mistaken understanding of being as a concept that encompasses God and creation. The key here is a recovery of the act character of being as gift: ‘The juxtaposition of ‘‘act’’ and ‘‘being’’ as dialectical opposites is absurd, especially when we encounter the Aristotelian and Thomistic definition of real be-ing as energeia and actus’ (394). More importantly, Balthasar argues that the analogy of being is an inner requirement of christocentric theology. A true union of God and man in Christ presupposes an order of creation with a relative autonomy, and, by analogy, a relatively autonomous philosophy: ‘I have criticized Barth because to me his rejection of a philosophical reflection concomitant to theology is self-destructive: to reject philosophy because it works only with material
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the measure of every distance between God and man. And this union is his person in both natures. The philosophical formulation of the analogia entis is related to the measure of Christ precisely as is world history to his history—as promise to fulfillment, the preliminary to the definitive.22

The significance of this text is evidenced by the fact that Balthasar cites it directly at critical junctures in volumes ii and iii of the Theo-Drama, and implicitly refers to it in The Christian State of Life, Mysterium Paschale, Theo-Drama v, Theo-Logic ii, and Epilog.23 In order to gain a better understanding of what it means to say that Christ is the concrete analogy of being, it is helpful to recall the original context in A Theology of History. In a preface to the second edition of A Theology of History (1959), Balthasar describes his aim in this short work as follows:
It was intended to be about the relation of Christ, as belonging christologically within time, to time in general, the time of human history, with the Church’s time mediating between them as the universalization, accomplished in the Holy Spirit, of Christ’s temporal and at the same time archetypal existence.24

The driving question of the book, which ‘should really have been called the nucleus of a theology of history’,25 thus concerns the possibility of a unique historical being attaining absolutely universal significance for all of history and all of being. One might, Balthasar notes, think to propose Jesus Christ’s universal significance by abstracting from all that is particular to his temporal and embodied existence. In this case, what is universally significant is
drawn from within this world (and thus is only ‘‘positivistic’’) means that all the truths about man and the world have to be derived from the Christology that presupposes them. But while this sounds as if it preserves the integrity of a dynamic Christology, it has the ironic effect of forcing us, at the very place where we must discuss a historical event between God and man, to construct a doctrine of God, man and the world from the ground up’ (393).
22 TheoHist 74 [trans. altered]. The original German text runs as follows: ‘In diesem Sinne kann Christus die einzige konkrete Analogia entis genannt werden, da er in sich selbst, in ¨ der Einheit seiner gottlichen und menschlichen Natur, die Maaeinheit fur jeden Abstand ¨ zwischen Gott und Mensch bildet. Und diese Einheit ist seine Person in beiden Naturen. ¨ Die philosophischen Formulierung der Analogia entis verhalt sich zum Maae Christi genau ¨ wie die Weltgeschichte zu seiner Geschichte: als Verheißung zu Erfullung, Vorlaufigkeit zu ¨ Endgultigkeit’, Theologie der Geschichte (Einsiedeln: Johannes Verlag, 1950), 29. Manfred ¨ Lochbrunner, Analogia Caritatis: Darstellung und Deutung der Theologie Hans Urs von Balthasars (Freiburg: Herder Verlag, 1981), 283–4, has drawn attention to Balthasar’s revision of this text in the 1959 edition of Theologie der Geschichte, where the word ‘einzige’ is dropped and ¨ ‘Maaeinheit’ is changed to ‘Maaverhaltnis’. 23 TD ii. 267; TD iii. 222; CSL 192; MP 29; TD v. 387; TL ii. 284–8; Epilog, 69. 24 25 TheoHist, p. v. TheoHist, p. v.

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no longer the particular person himself, but perhaps a moral teaching or an example that stems from the historical person. At this point, the words of Augustine cited at the outset of this chapter attain their relevance: ‘This is the horrendous and hidden poison of your [ Julian’s] error: that you claim to make the grace of Christ consist in his example and not in the gift of Himself.’26 It is the task of a Christian theology of history, Balthasar argues, to show how it is precisely the unique historical and embodied life of Christ that gives meaning to all of history and all of being. The book is divided into four chapters, (1) ‘Christ’s mode of time’; (2) ‘The inclusion of history within the life of Christ’; (3) ‘The person of Christ as the norm of history’; and (4) ‘History under the norm of Christ’. After a discussion, in chapter 1, of Christ’s mode of time as receptivity before the Father, Balthasar develops in chapter 2 the ancient teaching on Christ’s historical life as a ‘recapitulation’ of the whole order of salvation history.27 All of the prophecies, promises, and covenants of the Old Testament find their true fulfilment in Christ:
God the Father set up the Covenant, promulgated the Law, and sent the Prophets in order to prepare the Son’s way on earth by creating something which to a certain degree corresponds to him, a proportion, a possibility of reaching understanding through faith and suffering. . . . the Old Covenant is a sketch of a future achievement.28 The very fact there could be any such thing as a Paradise, a Fall, a Flood, a Covenant with Abraham, a Law, a prophetic history, all has its meaningful center in the appearance of the Son, although the Son obediently submits to the pattern of what has been and what is.29

The second passage above, which refers to paradise and the fall, extends Christ’s role of ‘recapitulating’ salvation history in the narrow sense to include the history of the whole world. The
Augustine, Opus imperfectum contra Iulianum, ii. 146 (PL 45. 1202). In his monograph on Irenaeus in the second volume of The Glory of the Lord, Balthasar describes two elements essential to the meaning of Christ’s recapitulation. First, recapitulation involves a relation of two historical realities in which one brings fulfilment and perfection to the other: ‘In Christ’s reality Adam’s reality comes to its full truth, in Mary Eve, in the Church the synagogue’, GL ii. 52. Secondly, the fulfilment occurs ‘in a way which allows the one which brings the perfection to give the one at the beginning of the process scope in itself for perfection’, GL ii. 52. In other words, Christ recapitulates history by gathering all things into his life precisely to liberate them in their natural integrity. This vision of recapitulation presupposes, of course, that God’s original purpose in creating a world was to gather all things in Christ. 28 29 TheoHist 55. TheoHist 59 [my italics].
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justification for this extension is the Pauline teaching that the world was created in Christ and for Christ (Col. 1: 15–20; 1 Cor. 8: 6). Christ’s life is, so to speak, the ‘world of ideas’ which gives meaning to all of history and creation; everything is ordered to Christ as promise to fulfilment.30 Unlike the ahistorical platonic eidos, it is precisely as incarnate in history that the person of Christ recapitulates the whole order of creation. In other words, it is not merely the divine Logos who is the center and norm of all being and history, but Jesus of Nazareth:
Indeed, in the eyes of the Father, his life, though it does not cause, is nevertheless the very condition for the possibility of there being a Fall, and so of there being a Paradise or indeed any creation at all. . . . In the words of St. Paul, then, the world itself must have been framed in Christ Incarnate ‘one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him (1 Cor. 8: 6) . . . for in him were all things created in heaven and on earth . . . all things were created by him and in him: and he is before all, and by him all things consist. And he is the head of the body, the church (Col. 1: 16 f ).’ It is not, so to say, the divine Logos but the incarnate Son who speaks of himself as ‘him, who is before all and at the end of all, who underwent death and is now alive’ (Rev. 3: 14). . . . It was in view of him that the venture of having any such things as a world and world history could be made at all.31

As incarnate, the Son not only provides the measure and norm for the relation between God and the world ‘from above, by the standard of heaven’, so to speak, but also and simultaneously ‘from beneath and from within, using his humanity, body and soul, as the unit of measurement’.32 The sense of ‘from within’ in this passage can be taken, in the first place, to refer to the full reality of Christ’s experience as man; namely, his being tempted, his hunger, his sorrow, his anger, his ‘learning obedience through suffering’ (Heb. 5: 8), etc. At a more profound level, the prior claim that all things were created in and for the incarnate Christ entails that there is no human experience that Christ himself does not experience in some sense from the ‘inside’. Reciprocally, the ultimate meaning of creaturely reality in its creatureliness is unveiled precisely insofar it is gathered into the life of the incarnate Son. But because there is no created reality whatsoever that is
30 ‘[T]he life of the Son is related to the whole of history as the world of ideas which gives it its norms and its meaning’, TheoHist 61. 31 TheoHist 61–2. 32 TheoHist 65 [my italics].

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not recapitulated within Christ’s incarnate existence in this way,33 Christ can be called with justice the concrete analogia entis:
The measure of maximum nearness and of maximum separation between God and man is given its foundation and its roots and altogether surpassed by the real nearness and real distance between Father and Son in the Spirit on the cross and in the Resurrection. The Son alone knows what it means to live in the Father, to rest in his bosom, to love him, to serve him, and he alone can know the full significance of being abandoned by him.34

In order to delve further into the significance of Balthasar’s application of the term ‘concrete analogy of being’ to Christ, we need to grasp the interrelation between two points, which will be fundamental for our discussion in the remainder of this chapter. First, the analogy (difference-in-unity) between human and divine within Christ’s person is grounded in a more fundamental relation between Father, Son, and Spirit. In other words, the possibility of Christ’s person being able to measure and ‘bridge’ the distance between created and uncreated being without in any way abrogating the abiding distinctness of natures resides in his trinitarian mode of existence as the eternal Son. In terms of the argument developed above, the doctrine of the Trinity is the indispensable context for understanding how Jesus Christ’s seemingly finite and limited historical existence can become the inner norm and recapitulation of all of creation and all of history.35 The second point is that Christ’s function as the analogia entis in person occurs as a ‘movement’ that culminates in the cross and Resurrection. By implication, it is the whole historical life of Jesus Christ that provides a moving image of creation and the trinitarian life in their difference and unity. The unification of created and uncreated being within the person of Christ occurs as an event that unfolds in history.36
33 ‘[W]e have to take care to avoid any ‘‘christological restriction’’ that would want to ground the reality of creation on some ‘‘prior’’ reality of redemption or grace; there is no ‘‘before’’ or ‘‘after’’, and, even if the goal is the first thing intended by the agent, in ordine executionis we must first posit a natural (nondivine) subject as the possible recipient of grace’, TD iii. 257. 34 TheoHist 65–6. 35 The question of how the individual historical existence can be so ‘universalized’ is, for Balthasar, finally a question of the role of the Holy Spirit and the Church. 36 To characterize the union as an ‘event’ that unfolds through time is not to deny that the incarnational union is ‘consummated’ from the first moment of conception within the womb of Mary. It is rather the case that the concept of event qualifies the meaning of

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We can begin to appreciate Balthasar’s understanding of this intersection of the most comprehensive universality and the particularity of a single human being by observing how his treatment of Christology in the Theo-Drama attempts to unite both of these elements—(1) the Trinity as the foundation of the hypostatic union, and (2) the ‘movement’ of Christ’s person into the world and back to the Father through death and Resurrection—under the single heading of Christ’s ‘mission’. Christ’s mission is simultaneously the expression of his trinitarian procession from the Father and his movement into the world and back to the Father through death and Resurrection. This idea of a unifying mission, which should be considered the core of Balthasar’s Christology, is sketched in the following passage:
Jesus experiences his human consciousness entirely in terms of mission. The Father has commissioned him, in the Holy Spirit, to reveal God’s nature and his disposition toward man. There is nothing one-sided about this revelation (as people like to think today); it is not simply that God takes the part of sinners and the needy: in his sense-mediated human nature, Jesus is to reveal all God’s other attributes as well, that is, God’s anger (for instance, over the sinful desecration of his place of worship); God’s weariness at having to endure for so long these people who are so lacking in understanding; God’s grief and tears at Jerusalem’s refusal to respond to his invitation. We can even say that, in the cry of dereliction on the Cross, Jesus reveals how God is forsaken by sinners. Jesus’ whole existence, including the aspect that the Greeks found so difficult, his pathe, is in service of his proclamation of God. But he does this in a fully ¯ human conscious subject who simultaneously brings to light the full truth of man, and—since he primarily reveals the truth of God—the truth of man as God sees him.37

Now, support for this position can be found in Thomas Aquinas’s discussion of the Trinity in the Summa Theologiae. In question 42 of the prima pars, Aquinas asks whether the Son is equal to the Father in power.38 The first two objections cite a series of texts from the Gospel of John which seem to suggest the subordination
consummation to allow for an ever-new unfolding and deepening of the union. Perhaps the best way to explain this insight is by analogy to a spousal union. The union between husband and wife occurs once-and-for-all in the exchange of marital vows and bodily consummation, but it will take the whole lifetime of the spouses to ‘unfold’ and progressively deepen the union that has been irrevocably established. I will comment on this analogy in more depth at the end of the present chapter.
37

TD iii. 224–5.

38

Summa theol. ia, q. 42, a. 6.

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of the Son to the Father: ‘The Son can do nothing of himself but only that which he sees the Father doing’ ( John 5: 19); and, ‘I can do nothing on my own authority; as I hear, I judge’ ( John 5: 30). One might expect Thomas to answer these objections by pointing to the human nature assumed by the Son. On this reading, the Son is equal to the Father in his divine nature, and subordinate in his human nature. This is the traditional response developed by Augustine and Leo the Great to the problem of a seeming subordinationism in the Gospel of John.39 Thomas, however, interprets these texts not merely as referring to the Son’s assumed human nature, but as simultaneously revealing the meaning of the Son’s eternal origin from the Father:
The words, ‘the Son cannot of Himself do anything’, do not withdraw from the Son any power possessed by the Father, since it is immediately added, ‘Whatsoever things the Father doth, the Son doth in like manner’; but their meaning is to show that the Son possesses power from the Father, from whom he receives the divine nature. . . . The Father’s ‘showing’ and the Son’s ‘hearing’ are to be taken in the sense that the Father shares his knowledge with the Son just as he does his essence. We can also take the Father’s commandment as referring to the same point, in that begetting the Son he gave him from eternity the knowledge and the will for all that had to be accomplished.40

At this point, the novelty of Balthasar’s position consists in his argument that the same principle can and should be applied to all of the seemingly ‘human’ aspects of Jesus’ existence, such as sorrow, hunger, suffering, obedience—which therefore reveal, via the principle of hypostatic union interpreted in terms of the identity of person and mission, the very nature of God and of man. On the one hand, these creaturely modes of being are properly attributed to the human nature assumed by the Son, and yet, on
For example, in the Catena Aurea, vol. 4/ii, 474, Thomas cites the following text from Augustine: ‘Let us acknowledge then the twofold substance of Christ, the divine, which is equal to the Father, and the human, which is inferior. . . . Christ is not only God, and as such equal to the Father, but also man, and as such inferior to the Father.’ 40 Summa theol. i, q. 42, a. 6, ad. 1, 2. Michael Waldstein has drawn attention to a similar argument in Aquinas’s Commentary on John, where he writes, ‘according to Augustine, there is another way of understanding the passages which seem to imply a lesser status (minoritas) in the Son, although in fact they do not. One can refer them to the origin of the Son from the Father. For although the Son is equal to the Father in all things, nevertheless he has this from the Father by eternal generation’, Super Joannem (Turin: Marietti, 1952), 126, cited in Waldstein, ‘An Introduction to von Balthasar’s The Glory of the Lord ’, Communio: International Catholic Review, 14 (1987): 12–33, at 28.
39

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the basis of the hypostatic union, they also reveal something about the mode of being of the divine person that is the subject of these actions. In fact, the more perfectly the Son accepts the human limitations of his incarnate existence, the more he is able to make visible his divine mode of existence as the Son who gratefully receives everything from the Father—and vice versa. The whole of Christ’s incarnate existence thus serves to ‘make known’ the mystery of the Father, through the Sonship of Jesus, in the unity of the Spirit. Let us examine this argument more closely by looking at Christ’s revelation of the Father. If we take the example of the human obedience of Christ, Balthasar’s great insight is that Christ’s obedience does not merely express the true posture of the creature before his Creator, but also expresses the manner of the Son’s eternal reception of the Godhead from the Father.41 ‘The making present of the life of the Trinity’, he writes, ‘and the ultimate foundation and perfection of the attitude distinctively characteristic of the creature before his God meet together in the miracle of the God-man’s archetypal obedience.’42 Balthasar is careful to qualify the sense in which ‘obedience’ can be attributed to the relations that constitute the inner life of the Trinity, where there is one will possessed by three persons. He does not mean to imply either the subordination of the Son or a simple plurality of wills. The relevant point is that Christ’s human obedience is an ‘interpretation’ into the language of time and creatureliness of the Son’s eternal relation of love to his Father, who has eternally begotten him out of love. Both as ‘truly man’ and as ‘truly God’ the Son receives his being as an unfathomable gift from the Father:
The Son’s form of existence, which makes him the Son from all eternity, is the uninterrupted reception of everything that he is, of his very self, from the Father. It is indeed this receiving of himself which gives him his ‘I’, his own inner dimension, his spontaneity, that sonship with which he can answer the Father in a reciprocal giving . . . in the eternally uninterrupted act of his own generation, in which alone he is image and word
41 In First Glance at Adrienne von Speyr, trans. Antje Lawry and Sergia Englund (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1981), 59, Balthasar credits von Speyr for the seminal insight that ‘the obedience of Christ is, on the one hand, ‘‘interpretation’’ ( John 1: 18) of heaven, of the interior life of the Trinity, and, on the other hand, the ‘‘epitome’’ (Eph. 1: 10) of the proper attitude of all creatures before God.’ 42 TheoHist 42.

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and response. In the selfsame act in which he receives himself (and hence his divine understanding) he receives, too, the entire will of the Father concerning God and the world, and assents to it as his own.43

A trinitarian interpretation of Christ’s identity-as-mission is confirmed particularly in Gospel of John, where the mission of Jesus consists in ‘making known’ God the Father ( John 1: 18):
the Father’s love shapes and determines the identity and life of Jesus as the Son who receives himself from the Father and accordingly holds himself completely at the Father’s disposal in his mission to the cross. The mission of Jesus is an expression of this identity: it expresses his life as the eternal Son and it is the concrete mode in which the Father’s love is extended and continued into the world.44

To the question—How does Jesus make known the Father?—it is not enough to point to his teaching. His very existence is an interpretation of the Father. This is why whoever sees Jesus sees the Father ( John 12: 45; 14: 10–11). The entire incarnate existence of Christ—his birth, his obedience, his teaching, his miracles, and especially his death and Resurrection—serves to make known the invisible Father. Jesus accomplishes this perfect revelation in the mode of the ‘only begotten Son’ and thus simultaneously brings to light the true meaning of divine Sonship. This account of Christ finds support in the Letter to the Philippians, where Paul commends his readers to
have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself (heauton ekenosen), taking the form ˆ of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. (Phil. 2: 5–8)

In contemporary theology, this text is often taken to support a ‘kenoticist Christology’ which would require Christ to leave his divine attributes (such as omnipotence) in heaven during the Incarnation.45 In effect, however, such a view sets ‘truly divine’ in juxtaposition, or even opposition, to ‘truly human’. As a result,
TheoHist 26–7. Michael Waldstein, ‘The Mission of Jesus and the Disciples in John’, Communio: International Catholic Review, 17 (1990): 311–33, at 332. 45 For a summary account and critique of kenoticist Christology, see Thomas Weinandy, Does God Change?: The Word’s Becoming in the Incarnation (Still River, Mass.: St. Bede’s Publications, 1985), 101–23.
44 43

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in the Incarnation there must be a reduction of what is divine in order to make room for the truly human. That is, the Son must empty himself to such a degree that he effectively ceases to be truly divine. A Christology of mission, on the other hand, avoids this false kenoticist dilemma by interpreting Christ’s human words and deeds, and the human aspects of his knowledge, as an expression and mediation of his divine existence in the mode of Sonship. Nevertheless, the question still remains: How can we affirm a genuine kenosis or self-emptying on the part of the Son while simultaneously affirming the full divinity of Jesus Christ? A full answer to this question must await a consideration of the relation between ‘mission’ and ‘procession’ in the next section. At this point, we can say that in abstraction from the Trinity, it would be impossible to see the aspect of the Son’s ‘giving away’ his divine form (Phil. 2: 5–8) in entering the status exinanitionis as anything other than a loss or a reduction of his true divinity. If, however, the mission of the Son is to reveal the eternal life of the Trinity, we can interpret the Son’s giving-himself-away in the event of the Incarnation (which is ordered to the passion) as a perfect expression of his Father, who from all eternity has given-himself-away in the event of generating the Son. ‘The ultimate presupposition of the kenosis’, Balthasar claims, ‘is the ‘‘selflessness’’ of the [divine] persons in the intra-trinitarian life of love.’46 In a trinitarian context, the Son can really give away his divine glory without ever ceasing to be God. In fact, the more he gives away the divine glory in entering into a truly human existence, the more radiantly he reveals himself as the perfect icon of the Father and thus as fully divine. The incarnate Son is given the task of representing to humanity a perfect image of the transcendent God (in John’s language, the love or ‘glory’ of the Father) while simultaneously representing to God the true form of humanity—a humanity that has been profoundly wounded by original sin. This twofold representation does not fracture into a dualism because both as man and as God, the Son receives his being in gratitude from the Father who is the ‘ever-greater’ ( John 14: 28) source of his existence:
The trinitarian analogy enables the Son, without abolishing the analogia entis, simultaneously to do two things: he represents God to the world—
46 Balthasar, Mysterium Paschale: The Mystery of Easter [¼ MP ], trans. Aidan Nichols (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1990), 153.

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but in the mode of the Son who regards the Father as ‘greater’ and to whom he eternally owes all that he is—and he represents the world to God, by being, as man (or rather as the God-man), ‘humble, lowly, modest, docile [tapeinos] of heart’ (Mt 11: 29). It is on the basis of these two aspects, united in an abiding analogy, that the Son can take up his one, unitary mission.47

With this text we return to the thesis that Christ’s person reveals the final meaning of ‘truly man’ and ‘truly God’. The hypostatic union of ‘truly human’ and ‘truly divine’ is accomplished within the one mission of the Son, and this single mission, which is grounded in and thus expresses Christ’s eternal procession from the Father, must be interpreted simultaneously in two directions: God is represented to the world and the world is represented (and thus reconciled) to God. This simultaneity is absolutely crucial. It is not the case that Christ sometimes acts as God and sometimes acts as man; or that some of his deeds (miracles, teaching) reveal divine attributes, while others (weariness, obedience, suffering) reveal human attributes. His entire existence is both fully divine and fully human. All of the modalities of Christ’s incarnate existence, even those that seem most remote from divinity, are intrinsic aspects of his mission, which, being identical with his divine person, ensures that these aspects reveal the nature of God and the nature of man. It is important to stress in this context that Christ does not reveal the meaning of an abstract ‘divine nature’, but rather the reciprocal love of Father and Son in the Holy Spirit. ‘[T]he Son on earth’, argues Balthasar, ‘cannot represent his own divine nature (this would constitute a form of monophysitism): rather, he translates his eternal relationship with the Father into the terms of time and creatureliness.’48 In more concrete terms, Christ perfectly reveals the Father to the world in the event of his ‘laying down his life’ by loving the world to ‘the end’ ( John 13: 1): ‘As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you’ ( John 15: 9). At the same time, Christ’s mission of laying down his life, which is accomplished through perfect human obedience, is a eucharistic exchange (admirabile commercium) that is able to include the created world within his human body and thus bring to light for the first time the true meaning of creation.
47 48

TD iii. 230 n. 68.

TD v. 120.

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Having said this, we can grasp the sense in which Christ is the concrete analogy of being for Balthasar—and the eschatological pertinence of this concrete analogicity. Christ’s ‘twofold representation’ of the trinitarian nature of God, on the one hand, and of the nature of man, on the other, is not simply a repetitive display of already fixed realities. Rather, it is the eschatological enactment of the creature’s destiny within the eternal event of the trinitarian life. Christ, then, is the concrete analogy of being as the eschatological enactment of the ‘truly human’ and ‘truly divine’ that he reveals. Now, as we have seen, this understanding of Christ is rooted in Balthasar’s account of the identity of person and mission. This identity will therefore constitute the core of this chapter. Before arriving at this centre, however, it is necessary to hone our discussion of Christ as the concrete analogy of being even further; namely, in terms of how, in the person of Christ, the difference-in-unity between the begetting of the Son and the creation of the world is held together in such a way as to guarantee the simultaneous enacted revelation of God and man that, as we have seen, is at the very heart of Christ’s status as the concrete analogia entis. In teaching the full divinity of the Christ, the Council of Nicaea (325) affirmed an absolute distinction between the Son’s being begotten and the world’s being made. It thus seems out of place to speak of a unity between begetting and creation. This impression changes, however, when we begin to consider what is included in the Father’s self-communication to the Son. In the discussion of Balthasar’s thesis that Christ is the concrete analogy of being, I noted that both creation and the divine Son receive their being from God the Father. This is not to deny that creation is a work of the whole Trinity. The point is that each divine person creates the world according to his personal mode of being (tropos tes hyparxeos). Balthasar writes: ‘the world’s location in ¯ the Son directly implies its location in the totality of the Godhead. The world can be thought of as the gift of the Father (who is both Begetter and Creator) to the Son, since the Father wishes to sum up all things in heaven and earth in the Son, as head (Eph. 1: 10); thus the Son takes this gift—just as he takes the gift of Godhead— as an opportunity to thank and glorify the Father.’49 According to Balthasar, the beginning and the end of the created world lies
49

TD ii. 262.

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within the Trinity. The positive and fully divine ‘otherness’ that characterizes the trinitarian difference between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit opens a space and a time for the non-divine otherness between God and the world. The classical understanding of God being immanent as transcendent and transcendent as immanent is confirmed and enriched by this trinitarian perspective. It only needs to be said that the mysterious tension between immanence and transcendence characterizes the God–world relation both in creation’s ‘natural’ state and as ‘deified’, even as there remains an irreducible difference between these two orders. Although difficult to conceptualize, a proper understanding of deification requires a heightening (and transformation) of both the immanence of God and the transcendence of God. We will see in Chapter 4 that Balthasar articulates the difference between creation’s original state and final state in terms of a gift of grace which allows the creature to participate in a radically new way in the trinitarian relations themselves. Recognizing the need for analogical and metaphorical language, Balthasar will say that if the world is already in some sense ‘inside’ the Trinity from the first moment of its creation, then the unimagined gift of ‘deification’ means that the world acquires an inward share in the divine exchange of life. Of course, even if receptivity before the Father is proper to both the divine Son and creaturely being, there must exist an infinite difference between these two modes of being. On the other hand, there is nevertheless some real basis for maintaining a similarity between the creation of a finite world and the Father’s generation of the Son. According to Balthasar, in fact, there is an analogy between creating and begetting that undergirds ‘both the Son’s ‘‘becoming a creature’’ and our being ‘‘reborn’’ ’ ( John 3: 3, 7).50 Discerning the relation between creation and generation presents one of the thorniest problems in Balthasar’s theology. ‘It is extremely hard’, Balthasar writes, ‘to see how the Son, who ‘‘receives’’ the Godhead, and hence eternal freedom, from the Father (and so seems to be closely related to the creature), can nonetheless possess this infinite freedom in the same sovereign manner (albeit in the mode of obedience) as the Father.’51 It is helpful to approach Balthasar’s account of the relation between begetting and creating by first considering his interpretation of a key text from Thomas Aquinas’s Sentence Commentary. This text,
50

TD iii. 229 n. 68.

51

TD ii. 267.

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which provides the point of departure for Balthasar’s treatment of ‘The World is from the Trinity’ in The Final Act (TD v), will help to specify the conditions for a genuine analogy (similarity within a greater difference) between the act of creation and the act of generation. In the prologue to his Sentence Commentary, Thomas Aquinas writes:
It is rightly said of the Son’s Person, ‘I am an arm of the river’s infinite waters’—which indicates the order and the manner of creation. The order, since, just as the arm is part of the river, so the temporal procession of creatures comes from the eternal procession of the Persons. . . . For the source is always the cause of what comes afterward; thus the first procession is the cause and ground of all subsequent processions. As to the manner, it is indicated in two ways. First, from the standpoint of the one who creates, who, while he fills everything, is not an attribute of anything (which shows us the meaning of the word ‘infinite’); and, second, from the standpoint of that which is created: for, just as the arm of the river is an extension of the riverbed, so the creature comes forth from the unity of the Divine Being, which, like the riverbed, contains the flowings-forth of the Persons.52

The same idea is expounded in [Aquinas’s] commentary on Boethius’s De trinitate:
This birth [of the Son from the Father] is the origin of every begetting of another, for it alone perfectly takes on the nature of the begetter. Every other birth is imperfect, for in them the offspring receives a part of the begetter’s substance or a likeness of it. All subsequent births, consequently, must have their origin in a certain imitation of the primal birth.53

To grasp the full significance of these passages, we need to return to the question posed at the beginning of Chapter 2: if God is the fullness of being, how can there be a world that is truly other than God? A God who is not in some sense everything is not an infinite God. And yet, the world, created out of nothing, is a distinct and radically non-divine gift. Balthasar, we saw, accounts for both dimensions through a development of Aquinas’s unique understanding of created esse as complete and simple but non-subsistent. For Balthasar, created esse, both ‘poor’ as nonsubsistent and ‘rich’ as the ground and mediation of all perfection
52

In Sent. i, Prooemium, cited in TD v. 61.

53

In Boeth. de trin., prol.

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within a finite being (actualitas omnium actuum), is the key to the difference-in-unity of creature and Creator that describes the structure of the analogy of being. Now, inasmuch as the Son receives subsistent esse, whereas the creature receives only non-subsistent esse, we seem to have a ground for an infinite difference between the divine nature received by the Son and a finite world. On the other hand, if the infinite difference between God and creature is not to compromise the goodness of the otherness of the latter, then there must be some analogical correspondence between begetting and creating. How, then, can we account for such an analogical correspondence without compromising for a moment the difference between a finite nature and the divine nature? The answer, I submit, lies in seeing how the creature’s reception of being is ensheltered within the Son’s reception of divinity through the unity of person and mission. But, in order to see this, it is necessary to understand the nature or character of the Father’s act of communication. To feel the weight of this assertion, we need to focus on the comprehensiveness or totality of the Father’s act of communicating himself to the Son. As Thomas argues, the Son receives the whole divine essence. Balthasar takes this to mean that the Father gives precisely everything (totus et totaliter) to the Son. Or, in the words of the Fourth Lateran Council (1215), ‘the Father, in begetting the Son from all eternity, gave him his substance. . . . It cannot be said that the Father gave him part of his substance and kept part for himself since the Father’s substance is indivisible.’54 It is crucial that the term ‘everything’ be taken in its most radical and comprehensive sense; it includes not only the totality of the Father’s divinity, but, quite literally, everything, for it is not possible for anything to exist ‘outside’ of the mystery of the Father’s eternal generation of the Son. This includes, of course, the gift of creation, which we cannot conceive as falling ‘outside’ the Father’s generation of the Son without implying that the Father is not, from all eternity, giving everything to the Son. The gift of creation is included within the gift of eternal generation, which is why Thomas describes the divine birth of the Son as the ‘source and ground’ of the creation of the world that thus ‘imitates’ this birth in a partial manner.
54

DS 805.

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And yet, the created world is radically non-divine. Whereas the Son receives the whole nature of the Godhead, the creature receives nothing divine. Indeed, there must be an infinite difference between the creation of a finite world and the eternal generation of the Son. Balthasar argues that one of the root errors in German Idealism (especially in Hegel) is the failure to distinguish adequately between these two orders.55 Likewise, he sharply criticizes the collapse of the analogy of being entailed in Meister Eckhart’s identification of the divine begetting and the creation of the finite world.56 How, then, can we make sense of Balthasar’s twofold claim that the Father gives everything to the Son (including the gift of creation) and that creation is yet distinct from generation? An initial answer to this question requires a reflection on the source of our knowledge of the Father’s generation of the Son. According to Balthasar, there is no access to the inner mystery of the Father apart from the Son’s temporal mission.57 The hypostatic union, read in terms of the unity of procession and mission in Christ, is the ‘hinge’ which secures the similarity between the two modalities of ‘birth from God’ without collapsing the two into a pantheistic identity. To understand how this is possible, it is necessary to return to the ‘twofold movement’ of the Son’s mission as developed in the previous section. The Son is given the task of representing to humanity a perfect image of the transcendent God (which the Gospel of John describes in terms of the love of the Father for the Son) and of representing to God the true form of humanity (which includes and recapitulates the true form of the whole of creation). I cite again the crucial text from the Theo-Drama:
55 ‘The confusion is complete if in the end . . . the inner-divine mystery of the selfoutpouring, [and] the ‘‘noughting’’ of the communicated fullness of being in its nonsubsistence . . . are partially or wholly equated; thereby the ultimate theologoumenon is totally shorn of its theological character’, GL v. 629. 56 According to Eckhart (see Deutsche Predigten und Traktate (Munich: Hanser, 1955), 205) ‘there is no distinction between the only begotten Son and the soul.’ Balthasar comments as follows: ‘For Eckhart, therefore, ‘‘analogy’’ does not mean analogia entis but the purely creative effulgence of Being, which as such endows the creature—which is itself nothing— with a being that is ‘‘borrowed’’ (ze borge), not entrusted to it as its own’, TD v. 436–7. 57 ‘We know about the Father, Son and Spirit as divine ‘‘Persons’’ only through the figure and disposition of Jesus Christ. Thus we can agree with the principle, often enunciated today, that it is only on the basis of the economic Trinity that we can have knowledge of the immanent Trinity and dare to make statements about it’, TD iii. 508; cf. TL ii. 117.

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the trinitarian analogy [between begetting and creating] enables the Son too, without abolishing the analogia entis, simultaneously to do two things: he represents God to the world—but in the mode of the Son who regards the Father as ‘greater’ and to whom he eternally owes all that he is—and he represents the world to God, by being, as man (or rather, as the Godman), ‘humble, lowly, modest, docile of heart’ (Mt 11: 29). It is on the basis of these two aspects, united in an abiding analogy, that the Son can take up his one, unitary mission.58

A reduction of either of these two movements would ultimately run afoul of the definition of Chalcedon: ‘the distinction between the natures was never abolished by their union, but rather the character proper to each of the two natures was preserved as they came together in one person and one hypostasis.’59 It is an inner requirement of the divine mission of the Son that he bring to light the true meaning and integrity of human nature in its distinction from the divine nature ( gratia non destruit, elevat, perficit naturam). The crux of the matter, however, is that the Son does not actualize the integrity of his human nature outside of, or apart from, the act of receiving his entire being and existence from the Father.60 To the contrary, the integrity of his human nature is perfected to the extent that it is assumed and taken into his one divine mission and person.61 To sketch this point in the terms introduced above, Christ’s human nature does not cease to be truly finite when it is received as an additional gift from the Father—a gift which mediates and expresses the Father’s eternal love for the Son. It is possible, and indeed necessary, to conceive the characteristics of each nature in distinction from the other provided that the unity or ‘coming together’ in the one person and mission is also grasped.62 Indeed, insofar as the human reception of this distinctly human gift occurs
58 TD iii. 230 n. 68; cf. ‘Jesus’ whole existence . . . is in the service of his proclamation of God. But he does this in a fully human conscious subject who simultaneously brings to light the full truth of man. . . . He is the revelation of man as he ought to be’, TD v. 225. 59 DS 302. 60 See Schindler, Heart of the World, 207. 61 Cf. Marc Ouellet, ‘Jesus Christ the One Savior of the World, Yesterday, Today, and Forever’, Communio: International Catholic Review, 23 (1997): 211–33, at 228: ‘The full and concrete reality of a human existence is taken in and assumed within the relationship of the Son to the Father in the Trinity. His act of created dependency (receptivity) from God as a man is thus assumed within his act of filial dependency (receptivity) from the Father.’ 62 Both Aquinas and Balthasar view the following passage from the Gospel of John as shedding considerable light on this paradox: ‘For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself’ ( John 5: 26). Being a source of life or ‘having life

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within the Son’s mission, this unity provides the deepest ground for the difference between created and uncreated being. So far, I have answered the question posed above in ‘economic’ terms. In doing so, however, it has become clear that we cannot speak of the ‘economy’ without implying the ‘theology’, inasmuch as the ultimate self-surrender of the Son in his mission unto death—a self-surrender which is accomplished through the mediation of the Holy Spirit—provides a moving image of the divine love between the persons of the Trinity. Of particular pertinence here is the Johannine idea that the mission of the Son comes to a climax in the hour of cross and Resurrection. This is the ‘hour’ of glorification when Christ tells us ‘plainly of the Father’ ( John 16: 25). If the entire mission of the Son is characterized by a love which goes ‘to the end’ ( John 13: 1), it is his death on the cross and the ensuing gift of the Spirit that provides a perfect image of the Father’s eternal act of giving everything to (begetting) the Son. As interpreted by the life and death of Christ, the Father’s eternal act of begetting the Son should be understood as an act of total selfsurrender. The ultimate mystery of the Father as fons et origo totius divinitatis63 consists in the fact that he holds nothing back, but gives everything away to the Son. Christ’s human life thus becomes a perfect image of the invisible Father at the moment when his witness takes the form of giving up his life out of love for the world and the Father. It is here that we must reintroduce the twofold representation accomplished within the Son’s hypostatic union. The way that Christ makes known or reveals the Father to the world is by loving the world to ‘the end’ through a total-gift-of-self ( just as the Father loves the Son in a divine act of total self-surrender), and the way that Christ brings to light the true meaning of the entire order of creation is by receiving (as God and as man) the world as a gift from the Father. That is, the Son is given the mission of ‘revealing’
in oneself ’ is a specifically divine attribute. The creature always has life in another. The mystery consists in seeing that the Son has the divine attribute of ‘life in himself’ in the mode of receiving life from the Father. Thomas comments on this text as follows: ‘[ John] shows the equality of the Son to the Father when he says, as the Father possesses life in himself; and he shows their distinction when he says, he has given it to the Son. . . . For as Hilary says: ‘‘the Son has nothing unless it is begotten,’’ i.e. nothing but what he receives through his birth. And since the Father is life itself, the meaning of, he has given it to the Son to have life in himself, is that the Father produced the Son as living’, Commentary on the Gospel of John, trans. James A. Weisheipl (Albany, NY: Magi Books, 1980), 213.
63

DS 490, 525, 568.

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and reconciling the world to the Father by confirming, despite the sin of the world, the Father’s original purpose in creating the world, which was to give the world as a gift to the Son within the eternal gift of the Son’s being-generated. The ultimate answer to our question, then, consists in catching sight—in the mission of Christ—of the eternal self-outpouring of the Father that Christ’s mission is meant to carry out. Because of the twofold representation indicated above, in fact, the Son’s mission of representing the self-giving of the Father includes the task of bringing to light the original meaning and purpose of creation as a gift whose otherness from God is grounded positively in that very paternal self-surrender. Christ is, to repeat, the concrete analogy of being as the eschatological enactment of the God–world relation who both reveals and accomplishes the original embedding of the goodness of the world in its otherness within the trinitarian life springing from the Father’s self-outpouring. Insofar as Christ’s concrete analogicity presupposes and grounds the otherness of the world—even where it seems most opposed to the divine perfection—in the self-outpouring of the Father as received by the Son and communicated in his mission, the account of the Son’s mission as revelation of the Urkenosis of the Father becomes crucial to understanding Balthasar’s eschatology in its full scope. In order to sharpen our understanding of the relation between Christology and eschatology, it is necessary to reflect more deeply on the person of the Father as the origin and end of the Son’s mission. I will approach the mystery of the Father by means of a consideration of the relation between the economic and the immanent Trinity. Having done this, I can complete an account of Christ as the concrete analogy of being through a consideration of the Holy Spirit’s mission of ‘including’ others within the universal mission of Christ. Mission and Procession: From the Economic to the Immanent Trinity In its most obvious meaning, the term mission [Sendung] implies a work or a task that is undertaken at the behest of someone else. As Balthasar observes, ‘no one can give himself a mission’.64 In the
64

TD iii. 154.

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context of the Theo-Drama, the concept of mission is further qualified in at least two senses. First, the ‘someone else’ that stands as the origin and author of mission is God. Secondly, what is bestowed in a mission is not only an arbitrary task, but a personal identity, one’s true ‘name’.65 Both of these aspects of the term mission are treated in the Prolegomena to the Theo-Drama, where Balthasar distinguishes between the ‘role’ of an actor and the theological mission bestowed by God. In the preface to the Prolegomena, Balthasar reassures his reader that he ‘shall not be making any direct transition from the stage to theology’.66 ‘The world of the theater’, he continues, ‘will only provide us with a set of resources which, after they have been thoroughly modified, can be used later in theology.’67 In keeping with this aim, the Prolegomena itself is divided into three parts, (i) Introduction, (ii) Dramatic Resources, and (iii) Transition: From Role to Mission. It is in the pivotal third section, whose driving question is, ‘Who am I?’—not ‘What kind of being is man?’ but ‘Who am I in all of my particularity?’68—that Balthasar makes the transition from the world of drama to a theological interpretation of existence:
[Our path ‘from role to mission’ aimed] to get away from the arbitrariness of a ‘role’ that was simply thrown over a colorless ‘I’ like some coat that happened to be on hand and could at any time be exchanged for another and to arrive at an ‘I’ that was irreplaceable as such and thus could be enabled to take on a genuinely dramatic role, not of the theatre, but of life.69

I shall not attempt to summarize Balthasar’s treatment of various partial and failed attempts in antiquity, German idealism, and psychology to arrive at a positive determination of the question of unique personal identity. What is decisive for our purposes is his claim that it is only through ‘man’s being directly addressed, summoned, called and sent by God . . . [that we reach] a satisfying reply to the question ‘‘Who am I in my particularity?’’ ’.70

65 According to Balthasar, the conferral of a ‘new name’ (Rev. 2: 17), which occurs archetypically with several great figures of the Old and New Testaments such as Abram– Abraham, Jacob–Israel, Simon–Peter, and Saul–Paul, is intended, in some sense, for every human being. 66 67 68 69 TD i. 11. TD i. 11. TD i. 636. TD i. 645. 70 TD i. 636.

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It is when God addresses a conscious subject, tells him who he is and what he means to the eternal God of truth and shows him the purpose of his existence—that is, imparts a distinctive and divinely authorized mission—that we can say of a conscious subject that he is a person.71

Both at the level of anthropology and Christology, the category of mission [Sendung] is introduced by Balthasar as an answer to the question of one’s personal identity. In the realm of Christology, which is our primary focus in this section, the question becomes ‘Who is Jesus Christ?’, ‘Who must he be, to behave and act in this way?’72 Before turning to consider the content of Christ’s mission and identity, however, it is helpful to introduce the concept of action, which is closely linked to the idea of mission in the Theo-Drama. It is a basic principle of theological dramatics that a character’s personal identity can only be known ‘in action’. To illustrate what he means here, Balthasar uses the analogy of watching a play:
The spectator reads the list of characters in his theater program before the curtain goes up; he may try to make a mental note of them; but if he does not already know the play, the list will not tell him anything about the dramatic action; he will glean very little about the play’s content. At most, he will get hold of empty relationships. Only the action itself will reveal who each individual is.73

If one were to ask—what is meant by ‘the action’ of a character?—the answer would have to include the totality of words, deeds, decisions, events, relations that unfold throughout the course of the play. Of course, these are not random elements haphazardly thrown together, but are unified by the creative idea of the author of the play. If it is a good play, there is no aspect whatsoever of a character’s action that does not serve to shape and reveal his or her true identity. Balthasar’s concept of mission is meant to convey the same totality as action; there is no aspect of human existence that is not comprehended and gathered into a unity by the mission bestowed by God. Reciprocally, there is no human action that does not reveal or communicate a person’s being. It is possible for action to reveal and communicate the true
71 TD iii. 207. Elsewhere Balthasar explains this point as follows: ‘only through the ‘‘name’’ that God uses to address the individual human being is he validly and definitively distinct from every other human being; only thus is he no longer simply an individual of a species but a unique person’, TD i. 628. 72 73 TD iii. 149. TD ii. 11.

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identity (being) of a character because a person truly becomes who he or she is through the acceptance and accomplishment of the action that the author of the character intends. At the same time, the identity (being) that is revealed is not a static something behind the mask of the action, but necessarily includes the action as intrinsic to the identity, indeed, as the deepest ground of identity. It is this aspect that the term ‘mission’ [Sendung] conveys with the addition of the connotation of receptive relation. A mission can only be received from another to whom the one sent remains constitutively related as such. If we turn to the realm of Christology, Balthasar’s initial claim is that it is only on the basis of Jesus’ mission that we are able to ascertain his true identity.74 He cites the exegete Oscar Cullmann, who notes that, ‘When, in the New Testament, the question is asked, ‘‘Who is Christ?’’, it never means (or not primarily), ‘‘What is his nature?’’ but, first and foremost, ‘‘What is his function?’’ ’75 Although the concept of mission or sending is clearly present in Paul and the Synoptics, it moves to the fore in the Gospel of John as a description of Jesus’ identity.76 Jesus is simply ‘the one whom the Father has sent’ ( John 3: 34; 5: 38; 6: 29; 10: 36; 17: 3). Jesus’ knowledge of himself coincides with his knowledge of his being sent ( John 5: 36; 6: 29, 57; 7: 29; 8: 42; 10: 36; 11: 42; 17: 8).77 In his study of the concept of mission in the Fourth Gospel, Waldstein notes that ‘[t]he mature faith of the disciples consists in knowledge of this one thing, ‘‘that you sent me’’ ( John 17: 8, 25).’78 Drawing on these texts from John, Balthasar posits a strict identity between person and mission in Christ: ‘If we could put into words Jesus’ fundamental intuition concerning his identity, it would be: ‘‘I am the one who must accomplish this task.’’ ‘‘I am the one through whom the kingdom of God must and will come.’’ ’79 ‘Jesus Christ’, Balthasar writes, ‘dedicates his whole
74 ‘[T]he attempt to adumbrate the play’s characters prior to the performance is a profoundly anti-dramatic undertaking; theologically speaking, it is a regression to a static essentialist theology which, in its doctrine of God, doctrine of man, Christology, and so forth, imagines it can say things about ‘‘beings’’ before the action of these beings is either ascertained (in the case of man) or at least revealed (in the case of God)’, TD ii. 12. 75 Oscar Cullmann, Die Christologie des Neuen Testamentes (Tubingen: Morh, 1957), 4, cited ¨ in TD iii. 149. 76 For Synoptic texts that presuppose and develop the concept of mission, see Mark 9: 37 ¼ Matt. 10: 40 ¼ Luke 9: 48; Matt. 15: 24; Matt. 21: 37 ¼ Mark 12: 6 ¼ Luke 20: 13; Luke 4: 18; 4: 43; 10: 16. 77 78 79 TD iii. 153. Waldstein, ‘The Mission of Jesus’, 311. TD iii. 166.

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self to his mission; he is entirely one with it. He is the ‘‘one sent’’.’80 Whereas John the Baptist is ‘a man sent by God’ ( John 1: 6), with Jesus we encounter the ‘sending of the Son’ in order that ‘the world might be saved through him’ ( John 3: 17). Jesus’ mission is thus unique in its soteriological scope. As distinct from any of the prophets who preceded him, Christ’s mission is absolutely universal, extending to all of history and all of creation. The universality of Christ’s mission is reflected in the Pauline affirmation that the whole world is ‘created in Christ’ (Col. 1: 16) and that ‘creation is groaning in travail’ for the hope of redemption in Christ (Rom. 8: 19–25). Likewise, the Letter to the Ephesians speaks of God’s plan to ‘unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth’ (Eph. 1: 10). Even more to the point is the passage from the Gospel of John which declares, ‘this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up at the last day’ ( John 6: 39). Both in its root and its goal Jesus Christ’s mission is qualitatively unique. Unlike other human beings, Jesus does not first exist and then receive a mission from God; his mission is coextensive with his being. Balthasar will claim that Jesus Christ is his mission.81 The ground of this identity of person and mission is the Son’s being a subsistent relation within the Trinity. This is why, according to ancient theological tradition, Jesus’ mission is the expression in time of his eternal procession from the Father. It is to this aspect that I now turn, seeking to show how Balthasar deepens this insight through a reflection on Christ’s mission as rooted in the Urkenosis of the Father. In a well-known passage, Karl Rahner once lamented the fact that, ‘despite their orthodox confession of the Trinity, Christians are, in their practical life, almost mere ‘‘monotheists’’.’82 The
80 TD iii. 166. In the Prolegomena to the Theo-Drama, Balthasar cites a pregnant text from Theodor Haecker that connects the realm of drama with the identity of Christ: ‘By and large the actor’s nature and person do not coincide with the role he has to play, and this is true not only of the stage play that, on the basis of an inborn instinct, human beings creatively set forth in image and speech, but also of the theatrum mundi itself. In the play that takes place on the world stage, the author, director and producer is—in an absolute sense— God himself. True, he allows freedom to act its own part according to its nature—and this is the greatest mystery of creation and of God’s direct creative power—yet ultimately the play he plays is his own. . . . Only in the drama of the God-man do we find identity between the sublime actor and the role he has to play’, Was ist der Mensch? 2nd edn. (Leipzig: Hegner, 1934), 128 cited in TD i. 646. 81 TD iii. 171. 82 Karl Rahner, The Trinity (New York: Herder and Herder, 1970), 10.

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problem, Rahner suggests, is not simply in the transition from dogma to life, but already in the formulation of the dogma itself. Rahner calls into question the decision of Thomas Aquinas to divide the doctrine of God in two separate treatises, De Deo Uno and De Deo Trino. This distinction creates the impression that the fundamental questions about the nature and attributes of God can be answered with finality prior to and in abstraction from the trinitarian processions. As this distinction became systematized in the theology of the schools, the doctrine of the Trinity became more and more removed from considerations of ontology, creation, grace, ecclesiology, and eschatology. ‘The treatise on the Trinity’, he concludes, ‘comes to stand still more in splendid isolation. . . . it looks as though everything important about God which touches ourselves has already been said in the treatise De Deo Uno.’83 In addition to the division between De Deo Uno and De Deo Trino, Rahner perceives scholastic theology to be characterized by an undue separation between the immanent Trinity and the economic Trinity. Speculation about God’s inner life was not always sufficiently grounded in a theology of salvation history. His formula, ‘the ‘‘economic’’ Trinity is the ‘‘immanent’’ Trinity and the ‘‘immanent’’ Trinity is the ‘‘economic’’ Trinity’,84 is directed at overcoming this perceived dualism. The resurgence of interest in the doctrine of the Trinity in the past thirty years has largely centered around the issues raised by Rahner. There now exists a fairly broad consensus among Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox theologians that it belongs to the task of systematic theology to shed light on the unity between God’s involvement in salvation history and the being of God.85
83 Rahner, ‘Remarks on the Dogmatic Treatise ‘‘De Trinitate’’ ’, in Theological Investigations, iv. More Recent Writings, trans. Kevin Smyth (London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 1966), 84. Karl Barth draws a similar conclusion: ‘The fundamental error of the whole earlier doctrine of God is reflected in this arrangement: first God’s being in general, then His triume being—with all the ambiguities and sources of error which must result from this sequence’, Church Dogmatics, ii/1. The Doctrine of God, trans. T. H. L. Parker et al. (Edinburgh: T & T Clark), 348–9. 84 Rahner, The Trinity, 22. For a discussion of the terms oikonomia and theologia, see Catherine Mowry LaCugna, God for Us: The Trinity and Christian Life (San Francisco: Harper, 1991), 2–44. See also Walter Kasper, The God of Jesus Christ, trans. Matthew J. O’Connell (London: SCM Press, 1984), 273–7; John J. O’Donnell, The Mystery of the Triune God (London: Sheed and Ward, 1988), 36–9. 85 ¨ Christoph Schwobel outlines the resurgence of interest in trinitarian theology in ‘The ¨ Renaissance of Trinitarian Theology: Reasons, Problems, and Tasks’, in Christoph Schwobel (ed.), Trinitarian Theology Today (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1995), 1–30. The literature on

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Questions about the nature and attributes of God, his simplicity, his immutability, his omnipotence, and his being love, cannot be finally settled prior to, or in abstraction from, the image of God that is revealed in the life and death of Jesus. How does Balthasar conceive the relation between the economic Trinity and the immanent Trinity? I noted above that mission implies a distinction between one-who-is-sent and onewho-sends. Thomas Aquinas suggests a further distinction in that the one who is sent has (1) a relation to the sender, and (2) a relation to the terminus or destination of the mission. With regard to the first, Aquinas offers three examples of sending or ‘going forth’ from the sender: ‘according to a command, as when the master sends his slave; or according to counsel, as when an advisor sends a king to war; or according to origin, as a tree sends forth its flower.’86 With regard to the relation to the destination of the mission, ‘being sent indicates the beginning of a presence, in the sense either that the one sent was not previously there at all or not present in this new way.’87 With these distinctions in place, Thomas affirms the appropriateness of describing the divine persons as being sent:
Thus the mission of a divine person is a fitting thing, as meaning in one way the procession of origin from the sender, and as meaning a new way of existing in another; thus the Son is said to be sent by the Father into the world, inasmuch as He began to exist visibly in the world by taking our nature.88

Insofar as ‘the very idea of mission means procession from another, and in God it means procession according to origin, as above expounded’, it is fitting that the Son and the Spirit, who are both ‘from another’ be ‘sent’ into the world.89 In principle, then, this insight provides a crucial link between the economic Trinity as revealed in salvation history and the immanent Trinity. In fact, however, Thomas’s account of the relation between mission and procession does not figure prominently in his discussion of the nature of the trinitarian processions. The question on the divine missions appears at the very end of the treatise on the Trinity in
contemporary trinitarian theology is vast. Weinandy lists the most significant books in English in The Father’s Spirit of Sonship: Reconceiving the Trinity (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1995), 1–2. 86 87 Summa theol. ia, q. 43, a. 1. Summa theol. ia, q. 43, a. 1. 88 89 Summa theol. ia, q. 43, a. 1. Summa theol. ia, q. 43, a. 4.

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the Summa, after Thomas has already treated the identity of the persons and their mutual relations. Following Augustine, Thomas primarily approaches the mystery of the immanent Trinity, not in terms of the mission of Christ, but by way of analogy to the immanent acts of a single intellectual nature. Just as there are two basic acts of the human mind, knowing and willing, so there are two processions in God. The generation of the Son is analogous to the act of knowing ( per modum intellectus), and the procession of the Spirit is analogous to the act of willing or loving ( per modum voluntatis).90 Holding fast to the insight that Christ’s mission is a prolongation and expression of his eternal birth from the Father, which is grounded in texts of Aquinas, Balthasar seeks to complement Thomas’s classical Augustinian approach by means of a deeper reflection on the mission of the Son as the abiding source of our knowledge of the immanent Trinity. It is axiomatic for Balthasar that knowledge of the Trinity comes through God’s self-disclosure in the person and mission of Christ. Of course, approaching the mystery of the immanent Trinity through the door of the Son’s mission does not preclude explaining the trinitarian relations with the help of analogies drawn from immanent acts of one human subject (Augustine, Thomas), as well as analogies drawn from interpersonal relations (Richard of St Victor).91 The relevant point is that all analogies and images taken from the created world receive their final justification and normative meaning from the event of the hypostatic union:
90 91

See Summa theol. ia, q. 27, aa. 1–4. In fact, Balthasar repeatedly affirms the need to approach the Trinity with the help of these two complementary models ‘whose common feature is to point upwards beyond themselves towards an integration which is not reachable within the horizon of the world. The interpersonal model cannot attain the substantial unity of God, whereas the intraper` sonal model cannot give an adequate picture of the real and abiding vis-a-vis of the hypostases’, TL ii. 35. In a seminal essay, ‘Spirit and Institution’, in Spirit and Institution, 210, Balthasar notes that ‘[a] Thomist system that is conceptually free of objections (which will consciously want to be only an approach to this impenetrable mystery) suffers from the same difficulty that the whole psychological starting point of the Augustinian school does of not being able to make the relations in the innermost core of the divine substance meaningful in terms of the relations between the Persons. . . . But then how can a statement like that from the Farewell Discourses—‘‘All that is mine is yours and all that is yours is mine’’ ( John 17: 10: which, of course, is a statement of praise and love)—be understood as the expression of an immanent trinitarian relationship? Do we not need here the aid of ‘‘modern personalistic thought’’, which sees ‘‘the relation of an I to a Thou as belonging essentially to the person’’?’

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There is no access to the Trinitarian mystery other than its revelation in Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. No statement about the immanent Trinity may distance itself even just a single inch from the basis of the New Testament’s if it does not want to fall into abstract propositions without significance for salvation history. It is only from the way in which Jesus related to his Father and to the Holy Spirit that we learn something about the inner trinitarian love and life relations in the one and only God. . . . One point only needs to be recalled as emphatically as possible: Jesus’ relation to the Father (to speak for the moment just of this relation) is not at all only the expression and self-declaration of his mere humanity, but, through his humanity, of his person, which is inseparable from it and represents itself through it. The ‘Son’, as whom Jesus describes himself, is the eternal Son of the Father, who speaks to him in his assumed humanity. The ‘one Lord Jesus Christ’ is ‘the Logos of God, God from God’ (DS 40), is ‘as Christ, God’s word and wisdom and power’ (DS 113), and his words and actions cannot be divided into two, as if some proceeded only from the man, but others (also) from his divinity (DS 255), as if the Incarnation, Crucifixion and Resurrection were not deeds of the divine Logos (DS 502), as if he, as the same person, did not have ‘two births, one eternal from the Father, one temporal from his mother’ (DS 852).92

Balthasar’s position, then, is that the economic Trinity is the expression of the immanent Trinity, which in turn is the foundation and condition for the possibility of the former.93 The notion that the economic Trinity expresses or reveals the immanent Trinity is not a new idea. We have seen that Thomas Aquinas teaches that the sending (missio) of the Son is the prolongation into the world of his eternal coming forth ( processio) from the Father. What is distinctive in Balthasar’s theology is the way in which all of the events of Christ’s life, including even the seemingly negative events of suffering and death which seem characteristic of pure finitude, are understood as an expression and interpretation of God’s eternal life. In particular, the event of Jesus’ loving the world to the end ( John 13: 1) through the gift of himself in the Eucharist and crucifixion expresses the original and eternal love of the
TL ii. 117. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, § 236, develops this point as follows: ‘Throughout the oikonomia the theologia is revealed to us; but conversely, the theologia illuminates the whole oikonomia. God’s works reveal who he is in himself; the mystery of his inmost being enlightens our understanding of all his works. So it is, analogously, among human persons. A person discloses himself in his actions, and the better we know a person, the better we understand his actions.’
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Father who has eternally ‘given-himself-away’ to the Son. The Father’s eternal generation of the Son, imaged and interpreted by the life and death of Christ, is best understood not by analogy to an immanent act of the mind (Augustine and Aquinas), but in terms of a total-gift-of-self (Selbsthingabe) proper to love. Balthasar’s account of our access to the immanent Trinity through the mission of Christ entails a new understanding of God’s immutability in light of the idea that God’s involvement with the world in the Incarnation and passion of the Son provides the deepest revelation of God’s nature. In setting forth the overall scheme of the Theo-Drama, Balthasar poses this question in terms of the possibility of a true Incarnation. Is it possible, he asks, for God to ‘enter a drama that takes place in the world, and play a part in it, without becoming mythological’?94
Man’s ‘concepts of God’ always swing between two extremes. At one extreme, there is the mythological view in which God (or the gods) is embroiled in the world drama, which, with its own laws of operation, thus constitutes a third level of reality above God and man; at the other extreme, God is seen as dwelling in philosophical sublimity above the vicissitudes of the world, which prevents him from entering the dramatic action. On the basis of biblical revelation, we can say right at the outset that God has involved himself with the creation of the world, particularly in the creation of finite free beings, without thereby succumbing to some superordinate fate. Thus the God of theo-dramatic action is neither ‘mutable’ (as the mythological view) nor ‘immutable’ (in terms of philosophy).95

Balthasar is, of course, committed to maintaining God’s immutability, and thus a distinction between the economic and the immanent Trinity. At the same time, the figure of Christ reveals the nature of God’s immutability to be a trinitarian ‘event’ or ‘drama’ involving an eternal exchange of life and love between distinct persons. The key issue, then, which Balthasar seeks to address may be stated in the form of a question: what must the nature of God be such that he can really enter the vicissitudes of history, sacrifice his Son, and remain all the while immutably himself ? How can the mission of Jesus, which is ordered to the ‘hour’ of suffering and abandonment on the cross, be understood as the revelation and expression of the Father’s absolute love— love for the world and love for the Son?
94

TD iii. 505.

95

TD ii. 9.

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We can enter more deeply into this point by considering how Balthasar’s understanding of ‘kenosis’ qualifies the traditional account of God’s immutability.96 In the preface to the second edition of Theologie der drei Tage (1983) [ET ¼ Mysterium Paschale], Balthasar attempts briefly to clarify his understanding of ‘kenosis’ in light of the relation between the economic and the immanent Trinity. After distancing himself from the increasingly fashionable ‘polemics against the divine ‘‘impassibility’’ (so strongly affirmed by the Church Fathers), and against God’s ‘‘immutability’’ (denied, or so it seemed, by numerous Old Testament passages)’, Balthasar explains why he thinks there is nonetheless a need for a development of the traditional understanding of immutability:
Doubtless the Kenosis of the Son will always remain a mystery no less unsoundable than that of the Trinity of hypostases in the single God. And yet, by placing the emphasis, in the doctrine of the Kenosis, so exclusively on the human nature assumed by the Son, or on his act of assuming that nature—the divine nature remaining inaccessible to all becoming or change, and even to any real relationship with the world—one was running the risk of underestimating the weight of the assertions made in Scripture, and of succumbing at once to both Nestorianism and Monophysitism. Only the ‘Jesus of history’ would do the suffering, or perhaps the ‘lower faculties’ in Christ’s being, whereas the ‘fine point’ of his soul remained, even in the moment of the abandonment, united to the Father in a beatific vision which could never be interrupted.97

Later in the same work, Balthasar specifies two related aspects of the New Testament that he thinks are underestimated in the traditional account of immutability. First, there is the Johannine affirmation that ‘in the uttermost form of the slave, on the Cross, the Son’s glory breaks through, inasmuch as it is then that he goes to the (divine) extreme in his loving, and in the revelation of that love’.98 The second point is that in the event of the Incarnation, the triune God does not merely help the world, but also discloses to the world the innermost secret of his being. Again, it is helpful to consider this point in reference to the image of the Father, who eternally gives-himself-away to the Son. The ‘event’ of the Son’s offering his
96 Gerard F. O’Hanlon’s study remains an excellent introduction to Balthasar’s understanding of God’s immutability: The Immutability of God in the Theology of Hans Urs von Balthasar (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990). 97 98 MP, pp. vii–viii. MP 29.

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life for the salvation of the world is seen to reflect an even deeper ‘event’ of eternal self-surrender within the heart of God.99 While claiming that the Incarnation and passion of the Son really have a bearing on God himself, Balthasar remains committed, I said, to the distinction between the immanent and economic Trinity, and thus to a form of God’s immutability. The relation between the events of the economy and the eternal processions within the Godhead is one of analogy (difference-within-unity). The simple reason for this distinction is the ontological difference between God and the finite world. A God who does not radically transcend the process of world history is a mythological God unworthy of belief. However, this abiding difference does not mean that the immanent Trinity is merely formal or static, with the seriousness of love and death reserved for the economic Trinity.100 In fact, the economic Trinity reveals just the opposite to be the case: ‘The immanent Trinity must be understood to be that eternal, absolute self-surrender whereby God is seen to be, in himself, absolute love; this in turn explains his free self-giving to the world as love, without suggesting that God ‘‘needed’’ the world process and the Cross in order to become himself.’101 In other words, it is only because God eternally and already exists as self-emptying love in the event of the procession of the Son from the Father, and the Spirit from the Father and Son, that he can fully enter and participate in the drama of salvation history on behalf of humanity without thereby becoming entangled in world history as a mutable, tragic God:
[T]he infinite possibilities of divine freedom all lie within the trinitarian distinctions and are thus free possibilities within the eternal life of love in God that has always been realized. . . . The effect of this is that the conduct of theologia and oikonomia leaves room for a diversity of ways of speaking.
99 The language of ‘self-surrender’ does not mean that the Father ‘loses himself’ in the sense that he ceases to be God or ceases to be distinct from the Son. The most perfect act of self-surrender to another requires an abiding distinction between persons. 100 It is this false image of God that Hegel’s philosophy of dialectical negation seeks to overcome: ‘Thus the life of God and divine cognition may well be spoken of as a disporting of love with itself; but this idea sinks into mere edification, and even insipidity, if it lacks the seriousness, the patience, and the labour of the negative’, Phenomenology of Spirit, trans. A.V. Miller (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977), 10. However, insofar as Hegel begins with the sheer indeterminacy of the ‘empty’ concept of being, his attempt to bring life to our image of God through dialectic is correctly described by Schindler the Younger (who in turn draws on Ulrich’s analysis) as ‘an attempt to ‘‘revive’’ through violence what is taken to be dead: i.e. the negating of a negation’, Schindler, ‘The Dramatic Structure of Truth’, 56. 101 TD iv. 323.

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Insofar as, in oikonomia, things with a high degree of reality are taking place, what corresponds to this reality in God initially seems to be a ‘mere’ possibility (the ‘idea’ of it); this is not incorrect provided we remember that what is realized in ‘economic’ terms is rooted in an allembracing divine freedom that for all eternity has been actually performing these ‘possible’ things: this is far removed from ‘mere’ possibility in a negative sense.102

In order to show the fruitfulness of this insight for eschatology, I need to explain more precisely how the mission of Jesus is ‘rooted in’ and thus reveals the divine life of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In particular, there are two aspects to the mission of Jesus that need to be elucidated. First, there is the idea discussed above that the concept of mission includes the totality of Jesus’ being and action. Quite simply this means that the whole of Jesus’ temporal and embodied existence is necessary for an adequate understanding of the eternal relations that constitute the Godhead. The second point is that Jesus’ mission comes to a climax in the event of his death. Here we have an extreme instance of the seemingly ‘negative’ events of the economy being ‘rooted in’ and thus revealing the life of the immanent Trinity. I begin with the second of these aspects. How does the death of Jesus serve his mission of revealing the Father? The transcendence of the immanent Trinity in the event of Christ’s crucifixion, which is reflected in the abiding distinction between Christ’s human and divine natures, is foundational for a balanced interpretation of Balthasar’s account of how the Father’s eternal act of generation is revealed in the event of Jesus’ lifegiving death. I have already touched upon the idea that the Son’s being forsaken by the Father in the economy is made possible by, and points back to, an eternal self-surrender on the part of the Father. As the one sent to reveal the love of the Father, ‘the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever he does, that the Son does likewise. For the Father loves the Son, and shows him all that he himself is doing’ ( John 5: 19–20; also 17: 21–6). Drawing out the trinitarian implications of these passages, Balthasar suggests that the Son’s giving up of his life out of love for the world reveals and interprets the Father’s eternal act of generation to be an act of groundless

102

TD v. 508–9.

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self-giving. The following texts explain more fully what Balthasar means by this Urkenosis of the Father:
It is possible to say, with Bulgakov, that the Father’s self-utterance in the generation of the Son is an initial ‘kenosis’ within the Godhead that underpins all subsequent kenosis. For the Father strips himself, without remainder, of his Godhead and hands it over to the Son; he ‘imparts’ to the Son all that is his. ‘All that is thine is mine’ ( John 17: 10). The Father must not be thought to exist ‘prior’ to this self-surrender (in an Arian sense): he is this movement of self-giving that holds nothing back. This divine act that brings forth the Son, that is, the second way of participating in (and of being) the identical Godhead, involves the positing of an absolute, infinite ‘distance’ that can contain and embrace all the other distances that are possible within the world of finitude, including the distance of sin.103 The action whereby the Father utters and bestows his whole Godhead, an action he both ‘does’ and ‘is’, generates the Son. This Son is infinitely Other, but he is also the infinitely Other of the Father. Thus he both grounds and surpasses all we mean by separation, pain and alienation in the world and all we can envisage in terms of loving self-giving, interpersonal relationship and blessedness. . . . God the Father can give his divinity away in such a manner that it is not merely ‘lent’ to the Son: the Son’s possession of it is ‘equally substantial’. This implies such an incomprehensible and unique ‘separation’ [Trennung] of God from himself that it includes and grounds every other separation—be it never so dark and bitter.104 It is pointless to call this primal drama, which is above all time, ‘static’, ‘abstract’, or ‘self-enclosed’. Those who do so imagine that the divine drama only acquires its dynamism and its many hues by going through a created temporal world and only acquires its seriousness and depth by going through sin, the Cross, and hell. This view betrays a hubris, an exaggerated self-importance on the part of creaturely freedom; . . . On the contrary, it is the drama of the ‘emptying’ of the Father’s heart, in the generation of the Son, that contains and surpasses all possible drama between God and the world.105

In attempting to interpret these difficult passages, two extremes—each of which represents a failure of analogy—must be avoided. The first would predicate creaturely change or suffering univocally of God. There are tendencies in this direction in the theology of Jurgen Moltmann, for whom the cross is not merely ¨
103

TD iv. 323.

104

TD iv. 324–5.

105

TD iv. 326–7.

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the revelation of the Trinity but its self-actualization.106 For Moltmann, the idea of an immanent Trinity, or God in himself without reference to the world, is considered an abstraction without any relevance to the Christian experience of God.107 Thus in a Hegelian and, indeed, ultimately mythological sense, God needs the world to become fully God. The second extreme would be to reduce the events of Jesus’ suffering and death to something that affects only Christ’s human nature. According to Balthasar, such a view is unable to explain why Christ’s death is the climax of the revelation of the Father’s love for the Son and for the world. According to the Fourth Evangelist, the ‘hour’ of the cross is the moment when the glory that the Father has given to the Son ‘before the foundation of the world’ ( John 17: 24) is communicated to the world. It is not the human nature that is given up for the sake of the world, but the whole incarnate Son. ‘Only Someone can die,’ observes Meyendorff, ‘not something, not a nature or flesh.’108 In terms of the logic of analogy set forth in the previous section, such a juxtaposition of natures depreciates both the ‘truly human’ and the ‘truly divine’. Only when the Son’s human nature is understood as capable of revealing and mediating the Father’s love is the full meaning and dignity of ‘truly human’ grasped. Traditionally theologians have allowed suffering and change to be predicated of the human nature of Christ while affirming the strict immutability and impassibility of his divine nature.109 Such a view is grounded in Chalcedon’s definition of Christ as one person
106 See Ingolf U. Dalferth, ‘The Eschatological Roots of the Doctrine of the Trinity’, in Trinitarian Theology Today, 151: ‘At the cross, he [Moltmann] says, God was abandoned by God. He does not merely hold, as Jungel does, that the cross occasions the distinction ¨ between God and God but understands the separation of Father from Son in the dereliction of the cross in a full mythological sense.’ 107 See Moltmann, The Coming God, 321–39. 108 John Meyendorff, Le Christ dans la theologie byzantine (Paris: Cerf, 1969), 91, cited in TD ´ iii. 216. 109 A rigorous and creative defence of this traditional understanding of immutability has recently been formulated by Thomas Weinandy in Does God Suffer? Of course, Balthasar’s own position is not without roots in the theological tradition. For example, Balthasar often draws attention to a text from Origen that speaks of a ‘suffering love’ within the eternal life of the Trinity: ‘He came down to earth out of compassion for the human race, feeling our sufferings even before he suffered on the cross and decided to assume our flesh. For if he had not suffered, he would not have come to live on the level of human life. First he suffered, then descended and became visible. What is this suffering which he suffered for us? It is the suffering of love. And also the Father himself, the God of all, ‘‘slow to anger and abounding in mercy’’ and compassionate, does he not in some way suffer?’, Hom.

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in two natures, ‘unconfused’ and ‘unmixed’. It is essential to see that Balthasar accepts Chalcedon as a framework for his understanding of the relation between the economic and the immanent Trinity even as he attempts a certain development. Thus, while he refuses the predication of creaturely change or suffering in God, he also refuses to limit the change and suffering which Christ experiences to his human nature alone. Insofar as Christ is one person and one subject, all of the events of his life—that is, everything that is part of his mission—must have their foundation in his divine relation to the Father in the Spirit. The hypostatic union is both the ground of our knowledge of the trinitarian life and the safeguard against a univocal approach to the mystery of God’s being. O’Hanlon summarizes this ‘razor’s edge approach’ as follows:
The tendency to consider the human nature of Christ as an instrumentum coniunctum which does not affect the divine Person he [Balthasar] sees as Nestorian in character. And so he is anxious to insist on a more than merely logical communicatio idiomatum, to accept that the formula ‘one of the Trinity has suffered’ does indeed mean that God has ‘suffered’, albeit mysteriously. But why ‘mysteriously’; why not say univocally that God suffers? Because—and here we find Balthasar’s respect for Chalcedon— there is an enduring and incommensurable difference between God and the world, between the divine and human ‘unmixed’ natures of Christ. Any facile attribution of change and suffering to God, based on the fact that the Person of Christ is affected by his human nature, represents a failure to maintain the distinction between the natures; it is a relapse into monophysitism and results in a mythical notion of God.110

Balthasar’s extreme language of ‘God’s separation from himself ’ undoubtedly runs the risk of anthropomorphism and a loss of analogy. Balthasar himself is aware of the danger and repeatedly cautions against any univocal predication of change and suffering in God. Words such as ‘separation’ and ‘distance’ stand in need of
in Ezek., 6, 6, cited in Balthasar, Origen, Spirit and Fire: A Thematic Anthology of His Writings, trans. Robert J. Daly (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1984), 122. Likewise, during the Theopasichite controversy in the sixth century, the statement ‘one of the Trinity has suffered’ was declared orthodox. It is possible on the basis of the communicatio idiomatum to interpret this statement as referring solely to the Son’s mode of existence in the Incarnation. However, this line of interpretation leaves unanswered the question of how the suffering of the Son reveals the eternal love of the Father. Furthermore, if one of the persons of the Trinity has ‘suffered,’ surely the other two persons are not indifferent to this suffering.
110

O’Hanlon, The Immutability of God, 43.

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further clarification. It is crucial to note that Balthasar does not mean to suggest that there is negativity in God’s inner life. These words must be understood as analogous concepts which point to a positive modality of selfless love. In every act of genuine love there is an affirmation of the other that requires something like a total self-surrender, including (implicitly) a willingness to die for the other.111 It is only when the gratuitous offer of love is sinfully rejected that a negative separation in the form of suffering enters the world. While it remains true that in our experience suffering is always bound up with our finitude and the negative consequences of sin, it also seems true that the capacity to suffer freely for another is not in itself negative, but unveils the depths of the original self-surrender that is required to love the other as other. Both the negative and the positive aspects of suffering are reflected in Balthasar’s claim that the nature of the eternal processions can only be approached with the help of a negative theology which ‘excludes from God all intramundane experience and suffering, while at the same time presupposing that the possibility of such suffering . . . is grounded in God’.112 The life, suffering, and death of Jesus cannot be applied univocally to the being of God, who remains transcendent to the world precisely in his immanence. If by suffering we mean some involuntary influence from outside, then God does not suffer. To say otherwise would imply a tragic, mythological God unworthy of belief, and ultimately incapable of offering mankind salvation from sin and death. Nevertheless, there is a positive content to the suffering love of the Son which reveals something new about God’s eternal mode of being love as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.113 In the words of Ferdinand Ulrich, ‘[i]t is only because pain and death are internal to God, as a fluid form of love, that
111 See F. Ulrich, Leben in der Einheit von Leben und Tod (Frankfurt: Knecht, 1973), cited in TD v. 84: ‘Life is only genuinely alive insofar as it . . . grows beyond itself, lets go of itself. It is rich only insofar as it can be poor, insofar as it loves. . . . Death will not allow itself to be pushed to the very end of life; it belongs right at the center, not in mere knowledge, but in action. Death characterizes our breakthrough into a life that is ever greater. It is through this positive death that we amass life.’ 112 TD iv. 324. 113 In The Final Act, 223–46, Balthasar summarizes the writings of several modern writers such as Kitamori, Brasnett, Barth, and Maritain who support in different ways the idea that God is affected by the pain and suffering of the world. He describes the widespread movement away from the traditional understanding of God’s impassibility as ‘completely understandable’. For a review of more recent writings on the question of God’s suffering, see Paul S. Fiddes, The Creative Suffering of God (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1988).

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God can conquer death and pain by his death and Resurrection. . . . Pain and death are superseded, not in virtue of some eternal indifference on the part of God’s essence, but because, by his absolute free will, pain and death are eternally the language of his glory.’114 At this point, we must face an objection: why does Balthasar want to affirm that the possibility of suffering is ‘grounded in God’? Why does he speak of the Father’s generation of the Son as ‘contain[ing] and embrac[ing] all the other distances that are possible within the world of finitude, including the distance of sin’?115 Does not theological modesty before the mystery of God’s inner life caution against such language? For example, when pressed about the meaning of the Father’s generation of the Son, Gregory of Nazianzus replies that
[t]his generation would have been no great thing, if you could have comprehended it who have no real knowledge even of your own generation, or at least who comprehend very little of it. . . . How was he begotten?—I repeat the question in indignation. The begetting of God must be honored in silence. It is a great thing for you to learn that he was begotten. But the manner of his generation we will not admit that even angels can conceive, much less you.116

The objection is a serious one, and cannot be lightly pushed aside. In a prefatory note to The Final Act, Balthasar responds to Rahner’s accusation of theological gnosticism by claiming that he has tried to ‘erect theology on the articles of faith (and not vice versa): on the Trinity, the Incarnation of the Son, his Cross and Resurrection on our behalf, and his sending of the Spirit to us in the apostolic Church and in the communio sanctorum’.117 He also admits that anything he says regarding the ‘final act’ of the drama between God and his creation ‘is nothing more than an astonished stammering as we circle around the mystery on the basis of particularly luminous words and suggestions of Holy Scripture’.118 Still, the question remains: why speak so explicitly about generation as entailing distance and even a separation between Father and Son?
Ferdinand Ulrich, personal letter cited in TD v. 246. TD iv. 323. 116 Gregory Nazianzus, Theological Orations, iii. 7, in Edward Rochie Hardy (ed.), Christology of the Later Fathers (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1954). 117 118 TD v. 14. TD v. 13.
115 114

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The basic answer to this question is that this is the language God has chosen in Christ to reveal the depths of his love for mankind and the depths of his own eternal life and love. The Fourth Gospel unfolds this mystery in terms of the reciprocal ‘glorification’ of Father and Son that occurs in the ‘hour’ of Christ’s death and Resurrection. On several occasions in the Gospel of John, there is an explicit connection between Christ’s hour of glory and his ‘laying down his life’ ( John 10: 17) in death.119 As a result of Christ’s Resurrection and the gift of the Holy Spirit—a gift which is given both at the moment of death ( John 19: 30) and after his Resurrection ( John 20: 22)—we are able to interpret Christ’s death as the supreme communication of life and love. Joseph Ratzinger speaks of the ‘transformation of death into an act of love’. ‘Only in this context’, Ratzinger continues,
can we understand what John means by calling Jesus’ death the glorification of God and the glorification of the Son ( John 12: 28; 17: 21). Death, which, by its very nature, is the end, the destruction of every communication, is changed by him into an act of self-communication; and this is man’s redemption, for it signifies the triumph of love over death. We can put the same thing another way: death, which puts an end to words and to meaning, itself becomes a word, becomes the place where meaning communicates itself.120

It is a short step from Ratzinger’s insight to Balthasar’s claim that Jesus’ death images and interprets the Father’s eternal self-communication to the Son. This step is suggested by texts in the Gospel of John that ground Jesus’ love for the world in the prior love that the Father has for the Son from before the foundation of the world (15: 9; 17: 5; 22–4).121 If Jesus’ letting himself be totally given away in death is the supreme instance of a selfcommunication, then it reveals and mediates the eternal act of
See esp. John 2: 19–22; 3: 14; 7: 39; 12: 23–4. For an analysis of John’s understanding of Jesus’ death as act of ‘glorification’, see Ignace de la Potterie, The Hour of Jesus: The Passion and the Resurrection According to John: Text and Spirit, trans. Gregory Murray (Middlegreen, England: St. Paul Publications, 1989), 11–39. 120 Joseph Ratzinger, Behold the Pierced One: An Approach to a Spiritual Christology, trans. Graham Harrison (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986), 24–5. 121 ‘The human career of Jesus is, as it were, a projection of this eternal relation (which is the divine agape) upon the field of time. It is such, not as a mere reflection or representation of the reality, but in the sense that the love which the Father bore the Son ‘‘before the foundation of the world’’, and which he perpetually returns, is actively at work in the historical life of Jesus’, C. H. Dodd, The Interpretation of the Fourth Gospel (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1965), 262.
119

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self-communication that is the source of the Son’s being. The admonition of Gregory of Nazianzus remains firmly in place. Who can say what the Father’s giving all to the Son in the event of generation means? Who can comprehend a love that empties itself without remainder in bringing an other into being? The mystery of the Father is best worshipped in silence—particularly in the silent witness of his Son’s death. The Holy Spirit as the ‘Interpreter’ of Christ The link between Jesus’ mission unto death and the Urkenosis of the Father is, as noted above, the key to Christ’s concrete analogicity. Because this concrete analogicity has to do with the eschatological ensheltering of the otherness of creation within the event of the trinitarian processions, it would lose it concreteness unless we could show how others are included within the unique and universal mission of Jesus Christ. In an earlier section of this chapter, under the heading ‘Christology and Analogy’, I claimed that the incarnate Christ has a mission that is absolutely universal, extending to all of history and all of creation. The life of Christ, I said, ‘recapitulates’ the whole order of creation by including all of history within his incarnate life. If the hypostatic union, which occurs in all of its uniqueness and particularity in the historical lifetime of Christ, is to have universal significance for the relation between creation and God, it must be possible for the rest of creation to be somehow included in this event. For Balthasar, the universal significance of a ‘concrete analogy’ cannot obtain merely by way of example; there must be a real participation in the particular event. Embedded within our central claim that the hypostatic union of the Son is the analogia entis in concrete form is a set of further issues, inasmuch as a concrete analogy of being implies the intersection of the most comprehensive universality and the particularity of a single human being. How can others be ‘included’ in the absolutely unique hypostatic union of Christ? Is the mission of the Son consummated with the cross and Resurrection? In what sense, then, does his mission continue in history? Taken together, these questions crystallize around the central difficulty of understanding the Incarnation both in terms of the concrete figure of Jesus of Nazareth and as a universal event that includes the whole of

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history. Is it possible for an event to be both concrete and historical and at the same time open to the whole of history, open not as an example, but as including the whole within its particularity? According to Balthasar, these questions can be resolved only in light of the relation between Christ and the Holy Spirit. In the logic of Balthasar’s theology, the Holy Spirit is the ‘interpreter of Christ’. The mission of the Spirit consists in ‘universalizing’ the concrete figure of Christ. Now, the crux of the matter is that the way the Spirit universalizes or ‘interprets’ Christ is by including others within the temporal and bodily mission of Christ, which ultimately means that, in becoming the (ecclesial) body of Christ, creation itself is able to express and mediate the mystery of the reciprocal love between Father and Son. Any other form of universalization would entail a dissolution of the historical figure of Christ. Accordingly, our next task is to consider the Holy Spirit as the interpreter of Christ. Following Irenaeus, Balthasar describes the Son and the Spirit as the ‘two hands of the Father’.122 ‘These two hands’, suggests Balthasar, ‘do not work next to one another, or after one another (as though the Spirit comes only when Christ’s work is finished), but with and in one another, so that the Spirit is always the Spirit of Christ.’123 If the mission of the Son is to interpret the figure of the Father, Balthasar sees the Holy Spirit as the interpreter of Christ. The Spirit is sent by the Father ( John 14: 26) and the Son ( John 15: 26) in order to make known the full depths of what has been accomplished in Christ. Thus, on the one hand, as the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit does not issue a new revelation, but rather reveals the full truth of the incarnate Christ’s words and deeds ( John 16: 14). On the other hand, it is necessary that Christ go away in order for this truth to be fully revealed: ‘it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Counsellor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you’ ( John 16: 7). Only in and through Christ’s departure can the Spirit make known the full depths of what the Father has accomplished (and continues to accomplish) in the event of Christ’s Incarnation. There is an inexhaustible depth to Jesus’ incarnate life—there is time and space enough for the whole drama of world history to be gathered into his life. However, in order for this life to be opened so as to include the whole of history, Jesus must return to the
122

Irenaeus, Adversus haereses, v. 6. 1.

123

TL iii. 169.

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Father through death and Resurrection. Both the ‘opening’ of Jesus’ life and his ‘return’ to the Father are accomplished in the Holy Spirit and the eucharistic Church—the twofold gift that is poured out at the consummation of Jesus’ mission. As the divine fruit of the reciprocal love of Father and Son within the Trinity, and as the ‘fruit’ of Jesus’ human and divine self-surrender, the Spirit initiates creation into the inexhaustible realm of the divine exchange of trinitarian life by making creation into the body of Christ.124 What is perhaps most original in Balthasar’s understanding of a pneumatological and eucharistic ‘inclusion in Christ’ is the abiding significance of the concrete and historical figure of Jesus as a revelation of the trinitarian life. Balthasar describes the mission of the Holy Spirit relative to Christ as ‘interpretation by means of inclusion’ and ‘inclusion by means of interpretation’. This inclusion always entails a sharing in Christ’s temporal mission of making known the mutual love of Father and Son. Reciprocally, each distinctly personal mission that is bestowed by Christ is itself a new unfolding of Christ’s life and thus a new revelation of the depths of the love between Father and Son. A pneumatological inclusion in Christ’s mission does not mean merely following his example. Nor does Balthasar understand the Spirit’s work as ‘inclusion in the divine logos’, but rather, quite literally, inclusion in the bodily and historical existence of Jesus of Nazareth. It thus becomes imperative for us to understand two points. The first concerns the relationship between the concrete figure of Jesus and the Holy Spirit. This relation I will consider in light of Balthasar’s theory of the ‘inversion’ of the ordering of the processions that occurs from the incarnation to the exaltation of Christ, when the original ordering is ‘restored’. This consideration will then lead to the second point, which attempts to explain in its light how the Spirit ‘includes’ others in Christ’s universal mission.

124 At the conclusion of the first volume of The Glory of the Lord, Balthasar writes: ‘The mythical understanding of the world sees the whole world as a sacred theophany. In an eschatological sense, this is also what the world is for Christian faith. If the cosmos as a whole has been created in the image of God that appears—in the First-Born of creation, through him and for him—and if this First-Born indwells the world as its head through the Church, then in the last analysis the world is a ‘‘body’’ of God, who represents and expresses himself in this body, on the basis of the principle not of pantheistic but of hypostatic union’, GL i. 679.

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Balthasar presupposes that the Incarnation is a work of the entire Trinity. And yet, it is the person of the Son and not simply the divine essence that assumes a human nature. Because it is a work of the Trinity, each divine person participates according to his particular mode of being (tropos tes hyparxeos). The trinitarian ¯ character of the Incarnation opens up a seeming variety of perspectives on the agency of the Son’s enfleshment in the New Testament. For example, in the Letter to the Philippians, [2: 6–8], a text discussed above, the active agent in the event of the Son’s Incarnation appears to be the Son himself. It is the Son who ‘empties himself ’ and takes upon himself the form of a servant. In Luke’s Gospel, however, it is the Holy Spirit who plays an active role in mediating between the Son and the human nature that is assumed. The angel announces to Mary that the Spirit ‘will come over you’ and ‘will overshadow you’ (Luke 1: 35). ‘On the one hand’, Balthasar observes, ‘the act of Incarnation is ascribed (biblically) to the Holy Spirit; on the other hand, it is the Logos alone who becomes man.’125 How are we to understand the relation between the Son and the Holy Spirit in the assumption of a human nature? Who is the agent of the Incarnation? Once again, all three persons are the agents of the Incarnation—differently. Following Balthasar, we can affirm that the Father is the agent of the Incarnation as sender, the Son as sent, and the Spirit as effecting the mission. This suggests a revision of Aquinas’s understanding of the relationship between Son and Spirit with respect to the Incarnation. Distinguishing between the gratia unionis and the gratia habitualis, Thomas associates the former with the Son and the latter with the Spirit. The union itself is brought about by the Son, who actively assumes the human nature. Habitual grace is consequent upon the union—consequent, he clarifies, not in a temporal sense but in regards to its nature and intelligibility. The reason why the activity of the Spirit—seen in the bringing about of gratia habitualis—must for Thomas come after (logically, not chronologically) the activity of the Son is based on the order of the processions within the immanent Trinity:
The principle of union is the person of the Son, who took to himself a human nature; and by taking a human nature this person is said to have
125

TL iii. 167.

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been sent into the world. The principle of habitual grace, given as it is with charity, is the Holy Spirit. . . . by the very nature of things, the mission of the Son comes before the mission of the Holy Spirit.126

Balthasar notes that Thomas’s position has been criticized by Walter Kasper who brings to bear a wealth of scriptural references which imply that ‘it is in the Spirit that Jesus is the Son of God’.127 The perspective of the New Testament suggests, according to Kasper, that the grace of union is itself pneumatological: ‘The sanctification of Jesus by the Spirit and his gifts is . . . not merely an adventitious consequence of the sanctification by the Logos through the hypostatic union but its presupposition.’128 On Kasper’s reading, Thomas’s position is one-sided and cannot adequately account for the sense in which Jesus relates to the Father through the medium of the Holy Spirit. ‘Luke expresses this with unusual precision: Because Jesus is in a unique way created by the power of the Spirit, ‘‘therefore [dio ] the child to ´ be born will be called . . . the Son of God’’.’129 Kasper draws the following conclusion: ‘The Spirit (as the personal bond of the freedom of the love between Father and Son) is the medium into which the Father freely and out of pure grace sends the Son and in whom he finds in Jesus the human partner in whom and through whom the Son obediently answers the Father’s mission in an historical way.’130 While generally sympathetic to Kasper’s critique of the scholastic understanding of the gratia unionis, Balthasar introduces the following qualification:
we must still ask whether [Kasper’s position] fully does justice to the mystery of the Son’s Incarnation. For the Spirit’s role is not simply to discover in the man Jesus the appropriate instrument for the Son’s historical obedience: it is explicitly to overshadow the Virgin and so bring the Son into the condition of humanity. But in this activity on the part of the Spirit, the Son is already obedient, insofar as he entrusts himself to the activity of the Spirit in accord with the Father’s will.131

Summa theol. iii, q. 7, a. 13. Walter Kasper, Jesus the Christ (London: Burns & Oates, 1976), 251. Ibid. According to Kasper, the reason that ‘scholastic theology was hardly able to give due prominence to the pneumatological aspect of the Incarnation’ was because of its ‘unilaterally metaphysical approach based on the unity of the divine essence’, 250. 129 130 131 Ibid. 251. Ibid. TD iii. 186.
127 128

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The point here is that not only does the man Jesus live in and under the mission of the Holy Spirit (Kasper), but the Son himself already expresses his divine relation to the Father by ‘obediently’ allowing himself to be sent and ‘incarnated’ through the creative activity of the Spirit. According to Balthasar, the decision to become incarnate must ultimately be referred back to the immanent Trinity as a whole (including the Son), ‘according to which it was resolved to send the Son ‘‘in the likeness of sinful flesh’’ (Rom. 8: 3).’132 It follows that ‘the Son’s obedience does not come after an Incarnation actively brought about by him: rather, his soteriological obedience starts with the Incarnation itself ’.133 Here, then, we see how Balthasar differentiates himself from Kasper: the mediation of the Holy Spirit ensures and bears witness to the fact that the Son’s obedience in the Incarnation is truly filial, that is, trinitarian, and not merely an expression of his human nature. In the Apostles Creed we profess et incarnatus est de Spiritu Sancto ex Maria Virgine. Balthasar takes this as a precise description of the relation between the Son and the Spirit in the event of Incarnation. If Mary provides the physical and spiritual ‘place’ for the Incarnation, then the active agent in this event is the Holy Spirit. I noted above Luke’s testimony, in which the Holy Spirit, as the power of the Most High, ‘overshadows’ Mary (Luke 1: 35). This does not mean that the Son, who is conceived and born, is not also the agent of the Incarnation. The point is that he exercises this agency in the mode of a divine obedience whereby he lets himself be sent.134 While the decision to redeem creation in this way was undertaken by the counsel of all three persons of the Trinity, in the working out of this plan, the action of the Spirit precedes in a certain way that of the Son. This is because the Son’s act in the economy—which, of course, presupposes and expresses his eternal place within the trinitarian processions—is to let himself be incarnated by the Holy Spirit. Thanks to this kenosis that is itself rooted in the Son’s self-receptive procession from the Father, the Spirit establishes the union of natures in Mary’s womb ( gratia
133 TD iii. 187. TD iii. 184. The obedience of Christ is not mere passivity, ‘but a form of action, which— humanly speaking—demands of the subject more self-possession and initiative than the pursuance of self-imposed precepts and goals’, TD iii. 186. This is how Balthasar interprets texts such as Phil. 2: 6–8 which attribute an ‘active’ role to the Son in assuming a human nature. 134 132

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unionis) and inspires the obedience of Christ all during his temporal journey ( gratia habitualis). Whereas within the immanent Trinity, the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son, in the order of the economy, there is an inversion that results from the Trinity’s decision to send the Son into the world under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The logic of this ‘trinitarian inversion’ is sketched in the following passage:
What is most confusing is the inversion in the saving economy of the relationship between the Son and the Spirit. Whereas within the immanent Trinity, the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son (or through the Son), the Son becomes man through the Spirit and is guided in his mission by the same Spirit. As the one who in the self-emptying of his divine form places himself under the will of the Father, he allows the Spirit made available by the Father (and who also proceeds from the Father) have power over him as a ‘rule’ of the Father’s will. He does this in order to allow this Spirit resting upon him in all fullness to stream out from himself at the end of his mission in death and Resurrection (and in the Eucharist). And the direction of this outpouring goes as much toward the Father (‘into your hands . . . ’) as toward the Church and the world (‘and thus he breathed upon them . . . ’). In this inversion it is clear that the Spirit is taking part in the historical events of the divine economy. . . . When the Trinity’s personified love becomes visible as fruit and gift in the Holy Spirit, the love between Father and Son appears not only complete beyond itself but also opened up beyond itself. . . . the Spirit is the inner essence of God’s communication ad extra.135

Here we must consider an obvious objection. What about the correspondence between the immanent and economic Trinity? Would an ‘inversion’ of the relationship between Christ and the Spirit in the saving economy call into question the received order of trinitarian processions? No, answers Balthasar. Not only does the ‘trinitarian inversion’ not disrupt the correspondence between the immanent and the economic Trinity, it enables Christ effectively to translate in terms of the economy both the fact that the Father is the sole source of the Godhead and the Son’s co-spiration of the Spirit:
Just as the Son eternally receives his entire divine being from the Father, he also eternally receives from him the ability to send the Spirit forth in conjunction with the Father. The infinite vitality of the relations between the divine Persons is so rich in aspects that one of them may be the occasion of the incarnation of the Son and thus of the said inversion
135

Balthasar, ‘Spirit and Institution’, 231–5 [trans. altered].

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without requiring any change in the intra-divine order. It is necessary only that, in his eternal procession from the Father, the Son goes back to the point at which he receives from him the possibility of co-spiration of the Spirit: the moment of this reception thus corresponds in its economic translation, to the initial status of the Incarnate Word while the effective co-spiration corresponds to the second status.136

Distinguishing between Christ’s two states (status exinanitionis and status exaltationis), Balthasar draws attention to the fact that Christ’s relation to the Spirit seems to differ in each state. The difference between these two states reflects the twofold aspect of the Son’s eternal relation to the Spirit. The Son is truly a principle or source of the personal being of the Spirit ( filioque), yet the Son receives this capacity to ‘source’ the Spirit from the Father, who thus remains the ultimate principle and source of the whole Godhead (monarchy of the Father).137 The status exinanitionis corresponds to the fact that within the immanent Trinity, the Son receives everything from the Father, including the capacity to co-spirate the Spirit.138 The status exaltationis, on the other hand, is an expression of how complete and fruitful the Father’s gift of himself to the Son is. That is, as the perfect image of the Father, the Son is capable of participating in the Father’s giving at an equally creative and divine level in the form of a return gift which is the Holy Spirit. As the fruit and gift of the groundless love between Father and Son, the Spirit testifies to the ever-greater aspect of God’s being love.139 The depths of the reciprocal giving of Father and Son are laid bare in the movement from crucifixion to Resurrection, when the Spirit is given back to the Father by the Son. The ultimate
TD iii. 190 [trans. altered]. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, § 248, synthesizes these two aspects of the Son’s relation to the Spirit as follows: ‘The eternal order of the divine persons in their consubstantial communion implies that the Father, as the ‘‘principle without principle’’, is the first origin of the Spirit, but also that as Father of the only Son, he is, with the Son, the single principle from which the Spirit proceeds.’ 138 TD iii. 188. 139 In Dominum et Vivificantem, § 11, John Paul II identifies the Holy Spirit as ‘person-gift’ or ‘person-love’. He writes: ‘In his intimate life, God ‘‘is love’’, the essential love shared by the three divine Persons: personal love is the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of the Father and the Son. Therefore he ‘‘searches even the depths of God’’, as uncreated Love-Gift. It can be said that in the Holy Spirit the intimate life of the Triune God becomes totally gift, an exchange of mutual love between the divine Persons and that through the Holy Spirit God exists in the mode of gift. It is the Holy Spirit who is the personal expression of this selfgiving, of this being-love. He is Person-Love. He is Person-Gift. Here we have an inexhaustible treasure of the reality and an inexpressible deepening of the concept of person in God, which only divine Revelation makes known to us.’
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fruitfulness of Jesus’ death is revealed after the Resurrection, when the Spirit is poured forth by the Risen Lord upon the disciples.140 In The Father’s Spirit of Sonship: Reconceiving the Trinity, Thomas Weinandy has put forward a similar reading of the relation between Christ and the Holy Spirit in the economy of salvation. A brief consideration of his argument will help to bring into sharper focus the distinctiveness of Balthasar’s proposal of a ‘trinitarian inversion’. Arguing from the basic datum of the New Testament, Weinandy shows how both for Christ and for those baptized in Christ, divine Sonship is given in and through the Holy Spirit. This insight leads to the further suggestion that this economic ordering should be reflected in our understanding of the ordering of the immanent Trinity: ‘the Father begets the Son in or by the Holy Spirit, who proceeds then from the Father as the one in whom the Son is begotten.’141 Aware of the novelty of his thesis, Weinandy cautiously recommends such a ‘reconception’ of the Trinity on the grounds that it simultaneously deepens the link between the economic and the immanent Trinity and provides a fully trinitarian meaning to the sacramental and spiritual life of Christians. Weinandy further suggests that within the traditional Catholic and Orthodox conceptions of the order of the processions there still linger traces of sequentialism and/or emanationism. As a corrective, it is necessary to draw out the full consequences of Nicaea’s homoousion by understanding that ‘all three persons, logically and ontologically, spring forth in one simultaneous,
140 Ouellet, ‘Jesus Christ’, 229–30, explains the transition or ‘turning point’ from the status exinanitionis to the status exaltationis in terms of Jesus’ role as ‘high priest’ of the New Covenant: ‘Jesus Christ was designated the high priest of the New Covenant through his being obedient unto death. He thus became mediator of the eternal Spirit in his flesh as he is mediator of the Spirit in the Trinity. The Resurrection was the turning point of his priestly identity. From then on he is fully mediator, from bottom to top and from top to bottom: his obedience has reached the point of expressing fully his trinitarian procession from the Father in the Spirit and his return to him through death. For the Resurrection means the confirmation of Jesus as the Christ, the Anointed, the Son of God, by the Spirit of holiness (Rom. 1: 4). Resurrection means the irruption of the Spirit in his flesh as a reward for his obedience, as an answer of the Father’s love to the love of the incarnate Son. Hence, in Johannine theology, the gift of the Spirit flows from the pierced side and last breath of Jesus Christ. The Spirit is thus given in its personal character as being the communion between Father and Son, confirming God’s name and God’s revelation as love. He could not be given in this way before the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, for God’s intimacy had first to be laid bare on the Cross for our sake in order to reveal his divine trinitarian identity.’ 141 Weinandy, The Father’s Spirit of Sonship, p. ix.

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nonsequential, eternal act in which each person of the Trinity subsistently defines, and equally is subsistently defined by, the other persons’.142 The crux of this eternal simultaneity is given in the distinctive role of the Holy Spirit: ‘The one action by which the Spirit is the Spirit is then twofold in effect—pertaining to the Father and to the Son. The Spirit, springing forth within the Father as his love in or by which the Son is begotten, forms the Father to be the Father for the Son and concurrently conforms the Son to be the Son for the Father. . . . it is by the Spirit that the Father substantiates or ‘‘persons’’ himself as Father because it is by the Spirit that he begets the Son.’143 On several occasions, Weinandy notes the convergence of his position with the theology of Balthasar.144 Both would grant a relative priority to the Spirit within the economy of salvation. It is the Spirit who establishes and confirms the incarnate Son as the eternal Son. The key difference is that Balthasar accepts the traditional ordering of the processions within the immanent Trinity, and hence suggests the need for a trinitarian inversion. Given Weinandy’s proposal for a correspondence between the economic and immanent Trinity, the question emerges whether Balthasar’s inversion is redundant and unnecessarily complicated. In reply, it should first be noted that such a question is foreign to Balthasar himself insofar as he accepted the credal formulas on the processions as authoritative. If, however, as Weinandy argues, the proposed ‘reconception’ of the immanent Trinity is fully ‘in keeping with the Athanasian Creed’, then Balthasar’s thesis of a trinitarian inversion requires further justification. This justification, it seems to us, can be given in terms of Christ’s distinct relation to the Spirit in his two states (status exinanitionis and status exaltationis). At the risk of oversimplification, in the first state Christ exists more ‘under the rule’ of the Spirit.145 Christ is established as Son in and through the Spirit of the Father. In the transition to the status exaltationis, which occurs through the cross and Resurrection, Christ commends the Spirit to the Father and breathes forth the Spirit upon the Church. Perhaps the clearest indication of the difference between Jesus’ relation to
143 Weinandy, The Father’s Spirit of Sonship, 14–15. Ibid. 73. Ibid. 42–3, 69, 73–4, 84, 89. 145 Of course, the Spirit was also ‘in’ Jesus; that is, ‘Jesus, obeyed the Spirit, but not according to a law over him: he obeyed the Spirit who united him with the Father’, TD iv. 364. 144 142

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the Spirit in the two states is found in the Gospel of John, when at the feast of Tabernacles Jesus looks forward to the moment of crucifixion when ‘rivers of living water shall flow out of his heart’ ( John 7: 38). The Fourth Evangelist comments as follows: ‘Now this he said about the Spirit, which those who believed him were to receive; for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified’ ( John 7: 39). It is only in the movement from the cross to Resurrection that the Son’s mission of revealing the love of the Father is consummated. In other words, it is only with the gift of the Spirit that occurs in the event of death and Resurrection (status exaltationis) that Christ becomes fully transparent to the immanent Trinity. If an ‘inversion’ is required for the Son fully to assume a state of obedience before the Father, then the true nature and meaning of the Son’s obedience is only revealed when the Son returns to the Father and breathes out the Spirit as the ultimate gift of the love between Father and Son. Only after the Son has given up his Spirit ( John 19: 30) is the mystery of the immanent Trinity fully laid bare. In the absence of an inversion, it would be difficult to understand how the transition to the status exaltationis (in which the Son gives the Spirit to the Father and the world) is a more perfect expression of the immanent Trinity. A number of consequences follow from Balthasar’s account of the trinitarian inversion. The first concerns the way in which the union of two natures ( gratia unionis) is established in Christ. Through the mediation of the Holy Spirit, the incarnational union itself takes the form of a concrete and historical obedience to the Father. The union of natures is not simply an a priori consequence of Christ’s divine status, but is an ongoing event that is accomplished throughout the life of Christ. This is what gives Christ’s faith and Christ’s obedience their archetypal character:
Christ’s obedience with its very concrete temporal dimension . . . is thus made possible by the Holy Spirit who takes the form of an objective and inner rule guiding Jesus toward his full stature as eschatological savior. It is only at the end of his historical trajectory that Christ becomes the source of the Spirit for all times and all places, through his resurrection. He is not established from the beginning as the ‘Son of God with power’ (status exaltationis) but only at the end of an existential journey of kenotic obedience (status exinanitionis) which gives to the grace of union its historical and archetypal character.146
146 ´ Marc Ouellet, ‘L’existence comme mission: L’anthropologie theologique de Hans ` Urs von Balthasar’, Ph.D. diss. (Rome: Pontificia Universita Gregoriana, 1983), 192–3.

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The claim that grace is historical has profound implications for the nature of our eschatological ‘inclusion in Christ’. When we look on Christ with ‘pneumatological eyes’, it is clear that his historical life is not simply a past event, but is open to an ever-new unfolding in time. In other words, the Holy Spirit allows the life of Christ to be extended in history as the life of the Church, the mystical body of Christ. Reciprocally, through the mediation of the Church, the concrete history of the world can be eschatologically assumed into the person of Christ and thus into the trinitarian life of God. Again we return to the core question: is it possible for the Incarnation to be understood both in terms of the concrete figure of Jesus of Nazareth and as a universal event which includes the whole history of the cosmos? Is it possible for an event to be both concrete and historical and at the same time open to the whole of history? Open, not merely as an example, but as including the whole within its particularity? The obvious danger in speaking of Christ’s life as ‘open’ to the rest of history is that the concrete and historical existence of Jesus seems to be exchanged for a ‘process’ that lasts as long as the history of the world. On the other hand, it is precisely the mission of the incarnate Son to gather into his life the whole of creation and all of history. It therefore seems necessary, after all, to speak of Christ’s life, in its particularity, of bearing in itself a universal openness. We can specify the question further in terms of the category of mission: when is Jesus’ mission consummated? The term ‘consummation’ means that an event is finished and perfected. If we were to deny that the mission of the Son is consummated in the event of the cross and Resurrection, we would, by implication, deny that the incarnate Christ has truly reached ‘the end’—the eschaton. In terms of the language of self-gift or self-surrender, this would entail a denial that in the event of Jesus’ death the Father and Son have given precisely everything away. On the other hand, Jesus is given a mission that extends to all time and all creatures. How can his mission be consummated before the end of history, before he truly has gathered all of creation into his life and thus into the Trinity? In what sense is the historical life and existence of Jesus of Nazareth finished and closed? To be sure, everything that we understand of history, time, and finitude demands a certain closure to past events. If this does not also apply to Christ, then the conditions of a true Incarnation

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within history have not been met. We would be left with something like a mythological Christ outside of time. It would be impossible to follow and to be conformed to such a person. There is, then, a sense in which the mission of Jesus is finished— consummatum est ( John 19: 30). The difficulty with this answer, which is indeed required by the ‘logic of Incarnation’, is that it seems to make Christ one historical being among countless others. He can perhaps be an inspiring example for others, but how can he be the inner norm of all history and being? How could the Church continue sacramentally to extend and distribute the being and life of Christ into the world? How, then, is it possible for the future to be ‘included’ in a historical and bodily gift? This is a momentous question insofar as we are seeking to shed some light on the moment of Jesus’ death and Resurrection as open to the future history of the world. It can only be resolved in terms of Christ’s relation to the Spirit in the economy of the ‘trinitarian inversion’. Particularly helpful in this context is our earlier discussion of the status exinanitionis and the status exaltationis, which, in their interplay, guarantee the unity and difference of the theology and the economy in the perspective of the trinitarian inversion. Consider first, then, the status exinanitionis. This state, I said, reflects the Son’s reception of the power to spirate the Holy Spirit. Thus, in the event of the Incarnation and in his existence leading up to his crucifixion and Resurrection, Jesus, as it were, receives the Spirit from his Father. This aspect of Jesus’ living under the guidance of the Spirit is particularly evident in the Synoptic accounts of the baptism of Jesus and his ‘being led’ (Luke 4: 1) by the Spirit into the desert. Developing an insight of Adrienne von Speyr, Balthasar claims that the Spirit acts as the ‘rule’ of the Father by which Jesus lives out his incarnate mission: ‘the Spirit takes over the function of presenting the obedient Son with the Father’s will in the form of a rule that is unconditional and, in the case of the Son’s suffering, even appears rigid and pitiless.’147 Consider now the status exaltationis. This state corresponds to the Son’s active participation in the production of the Spirit. At the consummation of his mission in the transition from death to Resurrection, Jesus breathes forth the Spirit to the Father and upon the world. As the resurrected Christ (status exaltationis), Jesus
147

TD iii. 188.

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no longer lives under the rule of the Spirit, but he is able to dispense the Spirit freely as the fruit of his work of redemption. ‘We see in [the resurrected] Jesus’, writes Balthasar, ‘the one who, even as man, has control of the Spirit and sovereignly breathes him into the disciples ( John 20: 22). His sovereignty is such that he can entrust the Spirit (who is his) to his Church, so that . . . she can share in his Resurrection freedom and communicate the power of the Spirit.’148 In this sense, the ultimate exaltation of Jesus’ human existence occurs when he is taken into the trinitarian processions to the extent of breathing forth, together with the Father, the uncreated gift of the Holy Spirit. However, the Spirit that the risen Christ pours out upon the Church is coextensive with his fleshly and historical existence, and in that sense, there occurs an ‘opening’ of his life and his body to the Church. The key to our question about the universalization of the particularity of Jesus’ life is to see that the ‘consummation’ of his mission is fruitful of the Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit who leads the Church into all truth. But, and this is crucial, the Spirit does not issue a new revelation, but makes known the depths of what Christ has accomplished. The Spirit does not work next to or after Christ, but in and with him. It is the concrete and historical life of Christ that the Spirit reveals, and so it is the concrete and historical life of Christ into which the Christian is baptized. Thus, to enter into Christ’s life is to enter into all the particular aspects of his existence from his birth, to his hidden life, to his expropriation and death. There is no aspect or detail of Christ’s historical life that does represent an infinite source of life for the ongoing mission of the Spirit and the Church. In order to cast additional light on this mystery I will construct an analogy to the gift-of-self that occurs in an exchange of marital vows. The twofold warrant for this analogy is provided, on the one hand, by the countless Old Testament texts which speak of the covenant as a marriage between God and his people (see esp. Iso. 54: 4–10; Hos. 2: 14–20); and, on the other hand, by the text in Ephesians which describes Christ’s love for the Church as analogous to a husband’s love for his wife (5: 23–3). To accomplish this ‘speculative’ development of Balthasar’s thought, I will draw on an
148

TD iv. 364.

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unexpected resource: Balthasar’s theology of the states of life in The Christian State of Life.149 Balthasar’s theology of the states of life is one of the most fully articulated aspects of his theology and far richer in its implications for eschatology than I can suggest here. Of particular interest, however, is his account of the relation between a vow and a totalgift-of-self. In a discussion of the relationship between obligation and choice, Balthasar makes the following claim about the essence of love:
One can never be content with an act of love performed for the present moment only. Love wants to abandon itself, to surrender itself, to entrust itself, to commit itself to love. As a pledge of love, it wants to lay its freedom once and for all at the feet of love. As soon as love is truly awakened, the moment of time is transformed for it into a form of eternity. Even erotic egoism cannot forebear swearing ‘eternal fidelity’ and, for a fleeting moment, finding pleasure in actually believing in this eternity. How much more, then does true love want to outlast time, and for this purpose, to rid itself of its most dangerous enemy, its own freedom of choice. Hence, every true love has the inner form of a vow.150

Much of The Christian State of Life is an attempt to unfold this claim through a discussion of the evangelical vows of poverty, virginity, and obedience as a form of Christian life, but the insight into the nature of a vow applies equally to spousal love.151 I will consider the latter insofar as the essential elements of marital vows are more familiar and thus require less background consideration. The particular question that interests us is the relation between the historical life (past and future) of an individual and the concrete ‘moment’ of exchanging vows. The first thing to be noted about the taking of vows is the sense of totality. There is no aspect of a person’s being that is not gathered up and included in the gift one makes to another. We read in the Song of Songs: ‘I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine’ (6: 3). The prior condition for this reciprocal belonging is a gratuitous act, whereby each gives to the other all that is his and all that is hers. To constitute a marriage, the gift must be both irrevocable and total.
149 Balthasar, The Christian State of Life [¼ CSL], trans. Mary Frances McCarthy (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1983). 150 CSL 39. 151 For a profound discussion of the relationship between the consecrated state and the married state, see David Crawford, ‘Humanae Vitae and the Perfection of Love’, Communio: International Catholic Review, 25 (1998): 414–38.

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The claim to totality provokes the intriguing question of how and in what sense the past and future life of the person is included within this gift. Following Ignatius of Loyola, Balthasar sees the early stages of human existence as a preparation for the momentous occasion of divine election and the consequent choice to enter a vowed state of life (consecrated or married). Everything is preparation for the self-surrender that occurs through the taking of a vow—a self-surrender that is so complete it can only be compared to death. Thus, in a marriage that is the fruit of a great love, both husband and wife understand that everything that preceded the marriage was a preparation for the new form of life that is constituted by the exchange of vows. All of the various experiences and memories that make up one’s past are now understood in their true significance as a gift for the other. One’s past is the soil that will make possible a new and fruitful form of life in communion with the other. A relationship that does not involve such an exchange of memories, together with the new discovery of the meaning of these past events in light of the present and future life with the other, is fraught with a certain sterility. At the same time, the moment of self-surrender is the creation of a new form of life. In other words, the ‘death to self ’ involved in the exchange of vows is life-giving. To claim that a new form of life is created is another way of saying that one’s future is also included within the self-surrender of a vow. The words of consent that mediate the exchange of vows speak of a commitment that necessarily embraces the whole future existence of both individuals. Whatever happens—whatever illnesses or blessings may come— will now unfold within the relationship of communion that is constituted by the vows.152 We can shed additional light on this
152 In a text found at the beginning of The Glory of the Lord, Balthasar interprets marriage as a life-giving form [Gestalt]: ‘What could be stronger than marriage, or what shapes any particular life-form more profoundly than does marriage? . . . When they make their promises, the spouses are not relying on themselves—the shifting songs of their own freedom— but rather on the form that chooses them because they have chosen it, the form to which they have committed themselves in their act as persons. As persons, the spouses entrust themselves not only to the beloved ‘‘thou’’ and to the biological laws of fertility and family; they entrust themselves foremost to a form with which they can wholly identify themselves even in the deepest aspects of their personality because this form extends through all the levels of life—from its biological roots up to the very heights of grace and life in the Holy Spirit. And now, suddenly, all fruitfulness, all freedom is discovered within the form itself, and the life of a married person can henceforth be understood only in terms of this interior mystery’, GL i. 27.

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point by considering the gift of children as the most obvious example of what may come in the spouse’s future life together. Indeed, if an openness to the ‘future’ gift of children is not ‘included’ within the exchange of vows, then a sacramental marriage has not been constituted. This suggests a profound mystery in that the gift of children is, in one sense, already included within the exchange of vows, and yet should the couple be graced with a particular child, this child will be the very incarnation of newness and surprise. Romano Guardini avers that ‘in the experience of a great love, all that happens becomes an event inside that love’. In the form of vow, a great love is able to include all that has happened and all that will happen. Every event in the future, especially those occasions which call forth new forms of self-surrender, is simultaneously an unveiling of the depths of what has already been given to the other in the form of a vow. It may often be the case that the couple is not aware of hidden depths of the gift that are implicitly contained in a sacramental exchange of vows. It will take a lifetime together—a lifetime that will, undoubtedly, be characterized by new sacrifices and a hidden or visible fruitfulness—to understand the true nature of the reciprocal gift that constitutes the marital communion. In short, what is given to other in this once-and-for-all gift—a gift that involves death to life outside of this communion—is precisely a life. How, then, do we apply the human spousal relation analogously to the issue at hand? If we speak loosely for a moment in terms of the relation between God and the world as a spousal relationship, the issue can be framed as follows: When is the marriage between God and the world consummated? Again, in terms of the category of mission, the question becomes, when is Christ’s mission completed? An initial answer, guided by Christ’s own words, is that his mission comes to an end at the hour of his death—consummatum est ( John 19: 30). The difficulty with this answer is that Christ is given a mission that comprehends the whole of world history; he has to ‘return’ to the Father with all of creation. In one sense, then, his mission will only be consummated when the whole of creation has been safely brought home to the Father. In light of this difficulty we can begin to see the fruitfulness of Balthasar’s conception of a total self-surrender that takes the form of a vow. Christ’s mission is in fact consummated at the hour of his death, but it is consummated in the form of a promise or

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a vow. What is given to us in Christ’s death is a covenant of new life in communion with him. At the moment of consummation, then, the Holy Spirit and the Church (symbolized in the blood and water that stream forth from Christ’s side) are given as the fruit of Jesus’ death. Taken together, the Spirit and the Church are the form and fruit of the God– creature marriage covenant in its historical unfolding. I suggested above that everything that happens in the future life of the spouses will be an unveiling of the hidden depths of what has already been given in the once-for-all exchange of vows.153 The newness of the Holy Spirit and its mission of guiding the Church into ‘all truth’ ( John 16: 13) is simultaneously an unveiling of the true depths of Jesus’ self-surrender as a revelation of the Father’s love, a selfsurrender that comprehends the past, present, and future. The Holy Spirit is both the gift and fruit of the mutual love between Father and Son, and the ultimate gift that is bestowed as the fruit of Jesus’ life-giving death. I posed the question of the analogy of being in terms of a universalization of the particular event of Jesus Christ that does not dilute its particularity. The answer to this question, we have seen, lies in the fact that Jesus’ consummation of his mission is fruitful of the Holy Spirit and the Church. This fruitfulness is the ‘beyond’ of the consummation itself. From one point of view, this ‘beyond’ can come only when the Father, exalting Jesus, bestows on him anew the gift of the Spirit. From another vantage point, this moment of the exalted Lord’s disposal over the Spirit coincides with the fruitfulness of Jesus’ consummation of his mission
153 It is not possible here to show how the idea of a vow also sheds light on the meaning of Christ’s ‘recapitulation’ of the past history of the world. It would be possible to connect this insight with our early comments on how Balthasar’s concrete understanding of a Christology von oben in fact allows for a greater integration of the movement from below. ´ In particular, Balthasar takes from Charles Peguy a profound development of the ancient idea that the history of the world prior to the Incarnation was, in fact, a preparation for the great event of union. If the incarnational union is truly reciprocal, then all of history can be ´ said to contribute to the event of union. Peguy writes: ‘Normally, Christians see [the Incarnation] as issuing forth from the eternal; they contemplate this supreme insertion, this point of concentration, this drawing together in one point where the wholly eternal enters the wholly temporal. To find the counterpart to this, the view from the other side, the countervision, as it were, for a story that had happened to the earth—namely, that it had given birth to God—for this the earthly, the fleshly and the temporal realms, the pagan world (and also the mystics of the elder Law, the Jewish people) would need to see the Incarnation from their side. . . . The Incarnation would have to present itself as the full flower and the temporal fruit of the earth, as an extraordinary triumph of fertility.’ Charles ´ Peguy, Oeuvres en prose 1909–1914 (Paris: Gallimard, 1957), 729, cited in GL iii. 429.

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itself. In other words, the gift of the Spirit in the exaltation is the surprising fruit of what has already been accomplished on the Cross. This means that the exalted Lord’s disposal over the Spirit coincides with the eternalized handing over of his having-died to the Spirit, who, crystallizing it in the Eucharist, thereby includes others within Jesus’ mission. Relative to the question of universality and particularity, then, we see that the Spirit universalizes precisely by including everyone in Christ’s mission through the Eucharist—a feat that the Spirit can perform precisely insofar as the Eucharist is the crystallized fruit of the particular birth, life, death, and exaltation of Jesus of Nazareth as the expression of his eternal relation to the Father within the mutual love of the Holy Spirit. The trinitarian inversion does not simply revert to the original ordering with the exaltation of Christ, but is eternalized as a fruitfulness lying within the Son’s world-grounding selfreception from the Father that, now, is revealed to be the same act whereby the Son, together with the Father, eternally ‘spirates’ the Spirit as the ultimate gift of love (which gift is now inseparable from the eucharistic crystallization of the self-surrender that expresses this act in the language of the Son’s mission). Conclusion: Eschatology as Mission Having said this, we are in a position to clinch the argument about the concrete analogicity of Christ advanced in the present chapter. I claimed that Jesus Christ is the concrete analogia entis insofar as he is ‘true God’ and ‘true man’ in the eschatological enactment of their reciprocal, asymmetrical revelation. The key to this concrete analogicity is the unity of the Son’s eternal procession with his temporal mission. This unity grounds a double representation of God the Father—and, therefore, of the trinitarian nature of ‘true God’—and of man—so that Christ reveals ‘true man’. The Son’s mission is the hinge uniting generation and creation inasmuch as it is the moving image of the Father’s eternal Urkenosis that includes the gift of creation. But, as was just said, the Son does not simply reveal what is already constituted, but reveals by enacting man’s response to the gift within the original trinitarian event of the giving itself. This suggests the importance of the ‘inclusion’ of all human beings, indeed, of all things, in Christ’s mission as the concrete apex of Christ’s eschatological enactment of the analogia

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entis. This inclusion, we just saw, is made possible by the inversion of the ‘trinitarian inversion’ that occurs in the simultaneous eucharistic self-gift of Christ and the outpouring of the Spirit: the Son’s world-grounding self-reception from the Father is revealed to be the same act that co-spirates the Spirit, even as that co-spiration is ‘now’ inseparable from the eucharistic form of this co-spirating act of which the Spirit is the fruit. All of this has a profound bearing on Christ’s status as the concrete analogy of being. In the preceding chapter I identified analogy as a movement toward God that affirms the ever-greater difference-in-unity between God and the world. Knowledge of God’s infinite perfection is only possible by transcending, and thus negating, the finitude of the world. However, we saw that in the process of removing or negating everything finite one must simultaneously affirm that whatever perfection is found at the finite level exists supereminently in God. The decisive issue here is the ultimate status of the finite in relation to the infinite. In what sense is the finite order left behind in the movement toward God’s supereminent fullness? How can God’s being include the world precisely in its otherness from God? I framed an answer to this question in terms of the non-subsistence of the actus essendi, whereby the act of being ‘signifies the being given (and being received) of the giver. Nothing substantial and subsistent, therefore, but the radiant fullness of God’s being in the condition of its being given to the finite recipient.’154 The christological deepening of analogy in this chapter has attempted to unveil the ultimate depths of the donation of esse itself. Such depths prove to be nothing other than the Urkenosis of the Father manifested in the mission whereby the Son co-realizes the dynamism of this kenosis in his own human obedience unto death. Viewed within this intra-trinitarian context, the donation of esse in its non-subsistence finally appears as what it is; the first step towards the reciprocal revelation of God and the creature in the fulfilment of the Son’s mission to go ‘to the end’. This implies two things relevant to our purpose. First of all, we now see that the christological deepening of analogy enables us to conceive metaphysical analogy as ‘on its way’ to an eschatology in which the transcendence of God as Father is revealed from within the otherness of the creature seen in its positivity as a gift ensheltered
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within the Son’s mission ‘unto death’. Secondly, this eschatological fulfilment of metaphysical analogy occurs precisely within the eternal act whereby the Son, receiving himself from the Father, simultaneously consents to be incarnated of Mary by the Spirit, and having been so incarnated by him, goes to the end. In going to the end, Jesus hands his having-died over to the Father, who eternalizes it in eucharistic form through the Spirit whom he bestows anew on Jesus. The Spirit thereby manifests the infinite fruitfulness of the Son’s act of self-reception and, so, of being sent, that is the co-source of the Spirit himself, and does so at the precise point where he includes others in the particularity of Jesus’ mission through the Eucharist. This last point means that Christ gives the metaphysical analogia entis its ultimate—and original—form as the mutual revelation of God and the creature. Here the distance between divine and created being (a distance safeguarded by negative theology) receives a new signification; Christ ‘returns’ to the Father in utter poverty and isolation, stripped of all that we might want to consider a finite image of God’s perfection. In one sense, Christ can be said to leave everything behind. He is rejected by creation and abandoned by the Father. In a word, he is truly dead. And yet, the moment of extreme dereliction and distance is also the opening of a new possibility for the finite to be sheltered within Christ’s return. By exchanging places with sinful creation Christ has chosen to return to the Father with nothing less than the whole of creation and the whole of history. Not only does Christ bring the world back to God, but he invites us to share in his mission into the heart of the world. With ‘pneumatological eyes’ the Christian is called to find God in all things. Not only does the affirmation of God pass through the heart of the world, but it moves into those worldly situations that seem most irrelevant or even opposed to God. Sheltered within Christ, even the tragedies of suffering and death can be fruitful occasions for the hidden radiation of God’s life.
The Greeks, who found a place for Tragedy within their world view, were of this mind, as was Virgil in his Georgics. But above all it is Christians who are required to adopt this perspective. And they are to do so on the basis of the special word of God in Jesus Christ, which lays down that the preferred place for the manifestation of God’s love and thus his emergent glory is precisely those areas of darkness which seem to fall out of every aesthetic contemplation. Areas of darkness which are

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otherwise excluded from any aesthetic view of the world (and thus prove the limitations of these views), or which lead the observer to look with stony gaze at nature and being, themselves hard as stone, and which now become precisely the critical touchstones of love and glory. . . . The Christians of today, living in a night which is deeper than that of the later Middle Ages, are given the task of performing the act of affirming being, unperturbed by the darkness and distortion, in a way that is vicarious and representative for all humanity.155
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GL v. 648.

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Within the Divine Life
The supernatural does not consist uniquely in a vision or an intuition, no matter how theoretical and comprehensive of being one may suppose it to be. It consists especially in an unheard of relationship of love, in a divinizing adoption that in some way reverses, without otherwise annulling, the metaphysical order, the necessary relation of the Creator to the creature, in order to introduce this slavish creature into the intimate life of the Trinity, as a son. One could infinitely desire fully to see the infinite without ever desiring, without ever suspecting this ‘excess,’ this ‘folly,’ which is of another order than that of intellection. And besides we are only able indeed to see and possess God speculatively in beatitude if, through the mediation of the incarnate Word who calls us heirs (Mt. 28: 10), we participate in his hypostatic union in the bosom of the Father. maurice blondel

The Christian tradition has developed a number of images to express the final or ultimate fulfilment of creation in God. Writing to the Corinthians, Paul concludes his great discourse on the ‘love which never ends’ with a promise that although ‘we now see in a mirror dimly’, we can hope one day to see God ‘face to face’ (1 Cor. 13: 8, 12). In the Synoptic Gospels, the central image for eternal life is undoubtedly the ‘kingdom of God’ (basileia tou theou) or the ‘kingdom of heaven’ (basileia ton ouranon). The Second Letter ¯ ¯ of Peter speaks of a ‘precious and very great promise, that through [knowledge of Christ] you may . . . become partakers of the divine nature’ (2 Pet. 1: 4). Of particular importance for the Greek Fathers (and the German mystical tradition) is the Johannine theme of ‘birth from God’ ( John 1: 13; 3: 3–15; 1 John 3: 9; 4: 7).1 Finally, the Apocalypse of John offers a kaleidoscope of images including ‘a new heaven and a new earth’ (21: 1), a new Jerusalem
1 ¨ See Hugo Rahner, ‘Die Gottgeburt: Die Lehre der Kirchenvater von der Geburt ¨ Christi aus dem Herzen der Kirche und der Glaubigen’, in Symbol der Kirche (Salzburg: Otto Muller, 1964), 11–87. ¨

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descending from heaven, a river and a tree of life, and a heavenly liturgy celebrating ‘the marriage of the Lamb’ (20: 7). In the third and concluding part of The Final Act, ‘The World in God’, from which I will be drawing the fundamental intuitions of this chapter, Balthasar makes use of all of the images mentioned above to convey something of the fullness of eternal life in God.2 In approaching this text, the first thing to note is that Balthasar’s use of a variety of images and shifting perspectives is neither eclecticism nor an attempt to give a ‘balanced historical survey’ of the concept of eternal life, but follows strictly from the fragmentary and analogical nature of our knowledge of the eschaton. Hence his opening statement: ‘A theologia viatorum may not attempt to give a complete account of the theologia comprehensorum. For the most part, if it attempts to do so, it gets stuck in unproductive abstractions or in empty, embarrassing enthusiasms.’3 I have chosen in the present chapter to examine, in light of Balthasar’s eschatology, the ancient theologoumenon that the ultimate end of creation is ‘theosis’ or ‘deification’. Although Balthasar accepts this theologoumenon, he insists that the nature of deification can be approached only by means of diverse images and analogies drawn from the created realm.4 In particular, BalThis text is subdivided into four chapters: (i) ‘Embedded in God’, (ii) ‘Reciprocity’, (iii) ‘In the Triune Life’, (iv) ‘If You comprehend It, It is not God’. It will not be possible within the limits of this chapter to consider all of the authors and themes which Balthasar touches on. There is, for example, a lengthy discussion of the theme of deification in the writings of Meister Eckhart and the school of mystics that followed (Tauler, Suso, Ruysbroeck). There is a consideration of the relation between the creature and the ‘divine ideas’ in the writings of John Scotus Eriugena and the Latin scholastics. There is a discussion of the body–soul relationship in its relevance for the communio sanctorum in heaven. Key texts from Irenaeus, Origen, Gregory of Nyssa, and John of the Cross are commented upon to help unfold the trinitarian shape of deification. Finally, as elsewhere in The Final Act, the preponderance of citations are taken from the scriptural commentaries and theological writings of Adrienne von Speyr. 3 TD v. 373. In the previous chapter, I commented on a similar note of caution that is sounded in the preface to The Final Act: ‘Anything we say, by way of a conclusion, regarding the ‘‘last act’’ of the play that involves earth and heaven is nothing more than an astonished stammering as we circle around this mystery on the basis of particular luminous words and suggestions of Holy Scripture’, TD v. 13. The title Balthasar gave to a book which develops principles for a theology of history, Das Ganze im Fragment (The Whole in the Fragment; ETTheological Anthropology), provides a concise expression for his entire approach to the eschaton. The creature’s being-taken-into God (unity or the whole) is never accessible except in its parts, i.e. in images from creation. 4 ¨ In The Final Act, Balthasar seems to prefer the term ‘Einbergung’ to ‘Vergottlichung’. A reason for this preference can be found in a footnote in TD iii. 229 n. 68: ‘ ‘‘Divinization’’ [Vergottlichung] (in Christ and through a participation in him) can never express the whole ¨
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thasar is sensitive to the need to understand deification in a way consonant with the analogy of being concentrated in Christ as a trinitarian person. The question that forms the horizon of this chapter is thus the following: ‘How is it possible for creation to be taken into or embedded within the divine life in such a way that it attains perfection without losing its creaturely nature?’5 Accordingly, the main issue to be considered is the relation between unity and difference in deification. Any explanation of creaturely deification, whether this is expressed in terms of a ‘vision of the divine essence’ (Aquinas), or ‘mystical union with God’s energies’ (Palamas), or ‘being born into the eternal birth of the Son from the Father’ (Balthasar), requires some determination, not only of the nature of the creature and the nature and perfection of God, but of the nature or form of the final relationship between God and creature. On the one hand, the language of ‘deification’ or ‘reciprocal indwelling’ (1 John 4: 12–15) implies a deeper and more profound union than juxtaposition. On the other hand, the relationship cannot be characterized by an identity in the sense of an immediate unity that is inimical to otherness, for then it will ultimately entail a reduction of both the gift offered to the creature and the transcendence of God. Embedded within the issue of unity and difference in deification is the more complex problem of how the bodily and temporal existence, not only of the human being, but of all of creation, can be included within the divine life. In one sense, the fact of temporality and embodiment seems to be precisely that which distinguishes the creature from God, who is an eternal Spirit. Yet, if we were to rest content with this formulation, then man’s final union with God would be perfected precisely to the extent that he shed his temporal and embodied existence. From a Christian perspective, this form of union with the absolute comes at too high a price. A salvation that does not ultimately include and embrace man’s temporal and bodily existence is an impoverished
relationship between divine and created being. Even the fact that we are ‘‘born of God’’ ( John 1: 13) and thus (especially according to Eckhart) are drawn into the Son’s ‘‘coming forth’’ from the Father, cannot alter the truth that we are creatures and not the eternal Logos.’
5 TD v. 394 [trans. altered]. The phrase ‘taken into or embedded’ is an attempt to translate the difficult German word Einbergung. In his commentary on the Theo-Drama, Aidan Nichols, No Bloodless Myth: A Guide through Balthasar’s Dramatics (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 2000), 224, translates this important term as ‘sheltering ingathering’.

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salvation.6 Or, as Balthasar claims, ‘a redeemer who does not justify the creator has not truly redeemed anything.’7 In the preceding chapter I developed the thesis that the hypostatic union of Christ’s human and divine natures is accomplished within the Son’s mission. This mission reaches its apex in the lifegiving death of the Son—a death in which the Son ‘returns’ to the Father and is distributed eucharistically into the world. This double movement is impossible without the Holy Spirit, who, in a special way, actualizes the universalization of the Son’s saving mission in its eucharistic form. We thus approach the concrete claim of this chapter: The key to resolving the thorny problem of the unity and difference of God and the world in deification lies in the eucharistic fulfilment of Christ’s mission in the Spirit—a fulfilment which indicates not only a perfect simultaneity of unity and difference between God and the creature, but within that, the centrality of communion with the whole of creation as intrinsic to the core meaning of the eschaton. The implication is that an adequate account of deification does not consist only in the theological use of certain pregnant images such as ‘birth from God’, ‘the simultaneity of identity and difference’, or ‘reciprocal indwelling’. Rather, within the mission of Christ, the whole of creation and history, both as a whole and in all of its particular forms, itself becomes an image of the eternal triune life. My aim in the first part of this chapter is to introduce the problematic of unity and difference in deification by engaging the debate provoked by the alternative accounts offered by Thomas Aquinas and Gregory Palamas on the nature of the visio Dei. In the second part, I will first show how Balthasar sheds new light on this issue by situating the traditional idea of ‘vision’ within a broader horizon of communion between persons. Finally, I will consider how this understanding of communion is grounded in the eucharistic mission of Christ as universalized by the Holy Spirit. This will allow me to complete an account of Christ’s ‘return’ to the Father as the sacramentally realized—that is, eucharistic—
6 Already in the early Church, the hope for the ‘resurrection of the flesh’ marked the decisive difference between Christian and gnostic accounts of human salvation. ‘Those who lay charge against the flesh’, writes Justin Martyr, ‘that it has come from the dust of the earth, and forces the soul into sin do not know the whole working of God’, De resurrectione, 8, cited in Gerhart Kretschmar, ‘Auferstehung des Fleisches’, in Leben Angesichts des Todes: Beitrage zum theologischen Problem des Todes (Tubingen: J. C. B. Mohr, 1968). ¨ ¨ 7 GL vii. 523.

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eschatological fulfilment and ground both of the analogia entis and of the difference-in-unity between God and creation that it entails. The Vision of God: Thomas Aquinas and Gregory Palamas Of the various images the New Testament uses to describe the definitive union between creatures and God, the idea of an immediate ‘vision of God’ has long held a privileged place in the Catholic theological tradition. The basis of this teaching is twofold: on the one hand, there is a series of passages in the New Testament which describe eternal life in terms of sight or vision (Matt. 5: 8; 1 Cor. 13: 12; 1 John 3: 2; Rev. 22: 4). On the other hand, there is the idea stemming from Plato that the highest capacity of a human being consists in intellectual knowledge understood by analogy to the sense of sight.8 In typical fashion, Thomas Aquinas synthesizes these two traditions in his teaching that ‘the ultimate beatitude of the person consists in the use of his or her highest function, which is the operation of his intellect; if we suppose that the created intellect could never see God, it would either never attain to beatitude, or its beatitude would consist in something else beside God; which is opposed to faith’. ‘For the ultimate perfection of the rational creature’, Thomas continues, ‘is to be found in that which is the principle of its being; since a thing is perfect so far as it attains to its principle. . . . Hence it must be absolutely granted that the blessed see the essence of God.’9 At least since the fourteenth century, the Greek tradition has highlighted an alternative series of texts in the Old and New Testaments which assert that no one can see God, ‘who . . . dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has ever seen or can see’
8 ‘Have you considered’, writes Plato, ‘how lavish the maker of our sense was in making the power to see and be seen? . . . I think [sight] the most sunlike of the senses’, The Republic, 507c, 508b. 9 Summa theol. ia, q. 12, a. 1. Elsewhere Thomas writes, ‘Everything tends to a divine likeness as its own end. Therefore a thing’s last end is that whereby it is most of all like unto God. Now the intellectual creature is especially likened to God in that it is intellectual: since this likeness belongs to it above other creatures, and includes all other likenesses. . . . And in understanding actually he is especially like God, in understanding God: because by understanding Himself God understands all other things, as we proved in the First Book. Therefore the last end of every intelligent substance is to understand God’, Contra gent. iii, ch. 25.

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(1 Tim. 6: 15–16; cf. Exod. 19: 21; 33: 20; Lev. 16: 2). The philosophical complement to these passages is the idea that God as he is in himself (‘essence’) is utterly unknowable to a finite mind. Consequently, God can be known only insofar as he actively manifests himself to creatures (‘energies’)—a manifestation that is not included in the divine essence as such, and therefore does not unveil God in such a way that we know him as he is in himself. ‘Illumination or divine and deifying grace’, Palamas writes, ‘is not the essence but the energy of God.’10 When, in a series of homilies in Paris in 1331, Pope John XXII developed the patristic idea that the souls of the faithful who have died must await the general resurrection before attaining beatitude, a sharp controversy ensued with accusations of heresy against the pontiff.11 In 1336, John XXII’s successor Benedict XII put an end to the controversy by declaring that
the souls of the faithful who died after receiving the holy baptism of Christ . . . have been, are and will be with Christ in heaven, in the heavenly kingdom and paradise . . . the divine essence immediately manifests itself to them, plainly, clearly and openly, and in this vision they enjoy the divine essence.12

Beginning less than ten years later, a series of Orthodox councils in Constantinople in 1341, 1351, and 1368, attempting to settle an inter-Orthodox theological dispute, affirmed the teaching set forth by Gregory Palamas that it is strictly impossible for a creature to see the essence of God. ‘We find ourselves’, comments Lossky, ‘confronted by two formulae neatly opposed, the first of which resolutely denies all possibility of knowing the essence of God, while the second explicitly insists on the fact that it is the actual essence of God which must be the object of beatific vision.’13 There are a variety of explanations to account for the difference between Gregory Palamas and Pope Benedict XII (behind whom stands Thomas Aquinas). Modern Orthodox theologians such as Lossky, Meyendorff, and Yannaras tend to view this issue as

10 Gregory Palamas, Physical and Theological Chapters 68–9, cited in Lossky, Vision of God, 127. 11 An account of the events surrounding John XXII’s preaching and the ensuing papal bull Benedictus Deus can be found in Decima Douie, ‘John XXII and the Beatific Vision’, Dominican Studies (1950): 154–74. 12 13 DS 1000. Lossky, Vision of God, 10

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symptomatic of a larger divide separating eastern and western approaches to the mystery of God. The West, it is claimed, is captivated by a false trust in philosophy, particularly Aristotelian logic, and has thus lost sight of the centrality of a mystical and ‘deifying’ union with God.14 From the side of the West, Gregory Palamas has been accused of ‘gross philosophical error’ and ‘innovation’ with respect to the patristic understanding of God’s incomprehensibility.15 It is claimed that Palamas’s position both undermines the simplicity of God and foreshortens the ultimate gift of beatitude—a vision of God himself. Although it is helpful to recognize the global set of issues implicated in this controversy on the beatific vision, my purpose in reviewing the debate is more narrow. I want to focus attention on the metaphysical issue of how the difference between created and uncreated being can be ‘bridged’ but not violated. Now, both Palamas and Aquinas agree that the scriptural promise of a ‘vision of God’ requires a true ontological union simultaneous with an abiding difference between the creature and God. For Thomas, to truly know something is to become like it.16 Both Thomas and Gregory also agree that the bridging springs from a purely gratuitous activity of God. However, a profound difficulty arises as soon as one attempts to ascertain the ontological status of this bridging. Is the grace that is the medium of our union with God created or uncreated? Defenders of Gregory Palamas see the teaching of Thomas Aquinas on ‘created grace’ and ‘created beatitude’ as compromising
14 Christos Yannaras, ‘Orthodoxy and the West’, Eastern Churches Review, 3 (1971): 286– 300, at 287, provides a clear example of this sweeping accusation: ‘[Thomas Aquinas’s] explanation of revealed truth through the power of the intellect, and the vigorous use of reason within the framework of revealed truth, emphatically set a boundary between man and God, between the syllogistic capacity of the subject and the incomprehensible reality of God. In the end the boundary is set between divine and human nature, a consequence which neglects the unity of the two natures in one person, that is to say, the possibility of personal participation in, and not merely logical ‘‘clarification’’ of, the divine truth concerning God. The analytic scholastic methodology represents, then, a deeper stance which is essentially anthropocentric.’ 15 ´ See Martin Jugie, ‘Gregoire Palamas’, in Dictionnaire de theologie catholique, vol. 11, pt. ´ 2, 1735–76. In ‘The Philosophical Structures of Palamism’, Eastern Churches Review, 9 (1977): 27–44, at 44, Rowan Williams charges that ‘Palamas’s distinction has no more than verbal parallels in earlier theology. He has hardened a somewhat ad hoc epistemological point into an ontological differentiation really present in God.’ 16 See Summa theol. ia, q. 12, a. 9, ad. 1. Following Dionysius, Thomas claims that the gift of the Holy Spirit brings about a ‘connaturality’ such that the wise man not only learns about God but ‘suffers’ God (patiens divina), cf. Summa theol. ii–iii, q. 45, a. 2.

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the core meaning of deification; namely, that the content of the gift is not something created, but God himself. In its bare essentials, the Orthodox argument parallels the soteriological argument used by the Fathers to establish the full divinity of the Son and the Holy Spirit: grace cannot render us divine if it itself is not divine, and it cannot be truly divine unless it is also uncreated. This reasoning is neatly expressed by Lossky:
In the West, there was no longer any place for the conception of the energies of the Trinity; nothing was admitted to exist, outside the divine essence, except created effects, acts of will analogous to the acts of creation. Western theologians must profess belief in the created character of the Glory of God and of sanctifying Grace and renounce the conception of deification or theosis.17

On the other side, defenders of Aquinas argue that by denying any validity to the mediating role of created grace, Palamas falsifies the key incarnational, and hence Christian axiom that God operates on a nature according to the modality or condition of the nature.18 Furthermore, to avoid pantheism, Palamas is forced to introduce a new distinction into the very being of God. As a result, the ultimate gift of deification—what Thomas calls the ‘medium’ and ‘object’ of the beatific vision—ceases to be God himself, but is foreshortened to a vision of the energy of God. A recent study by A. N. Williams, The Ground of Union: Deification in Aquinas and Palamas, has brought new life to the discussion by challenging the conventional view of the irreconcilability of the Greek and Latin teachings.19 After an introductory chapter that
17 Lossky, ‘The Procession of the Holy Spirit in the Orthodox Triadology’, Eastern Churches Quarterly, 7 (1947–8): 31–53, at 52. John Meyendorff, Byzantine Hesychasm: Historical, Theological and Social Problems (London: Variorum, 1974), 14, echoes this judgement: ‘There does not therefore exist [in Palamas’s thought] any reality comparable to the ‘‘created supernatural’’ of Latin thought. Such a reality would be for him a confusion of divine and human nature. . . . the hypostasis [of the one living in Christ] acquires the uncreated energies of God, which are hypostasized in it.’ 18 Three texts will serve to illustrate Thomas’s affirmation of this key axiom: ‘The Divine will extends not only to the doing of something by the thing which He moves, but also to its being done in a way which is fitting to the nature of that thing’, Summa theol. i–ii, q. 10, a. 4, ad. 1. ‘It is proper to an instrument, to be moved by the principal agent, yet diversely, according to the property of its nature’, Summa theol. iii, q. 18, a. 1, ad. 2. ‘As Dionysius says, ‘‘it belongs to Divine providence, not to destroy but to preserve the nature of things.’’ Wherefore God moves all things in accordance with their conditions’, Summa theol. i–iii, q. 10, a. 4. 19 A. N. Williams, The Ground of Union: Deification in Aquinas and Palamas (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999). Cf. Williams, ‘Deification in the Summa Theologiae: A Structural Interpretation of the Prima Pars’, The Thomist, 61 (1997): 219–55.

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details the history of the acrimonious charges levelled by representatives of each tradition, Williams devotes two chapters each to a textual analysis of the meaning of deification in the Summa Theologiae and the principal writings of Palamas. In a concluding chapter she seeks to establish a convergence or ‘substantial consonance’ both at the level of theological method and doctrinal content. One of the chief merits of Williams’s study is to focus attention on the inherent difficulty that accompanies any attempt to articulate an intelligible doctrine of deification:
it must simultaneously assert two near-contradictories or fall prey to one variety or another of theological error. It must claim God is both available to and engaged with humanity and that God remains transcendent, not entangled in the web of his own creation. . . . These notes, it seems, resist being sounded as a chord; in articulating them successively, the theologian, inevitably it seems, plays one more loudly than the other.20

Only when this difficultly has been grasped in its depth can the respective contributions as well as the differences between Thomas and Gregory be properly evaluated. If there is a weakness in Williams’s book, it is a weakness closely related to the work’s chief merit. Although clearly aware of the complex and ultimately mysterious issue of the ontological status of grace, she tends to gloss over the key issue of how a relation of difference-in-unity is ontologically mediated. She does not see, in other words, that the issue hinges on the analogy of being—and that this must be seen christologically in order to ‘resolve’ the issue. This leads her, on the one hand, to minimize the positive significance of Thomas’s account of grace as created, and, on the other hand, to deny that Palamas affirmed a ‘real distinction’ between God’s ousia and energies.21 In both cases

Id., Ground of Union, 173. Williams writes: ‘The weight of the opinion among Gregory’s commentators inclines to the view that he intends the distinction to be real: God ‘‘consists,’’ therefore, ` in essence, three hypostases, and energies. This is the view of Wendebourg, Ivanka, Journet and of course Jugie’, Ground of Union, 139. To this list of critics should be added the Orthodox theologians Lossky and Meyendorff. Despite this majority view, Williams herself clearly prefers the idea that the distinction is only nominal: ‘The distinction, taken nominally, furnishes the theologian with language that accounts for the data of divine self-communication while preserving the ontological divide that any orthodox Christian must acknowledge. Taken as real, on the other hand, the distinction not only raises questions regarding the development of doctrine but also creates systematic problems,
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Williams is faced with, in my opinion, unsurmountable exegetical difficulties.22 Notwithstanding this reservation, Williams’s analysis of the whole issue remains exemplary, and her attempt to establish a ‘substantial consonance’ between the Orthodox and Scholastic accounts of the visio dei closely resembles Balthasar’s proposal for a reconciliation of the two views.23 If Balthasar’s position is essentially in keeping with that of Thomas Aquinas, he does accommodate in new and surprising ways the chief concerns of the Orthodox tradition. Before presenting Balthasar’s contribution, we need to gain a better understanding of the respective positions of Aquinas and Palamas. Again, we are attempting to explain the apparently impossible fact of a true union between the creature and God. Both Thomas and Gregory accept as given that (1) the difference between God and the finite world established in the act of creation remains an abiding condition of the eschaton, and that (2) God desires to communicate himself to the creature. The gift bestowed in Christ is nothing less than the divinity itself. How is it possible for a creature truly to share in the divine life, to ‘participate’ in the divine nature, while remaining a creature? One of Thomas’s favourite similes for the relation between the finite mind and the essence of God is that, like a bat peering into the sun, so our intellect gazes upon the divine essence. The image conveys the paradox of God’s being perfectly knowable in himself and yet hidden to finite minds: ‘Since everything is knowable according as it is actual, God, who is pure act without any admixture of potentiality, is in himself supremely knowable. But what is supremely knowable in itself, may not be knowable to a

since it is unclear what the function of the energies would be prior to creation’, 144. Further on she writes: ‘We can take his doctrine as merely making explicit what is also implicit in Western theology only if the essence-energy distinction is nominal rather than real’, 148.
22 For example, in a short excursus in Ground of Union entitled ‘A Note on Created Grace’, Williams speaks of the ‘questionable validity of speaking of created grace in relation to the Summa Theologiae in the first place’, 87. Here she relies on an admittedly weak argument from absence: ‘The first indication of the oddity of applying such a category to the theology of the Summa is the sheer difficulty of finding uses of the term gratia creata at all. . . . Even the comprehensive Lexicon of St. Thomas Aquinas mentions created grace only in passing and furnishes no references to the Summa’, 87. In the face of Thomas’s clear and consistent position that, when considered as being in the soul, the lumen gloriae should be taken as created, Williams’s denial that Thomas holds this view—‘one might be tempted to conclude that Thomas views grace as created’ (88)—strikes us as misguided. 23 See TD v. 405–10.

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particular intellect, on account of the excess of the intelligible object above the intellect.’24 The imperfect knowledge we do have of God in this life is derived from sensory knowledge of his created effects. According to Thomas and Aristotle, knowledge of effects is always accompanied by a desire to know the cause. This desire is one reason for Thomas’s much disputed teaching that all intellectual creatures have a ‘natural desire’ to see the essence of God.25 In the third book of the Summa contra gentiles, for example, Thomas develops an extended argument to show that the natural desire for perfect knowledge or beatitude cannot find fulfilment in anything less than a vision of God’s essence. And yet, because the essence of God infinitely transcends the capacities of the human mind, the beatific vision can be attained only through the gift of grace:
It is beyond the limits of any created nature to see God’s substance: because it is proper to every created intellectual nature to understand according to the mode of its substance: whereas the divine substance cannot be understood thus, as we proved above. Therefore no created intellect can possibly attain to a vision of the divine substance except by the agency of God who surpasses all creatures.26

Now, for Thomas, knowledge occurs when an object or a similitude of the object informs the soul of the knower. ‘For vision is made actual’, he claims, ‘only when the thing seen is in a certain way in the seer.’27 However, because of the divide between created and uncreated being, it is not possible for the essence of God to be seen by any created likeness or similitude. God himself must be both the object and the medium of knowledge. Because the natural power of the created intellect is not sufficient for a vision
Summa theol. ia, q. 12, a. 1. The disproportion between human nature and its ‘supernatural’ finality led certain scholastic commentators to read back into the texts of Aquinas a foreign notion of ‘pure nature’. For the history of this misinterpretation, together with a critique of the pernicious theological and cultural consequences of a nature–grace dualism, see Henri de Lubac, The Mystery of the Supernatural, trans. Rosemary Sheed (London: Geoffrey Chapman, 1967); and Augustinianism and Modern Theology, trans. Lancelot Sheppard (London: Geoffrey Chapman, 1969). Balthasar identifies de Lubac’s contribution as the recovery of the view common to the Fathers and Thomas Aquinas, for whom nature is intrinsically ordered to an ultimate end that it can only attain with the help of grace. Aquinas puts the matter thus: ‘The nature that can attain perfect good, although it needs help from without in order to attain it, is of more noble condition than a nature which cannot attain perfect good, but attains some imperfect good, although it need no help from without in order to attain it’, Summa theol. i–ii, q. 5, a. 5, ad. 2. 27 26 Contra gent. iii, ch. 52. Summa theol. ia, q. 12, a. 2.
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of the divine essence, ‘it is necessary that some supernatural disposition should be added to the intellect in order that it may be raised up to such a great and sublime height.’28
Nothing can receive a higher form unless it be disposed thereto through its capacity being raised: because every act is in its proper power. Now the divine essence is a higher form than any created intellect. Wherefore in order that the divine essence become the intelligible species to a created intellect, which is requisite in order that the divine substance be seen, the created intellect needs to be raised for that purpose by some sublime disposition. . . . [T]he disposition whereby the created intellect is raised to the intellectual vision of the divine substance, is rightly called the lumen gloriae: not that it makes the object actually intelligible, as the light of the active intellect does; but because it makes the intellect able actually to understand.29

The lumen gloriae, which is neither the object nor the medium of the beatific vision, functions as the ‘bridge’ raising the finite mind beyond its natural capacities to attain a direct vision of God. This light of glory thus has two aspects. As noted earlier, the principle that God operates on each thing according to the mode of its nature is axiomatic for Thomas.30 Likewise, if deifying grace is really ‘in the soul’ of the finite knower then it must be present, in some sense, according to the mode of the knower. This corresponds to the profound logic of the Incarnation. Insofar as it is an adaptation of the human intellect to the divine mind that nonetheless respects the nature of the created intellect, the light of glory can be called a finite ‘entity’ in its own right—not as if it were a substance, but as the new condition of the finite substance that is the intellect. On the other hand—and this is the second aspect— the light of glory adapts the finite intellect to receive the divine essence as the intelligible species by which it knows God. ‘By this light’, Thomas argues, ‘the blessed are made deiform.’31 From this point of view, the light of glory has an infinite, supra-creaturely scope. Thomas hints at the distinction between these two aspects in his account of the sense in which the grace of Christ is and is not infinite:
first as a being, and in this way it must be a finite being, since it is in the soul of Christ as in a subject, and Christ’s soul is a creature having a finite capacity; hence the being of grace cannot be infinite, since it cannot
28 30 29 Summa theol. ia, q. 12, a. 5. Contra gent. iii, ch. 53. 31 See n. 18 above. Summa theol. ia, q. 12, a. 5.

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exceed its subject. Secondly, the grace of Christ can be termed infinite, since it has whatsoever can pertain to the nature of grace, and what pertains to the nature of grace is not bestowed on him in a fixed measure.32

Thomas was not unaware of the profound difficulties involved in the idea that it is a created light that ‘raises’ the intellect so as to receive a true vision of God’s essence. In the Summa Contra Gentiles he devotes an entire chapter (iii. 54) to various objections against the idea of a direct vision of God by means of the lumen gloriae. Of the six objections he raises, the two most relevant for our purposes concern first, the intrinsic incomprehensibility of God, and secondly, the character of the lumen gloriae as created. A concise version of the first argument is presented in the parallel text in question 12 of the prima pars of the Summa Theologiae, where Thomas cites texts from Chrysostom and Dionysius which seem to deny the possibility of any knowledge of God’s essence. Thomas interprets these authorities by distinguishing between knowledge of God’s essence and comprehension of God’s essence. This distinction provides a way of accounting for the abiding difference between created and uncreated being within a union of knowledge or vision. What is comprehended is perfectly known; that is, it is known as far as it can be known. To say that a creature could comprehend God would be equivalent to saying that a creature is God by essence. Thomas is careful to note, however, that the creature does not see only a part of God: ‘God is called incomprehensible not because anything of Him is not seen; but because He is not seen as perfectly as He is capable of being seen.’33 The creature sees the whole of God, but does not wholly see God—totus sed non totaliter. The key text runs as follows:
The word ‘wholly’ denotes a mode of the object; not that the whole object does not come under knowledge, but that the mode of the object is not the mode of the one who knows. Therefore he who sees God’s essence, sees in him that he exists infinitely, and is infinitely knowable; nevertheless, this infinite mode does not extend to enable the knower to know infinitely.34

If we return to the Contra Gentiles, the second objection that Thomas poses is the idea that, as created, the lumen gloriae is
32 34 33 Summa theol. iii, q. 7, a. 11. Summa theol. ia, q. 12, a. 7, ad. 2. Summa theol. ia, q. 12, a. 7, ad. 3; cf. In Sent. iv, d. 49, q. 2, a. 3, ad. 3.

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infinitely distant from God and therefore cannot bridge the gap between God and the finite intellect. Thomas’s answer to this objection, it seems to us, leaves certain key issues unresolved: ‘This light raises the created intellect to the vision of God, not on account of its affinity to the divine substance, but on account of the power which it receives from God to produce such an effect: although in its being it is infinitely distant from God.’35 This is the point at which an Orthodox interlocutor is likely to appeal to patristic arguments about the action and divinity of the Holy Spirit. Athanasius and Basil argue against the Macedonians that, as the agent and cause of deification, the Holy Spirit must be fully divine.36 By analogy, if the lumen gloriae effects or brings about the ‘deifying’ elevation of the human intellect it too must be fully divine.37 I turn now to outline briefly the alternative position of Gregory Palamas. Most expositors of Palamas’s theology begin with an account of the controversy that provided the occasion for his theological writings. In 1336 the Calabrian monk Barlaam sharply criticized
Contra gent. iii, ch. 54. ‘If by participation in the Spirit’, Athanasius reasons, ‘we are made ‘‘sharers of the divine nature’’, we would be mad to say that the Spirit has a created nature and not the nature of God. For it is on this account that those in whom he is are made divine. And if he makes men divine, it is not to be doubted that his nature is God’, The Letters of Saint Athanasius Concerning the Holy Spirit, trans. C. R. B. Shapland (New York: Philosophical Library, 1951), 126–7. 37 This brief summary leaves out Thomas’s rich teaching on uncreated grace as the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The reason why this teaching does not resolve the problematic of the ‘bridge’ between finite and infinite is that for Thomas the indwelling of the Holy Spirit does not effect or bring about the elevation of the creature, but is a consequence that presupposes the bestowal of created grace. An essay by Karl Rahner, ‘Some Implications of the Scholastic Concept of Uncreated Grace’, in Theological Investigations, i. God, Christ, Mary and Grace, trans. Cornelius Ernst (London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 1961), sheds considerable light on this issue by focusing on the order of causality between created and uncreated grace. He begins with a brief discussion of grace in the New Testament and the writings of the Fathers. ‘For St. Paul’, Rahner notes, ‘man’s inner sanctification is first and foremost a communication of the personal Spirit of God, that is to say, in scholastic terms, a donum increatum; and he sees every created grace, every way of being pneumatikos, as a consequence and a manifestation of the possession of this uncreated grace’, 322. In short, ‘the Fathers (especially the Greek Fathers) . . . see the created gifts of grace as a consequence of God’s substantial communication to justified men’, 322. For the scholastics, by contrast, this order is reversed: ‘However diverse they may be among themselves, it is true of all the scholastic theories that they see God’s indwelling and his conjunction with the justified man as based exclusively upon created grace . . . what we call uncreated grace (i.e. God as bestowing himself upon man) is a function of created grace’, 324. That having been said, it may be possible to resolve this apparent tension by distinguishing between different senses and orders of priority in the relation between created and uncreated grace.
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the prayer and ascetical practices of the Hesychast monks of Mount Athos.38 In particular, Barlaam objected to their claims to a direct experience of the divine presence. Barlaam entitled one his tracts Against the Messalians, thereby accusing the Hesychasts of pretending ‘to contemplate the essence of God with their physical eyes’.39 As a monk of Mount Athos, Palamas responded in a series of nine treatises composed from 1338 to 1341, now referred to as the Triads. In this work, he undertakes the dual task of defending the monks’s claim to an experiential knowledge of God and of warding off Barlaam’s accusation of ‘Messalianism’. Hence the key question: How can God be truly known by the saints and yet remain wholly transcendent to creation? In what manner does the infinite God make himself known to a finite mind? Palamas’s answer to this question is complex, combining aspects of the apophatic tradition of the Greek Fathers with a certain understanding of the hypostatic union. That being said, both defenders and critics of Palamas agree that the key to his account of deification is the distinction between the divine essence (ousia) and its uncreated energies (energeiai ). ‘Illumination and divine, divinizing grace’, he writes, ‘are not God’s essence, but his energy.’40 The essence of God is strictly unknowable and incommunicable, while the energies are the mode of God’s being as communicated to the creature: ‘God is one, the same being incomprehensible in substance but comprehensible for his creatures according to his divine energies, namely, his eternal will for us, his eternal providence for us, and his eternal wisdom concerning us.’41 The idea that creatures could directly ‘participate in the divine essence’ is for Palamas ‘the greatest absurdity’.42 Deification or theosis is only possible through knowledge of, and participation in, the uncreated energies. That which effects or accomplishes the creature’s union with God, whether this is called grace or energy, must itself infinitely transcend the capacities of the created nature. For Palamas, this is
See John Meyendorff, Byzantine Hesychasm. See John Meyendorff, ‘Introduction’, in Gregory Palamas, The Triads, trans. Nicholas Gendle (New York: Paulist, 1983), 20. 40 Gregory Palamas, Physical and Theological Chapters, 68–9, cited in Lossky, Vision of God, 127. 41 Gregory Palamas, The One Hundred and Fifty Chapters: A Critical Edition, Translation, and Study, ed. Robert E. Sinkewicz (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies, 1988), 81. 42 Gregory Palamas, The Triads, iii. 3.
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the same as saying it is divine or uncreated. Grace can only deify if it is divine itself. Although deifying grace or energy is not created it cannot simply be identified with the divine essence. Why? Because, if the essence of God cannot be known by the creature, but God nonetheless makes himself known, then his self-manifestation requires a principle that is divine, yet distinct from his essence. There is thus an ‘antinomic’, but not contradictory, distinction between essence and energy. ‘The distinction—a real distinction—’, Meyendorff argues, ‘between divine ‘‘essence’’ and divine ‘‘energy’’ is made unavoidable in the context of the doctrine of ‘‘deification’’, which implies a ‘‘participation’’ of created man in the uncreated life of God, whose essence remains transcendent and totally unparticipatable.’43 If the reason for the distinction between essence and energy is fairly straightforward, the nature or mode of the distinction is obscure.44 Both Lossky and Meyendorff argue that the distinction is real as opposed to nominal, even as both insist that such an ‘ineffable’ distinction in no way threatens the doctrine of God’s simplicity.45 Although a number of interlocutors criticize Palamas from the perspective of the divine simplicity, a sharper objection to his theology has been formulated by Dorothea Wendebourg, who perceives Palamas’s energy–essence distinction as undermining the soteriological significance of the doctrine of the Trinity.46 We can summarize Wendebourg’s argument as follows: Does God relate to the world through his divine energies or through the
43 John Meyendorff, Byzantine Theology: Historical Trends and Doctrinal Themes, 2nd edn. (New York: Fordham University Press, 1979), 186. Lossky, Vision of God, 127, argues in similar fashion: ‘the divine nature must be called at the same time incommunicable and, in a sense, communicable; we attain participation in the nature of God and yet he remains totally inaccessible. We must affirm both things at once and must preserve the antinomy as the criterion of piety.’ 44 Williams, Ground of Union, 138: ‘While the distinction has received considerable attention from Gregory’s commentators, this attention has not produced a complete consensus over whether the distinction is real or nominal.’ 45 See Lossky, Vision of God, 135: ‘the true meaning of this ineffable distinction [is to] distinguish another mode of the divine existence outside the essence of God, the mode of grace, in which God communicates Himself and manifests Himself. . . . [T]he distinction between essence and energy, far from being a separation or division of God into two parts, communicable and incommunicable, is an inevitable theological postulate if we wish to maintain the real and not just the metaphorical character of deification, without suppressing created being with the divine essence.’ 46 Dorothea Wendebourg, ‘From the Cappadocian Fathers to Gregory Palamas: The Defeat of Trinitarian Theology’, in Elizabeth Livingstone (ed.), Studia Patristica, 14, pt. 1 (Oxford: Pergamon Press, 1982).

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economic missions of the Son and Spirit? If the former, then how do we gain knowledge of the Trinity and how do we enter into real relationship with the divine Persons? If, on the other hand, the Father, Son, and Spirit are the divine energies, this would seem to imply that there is an unknown essence lying hidden behind the reality of the Trinity. For both Wendebourg and Balthasar, there is nothing behind the mystery of the Father, and the Father has given everything over to the incarnate Son: ‘He who has seen me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘‘Show us the Father’’?’ ( John 14: 9).47 The issue we are considering concerns the possibility of the finite creature ‘seeing’ the infinite God. The differing answers to this question proffered by Thomas Aquinas and Gregory Palamas have helped to indicate some of the inherent difficulties that accompany the notion of deification. We have seen that both authors want to affirm that what is communicated to the creature in the beatific vision is nothing less than God himself, even as God remains infinitely transcendent to the human mind. The substance of Augustine’s dictum remains incontrovertible for both authors: si comprehendis, non est Deus. We have also seen that for both Thomas and Gregory, in order to account for the simultaneity of unity and difference, a principle of mediation is required that does not simply reduce to either of the two terms that are united. The immediacy of the visio dei must nevertheless be mediated.48 For Thomas, this mediating bridge is the created lumen gloriae, an infused light which raises the intellect above its nature to render it capable of a direct vision of the divine essence. For Palamas, this bridge is the uncreated energy of God which allows the creature to participate in divinity even as the essence of God remains strictly unknowable. Although Thomas tends to view the mediating bridge as created (when considered as an effected change in the soul), while Palamas views the mediating bridge as uncreated, both agree that mediation is essential to do justice to the divine gift promised to creation. Without some form of mediation, a relation between two terms will necessarily be unacceptably monistic (the difference between God and the
Cf. TL iii. 116–19. Thomas points to this same paradox when he describes the lumen gloriae ‘not as a medium in which God is seen, but as one by which He is seen; and such a medium does not take away the immediate vision of God’, Summa theol. ia, q. 12, a. 5, ad. 2.
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creature collapsing into a flat identity) and/or dualistic (the difference between them falling into a mere juxtaposition that rules out any real union). How does Balthasar conceive this mediating principle or bridge which establishes a union while allowing for an abiding distance? At this point, we must content ourselves with a preliminary answer and then indicate the direction the rest of the chapter will pursue in grounding and fleshing out Balthasar’s position. A word of caution should be noted at the outset; Balthasar does not purport to ‘solve’ the problem of deification. Instead, he seeks to shift the terms of the discussion toward a more concrete consideration of the christological and trinitarian form of deifying grace. By anchoring the meaning of deification more securely within the figure of Christ, Balthasar opens a new horizon that allows the tensions of identity and difference, knowledge and mystery, and created and uncreated being to be held together in a unity that avoids dialectical opposition. Of course, this christological concentration presupposes and reveals a complementary philosophical deepening of our notions of identity, difference, knowledge, and the like. Balthasar claims that the medium or bridge that accomplishes the deification of the creature is both fully divine and fully human. It should be noted that Balthasar says something more than the idea that the being of the lumen gloriae is created but its power is uncreated. Balthasar holds that the being of grace is both created and uncreated.49 Does this entail the claim that the ontological principle of mediation is somehow outside of the analogy of being? No. The mediating ‘bridge’ is better conceived as the ultimate form of analogy itself. Here we return to the thesis developed in the previous chapter on Christ’s role as the concrete analogia entis. Christological mediation is essentially the structure and fruit of a nuptial communion and thus a relation of the greatest possible intimacy simultaneous with the otherness (and temporality) required for genuine freedom and reciprocal self-disclosure. This simultaneity of identity and difference is possible only on the basis of a mediating principle that is essentially the
49 ‘We should recall that, in speaking of God, we are not restricted to personal categories, particularly if they are played off against ontic categories; the dimension of the personal is itself ontic . . . that is, the grace of God offered to us, can and must be expressed equally as an offer of love and an offer of being on God’s part’, TD ii. 314–15.

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fruit of a (asymmetrically) human and divine gift of reciprocal selfcommunication, thus allowing the creature and God to be genuinely immanent to one another without collapsing the difference. We can better understand this mystery by considering the consequences of its denial. If the medium were only divine (uncreated energy), it would be difficult to conceive how the human being could communicate with God at all (while remaining, that is, a human being). The language of grace would be simply foreign and unknown. It could not be recognized by a human being, and, more significantly, it would not enable the person to give himself or herself within that medium as a gift to God. Thomas’s principle that ‘the divine will extends not only to the doing of something by the thing which he moves, but also to its being done in a way which is fitting to the nature of that thing’ is deeply rooted in an understanding of the Incarnation as the condescension of God.50 It is also a principle that suggests that the full integrity of human nature—an integrity which is perfected in grace—requires that a person be able to express himself or herself as a creature. On the other hand, if the medium were only created (created grace) it would cease to be the self-communication of God. The language of grace would cease to be God’s gift of Himself. It would contradict the fact that ‘the faith and experience of the Church since the beginning [is] that the gift of the Holy Spirit which is given to believers is the gift of God himself ’.51 As a true communion, the mediating bridge must allow for the full integrity of created nature and the transcendence of God within their genuine union. Now, it is commonplace to deal with the problem of mediation in the present context by arguing that grace can effect a union between two irreducibly distinct terms precisely because it is no thing; that is, it is not a substance existing separately from God or the creature. There is an obvious sense in which this answer is true and has to be true, but it carries potential misunderstandings. The difficulties come to light when we consider the nature of mediation in terms of reciprocal selfcommunication. It is of the essence of communication that one’s substantial being is involved in the exchange. A true desire to know the other would never rest content with mere appearance, but seeks to know the heart of the other. Reciprocally, a gift that left out one’s substance would, to that extent, cease to be a true
50

Summa theol. i–ii, q. 10, a. 4, ad. 1.

51

¨ Schonborn, God’s Human Face, 26.

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gift. Of course, I do not mean to deny that mediation is nonsubstantial; there can be no substance that is neither God nor a creature. I only wish to draw attention to the fact that mediation bears within it the whole substantial depths of being. There is no substance ‘behind’ the gift of self-communication. I spoke in Chapter 2 about esse non-subsistens as a ‘pure mediation’ that enables a union-within-difference and a differencewithin-union between God and the creature. I proceeded to elaborate a christological deepening of the analogia entis, according to which Christ appears as the analogy of being in person. At this juncture, I turn to an examination of the mediating ‘bridge’, the consummated eschatological form of the analogy of being. Now, I alluded at the end of Chapter 3 to the connection between Eucharist and Holy Spirit; the apex of Christ’s concrete analogicity as a trinitarian event. It follows that mediation in this context is best conceived as the unity of the Holy Spirit and the eucharistic flesh of Christ.52 As the fruit and structure of communion, mediation is essentially a matter of the depths of being; what is best and most intimate in the Trinity (the ‘fruit’ of the reciprocal love between Father and Son) is spiritually incarnated and given to the creature, and what is best and most intimate in the creature (the life and body of Jesus bearing the whole of creation within itself ) is incarnationally spiritualized and given to God. The Holy Spirit and the Eucharist, as the concrete gift of the totality of Christ’s human and divine life, provide the medium and form of the relation of deification. Taken in their unity, the Holy Spirit and the Eucharist represent both a divine self-communication to mankind and a human self-communication to God. Grace is essentially the life and body of Jesus Christ assumed by the Son and universalized by the Holy Spirit. The remainder of this chapter will seek to explain and ground this understanding of the created and uncreated ‘bridge’ that affects creaturely deification. I will proceed, as noted, in two phases, each of which will underscore a distinct element in Balthasar’s position relative to the debate between disciples of Thomas and Palamas. First, Balthasar proposes to shift the terms of the question away from the relatively abstract idea of a vision
52 ‘There can be nothing of the Spirit in the Church that does not also coincide with Christ’s reality, christologically, that does not let itself be translated into the language of the Eucharist’, Balthasar, ‘Spirit and Institution’, 237–8.

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of the divine essence.53 Eternal life is essentially a communion of persons, and the paradoxes of unity and difference, and knowledge and mystery, are best engaged at the level of personal communion. In particular, the notion, so dear to the Orthodox tradition, of God’s abiding incomprehensibility in the eschaton will become clearer in light of the structure of what we can call ‘personal knowing’.54 The second element concerns the christological and pneumatological form of grace. Accordingly, after a reflection on knowledge as communion I will explore Balthasar’s understanding of the Eucharist as a ‘life-giving exchange’. Both of these elements converge in the thesis that the divine life is a trinitarian communion that is revealed and opened to the world in the life-giving death and Resurrection of Jesus, an event that brings the whole of creation into the depths of the trinitarian life. ‘Freedom, Vision, and Creation’ In The Final Act, Balthasar engages the controversy between Palamas and Aquinas under the heading ‘Freedom, Vision, and Creation’. The linking together of these three words already suggests a somewhat different approach to the question of deification from that taken by either of the medieval authors.
‘In the abstract contemplation of essence (essential energies, visio essentiae), this interplay of vision and nonvision [knowledge and mystery] does not emerge with due clarity; only when God’s trinitarian reality is revealed as event do we see that the two aspects can be reconciled’, TD v. 408. A related observation is made by Karl Rahner in The Trinity, 13: ‘In the famous constitution of Benedict XII on the beatific vision there is no mention of the Trinity at all. We hear only of the ‘‘divine essence’’, and to this essence there is attributed the most intimate personal function of showing itself. Can this be explained totally by the immediate context alone?’ In an article on the ‘Beatific Vision’ in Sacramentum Mundi, ed. Karl Rahner (London: Burns & Oates, 1975), 152, Rahner makes the following recommendation: ‘We must also consider that if this perfect fulfillment of man consists of God’s gracious self-communication, then from the start the very concept of such a fulfillment cannot leave out of account the fact that this God is necessarily the Trinitarian God, that the Trinity of the economy of redemption is the immanent Trinity, that this is confirmed by the whole christological and pneumatological structure of redemptive history, the perfect fulfillment of which is the beatific vision. The doctrine of the beatific vision must, therefore, from the start make its Trinitarian aspect clear.’ 54 It bears emphasizing that the kind of knowledge that obtains between human beings is relevant for the structure of knowledge as such. There is no created object that does not exhibit traces of interiority and freedom. Thus, what we call ‘personal knowing’ is analogously true of any form of knowledge.
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According to Balthasar, our understanding of the meaning of the beatific vision must be guided by interpersonal communion as the definitive form or structure of the relationship between God and creature. Correspondingly, all of the elements that contribute to the perfection of true communion—elements such as selfsurrender, creativity, receptivity, mystery, and even surprise— must be constitutive aspects of the ‘beatific vision’. How does the idea of a communion of persons qualify the way in which beatific knowledge is brought to perfection? On a number of occasions Balthasar expresses reservations about interpreting the gift of eternal life solely or even principally in terms of ‘vision’ or ‘seeing’. ‘Eternal blessedness’, he argues, ‘can by no means consist of a mere visio, but must involve genuine, creative activity.’55 Elsewhere he claims that
for spiritual creatures, eternal life in God cannot consist merely in ‘beholding’ God. In the first place, God is not an object but a Life that is going on eternally and yet ever new. Secondly, the creature is meant ultimately to live, not over against God, but in him. Finally, Scripture promises us even in this life a participation—albeit hidden under the veil of faith—in the internal life of God: we are to be born in and of God, and we are to possess his Holy Spirit.56

Accordingly, in the chapter entitled ‘Freedom, Vision, and Creation’, Balthasar introduces the theme of communion by first posing a new question: how will creaturely freedom be perfected in and through its union with God? This question presupposes both that freedom is part of the innermost perfection of created being, and that it receives its final fulfilment in eternal life. Now, ever since Augustine, the Catholic tradition has understood the perfection of freedom to lie beyond the ability to choose between good and evil: ‘The first freedom was concerned with the ability to avoid sin; the last freedom will be far greater: not to sin at all . . . not to be able to forsake the good.’57 Thomas Aquinas presents a similar idea that through the gift of beatitude created freedom is ‘confirmed in the good’.58 Balthasar agrees, but adds a qualification. ‘However,’ he remarks, ‘as to what the blessed can do with this perfect freedom, we learn little either from Augustine’s theology, with its ideal of ‘‘rest’’, or from the Scholastic
55 57 58 56 TD v. 486. TD v. 425. Augustine, Enchiridion 105 (PL 40. 281), cited in TD v. 402. See De ver., q. 24, aa. 7–9.

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theology, with its ideal of vision.’59 This implicit criticism is immediately followed by a reflection on the role of freedom and creativity in a relation between human persons:
Let us begin with the creature. The earthly experience it has on the basis of its freedom teaches it that what is most precious is not so much its decision in favor of the good (even if this may have been immensely difficult and meritorious) as its creative activity. (And by creative activity we do not mean merely making some form out of matter but also presenting and surrendering oneself to another free person.) Even the concept ‘eternal life’ implies an indispensable creative element; it cannot be reduced to a spectacle in which we endlessly enjoy the vision of the Divinity. . . . This also implies something fundamental to our argument, namely, that creaturely freedom is a mystery inseparable from the dignity of the person; it must be preserved in eternal life. That most precious gift that is brought forth from the depths of my self-disclosure and offered to others, and is actually produced by me and out of me, cannot be known in advance, cannot be totally grasped by anyone. . . . However we try to portray the unimaginable eternal life in the communion of saints, one element of it is constant: we shall be filled with astonished joy, constantly being given new and unexpected gifts through the creative freedom of others; and we for our part shall delight to invent other, new gifts and bestow them in return. And, the fact that I cannot penetrate another person’s freedom from the outside or from above does not mean that I cannot know or trust him.60

This paragraph contains three elements that are fundamental for our reflection. First, in a relation between persons, true knowledge of the other is possible only when the other freely reveals himself or herself. In the act of self-disclosure, a person reveals or ‘expresses’ something of his or her interior being.61 It is of the
TD v. 402. TD v. 402–4. My interpretation of this text from Balthasar relies on D. C. Schindler’s account of ‘appearance and hiddenness’ in The Dramatic Structure of Truth. 61 For a concise articulation of this point, see Michael Waldstein, ‘Expression and Knowledge of Other Persons’, Aletheia, 2 (1981): 125–9, at 125–6: ‘The word ‘‘expression’’ suggests the ‘‘pressing’’ of some reality from ‘‘inside’’ to the ‘‘outside’’. . . . The spatial metaphor on which this suggestion turns is very apt. For on the one hand, I do not have the capacity to intuit immediately the emotions of other persons. This sphere of being does not lie on the surface of a man, so to speak, but ‘‘inside’’. On the other hand, that which does lie on the ‘‘surface’’, namely the sensible appearance, is able to make manifest and accessible to intuition what lies ‘‘inside’’ or ‘‘behind’’ it. . . . Yet, even though expression carries some inner content into outward accessibility, it is not like a box which opens to let some object which is concealed inside come out. In expression the inner content does become accessible, but only mediately so, accessible not apart from it, the sensible appearance.’
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essence of this hidden interior that it cannot be grasped from the ‘outside’, but only made manifest or revealed by a free act of the individual.62 This is why every ‘dis-closure’ of the self is an act of self-surrender involving vulnerability and the risk of being misunderstood. This leads immediately to the second point: the selfdisclosure of a person’s interior being must be freely received by another for the event of knowledge to occur. As with the selfdisclosure, the reception must be spontaneous and shaped by the freedom of the one who receives. This reciprocity of freedoms that informs every genuine act of self-communication ensures that ‘personal knowing’ is never static but is a stable form that is nevertheless charged with movement, creativity, and surprise. Thirdly, human experience suggests that a relation between persons can be perfected only if there is a possibility for ongoing communication. One can never ‘finish’ knowing another person; there is always something more to receive and learn from the other.63 If the core of a person is his or her uniqueness or incommunicability, then the other will not be truly known unless he or she is known as a unique and incommunicable being; that is, known as a mystery. For this to occur, what is ‘incommunicable’ must somehow be ‘communicated’ to another.64 The hidden depths of a person must be revealed . . . as hidden. One attempt to resolve the difficulty that this entails is to say that part of the person is incommunicable (perhaps his or her ‘substantial being’) and part of the
62 The attempt to know someone simply from the ‘outside’ will always miss or reduce what is deepest and most intimate in another. Thus, to apprehend truly the uniqueness or incommunicability that is inherent within each person, it does not suffice to define the human being in terms of genus and species. Romano Guardini, World and Person, trans. Stella Lange (Chicago: Henry Regnery, 1965), 113–14, develops this point by drawing a contrast between knowing ‘what’ a person is and knowing ‘who’ a particular person is: ‘Our previous discussion was based upon the question ‘‘What is this?’’ The answer was, ‘‘A structural being, based upon interiority, spiritually determined and creative.’’ But if our question is: ‘‘Who is this?’’ then the answer must be ‘‘I,’’ or if I am speaking of another, ‘‘He.’’ Only now do I touch upon the person.’ 63 In the Christian State of Life, Balthasar further elaborates this point: ‘If such a thought [that communication is finished] enters the love of two individuals, their love is already growing cold. The inner life of love is inconceivable without the rhythm of growth, of ever newness and spontaneity. Love can never give itself sufficiently, can never exhaust its ingenuity in preparing new joys for the beloved . . . is never so familiar with the person of the beloved that it does not crave the wonderment of new knowledge’, CSL 28. 64 For a helpful discussion of the concept of ‘incommunicability’, see John F. Crosby, The Selfhood of the Human Person (Washington, DC: Catholic University of American Press, 1996), 41–81.

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person is communicated to another (accidents or appearance). This solution fails chiefly because what a person intends to express or reveal in a genuine act of communication is precisely his or her substantial being. When a person talks, he does not want the other to attend to the physical sounds issuing from his mouth, but to himself. Likewise, one who truly desires to know another person is never satisfied to remain at the level of appearances but seeks to know the being of the other. This is not to deny the necessity of a distinction between being and appearance. For it is precisely a precondition for genuine communication that the other have a substantial being to express, a self which does not simply reduce to appearance. By the same token, only if a substantial being is somehow more than, and transcendent of, its expression can it be known as other in its being apprehended. ‘The other person’, writes Balthasar, ‘can ‘‘spill out his whole heart’’ to me, but only by remaining who he is and not becoming who I am.’65 The crucial point is conveyed by the language of the ‘whole self ’. It is not the case that part of the self is communicated and part remains incommunicable. This would preclude the possibility of knowing another person as incommunicable. Just as the whole soul is present in all the parts of the body, so the whole being of the person is present in every genuine act of self-communication. What is involved in a genuine act of communication is precisely the whole or the depths of being. We can shed additional light on this paradox by considering the love between friends or spouses as providing an ideal instance of communication between human persons. Here it is clear that a person does not remain a mystery to the extent that he or she holds something back in the gift of self-communication.66 Rather, the more perfect and total the self-gift, the more the other appears as, and can be truly known as, a mystery. In other words, knowledge is not opposed to mystery, but the two aspects mutually condition and deepen one another. ‘All human relationships’, Balthasar observes, ‘are characterized by elements of selfrevelation within a context of mystery. This is what makes them
Epilog, 42. ‘There really is’, Balthasar claims, ‘something he genuinely imparts to me—not in the quantitative sense: that he would be giving a half of himself to me while keeping the other half himself, but rather in the qualitative sense: that he must preserve himself as the giver in order to impart himself to me at all. . . . ‘‘Preserving’’ here does not mean holding back but rather making possible the act of self-giving’, Epilog, 42.
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valuable and thrilling. . . . Communicating the incommunicable: this paradox is nowhere more evident than here.’67 The theological tradition has always, of course, reserved some sense of the mystery of God even in the ultimate knowledge of beatitude.68 This is the basis of Thomas Aquinas’s argument that God’s essence will be seen by the blessed but not comprehended; and this is the reason why Gregory Palamas proposes a distinction between God’s unknowable essence and his participated energies. What distinguishes Balthasar from these traditional approaches is his insistence on seeing mystery (and hence wonder and surprise) as part of the very perfection and fulfilment of knowledge itself. That is, he refuses to equate knowledge with other-excluding identity and mystery with identity-opposing difference.69 To make sense of this claim we need to keep in view the idea of Aquinas that ‘every kind of knowledge comes about by the knower being assimilated to the object known’.70 Thus, however it may further be specified, at some level knowledge involves a relation of unity between a subject and an object (adaequatio intellectus et rei ). The sense in which the object remains other than the subject precisely in its union with the subject is what Balthasar means by mystery. Mystery is not that part of the object that is ‘outside’ or ‘behind’ the self-communication that results in knowledge, but rather what is most intimate—precisely as shared. If a relationship between persons is reduced either to identity without difference (the other as simply ‘communicated’) or difference without identity (the other as simply ‘incommunicable’), then there can be no true knowledge of the other. If we transpose this
67 Balthasar, Truth is Symphonic: Aspects of Christian Pluralism (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1987), 31. 68 Balthasar often returns to Gregory of Nyssa’s claim that the ultimate ‘resting’ of the creature in God is simultaneous with ongoing desire and eternal newness. Nyssa points to the ‘great paradox’ of an eternal life which simultaneously brings to fulfilment rest (finding God) and motion (continually seeking God) in De Vita Moysis (PG 44. 465AC), cited in TD v. 397: ‘Since your longing impels you toward what is beyond you, and since no satiety hinders your course . . . understand that there is in me so much space that the one hastening through it will never be able to halt his flight. Nonetheless this headlong motion, seen from a different angle, is also rest.’ An exposition of this theme can be found in Balthasar’s 1942 study of the religious philosophy of Gregory of Nyssa, Presence and Thought: An Essay on the Religious Philosophy of Gregory of Nyssa, trans. Mark Sebanc (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1995), 154–61. 69 The idea of an intrinsic relation between knowledge and mystery is perhaps the central insight of Balthasar’s principal work of philosophy, Wahrheit der Welt (1947), republished as the first volume of Theologik. 70 Summa theol. ia, q. 12, a. 9, ad. 1.

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issue into the context of the beatific vision, it is clear that knowledge of God’s being can only occur where the ‘wholly other’ God communicates himself to a finite subject in such a way that the subject not only knows God, but knows him as a transcendent other. In other words, God’s transcendence, his being ‘more than the finite subject’ must be made immanent to the subject. Balthasar will say that God becomes precisely more mysterious in the event of his self-revelation to a finite subject. With regard to beatitude, then, the relevant point is that mystery and wonder are not imperfect stages to be superseded by knowledge, but remain essential and constitutive aspects of the fulfilment of knowledge in the vision of God. In this sense, there will be no end to our knowing and being known by God. There will always be more for God to disclose to us. Now, if we take seriously what was said about the eschaton as reciprocal revelation and glorification, the converse must also be true: there also must be always more for us to disclose to God. The first claim is, of course, less controversial than the second. Already with Irenaeus we encounter the insight that ‘even in the kingdom that is to come, God will always have something to teach, and man will always have something to learn of him’.71 But how is it possible for the creature to reveal himself to God? Can God be surprised by the self-communication of the creature? This question is a variation of the same issue that was broached in Chapter 2: Can God be said to receive from his creatures? There I claimed that insofar as the perfections of the actus essendi are revealed in a communion of love, receptivity is intrinsic to the fullness of act. Of course, the way in which God ‘receives’, and thus the way in which God can be ‘surprised’ by the self-disclosure of the creature, is infinitely different than the receptivity and wonder that characterize creaturely being and knowing. Nevertheless, if the creature is truly invited into a communion with God, then there must be something analogous to ongoing reciprocal self-disclosure and reciprocal wonder before the mystery of the other’s freedom. Again, this ongoing communication does not entail an imperfection in the sense that there is a part of the creature that God does not fully know. It is precisely as fully known by God that the creature is able to ‘surprise’ God in the ongoing event of selfdisclosure. This claim follows strictly from the idea of an intrinsic
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Irenaeus, Adversus haereses, ii. 28. 3, cited in TD v. 408.

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relation between knowledge and mystery as developed above. I stated that if knowledge represents a form of union between a subject and an object, then mystery is the abiding ‘otherness’ of the object precisely within the consummated union. This paradox of a growing otherness coincident with an ever deeper union is what Balthasar means by communion.72 Now, we have seen that for both Aquinas and Palamas the incomprehensibility of God in the beatific vision is grounded in the infinite distance separating created and uncreated being. Balthasar’s understanding of beatitude as communion complements and deepens this approach by situating the ultimate ground of God’s incomprehensibility in the divine freedom. The significance of this insight becomes clear when we consider that both Gregory and Thomas (albeit in different ways) are led by the logic of their position to posit an inverse relationship between knowledge and mystery. For Palamas, the aspect of God that is ‘known’ or ‘participated in’ ceases to be ultimately mysterious. This is why the essence of God must remain strictly unknowable. The obvious question for Palamas is whether we know the energies of God as truly mysterious. If we do, why is it necessary to posit an essence that is outside of this relation of knowledge? If, on the other hand, the energies are not truly and ultimately mysterious, then how do we know that God himself is an infinite mystery?—for, according to Palamas what we know of God is his energy. As distinct from Palamas, Thomas is able to affirm that the whole of God is known and yet known as a mystery. ‘The word ‘‘wholly’’ ’, Thomas writes, ‘denotes a mode of the object; not that the whole object does not come under knowledge, but that the mode of the object is not the mode of the one who knows. Therefore he who sees God’s essence, sees in him that he exists infinitely, and is infinitely knowable; nevertheless, this infinite mode does not extend to enable the knower to know infinitely.’73 And yet, for Thomas the character of God as mystery is, in the final analysis, not a ‘positive’ aspect of his being but a consequence
72 Schindler, Heart of the World, 18–19, describes the essential features of communion as follows: ‘the distinctness (relative opposition) and the union of the partners are not inversely but directly related. The deeper and truer the union, the more the partners grow in the distinct integrity proper to each. But what is decisive is that this integrity is understood as always—and ever more deeply—inside and not outside of union.’ 73 Summa theol. ia, q. 12, a. 7, ad. 3.

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of the limitation of the human intellect. An object that is perfectly known ceases to be a mystery. Even in Thomas, then, there is a subtle juxtaposition or dialectic between knowledge and mystery. In an ideal instance of knowing, mystery is the place where knowledge stops rather than an ultimate structural feature of knowledge itself. According to Balthasar, neither of these positions can adequately explain the mystery of what we have called ‘personal knowing’. As an event of reciprocal self-communication, the more the other is known, the more mysterious he or she appears. In an ideal instance, the other is known perfectly . . . as an infinite mystery. Although the roots of this insight are philosophical, its full implications come to light when we consider the mode of our knowing God’s self-communication in Christ. Balthasar often introduces this theme with a simple question—a question that highlights the paradox of the visio dei: Does God become less mysterious when he unveils his inner life in the figure of Christ? In an important text from Theo-Drama, vol. ii, Balthasar moves from a philosophical consideration of ‘personal knowing’ to the structure of the unique knowledge that is proper to revelation:
Everything that arises from one freedom remains a mystery for other freedoms because no adequate reason can be found for it but its own freedom. The archetype is seen in the way infinite freedom surrenders itself: it can allow us a glimpse of its own profound abysses, but, in doing so, the more it reveals itself as freedom, the more evident its mysterious nature becomes. That is why it is possible to speak of the ‘mysteries of Christianity’: although it proclaims certain things in the most definite manner, they remain, when disclosed, even more beyond our grasp. The God of natural theology, distanced from all worldly being by the major dissimilitudo of his act of being, is primarily negatively incomprehensible; he slips through all the mind’s instrumental categories that try to pin him down with their ‘what?’ and ‘how?’ However when God, whom no man has ever seen, is ‘interpreted’ ( John 1: 18) by his Son in human words and deeds, we find that the negative incomprehensibility turns into a positive one. For it is far more incomprehensible that the Eternal God, in his freedom, should set forth to come to us, caring for us by means of his Incarnation, Cross and Eucharist and opening up to us his own realm of freedom so that, in it, we can attain the fulfillment of our own freedom. Now everything becomes mystery.74

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So far in this chapter, we have seen that the visio dei is best understood in terms of a communion of persons. Eternal life in God is not a nunc stans but an ‘ever-new’ exchange between persons, and thus a relationship involving movement, selfsurrender, reciprocal indwelling, and ongoing surprise. I have not, however, addressed the most characteristic and original aspect of Balthasar’s understanding of ‘the end’, namely, his thesis that creation is taken into the divine life by means of sharing in the one hypostatic union of Christ. To draw out the richness of God’s ‘positive incomprehensibility’ we need to make thematic the trinitarian form of communion as revealed in the mysteries of ‘Incarnation, Cross, and Eucharist’. My aim in what follows, then, is to show how the central image of eternal life as communion is grounded in the life, death, and Resurrection of the incarnate Son. The sacrament of the Eucharist, as the life, death, and Resurrection of the incarnate Son in the form of an abiding gift to the creature, is the mediating bridge of the God–creature union—a bridge that not only responds to the problematic of Palamas and Aquinas, but completes our discussion of Christ as the eschatological fulfilment and grounding of the analogy of being in the reciprocal glorification of God and the creature. The Eucharist as a Life-Giving Exchange We can begin our discussion by noting that the very terms of the question as posed in the beginning of our treatment of Aquinas and Palamas—‘How can a finite intellect have access to the infinite being of God?’—tend toward a certain limitation and abstraction. For the most part, scholastic and neo-scholastic debates about the beatific vision turned on an account of how an individual human intellect abstracted from history and the material cosmos can possess a vision of the divine essence. Here the gap between finite and infinite is already bridged to some extent insofar as the human intellect is the principal locus of the imago dei within the created order. According to Aristotle, the human soul ‘is in a certain sense all things’,75 capable, even, of contemplating the divinity.76 This forms the basis of Thomas’s teaching
Aristotle, De Anima, iii. 8, 431b. In a remarkable text at the conclusion of the Ethics (x. 6, 1177b), Aristotle describes the god-like character of the human intellect as follows: ‘[T]he activity of intellect, which is
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that ‘the beatific vision and knowledge are to some extent above the nature of the rational soul, inasmuch as it cannot reach it of its own strength; but in another way it is in accordance with its nature, inasmuch as it is capable of it by nature, having been made to the likeness of God’.77 I do not mean to suggest that the scholastic conception of the beatific vision entailed a denial of the resurrection of the flesh. Thomas specifically teaches the contrary: ‘since it is natural to the soul to be united to the body, it is not possible for the perfection of the soul to exclude its natural perfection.’78 It remains, however, an open question whether this insight was adequately integrated into the scholastic description of the structure of the beatific vision. Of course, Thomas is correct to claim that the doctrine of the imago dei is prerequisite for beatific knowledge. He is also correct to situate the imago dei principally within the soul. The question I seek to pursue concerns the manner in which the whole of worldly reality—matter, time, motion, etc.—is included as a constitutive part of the imago dei. The ambiguity in Thomas, an ambiguity that was explored in Chapter 2 in terms of the ‘negative’ character of separatio and the starting point of metaphysics, is reflected in his claim that ‘the more a soul is abstracted from corporeal things, the more it is capable of receiving abstract intelligible things. . . . It is not possible, therefore, that the soul in this mortal life should be raised up to the supreme of intelligible objects, that is, to the divine essence.’79 The question we need to consider now thus concerns the ‘deification’ of the whole human being, soul and body. I approach this question in the light of two presuppositions. First, our focus in what follows is less the anthropological problem of how the human body is included within the beatific vision than a discernment about the final destiny of creation as a whole. Following Maximus the Confessor, Balthasar sees human nature as summing up and recapitulating all of the sub-human forms of creation.80 Thus,
contemplative, seems both to be superior in worth and to aim at no end beyond itself . . . it follows that this will be the complete happiness of man, if it be allowed a complete term of life. . . . But such a life would be too high for man; for it is not in so far as he is man that he will live so, but in so far as something divine is present in him.’
78 Summa theol. iii, q. 9, a. 2, ad. 3. Summa theol. i–ii, q. 4, a. 6. Summa theol. ia, q. 12, a. 11. 80 ‘[T]he cosmos perfects itself in man, who at the same time sums up the world and surpasses it. Thus our philosophy will be essentially a meta-anthropology’, MW 114. 79 77

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while it is only in and through the human being that the rest of creation can be taken into the divine life, the idea of recapitulation requires a non-reductive account of this inclusion. The question, then, is how can creation as a whole, including the whole of history and the whole material cosmos, be taken into the divine life? Secondly, it is important to see that this question does not concern only the future of creation, but its present as well. The issue, in other words, is the sacramental, indeed, eucharistic anticipation of the glorification of the cosmos. Balthasar’s answer to this question rests on an understanding of the eucharistic consummation of the Son’s Incarnation as a reciprocal revelation of trinitarian and creaturely being. In the event of the Incarnation, existence in history and embodiment are not opposed to the Son’s perfect relation to the Father, but are the very medium which allows the incarnate Son to express both God’s divine love and the perfect human response to this love. At the consummation of the Son’s mission, his resurrected human nature is not abandoned but fully taken into the divine life.81 This leads back to the difficult question of the ‘concrete universality’ of the Son’s mission. The New Testament clearly teaches that all things were created in Christ and for Christ (Col. 1: 15–20; 1 Cor. 8: 6; John 1: 3; Heb. 1: 2). But how is it possible for the Son to be truly incarnate as a particular man within a limited period of history, and at the same time provide the inner norm for all of history and all of created being? If the ‘universalization’ of the Son is accomplished only by leaving behind or abstracting from his temporal existence and the particular flesh that he assumed, then we again return to a false ideal of deification outside of history and separated from the body. But how can the flesh and time of a single human being be ‘universalized’ so as to include all of humanity and ultimately the whole of creation?

81 In his essay ‘The Eternal Significance of the Humanity of Jesus for our Relationship with God’, Karl Rahner argues for the eschatological significance of the doctrine of the Ascension as follows: ‘Jesus, the man, not merely was at one time of decisive importance for our salvation, i.e. for the real finding of the absolute God, by his historical and now past acts of the Cross, etc., but—as the one who became man and has remained a creature—he is now and for all eternity the permanent openness of our finite being to the living God of infinite, eternal life. . . . One always sees the Father only through Jesus. Just as immediately as this, for the directness of the vision of God is not a denial of the mediatorship of Christ as man’, in Theological Investigations, iii. The Theology of the Spiritual Life, trans. Karl H. and Boniface Kruger (London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 1967), 44.

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In Chapter 3 of this book, I developed Balthasar’s understanding of Christ’s human life as a mediation of the trinitarian life. I shall briefly summarize the conclusions of this chapter before turning to consider the Eucharist as the ultimate form of deification. (i) The central point of reference for the life and mission of the Son is the Father. Christ’s mission, which is a prolongation and expression of his eternal procession, involves reconciling the world to the Father. According to the Gospel of John, the gift of eternal life consists in knowledge of the Father and knowledge of the Son whom the Father has sent into world: ‘This is eternal life, that they know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent’ ( John 17: 3). (ii) The way in which the Son ‘makes known’ the mystery of the Father is in and through the assumption of a human nature. Thus it is precisely the human words and human deeds of Christ that mediate and express the reciprocal love of Father and Son, and within that, the reciprocal love between God and the world. The whole of Christ’s existence, including especially his death and Resurrection, provides a moving image and interpretation of the eternal trinitarian love, together with the interpretation of God’s original plan for creation. (iii) The Holy Spirit is the ‘interpreter’ of Christ. Already present as mediating and establishing the hypostatic union, at the consummation of the Son’s mission the Holy Spirit is sent by the Father ( John 14: 26) and the Son ( John 15: 26) in order to reveal the full depths of what has been accomplished in Christ. Thus, on the one hand, as the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit does not issue a new revelation, but rather makes known the full truth of Christ’s words and deeds ( John 16: 14). On the other hand, it is necessary that Christ depart in order for this truth to be fully revealed: ‘it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Counsellor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you’ ( John 16: 7). Only in the Son’s ‘return’ to the Father can his concrete existence be distributed and universalized. Taken together, these three aspects of the mission of the Son provide a pattern for understanding how the rest of creation already has and will be taken into or ‘included’ within Christ. In anticipation of the argument that will follow, I can formulate a preliminary thesis: the realm of creation is taken into the mission of Christ (and thus deified) to the extent that it shares in his

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mission of mediating the trinitarian love of Father, Son, and Spirit by realizing its original purpose in being created. This is what Balthasar means when he says, at the end of the Theo-Drama, that ‘the world acquires an inward share in the divine exchange of life; as a result the world is able to take the divine things it has received from God, together with the gift of being created, and return them to God as a divine gift.’82 It remains for us to explore this claim in light of the Eucharist as the ultimate form of the Son’s mission, and as the true form of worldly reality. The mystery of the Eucharist is at once the innermost sanctuary of the Church’s liturgical life and the true form of existence for the Christian’s being in the world. While the attempt to show the central relevance of the Eucharist for Balthasar’s eschatology will highlight the latter, I presuppose throughout the normative significance of the former. In fact, our account depends on a distinction-within-unity between the unique liturgical action of a consecrated minister of the Church and the worldly realm of play, work, and human relations. If the mystery of the Eucharist is able to disclose the ultimate, indeed eschatological, significance of the latter realm, it does so by allowing these realities their natural integrity in relation to God and thus in relation to the sacramental liturgy itself. Of course, this account hinges on the twofold claim that (1) the Eucharist is not merely a matter of churchly life and piety, and (2) the natural integrity of creation is destined for, and fulfilled in, a eucharistic communion with God. The Orthodox theologian Alexander Schmemann has articulated just such an understanding of the Eucharist. A text from his book For the Life of the World will help to introduce Balthasar’s distinctive proposal concerning the fully eschatological implications of the Eucharist. Schmemann writes:
We need water and oil, bread and wine in order to be in communion with God and to know Him. Yet conversely—and such is the teaching, if not of our modern theological manuals, at least of the liturgy itself—it is this communion with God by means of ‘matter’ that reveals the true meaning of ‘matter’, i.e. of the world itself. We can only worship in time, yet it is worship that ultimately not only reveals the meaning of time, but truly ‘renews’ time itself. There is no worship without the participation of the body, without words and silence, light and darkness, movement and stillness—yet it is in and through worship that all these essential
82

TD v. 521.

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expressions of man in his relation to the world are given their ultimate ‘term’ of reference, revealed in their highest and deepest meaning. Thus the term ‘sacramental’ means that for the world to be means of worship and means of grace is not accidental, but the revelation of its meaning, the restoration of its essence, the fulfillment of its destiny. It is the ‘natural sacramentality’ of the world that finds expression in worship and makes the latter the essential Š o of man, the foundation and the spring of his life and activities as man. Being the epiphany of God, worship is thus the epiphany of the world; being knowledge of God, it is the ultimate fulfillment of all human knowledge.83

There are three features to Schmemann’s argument that warrant further consideration. First, we should notice his twofold claim that the eucharistic liturgy ‘renews’—we could even say transforms—matter and time, and yet precisely in this renewal the liturgy discloses the original meaning and purpose of matter and time. To use a language more familiar to the Catholic theological tradition, the orders of nature and grace remain essentially distinct precisely within the one single ‘supernatural’ end of the cosmos, an end to which nature is already ordered in its original constitution. Secondly, by using the terms ‘matter’ and ‘time’, Schmemann intends to denote the absolutely universal scope of the liturgy. There is no matter and no time, i.e. no aspect of the ‘world’, that is not destined for the renewal that occurs in the liturgy. All of the activities of man, and indeed all the activities of the created world itself, find their true meaning and home in the event of the liturgy. Thirdly, and this brings us directly into contact with Balthasar’s theology of the Eucharist, what Schmemann calls ‘renewal’ through ‘communion with God’ is not a penultimate event, but is already the eschaton itself. Although, for us, it remains hidden under veils, there can be nothing beyond the communion with God that is actualized in the liturgy. Schmemann writes: ‘It is only because the Church’s leitourgia is always cosmic, i.e. assumes into Christ all creation, and is always historical, i.e. assumes into Christ all time, that it can therefore also be eschatological, i.e. make us true participants of the Kingdom to come.’84 The image that allows us to affirm a proper sense of the worldly implications of the Eucharist together with its eschatological depth
83 Alexander Schmemann, For the Life of the World (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1988), 121. 84 Ibid. 123.

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is a spiritual and bodily ‘life-giving exchange’. For Balthasar, the Eucharist is just that—the event whereby Christ offers the whole of his spiritual and bodily life by taking into himself the whole of our existence; and the event whereby we offer the whole of our existence by taking the whole of him into ourselves. I consider in turn each side of this reciprocal exchange, remembering throughout, however, the fundamental unity of the Eucharist as a single event. From the first moment of the Incarnation, Christ’s life is a ‘thanksgiving’—in Greek eucharistia—directed to the Father. Both his hidden life in Nazareth as well as his public ministry are characterized by an obedience to the will of the Father that is willing to go to the extreme lengths of allowing the substance of his life to be distributed for the salvation of the world. The key insight that Balthasar takes over from Odo Casel is that because the whole life of Christ is eucharistic, the gift of the Eucharist includes the temporal history of the incarnate Son:
Christ, in surrendering his sacrificed flesh and shed blood for his disciples, was communicating, not merely the material side of his bodily substance, but the saving events wrought by it. . . . The fundamental presupposition is that the person of Jesus is really present; but along with the person comes his entire temporal history and, in particular, its climax in cross and Resurrection.85

To understand how the temporal history of an individual can be communicated in a bodily gift, I appeal to the image developed in the previous section of a total self-surrender that occurs in an exchange of marital vows, an exchange that is mediated by ‘bodily’ words. Christ’s mission is truly consummated at the hour of his death and Resurrection, but it is consummated in the form of a promise or a vow. This insight allowed us to affirm that everything that happens in the future life of the Church is an unveiling of the hidden depths of what has already been given in the once-for-all self-surrender of Jesus. The newness of the Holy Spirit and his mission of guiding the Church into ‘all truth’ ( John 16: 13) and even ‘greater works’ ( John 14: 12) is simultaneously an unveiling of the true depths of Jesus’ self-surrender as a gift that comprehends the past, present, and future.

85

TD iv. 391–2.

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Insofar as Christ’s body is included as part of the form and content of the spousal gift, our interpretation of his death and Resurrection as a life-giving vow helps us to secure the abiding bodily form of the covenant that is established in Christ. The body together with the Spirit is the ‘gift’ and ‘fruit’ that is bestowed at the moment of the consummation of his mission, a moment that includes death and Resurrection. I will consider shortly the sense in which the resurrected body is the eucharistic body and vice-versa. At this point I can suggest that the nuptial gift of the Eucharist anticipates and actualizes the resurrection of the flesh that all of creation is longing for (Rom. 8: 19–23). This insight leads Balthasar to move from the bodily aspect of spousal union to the idea of an unimagined spiritual and bodily exchange that is realized in the Eucharist:
In the Christian world, the Eucharist of the pneumatological bodiliness of the Son takes the place that is indicated here for sex: together with Christ who is incarnate, crucified, buried and raised, we move—in hope proleptically, and definitively at the Resurrection—to the place of perfect sonship, incorporated in the great body of those who are redeemed. This is something more than an anonymous collectivity: it is the body of Christ, given out to all in love as nourishment for eternal life, which becomes the social body of the Church in this act of distribution. It is only when this eucharistic mediation guarantees the enduring bodiliness of the divine love between God and the world (according to the fundamental vision of Teilhard de Chardin) that the historical and sexual existence that includes birth and death can be taken up eschatologically and given a home in the absolute triune love.86

It would be a mistake, then, to view Christ’s Resurrection and Ascension into heaven as a dis-incarnation, just as it would be a mistake to consider the Eucharist as a substitute for the absence of Jesus’ physical and historical presence on earth. It is rather the case that, in the Holy Spirit, his bodily and temporal existence has become liquefied by means of his definitive gesture of self-surrender. Although death is a necessary part of what Balthasar calls the ‘liquefaction’ of Christ’s life, it is a death that is embraced within a more comprehensive life. He dies so that we may live, but without the Resurrection his death would cease to be gift, and our life would cease to be a life of communion with him. This simple idea lies at the heart of Balthasar’s theology, and it
86

GL vii. 406.

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helps us to avoid a reductive and ultimately nihilistic view of kenotic obedience. You can only give yourself totally and perfectly by remaining an abiding source of life and joy for the beloved. In other words, the death-to-self that constitutes a spousal covenant requires a more total self-surrender than the sterile death of selfabnegation. The New Testament approaches this mystery of a death that is embraced by a greater life from a plurality of perspectives. There is Paul’s unsurpassable expression: ‘I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me’ (Gal. 2: 20). The Resurrection accounts of Luke and John emphasize in a striking way how the physical wounds remain features of the Risen Lord: ‘Behold my hands and feet: touch and see that it is I myself: handle me, and see, for a spirit has not flesh and bone as you see that I have’ (Luke 24: 39); ‘Put you finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side’ ( John 19: 27). The Gospel of John also suggests a profound unity between death and life in terms of the unified event of Christ’s ‘coming and going’: ‘I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself ’ (14: 2–3); ‘I will not leave you desolate; I will come to you’ (14: 18); ‘I go away and I will come to you’ (14: 28); ‘I have come into the world . . . I am leaving the world and going to the Father’ (16: 28). While it is necessary that Christ depart in order for the Spirit to be given (16: 7), his departure (through the cross, Resurrection, and Ascension) is not a simple absence but coincides with the gift of the Spirit and the promise of his return in the Eucharist. The mystery is heightened when we see that the Eucharist is not merely the return of the resurrected Christ into the world, but also the mode of his (ongoing) return to the Father. The form of the Son’s return to the Father is a total-gift-of-himself to the world; and the form of the Son’s total-gift-of-himself to the Father is an abiding ‘return’ to the world in the Eucharist. He has given himself so totally and irrevocably that he has become a flowing spring, an ever-new source of eternal life. He has opened a space within his wounded body for the inclusion of others within his body and thus within his historical life. Balthasar writes:
the eucharistic gesture of Jesus’ self-distribution is a definitive, eschatological and thus irreversible gesture. The Word of God that has become

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flesh in order to be distributed has been definitively distributed by God and, once given, will never be revoked or retracted. Neither the Resurrection from the dead nor the Ascension into heaven as a ‘return to the Father’ ( John 16: 18) are the counter-movement to the Incarnation, Passion and Eucharist. . . . The ‘liquefaction’ of the earthly substance of Jesus into a eucharistic substance is irreversible. It does not continue only to the ‘end’ of world time—like some ‘means’—but is the radiant core of the cosmos. . . . Consequently, there is no fundamental difference between his heavenly and his eucharistic condition.87

I said earlier that there was more to the gift of the Eucharist than the totality of Jesus’ bodily and historical life; for Balthasar, the Eucharist is essentially a trinitarian gift. It is only at this level that we can justify the eschatological relevance of the Eucharist. Everything said in Chapter 3 about the mission unto death of the Son as interpretation of the Urkenosis of the Father allows us to see the Eucharist itself as an expression of the Son’s eternal gratitude to the original gift of the Father. This leads Balthasar to claim, as just mentioned, that there is no fundamental difference between the Son’s being as Eucharist and the Son’s eternal mode of being within the Godhead. What I have called a ‘lifegiving exchange’ presupposes and reveals the eternal ‘life-giving exchange’ of the Trinity. The Eucharist, writes Balthasar,
implies much more than that [Christ] merely stands before the Father as mediator in virtue of his acquired merits; likewise more than that he merely continues in an unbloody manner in heaven the ‘self-giving’ he accomplishes in a bloody manner on earth. It ultimately means that the Father’s act of self-giving by which, throughout all created space and time, he pours out the Son is the definitive revelation of the trinitarian act itself in which the ‘Persons’ are God’s ‘relations’, forms of absolute self-giving and loving fluidity. In the Eucharist the Creator has succeeded in making the finite creaturely structure so fluid—without fragmenting or violating it (‘No one takes my life from me’ John 10: 18) —that it is able to become the bearer of the triune life.88 [W]e can begin to see that beholding and inwardly participating in the Son in his eucharistic self-giving becomes a beholding and a participating in the life of the Trinity. For when the Son allows himself to be poured out, he directly reveals the love of the Father, who manifests himself in his Son’s eucharistia. We do not behold him as a ‘subject’
Balthasar, ‘Spirit and Institution’, 228–9. Balthasar, New Elucidations, trans. Mary Theresilde Skerry (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986), 118–19.
88 87

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distinct from the Son but as the unfathomable primal spring of love, revealing himself as such in generating the Son and giving him away for us. Now that the veils of earthly faith have fallen away, we begin to appreciate the ultimate meaning of Jesus’ saying, ‘He who has seen me has seen the Father’ ( John 14: 9). . . . The Spirit too, however, becomes directly evident in this same eucharistia of the incarnate Logos as he pours himself forth in the ‘mystical’ body of the world; just as he (the Spirit) implemented the Son’s Incarnation, he now remains the executive of the Son’s prodigal self-giving, not only on earth but in heaven too.89

Schmemann’s thesis that by ‘assum[ing] into Christ all creation’ the liturgy is truly ‘eschatological’ and ‘the ultimate fulfillment of all human knowledge’ receives a profound trinitarian confirmation from these texts of Balthasar. The Eucharist is eschatological because it is ‘a trinitarian gift: it is the Father who gives his Son’s Body for the world through the unitive mediation of the Spirit.’90 As a trinitarian gift, the Eucharist extends to the furthest reaches of space and time. There is no created reality into which the ‘liquefied’ reality of Christ does not enter. The sinful creature can never go so far from God that he or she is not undergirded by a deeper gift. I will return to both of these last two points. For now it is enough to note that the irrevocable vow of the cross, together with the bodily exchange that consummates the vow, is life-giving because it is the fruit and the expression of the eternal exchange of life that God is. I have not yet spoken directly of the other side of the reciprocal exchange, of our giving a gift to God. It should be noted that when we speak of the ‘other side’ of the life-giving exchange we do not step outside of the mystery of Christ, who is both God and man. Earlier I suggested that the event of the Eucharist opens a possibility for creation to be fulfilled in its ‘natural integrity’ in relation to God. In terms of Schmemann’s proposal, the liturgy actualizes the ‘renewal’ of all time and all matter through the disclosure of the true meaning and original purpose of time and matter. Presupposing Balthasar’s claim that the Eucharist is a trinitarian gift that originates with the Father, we can return to the idea that the original plan of creation is a gift from the Father to the Son in the Spirit. Our side of the life-giving exchange, then, is first to be a gift within the trinitarian exchange. Insofar as the form and content of this gift unfold within the mission of the Son, we receive
89

TD v. 384.

90

TD v. 477.

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the gift that we are by giving ourselves away for others. Now, the most fundamental gift that we bring to others is to receive them as the gift that they are—to receive them as a ‘new’ expression of the inexhaustible depths of the reciprocal love between Father, Son, and Spirit. In Christ, the world itself—precisely in its character as a non-divine world—is included within the divine gifts that the persons of the Trinity are for one another. What is finally at stake in the eucharistic and trinitarian exchange of life is the ultimate meaning of worldly reality. If the trinitarian life of God, laid bare and poured out in the Eucharist, does not reveal the original meaning of all of reality, including all of time and all of matter, then our supposed eschatological union with God will be empty of the world. Nothing created will have been truly redeemed. If, on the contrary, God’s light emerges from the heart of being, then our return to God will necessarily include the world. It is the unveiling of God in the eucharistic exchange— in the worldly realities of bread and wine—that allows all of creaturely being to unveil its final countenance as a gift from God, and as a gift for God. Two observations will help to clarify the nature and the extent of the creature’s participation in this ‘life-giving exchange’. The first concerns the sacramental and trinitarian depth of the doctrine of the communion of saints. Henri de Lubac has established that the original meaning of the term communio sanctorum is ‘communion in holy things’, particularly communion in the Eucharist.91 The Eucharist is the source and the form of the communion that is the Church and the proleptic communion between the Church and the world. Here we need only recall the essential feature of a life-giving exchange. Christ gives us all that is his and takes into himself all that is ours. Christ’s being is his mission to the world, a mission that extends to all time and all space. The fullest reception of the gift of the Eucharist, then, is the receiving of Christ’s being and hence his mission to the world. In the Eucharist we are taken into Christ’s missionary gift to the world. We can thus describe this exchange in terms of our becoming a ‘missionary gift’ for others; missionary because we are expropriated and called no longer to live for ourselves, but for others; gift because the source of life that we ‘bring’ to the other is not ourselves but the gift of divine life. In
91 Henri de Lubac, ‘Sanctorum Communio’, in Theological Fragments, trans. Rebecca Howell Balinski (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1989).

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other words, the gift that we bring is the reception of the divine self-communication in history by receiving the reality of the world as an ever-new expression of the trinitarian life and love. It is in this sense that we contribute to the ongoing reciprocal exchange between God and the world. Origen describes this mystery in straightforward terms:
Our Lord and Saviour says, ‘If you do not eat my flesh and drink my blood, you will not have life in you. For my flesh is food indeed and my blood is drink indeed.’ . . . For with the flesh and blood of his word he feeds and refreshes the whole human race, as with pure food and pure drink. In second place, after his flesh is the ‘pure food’ of Peter and Paul and all the apostles, and, in third place, their disciples. In the same way everyone can be ‘pure food’ for his neighbour.92

This leads to the second observation. What I began by calling ‘our’ contribution within the life-giving exchange must be deepened and broadened to avoid an anthropological reduction. It is not simply a human ‘we’ that is capable of giving something to God. The reality of the world itself, in all of its natural objects and natural rhythms of time, contributes to the life-giving exchange of the divine life. If we have been given a special task of recapitulating the whole, this task requires that we receive precisely the whole world as image of the divine life that is its source and destiny. Our participation in the sacramental life of the Church disposes us to look at the reality of the world with fresh eyes; ‘we are disposed’, writes Schindler, ‘to see love as constitutive of all of creation, as affecting intrinsically every fiber of every being in the cosmos.’ ‘But we must say more,’ Schindler continues, ‘this love that is constitutive of created being . . . has a definite historical shape. The triune God has utterly freely revealed his love in history: in Jesus of Nazareth, in the details of Jesus’ life.’93 Balthasar is aware, of course, of an obvious objection to this proposal: ‘Is such a supposition not contradicted a thousand times each day by the shrillness of all that is ugly, that is warped, that is hopelessly mediocre and vulgar?’94 The life-giving exchange of the Eucharist is a word and a food that disarms the heart and frees us to serve the whole, allowing us to say yes to the whole of reality, a whole that now discloses a secret beauty in which even ‘what is crude, what is explicitly ugly, what is painful to the point of meaninglessness, the
92 93

Origen, Homilies on Leviticus, 7. 5, cited in TD v. 382–3. 94 Schindler, Heart of the World, 316. GL iv. 20.

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experience of being handed over to what is vulgar and humiliating, can appear as embraced within a totality that can and must be accepted positively—without artificial sweetening, just as it is.’95 Conclusion: Eschatology as Consummation The earlier chapters of this study argued that the novelty of Balthasar’s eschatology lies in his understanding of the eschata as the divine (and human) enactment of an analogy of being that he reads in trinitarian terms. The present chapter has shown the concrete locus of this understanding. Balthasar, we have seen, centres his eschatology on the relationship between the Son and the Father in the Holy Spirit. The Son’s ‘return’ to the Father through the Paschal Mystery, which releases the salvific fruitfulness of the Holy Spirit for the world, is the ensheltering of the world, in its manifold difference-in-unity, within the difference-in-unity of the trinitarian archetype in whose image that world was first created. To conclude the discussion of this chapter, I would like to offer a synthesis of the foregoing discussion of Christ’s ‘return’ to the Father in terms of the relation between the Eucharist and the Holy Spirit. This will give me the opportunity to comment briefly on Balthasar’s controverted position regarding one of the eschata, namely, hell. I will suggest at the end of this chapter how Balthasar’s doctrine of universal hope takes shape within the relationship between Eucharist and Spirit as the concretissimum of his eschatology. In Chapter 3 I approached Jesus’ ‘return’ to the Father in terms of the relationship between the finite historicity of Jesus’ human existence and the ‘universalizing’ activity of the Holy Spirit—a relationship that goes to the heart of the inclusion of the world within the divine life and, therefore, of eschatology as the concretissimum of the trinitarian analogy of being. I presented the outlines of the problem in the following manner: If Jesus is the incarnate Son, then he must return to the Father as a human being; that is, within the limits of a bodily and temporal existence. His return to the Father cannot be something that is accomplished ‘after’ his historical death and Resurrection. On the other hand, it is precisely the mission of the Son to return to the Father with the whole
95

GL iv. 29.

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of creation. This means that his concrete historical existence has to bear a mission that includes all space and all time, not next to or after his historical life, but in that very life. If there were no Holy Spirit this would represent a contradiction. In explicating this assertion, two ideas must be avoided from the outset. It is not the case that the mission of the Holy Spirit supersedes the mission of the Son. As I have frequently recalled, as the Spirit of Christ, he does not issue a new revelation, but discloses the full truth of Jesus’ words and deeds. On the other hand, and this refers to the second point to be avoided, it is necessary that Christ depart in order for the gift of the Spirit to be given: ‘it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Counsellor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you’ ( John 16: 7). Thus, it is not the case that everything is accomplished by the Son in such a way that would render superfluous the mission of the Holy Spirit. In his final treatment of the theme of Christ’s ‘concrete universality’ in the third volume of the Theo-Logic, Balthasar poses an incisive question: If the incarnate Son was given an absolutely universal mission, why did he not bring it to completion himself ? Why does he leave it to the Holy Spirit to ‘lead us into all truth’ ( John 16: 13)?96 Obviously, Balthasar does not mean to deny the sense in which the Son does bring his mission to completion. The question, then, concerns the missionary collaboration of the Son and the Spirit: How do the ‘two hands of the Father’ work together in the consummation of the Son’s mission? I will attempt to articulate an answer to this question in various stages, but it is important not to lose sight of the unity between the several levels of the answer. 1. The Son’s mission needed to be consummated within the limits of a finite historical and bodily existence. Only thus could he bring to light the inner meaning of our finite existence. The patristic axiom, ‘that which has not been assumed cannot be restored’, is unsurpassable.97 This applies in a particular way to our death, which has to be endured from the inside. For this reason, the Son must die and send us his Spirit to continue his mission.
96 97

See TL iii. 180–8. Gregory of Nazianzus, Ep. 101. 7, cited in Christology of the Later Fathers, 218.

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2. The Son’s mission also involves an unveiling and handingover of the depths of God’s own life. The life of the Trinity is pure relatedness; existence as self-surrender, receiving, and reciprocal glorification. Although the whole existence of the Son communicates the inexhaustible fullness of the trinitarian exchange, it is especially his death and Resurrection that bring to light the ultimate meaning of God’s being love. That is why it is only in death that the Son can hand over the Spirit of the love between Father and Son to the world. Indeed, it is only when the Spirit has been poured into our hearts that we are able to interpret the moment of extreme distance between the Father and Son as the highest expression of their being absolutely one in love. For it is precisely at that moment that the Spirit, together with blood and water, is poured out and continues to be poured out. Again we see the necessity of the Son’s ‘departure’ for the Spirit to be able to lead us into the trinitarian realm of truth. 3. Despite the appearance of the Spirit coming ‘after’ the death of Christ, the Spirit was in fact present all along as coaccomplisher of the Son’s universal mission. The involvement of the Spirit is particularly evident in the event of the Incarnation itself, which was not actively brought about by the Son (unless we consider his obedience ‘active’) but accomplished through the working of the Holy Spirit. Because the Spirit was always already present in Jesus’ life, the trinitarian realm of truth into which the Spirit leads us—the realm of the infinite love between the Father and Son—is coextensive with the fleshly life of Jesus. This is symbolized by the unity of blood, water, and Spirit as the fruit of Christ’s life and death. What is decisive here is the idea that also for Jesus himself the universalization of his body and his life is not something foreign to him, but something he already allows as a gift and participates in through his relation to the Holy Spirit. Once (1), (2), and (3) are grasped in their inner unity, it is clear that the Son’s handing over of his mission to the Holy Spirit is the most perfect form of his truly completing his mission himself. In one sense, it appears as if after his death and Resurrection, the incarnate Son were no longer ‘actively’ searching for the rest of creation that has gone astray. For at the consummation of his mission he has done all that he can do, he has allowed himself to be utterly given away as Eucharist. At the same time, this givingover of his mission—a mission which is his very being—to the

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Spirit is the highest expression of his obedient love to the Father. It is also the hidden way that the Trinity has chosen to penetrate the fortress of those who think they have abandoned, and been abandoned by, God. It is, more precisely, the way the Son has chosen to exchange his life for ours and to return to the Father only at the very end, only when the very last of sinners has been safely carried home. Now, it is just here that the novelty of Balthasar’s entire approach to eschatology comes once more into view. By centring eschatology on the Son’s return to the Father through the Paschal Mystery, Balthasar effects a shift to what I called a theocentric eschatology. The distinguishing feature of this theocentric eschatology, I said, is that the traditional last things—death, judgement, hell, and heaven—are considered first as christological and trinitarian events. The novelty here, then, is that Balthasar, departing from conventional representations of the last things, does not regard death, judgement, hell, and heaven as realities whose character is already constituted ‘before’ Christ comes into contact with them, but as realities whose character is constituted precisely by Christ’s contact with them. Thus, to take the example of death, Balthasar claims that it is Christ’s death which determines the eschatological significance of every human death. More precisely, by dying the death of a sinner abandoned by the Father, Christ ‘undergirds’ and ultimately includes every other death within his person. Death, then, is not simply a neutral event that already is what it is independently of Christ’s death. Rather, death itself is a christological reality. Balthasar’s attention to the trinitarian theo-drama recasts eschatology, not only by rethinking the traditional doctrine of the ‘last things’, but also by opening up a new way of thinking about them. I will return briefly to this point at the very end of this concluding section. Before doing so, I would like to make a few observations about one issue that is directly pertinent to the Balthasarian re-centring of eschatology on the Son’s return to the Father—the issue, that is, of hell and universal salvation. This discussion of hell will have to stand for a fuller account of Balthasar’s specific contributions to the doctrine of the four last things, which, unfortunately, exceeds the scope of the present work. Everything said thus far in this chapter could be taken as a triumphalist undervaluing of the reality of sin and human

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freedom. After all, if Christ returns to the Father through a radical solidarity with the sinner—and precisely therein effects the ensheltering of the whole world within the divine life—can we seriously maintain that anyone is free to say No to God’s offer of salvation? Balthasar himself poses the question in stark terms:
Can divine freedom, even if it is the freedom of love, simply ‘overpower’ created freedom? On the other hand, if, as Irenaeus and the Fathers used to maintain, the divine freedom operates ‘by persuasion, not by force’, can it be sure of attaining its goals?98

It is a widespread belief that Balthasar’s own account of Christ’s substitutionary death (together with his descent into the Godforsakenness of hell) answers this question with a certainty that all of humanity will be saved by a kind of christocentric automatism. This belief is, in fact, a misinterpretation. This sort of misrepresentation seems to be one reason for the controversy surrounding Balthasar’s book, Dare We hope ‘that All Men be Saved’? 99 In responding to criticism of this aspect of Balthasar’s eschatology, it is necessary first to clarify his position. Having done that, I will suggest how the Eucharist provides the final measure for Christian hope. Balthasar’s understanding of hope for universal salvation may be briefly summarized as follows. On the one hand, the New Testament, as interpreted within the tradition of the Church, teaches both that God desires to save all of humanity and that the consequence of rejecting God’s offer is eternal damnation. As a gift of love, salvation must be freely accepted by the creature. It is of the innermost essence of his gift that God respects the
TD v. 55. At a press conference in Rome in 1984 on the occasion of his receiving the Paul VI Medal for service to the Church in theology Balthasar was sharply questioned about his views on hell. In response to misrepresentations carried in the newspapers, he published ¨ a short essay ‘Kleine Katechese uber die Holle’ in the Italian weekly Il Sabato, later ¨ reprinted in L’Osservatore Romano. In Germany this article soon became the object of an ¨ energetic attack by G. Herms (editor of the journal Fels), H. Schaf, J. Bokmann, and others. Balthasar responded by writing Was durfen wir hoffen? (Einsiedeln: Johannes Verlag, ¨ 1986), and then Kleiner Diskurs uber die Holle (Ostfildern: Schwabenverlag, 1987). He was ¨ ¨ clearly pained by the virulence of the attacks, in particular the attacks on Adrienne von Speyr. He describes the situation thus: ‘My little book Was durfen wir hoffen? was cut to pieces, ¨ almost interminably . . . before me lies a heap of angry letters, entreaties to return to the true Faith.’ Dare we hope ‘that All Men be Saved’?, trans. David Kipp and Lothar Krauth (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1988) includes an English translation of both Was durfen wir hoffen? ¨ and Kleiner Diskurs uber die Holle. ¨ ¨
99 98

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freedom of the creature to the very end. For this reason, Balthasar claims that
[b]rothers and sisters of Christ, created by the Father for Christ, who died for them in atonement, may fail to reach their final destination in God and may instead suffer eternal damnation with its everlasting pain—which, in fact, would frustrate God’s universal plan of salvation. If we take our faith seriously and respect the words of Scripture, we must resign ourselves to admitting such an ultimate possibility, our feelings of revulsion notwithstanding.100

On the other hand, Balthasar insists that we are called to hope that all will be saved. The justification for a hope which excludes no human being is the universal salvific will of God. In this respect, Balthasar shares a conviction common to many significant Catholic theologians who pioneered the renewal of the Second Vatican ´ Council such as Henri de Lubac, Jean Danielou, and Joseph Ratzinger. What sets Balthasar apart is his rich meditation on what he takes to be the concrete form of God’s universal saving will: The Son’s willingness to suffer the consequence of the totality of the world’s sin. The same God who reserves judgement for himself places himself in solidarity with the sinner to the point of death and God-forsakenness. Adrienne von Speyr’s theology of Holy Saturday is a decisive influence here:
On Good Friday the Son’s love renounces all sensible contact with the Father, so that he can experience in himself the sinner’s distance from God. (No one can be more abandoned by the Father than the Son, because no one knows him and depends on him as much as the Son.) But then, after Good Friday, comes the final, the most paradoxical and most mysterious stage of this loving obedience: the descent into hell. In Adrienne’s new experience and interpretation of hell, this means descent into that reality of sin which the Cross has separated from man and humanity, the thing God has eternally and finally cast out of the world, the thing in which God never, ever, can be. The Son has to go through this in order to return to the Father in the ultimate obedience of death.101

In the event of the Son’s being abandoned by the Father, the sinner’s ‘distance from God’ is assumed and embraced within the distance between Father and Son. Henceforth, judgement can only be understood in trinitarian terms. The Son’s journey
100

Balthasar, Dare We hope, 237.

101

OT 65.

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through the hell of God-forsakenness enables him ‘to present to the Father, in his own person, the sin of the world that has been taken away, at the same time presenting to him in his Body, his Bride, the living sinner now stripped of sin’.102 As an expression of trinitarian love, judgement itself can be salvific. Earlier in this chapter I described the Eucharist as a ‘life-giving exchange’. There are two aspects to this mystery that bear directly upon the question of universal salvation. First, in the reciprocal exchange whereby Christ communicates all that is his and assumes our existence into his person he thereby takes upon himself the full consequence of our sin. The Fourth Gospel hints at this exchange by having Jesus give a morsel of bread to Judas ( John 13: 26) immediately before the betrayal and subsequent crucifixion. Christ does not abandon those who abandon him, but accompanies them in their forsakenness. Thus, while the sinner remains free to reject God’s offer of love, God in Christ is free to accompany the sinner in his rejection and abandonment:
In other words, anyone who tries to choose complete forsakenness—in ` order to prove himself absolute vis-a-vis God—finds himself confronted by the figure of someone even ‘more absolutely’ forsaken than himself. We should consider, therefore, whether God is not free to encounter the sinner who rejects him in the powerless figure of the crucified Brother, forsaken by God, in such a way that the sinner realizes that ‘this man, like me forsaken by God, is forsaken for my sake’. There can be no question of coercion here; the man who has chosen (or thinks he has chosen) the complete isolation of self-sufficiency finds that God appears to him, in his very isolation, in the person of Someone who is even more isolated. ‘The poor man’, says Claudel in one of his poems, ‘has no friend to rely on, except one poorer than himself ’, and in the last line: ‘A poor man has at last found someone poorer; thus, in silence they look at one another.’103

In the mystery of the Eucharist, we see in Christ an infinite humility and a patience that is willing to wait for the very last of creatures to freely accept God’s offer of love. And it is this patient love that is the basis of our hope that ‘all may be saved’. But this hope is just that, a hope, and not a certainty. There is no position outside of the theo-drama from which we could survey its outcome in advance. The question of eternal damnation now becomes pressingly existential.
102

TD v. 314–15.

103

TD v. 312.

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This leads to the second point. Balthasar’s doctrine of hell is novel, not just for its content, but also for its method. Balthasar proposes a new way of thinking about hell. To think about hell, Balthasar is telling us, is not to contemplate the actual damnation of others from some detached perspective outside the theo-drama, but to be confronted, first hand, by the very real possibility of my own damnation. And not just by the possibility, for, when I look at Christ, solidary with sinners in their God-forsakenness, I see my own damnation, or rather, the damnation that I would suffer if Christ’s grace were withdrawn. But that is not all. To be saved by the grace of Christ is not to be removed from the theo-drama. In the gift of the Eucharist, Christ communicates his own life and mission, including his descent into hell. ‘God in Christ’, writes Balthasar, ‘went to the place of the loneliest sinner in order to communicate with him in dereliction by God. Christian community is established in the Eucharist, which presupposes the descent into hell (mine and yours).’104 Although he cannot claim to suffer even an infinitesimal portion of Christ’s abandonment, the Christian is nonetheless one who, in the following of Christ, forgets his own salvation in order to be disponible, in flesh and blood, for God’s universal saving will. What Balthasar means by ‘universal hope’ is not a dissipation of the reality of hell, but is another word for the following of Christ—a following of Christ that makes of the follower a living Eucharist given for the salvation of all. In the words of Joseph Ratzinger:
For the saints, ‘Hell’ is not so much a threat to be hurled at other people but a challenge to oneself. It is a challenge to suffer in the dark night of faith, to experience communion with Christ in solidarity with his descent into the Night. One draws near to the Lord’s radiance by sharing his darkness. One serves the salvation of the world by leaving one’s own salvation behind for the sake of others.105

Far from diminishing the urgency of the Church’s missionary task, then, Balthasar’s eschatology of universal hope is precisely an invitation to be grasped, wholly and without reserve, by its urgency. This urgency, in turn, is possible only if Christ has ‘already overcome the world’ through the consummation of his mission. In the definitive and irreversible handing-over of his flesh and blood
104 Hans urs von Balthaser, ‘Communio: Ein Programm’, International Katholische Zeitschrift Communis, 1 (1972): 4–17, at 16. 105 Ratzinger, Eschatology, 217–18.

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Christ has reached the very end, the eschaton. By the power of the Holy Spirit, the consummation that is accomplished by the Son’s total self-surrender in love is given to the Church as the innermost source of her hope, and as an invitation to enter into the Son’s offering himself for the salvation of the world.

General Conclusion: Eschatology as Communion
Balthasar’s first work of eschatology was an attempt to unveil the soul of modern German thought. The ‘fundamental impulse’ of Apokalypse der deutschen Seele, he writes, ‘was the desire to reveal (apokalyptein means, of course, ‘‘to reveal’’) the ultimate religious attitude, often hidden, of the great figures of modern German literature. I wanted to let them, so to speak, ‘‘make their confession’’.’1 The idea that the soul of every culture is revealed in the disposition of that culture toward the infinite remained characteristic of Balthasar’s work to the very end. In the Epilog to the Trilogy, we see a discernment of the soul of modern Western culture that borders on despair:
The opinion is bruited about these days that we should try to encounter modern man where he is presently situated. ‘In America,’ according to one report, ‘an adolescent by the time he has reached 17 has on average sat in front of a television set for 15,000 hours, thus almost two full years.’ Hans Meier quite justifiably asks ‘whether, in the age of the media, we are handing on a cultural legacy (and a religious faith) or whether we will not finally lose, with the lost language, the ability to hear and see at all’. . . . A missionary in a primitive culture has it relatively easy: he encounters a perhaps very primitive ‘anima naturaliter christiana’. . . . But where is the ‘point of contact’ with the ‘anima technica vacua’? I do not know.2

In Love Alone, the root cause and characteristics of the anima technica vacua are described as follows:
[W]henever the relationship between nature and grace is severed (as happens in the theory mentioned earlier, where ‘faith’ and ‘knowledge’ are constructed as opposites), then the whole of worldly being falls under the domain of ‘knowledge’, and the springs and forces of love immanent in the world are overpowered and finally suffocated by science, technology and cybernetics. The result is a world without women, without
1

OT 37.

2

Epilog, 8.

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children, without reverence for love in poverty and humiliation—a world in which power and the profit-margin are the sole criteria, where the disinterested, the useless, the purposeless is despised, persecuted and in the end exterminated—a world in which art itself is forced to wear the mask of technique.3

Balthasar’s discernment of contemporary culture, then, is also a confession. By separating the orders of nature and grace (philosophy and theology), centuries of unwitting churchly theology helped to the evacuate the soul of the West of its depth and beauty. It was first the theologians who contented themselves with the realm of grace and the spiritual life, leaving the realm of worldly reality and worldly life under the domain of a separated philosophy and the secular sciences. At the time it may have appeared as the better of two alternatives, but the waves of nominalism, enlightenment rationalism, and scientific positivism together with a disincarnate conception of the spiritual life have unveiled a hidden mistake. The mistake consists in separating or abstracting one’s basic understanding of the meaning and structure of worldly reality from the grace bestowed by God in Jesus Christ. The purpose of this book was to develop the resources within Balthasar’s thought that help to counter this false abstraction. Of course the root causes and the implications of a separation of nature and grace extend far beyond the realm of eschatology. But insofar as eschatology concerns man’s ultimate disposition before the mystery of God and the mystery of creation, it sheds a powerful light both on the instrumentalism and positivism of modern culture and on the wellsprings of Christian faith and Christian holiness. The argument of the book can be summed up simply: being— creaturely being and trinitarian being—unveils its final countenance as love in the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. The form of eschatology is the gift of a fleshly and spiritual communion with Christ in the Trinity. The breadth and depth of this communion reach as far and as deep as Christ’s mission. The failure to perceive that the mystery of Christ is the ultimate revelation of the meaning of being is doubly regrettable. The result is an eschatology that has little pertinence to the intrinsic meaning of worldly reality, and a sense of worldly reality that is
3 Balthasar, Love Alone: The Way of Revelation, trans. Alexander Dru (London: Sheed and Ward, 1968), 114–15.

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devoid of real mystery—a world that thereby becomes irrelevant to our final union with God. In both cases, Christianity has nothing profound to offer the emptiness and instrumentalism of the anima technica vacua of the modern West. Once we see that the gift of the Holy Spirit is always and everywhere a matter of fleshly being, and that the spiritual gifts bestowed on the Church are given for the sake of a deeper engagement with the whole of worldly reality, a new form of life in communion with Christ and his fleshly Church is possible. It is possible within the Marian Church to say yes in advance to the whole of reality and to serve God in all things. ‘[F]or a long time’, Balthasar claims,
the last and highest wall had been set up between God and the world, so that one who wished to turn to God had to turn away from the world for a time or for ever. This final wall too is collapsing. And although God’s sacred being can never be confused with one or with the totality of his creatures, nevertheless God does not wish to become visible to us other than in the context of his creatures: even in the eternal beatitude in which we shall see him face to face, our vision will not be a worldless vision. In all things, as Ignatius intended, we are to find God, who wishes to reveal himself and give himself to us in everything.4

At the beginning of this study I outlined three basic tensions that are woven into the fabric of Christian eschatology: (1) if the decisive event has already occurred in the death and Resurrection of Christ, what remains of the future end of the world? (2) how is it possible for a creature to truly participate in the divine life while remaining irreducibly distinct from God? (3) what is the nature of the universality of the Son’s saving mission? does the Son truly ‘return’ to the Father with the whole of creation? I have chosen these three questions because in each case a reductive answer has helped to give rise to and perpetuate the nihilistic separation of nature and grace described above. In each case, a flawed answer presupposes and extends the idea that somehow the ultimate end is indifferent to the original purpose of creation. My path in pursuing these questions was first to articulate Balthasar’s understanding of the structure of the analogy of being as a relation of giver and gift. I began with being not only because being itself is first, but also because it is the last thing, the
4 Balthasar, Razing the Bastions: On the Church in this Age, trans. Brian McNeil (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1993), 102–3.

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eschaton. In this context, I claimed that the ultimate meaning of the end turns on the original meaning of analogy. God’s creative act gives rise to a world that is truly other than God even as God is all in all. The key to understanding this original relation of creation as neither a juxtaposition of two things nor a negation of creaturely existence is the non-substantial fullness of being as gift and the consequent real distinction between being and essence. As gift, being is the source of all the perfections of the created world, but precisely in the mode of a ‘poverty’ that allows it to receive the gift of subsistence from concrete essences. This insight into the asymmetrical, reciprocal generosity of being and essence allowed us to affirm receptivity as an analogous perfection of God. If both eschatology and analogy represent paths for attaining knowledge of God’s transcendent perfection, then both movements converge in the reception of the gift of the whole created world as an image of God’s perfection—a reception that is undergirded by God’s ever-greater capacity to freely create the other in being and to receive the other as gift. Chapter 3 proceeded to show how Balthasar conceives Christ as the concrete enactment of the analogy of being. The temporal mission of Christ entails a double representation: the meaning of ‘truly God’ is revealed as a trinitarian exchange of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; and the meaning of ‘truly man’ is given its full stature in a eucharistic exchange that includes the whole created cosmos within the body of Christ. At the origin and end of this twofold representation stands the ultimate mystery of the Father who, as an inexhaustible spring, is eternally giving away everything that he has and everything that he is. The way that the incarnate Son ‘interprets’ his Father to the world is by loving the world to the very end through a total-gift-of-himself; and the way that the incarnate Son ‘interprets’ and reconciles the world to his Father is by confirming, despite the world’s sin, the original purpose of the world as an ever-new gift and expression of the reciprocal love of Father and Son. From beginning to end, Christ’s twofold mission is accomplished through the mediation of the Holy Spirit, who is both the eternal ‘gift’ and ‘fruit’ of the mutual love between Father and Son, and the ultimate gift that is bestowed as the fruit of Jesus’ lifegiving death—a death I interpreted as a total-gift-of-self or vow that constitutes a marriage covenant. Under the sign of the Holy Spirit, the eternal and temporal reciprocal love between Father

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and Son is opened to the world and poured out in the form of Christ’s Eucharist. The Holy Spirit thus ‘interprets’ the Christevent by drawing others into the unfathomable love of Father and Son that is now coextensive with the fleshly and historical life of Jesus. Eschatology is mission in the precise sense that the Holy Spirit universalizes Christ by including others within Christ’s eucharistic mission—a feat that the Spirit can perform insofar as the Eucharist is the crystallized fruit of Christ’s whole life, a life that is irrevocably given over to the Church and to the world in the form of a life-giving vow. Accordingly, in Chapter 4 I interpreted the Eucharist and the Holy Spirit as the ‘fruit’ of Christ’s temporal mission and thus the ultimate form of deifying grace. An analysis of the debate between Thomas Aquinas and Gregory Palamas confirmed the principle that, without mediation, the union of God and the creature will be conceived along unacceptably monistic and/or dualistic lines. To avoid this reduction I developed the idea that the unifying gift of the Holy Spirit and the Eucharist represents both a divine selfcommunication to man and a human self-communication to God. Mediation was shown to be a matter of reciprocal communion whereby what is most intimate in God’s being is given over to the creature and what most intimate in the creature is given over to God. The third section of Chapter 4 simultaneously broadened the notion of deification, so as to include and embrace a relation to the whole created order, and narrowed it upon the fleshly and historical life of Christ. Within a eucharistic exchange, deification involves not just the individual intellect, but the whole person in intrinsic communion with the whole of creation. The twofold mission of Christ, as the concrete analogia entis, was thus shown to be the hinge and locus for the deification of the whole cosmos. Our path from metaphysics to Christology to deification has allowed us to discern a fundamental unity to the three questions posed above. For each question, it is possible for a theologia viatorum to formulate a non-reductive answer by focusing on the specific manner of Christ’s return to the Father. (1) With regard to the tension between ‘realized’ and ‘future’ eschatology, Christ’s return to the Father has in truth already occurred, and to that extent the realized eschatology of the Gospel of John is fundamentally correct. However, insofar as the end is consummated in the form of a life-giving vow, the future history of the Church and the world can be given their full scope as a new

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and dramatic unveiling or apocalypse of the end that has already been consummated. Communion within the covenant that has been definitely established in Christ unfolds as a total engagement of one’s being within Christ’s mission—a mission that brings about the ‘future’ liberation of the whole created cosmos by gathering the world into his body. This integration of the future within a comprehensive whole can be contrasted to a position that would view communion solely as a project to be achieved in the future; such a view invariably tends to instrumentalize the concrete other as a means for the attainment of one’s project. Only when we realize that communion is a grace that has already been bestowed in Christ can the true drama and inexorable demands of living this communion begin. (2) With regard to the tension between unity and difference in deification, Christ’s return to the Father discloses the true form of mediation as communion. Deification is not a compromise or halfway house that achieves union by flatly identifying an abstracted part of man (perhaps the intellect or spark of the soul) with a reduced part of God (perhaps his energies or a power that is distinct from his being). As communion, mediation entails that the very best of God—which means the whole God—is communicated to the creature and that the very best of the creature— which means the whole creation—is communicated to God. This communion is made possible by the eucharistic and pneumatic fruitfulness of Christ’s return to the Father. Against a position that conceives bodily and spiritual mediation as a penultimate means to be superseded by the immediacy of a direct vision, Balthasar argues that even in the very end our relation to God will be mediated by the humanity of Christ made fluid to include the whole cosmos. (3) Will it really be all who are saved? It is not possible for a theologia viatorum to answer the question of universal salvation; we stand under God’s judgement. However, in Christ’s return to the Father we see the ultimate lengths to which God goes in remaining faithful to his original gift and to his original plan for the redemption of creation. As absolute love God has involved himself in the drama of our salvation precisely to the point of being abandoned and dying the death of a sinner ‘in our place’. The loss of a portion of humanity, although a real possibility, would be an unspeakable tragedy for God. Against various positions in the history of theology that set limits on hope because of a false notion of limited

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predestination, Balthasar situates the true form of hope within the universal mission of Christ. It is precisely Christ’s mission to return to the Father with all that has been given to him by the Father (cf. John 6: 39). For those who would follow Christ with eschatological definitiveness, the only path back to God is through the reception of the gift of fleshly and spiritual communion with all of creation, including the very last of sinners. In this sense, Madeleine ˆ Delbrel’s description of the gift of being is exact:
Christ does not provide his followers with a set of wings to flee into heaven, but with a weight to drag them into the deepest corners of the earth. What may seem to be the specifically missionary vocation is in fact simply what it means to be embraced by Christ. Despite any apparent contradiction, we diminish and falsify our love for Christ and the Church wherever we diminish that which draws us to the world and enables us to plunge ourselves into it.5

The final measure of the weight of the gift of being is the Eucharist—and the final answer to the question of universal salvation is hidden within the eucharistic mission of the Son. In the fifth book of the Apocalypse of John, it is the lamb ‘standing as though slain’ who alone is worthy to take the ‘book’—the book of the mystery of God’s will and judgements—and open its seals. In the Spirit and the Eucharist, the Son’s once-for-all return to the Father is an ever new entrance into the heart of the world so as to return in communion with the whole creation. Within Christ’s mission, the end is both a gift and a task. ‘You must not save your ´ soul as you save a treasure,’ writes Charles Peguy, ‘you must save it as you lose a treasure, by squandering it. We must save ourselves together. We must arrive together before the good Lord. What would he say if we arrived before him alone, if we came home to him without the others?’6
ˆ Madeleine Delbrel, We, the Ordinary People of the Streets, trans. David Louis Schindler, Jr. and Charles Mann (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2000), 100. 6 ´ Charles Peguy, Le Mystere de la Charite de Jeanne d’Arc, in Œuvres poetiques completes (Paris: ` ´ ´ ` Gallimard, 1975), 392.
5

BIBLIOGRAPHY

works by hans urs von balthasar
Apokalypse der deutschen Seele: Studien zu einer Lehre von letzten Haltungen. 3 vols. 3rd edn. Einsiedeln: Johannes Verlag, 1998: i. Der deutsche Idealismus. ii. Im Zeichen Nietzsches. iii. Die Vergottlichung des Todes. ¨ ‘Characteristics of Christianity’. In Explorations in Theology, i: The Word Made Flesh. Trans. A. V. Littledale and Alexander Dru. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1989. [‘Merkmale des Christlichen’. In Skizzen zur Theologie I: Verbum Caro. Einsiedeln: Johannes Verlag, 1960.] The Christian State of Life. Trans. Mary Frances McCarthy. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1983. [Christlicher Stand. Einsiedeln: Johannes Verlag, 1977.] Dare We Hope ‘That All Man Be Saved’? Trans. David Kipp and Lother Krauth. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1988. [Was durfen wir haffen?. ¨ Einsiedeln: Johannes Verlay, 1986; Kleiner Diskurs uber die Holle. Ostfil¨ ¨ dern: Schwabenverlag, 1987.] Epilog. Einsiedeln: Johannes Verlag, 1987. ‘Erich Przywara’. In Tendenzen der Theologie im 20. Jahrhundert: Eine Geschichte in Portrats. Stuttgart–Berlin: Kreuz Verlag, 1966. ¨ ‘Eschatologie. Die Theologie der Letzten Dinge’. In Theologie Heute: Vierzehn Vortrage ans der Sicht der beiden Konfessionen. Munich: C. H. ¨ Beck, 1959. ‘Eschatology in Outline’. In Explorations in Theology, iv. Spirit and Institution. Trans. Edward T. Oakes. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1995. [‘Eschatologie im Umriß’. In Skizzen zur Theologie, iv. Pneuma und Institution. Einsiedeln: Johannes Verlag, 1974.] ‘Evangelium und Philosophie’. Freiburger Zeitschrift fur Philosophie und Theo¨ logie, 23 (1976): 3–12. ‘The Fathers, Scholastics, and Ourselves’. Communio: International Catholic Review, 24 (1997): 347–96. [‘Patristik, Scholastik und wir’. Theology der Zeit, 3 (1939): 65–104.] First Glance at Adrienne von Speyr. Trans. Antje Lawry and Sergia Englund. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1981. [Erster Blick auf Adrienne von Speyr. Einsiedeln: Johannes Verlag, 1968.] ¨ ‘Geist und Feuer: Ein Gesprach mit Hans Urs von Balthasar’. Interview. Herder Korrespondenz, 30 (1976): 72–82.

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Geschichte des eschatologischen Problems in der modernen deutschen Literatur. 2nd edn. Einsiedeln: Johannes Verlag, 1998. The Glory of the Lord: A Theological Aesthetics. 7 vols. Trans. Erasmo LeivaMerikakis, Andrew Louth, Brian McNeil, et al. San Francisco: Ignatius ¨ Press, 1982–9. [Herrlichkeit. Eine theologische Asthetik. 3 vols. Einsiedeln: Johannes Verlag, 1961–9.]: i. Seeing the Form. [i. Schau der Gestalt.] ii. Theological Styles: Clerical Styles. [ii.1. Facher der Stile: i. Klerikale Stile.] ¨ iii. Theological Styles: Lay Styles. [ii.2. Facher der Stile: ii. Laikale Stile.] ¨ iv. The Realm of Metaphysics in Antiquity. [iii/1.1. Im Raum der Metaphysik: i. Altertum.] v. The Realm of Metaphysics in the Modern Age. [iii/1.2. Im Raum der Metaphysik: ii. Neuzeit.] vi. Theology: The Old Covenant. [iii/2.1. Alter Bund.] vii. Theology: The New Covenant. [iii/2.2. Neuer Bund.] The Grain of Wheat: Aphorisms. Trans. Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis. San Fran¨ cisco: Ignatius Press, 1995. [Das Weizenkorn. Lucerne: Raber, 1944.] Kosmiche Liturgie: Das Weltbild des Maximus des Bekenners. 2nd edn. Einsiedeln: Johannes Verlag, 1961. Love Alone: The Way of Revelation. Trans. Alexander Dru. London: Sheed and Ward, 1968. [Glaubhaft ist nur Liebe. Einsiedeln: Johannes Verlag, 1963.] Martin Buber and Christianity. London: Harvill Press, 1961. [Einsame Zwiesprache: Martin Buber und das Christentum. Cologne–Olten: Verlag Jakob Hegner, 1958.] ‘Die Metaphysik Erich Pryzwaras’. Schweiz. Rundschau, 6 (1933): 489–99. ‘Movement Toward God’. Explorations in Theology, iii. Creator Spirit. Trans. Brian McNeil San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1993. [‘Bewegung zu Gott’. In Skizzen zur Theologie, iii. Spiritus Creator. Einsiedeln: Johannes Verlag, 1967.] Mysterium Paschale: The Mystery of Easter. Trans. Aidan Nichols. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1990. [Theologie der drei Tage. Einsiedeln: Benziger, 1969.] My Work: In Retrospect. Trans. Kelly Hamilton, et al. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1993. [Mein Werk: Durchblicke. Einsiedeln: Johannes Verlag, 1990.] New Elucidations. Trans. Mary Theresilde Skerry. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986. [Neue Klarstellungen. Einsiedeln: Johannes Verlag, 1979.] ‘On the Tasks of Catholic Philosophy in Our Time’. Trans. Brian McNeil. Communio: International Catholic Review, 20 (1993): 147–87. [Von den Aufgaben der Katholischen Philosophie in der Zeit. 2nd edn. Einsiedeln: Johannes Verlag, 1998.] Origen, Spirit and Fire: A Thematic Anthology of His Writings. Trans. Robert J. Daly. Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1984.

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select writings on relevant themes in balthasar
Bieler, Martin. ‘The Future of the Philosophy of Being’. Communio: International Catholic Review, 26 (1999): 455–85. —— ‘Meta-anthropology and Christology: On the Philosophy of Hans Urs von Balthasar’. Communio: International Catholic Review, 20 (1993): 129–46. Blankenhorn, Bernhard, ‘Balthasar’s Method of Divine Naming’, Nova et Vetera, 1 (2003): 245–67. Buckley, James J. ‘Balthasar’s Use of the Theology of Aquinas’. The Thomist, 59 (1995): 517–45. Capol, Cornelia. Hans Urs von Balthasar: Bibliographie 1925–1990. Freiburg: Johannes Verlag, 1990. Guerriero, Elio. Hans Urs von Balthasar: Eine Monographie. Trans. Carl Franz Muller. Einsiedeln: Johannes Verlag, 1993. ¨ Haas, Alois. ‘Hans Urs von Balthasar’s ‘‘Apocalypse of the German Soul’’ ’. In David L. Schindler (ed.), Hans Urs von Balthasar: His Life and Work. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1991. ´ Henrici, Peter. ‘La dramatique entre l’esthetique et la logique’. In Pour ´ ´ une philosophie chretienne. Namur: Culture et Verite, 1983. ´ —— ‘The Philosophy of Hans Urs von Balthasar’. In David L. Schindler (ed.), Hans Urs von Balthasar: His Life and Work. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1991. —— ‘A Sketch of von Balthasar’s Life’. Ibid.

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Kerr, Fergus. ‘Foreword: Addressing this ‘‘Giddy Synthesis’’ ’. In Balthasar at the End of Modernity. Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1999. Krenski, Thomas Rudolf. Passio Caritatis: Trinitarische Passiologie im Werk Hans Urs von Balthasar. Einsiedeln: Johannes Verlag, 1990. Leahy, Brendan. The Marian Profile in the Ecclesiology of Hans Urs von Balthasar. London: New City, 2000. Lochbrunner, Manfred. Analogia Caritatis: Darstellung und Deutung der Theologie Hans Urs von Balthasars. Freiburg: Herder Verlag, 1981. MacKinnon, Donald. ‘Some Reflections on Hans Urs von Balthasar’s Christology with Special Reference to Theodramatik II/2, III and IV’. In John Riches (ed.), The Analogy of Beauty: The Theology of Hans Urs von Balthasar. Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1986. Mansini, Guy. ‘Balthasar and the Theodramatic Enrichment of the Trinity’. The Thomist, 64 (2000): 499–519. Nichols, Aidan. No Bloodless Myth: A Guide through Balthasar’s Dramatics. Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 2000. Oakes, Edward T. Pattern of Redemption: The Theology of Hans Urs von Balthasar. New York: Continuum, 1994. O’Donnell, John J. Hans Urs von Balthasar. London: Geoffrey Chapman, 1992. O’Hanlon, Gerard F. The Immutability of God in the Theology of Hans Urs von Balthasar. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990. —— ‘May Christians hope for a Better World?’, Irish Theological Quarterly, 54 (1988): 175–89. ´ Ouellet, Marc. ‘L’existence comme mission: L’anthropologie theologique de Hans Urs von Balthasar’. Ph.D. diss. Rome: Pontificia Uni` versita Gregoriana, 1983. —— ‘Jesus Christ the One Savior of the World, Yesterday, Today, and Forever’. Communio: International Catholic Review, 24 (1997): 211–33. —— ‘Paradox and/or Supernatural Existential’. Communio: International Catholic Review, 18 (1991): 259–80. Potworowski, Christophe. ‘An Exploration of the Notion of Objectivity in Hans Urs von Balthasar’. Renascence: Essays on Value in Literature, 48 (1996): 137–51. Quash, Ben. ‘Drama and the Ends of Modernity’. In Balthasar at the End of Modernity. Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1999. Schindler, D. C. Hans Urs von Balthasar and the Dramatic Structure of Truth: A Philosophical Investigation. New York: Fordham University Press, 2004. Schindler, David L. ‘Preface’. In David L. Schindler (ed.), Hans Urs von Balthasar: His Life and Work. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1991. ´ De Schrijver, Georges. Le Merveilleux Accord de l’Homme et de Dieu: Etude de ˆ l’Analogie de l’Etre chez Hans Urs von Balthasar. Louvain: University Press, 1983.

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Scola, Angelo. Hans Urs von Balthasar: A Theological Style. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1991. ¨ Seifert, Josef. ‘Person und Individuum: Uber Hans Urs von Balthasars Philosophie der Person und die philosophischen Implikationen seiner Dreifaltigkeitstheologie’. Forum Katholische Theologie, 13 (1997): 81–105. Waldstein, Michael. ‘Expression and Form: Principles of a Philosophical Aesthetics according to Hans Urs von Balthasar’. Ph.D. diss. Dallas: University of Dallas, 1981. —— ‘An Introduction to Von Balthasar’s The Glory of the Lord’. Communio: International Catholic Review, 14 (1987): 12–33. Wallner, Karl. Gott als Eschaton: Trinitarische Dramatik als Voraussetzung gottlicher Universalitat bei Hans Urs von Balthasar. Vienna: Heiligenkreuz, ¨ ¨ 1992. Williams, Rowan D. ‘Balthasar and Rahner’. In John Riches (ed.), The Analogy of Beauty: The Theology of Hans Urs von Balthasar. Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1986. —— ‘Afterword: Making Differences’. In Balthasar at the End of Modernity. Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1999. Yeago, David Stuart. Theology and Drama: A Study in the Work of Hans Urs von Balthasar. New Haven: Yale University, 1992. —— ‘Literature in the Drama of Nature and Grace: Hans Urs von Balthasar’s Paradigm for a Theology of Culture’. Renascence: Essays on Value in Literature, 48 (1996): 95–109. Zeitz, James V. ‘Przywara and von Balthasar on Analogy’. The Thomist, 62 (1998): 473–98.

other works cited
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INDEX

Allers, Rudolf 60 n. 98 analogy 3, 20–5, 29, 32–41, 49, 52, 53–4, 72, 88–90, 113–15, 178, 188, 212–13; Christ as the concrete analogia entis 21–3, 88, 91–104, 111, 118, 137, 154–7, 201–4, 213; and deification 24–5, 89–90, 161–2, 178 Aquinas, Thomas 1–2, 23–53, 56–9, 163–72, 189; creation 50–2, 86–7, 112–13; esse 17, 20, 26–9, 39–49, 53–7, 73–6, 79–81; naming God 20, 26, 29–38, 52; real distinction 2–3, 24–9, 39–49, 54, 58–60, 63, 86; trinitarian theology 105–6, 124–5; vision of God 19, 163–72, 175, 186–7 Aristotle 23, 42–3, 169, 188 Athanasius 10, 97 n. 15, 172 Augustine 12–13, 85, 91, 92 n. 4, 102, 106, 125, 175, 180 Barth, Karl 8, 100, 123 n. 83, 134 n. 113 Basil 172 beatific vision 11–12, 89, 159, 163–75, 178–81, 185–9, 215 being, as act 2 n. 6, 19, 21, 25–6, 39, 42–9, 56, 58, 65, 71, 75–6, 79–81, 100 n. 21; ‘fourfold difference’ 61–72; as gift 5 n. 18, 17–18, 25, 38, 49, 52–3, 62–5, 70–2, 76–81, 156, 212–13; as mystery 5, 18, 38 n. 48, 69, 183–7; as non-subsistent 3, 46–50, 52, 59, 66–8, 70, 80–1, 88, 156, 178, 213; real distinction and trinitarian difference 26, 54–5, 81–8; as revealed by Christ 60, 86–8, 156, 199, 211 Benedict XII, Pope 11, 164 Bieler, Martin 61 n. 101 Blondel, Maurice 159 Bulgakov, Sergei 131 Bultmann, Rudolph 8–9 Burrell, David 30 n. 28 Capol, Cornelia 13 n. 41 Carlo, William 49 n. 77 Casel, Odo 194

Chardin, Teilhard de 195 childhood 63–5, 77, 97–9 Christology 91–100, 105–12, 121–2; and eschatology 3–4, 7–10, 15–17, 89–90, 91–3, 111, 148, 155–7, 188, 201–4, 208, 211, 213–14; Jesus Christ as a concrete universal 101–5, 137–9, 148–55, 190–2, 201–4; and pneumatology 137–50, 154–7, 191, 201–4; two natures in one Person 93–6, 110, 116, 132–3, 191; see also analogy; mission; Trinity Chrysostom, John 171 Church 139, 148–9, 178 n. 52, 192–4, 199, 212 Clarke, W. Norris 43 n. 64, 73–5, 81 Claudel, Paul 207 communion 69, 176–7, 179, 182–7, 207, 212, 214 Crawford, David 151 n. 151 creation 24–5, 31, 51, 70–1, 92, 103, 111–17, 213 Crosby, John F. 182 n. 64 Cullmann, Oscar 121 Cyril of Alexandria 94, 97 n. 15 Dalferth, Ingolf U. 132 n. 106 ´ Danielou, Jean 206 Davies, Brian 30 n. 28 death 117, 126, 130, 134–7, 145, 152–4 deification 10–12, 19, 24, 89–90, 159–62, 165–78, 190–2, 214, 215 ˆ Delbrel, Madeleine 216 Dionysius 20 n. 3, 35, 166 n. 18, 171 Dodd, C. H. 8, 136 n. 121 drama 1–2, 119–21, 127 Eckhart, Meister 99 n. 20, 115, 160 n. 2 Eriugena, John Scotus 160 n. 2 Eucharist 155, 157, 162, 178, 192–200, 207–8, 214, 215 Ewbank, Michael B. 20 n. 3 Fiddes, Paul S. 134 n. 113 Fourth Lateran Council 22, 114

Index
Geiger, Louis-Bertrand 57 gift 76–9, 89, 177–8, 199–200; see also being as gift Giles of Rome 28 ´ Gilson, Etienne 28–9, 36 n. 46 Gregory Nazianzus 135, 137, 202 Gregory of Nyssa 184 n. 68 Guardini, Romano 82, 153, 182 n. 62 Haecker, Theodor 122 n. 80 Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich 129 n. 100, 132 hell 201, 204–9, 215–16 Henrici, Peter 24 n. 14, 58, 64 n. 109 Holy Spirit 138–50, 154–7, 162, 201–4, 212–14 Ignatius of Loyola 152 immutability of God 78–81, 128–30, 132–5 Irenaeus 138, 185 John XXII, Pope 164 John Paul II, Pope 92 n. 4, 144 n. 139 Jordan, Mark D. 31 n. 34, 40, 50 n. 78 Jugie, Martin 165 n. 15 Jungel, Eberhard 132 n. 106 ¨ Justin Martyr 162 n. 6 Kasper, Walter 123 n. 84, 141–2 kenosis 108–10, 128–31 see also Trinity Kerr, Fergus 4 knowledge as communion 179–88 Kopaczynski, Germain 29 n. 26 LaCugna, Catherine Mowry 123 n. 84 Leahy, Brendan 99 n. 20 Leo the Great, Pope 106 liberation theology 9–10 Lochbrunner, Manfred 101 n. 22 Long, Stephen A. 73 n. 129 Lossky, Vladimir 11–12, 164, 166, 174 Lubac, Henri de 169 n. 25, 199, 206 McCarthy, Margaret Harper 13 n. 40 MacKinnon, Donald 4 n. 13 Mahoney, Edward P. 30 n. 28 Maimonides, Moses 34–5, 37, 39 Mansini, Guy 2 n. 8 ´ Marechal, Joseph 60 Maritain, Jacques 36 n. 46, 134 n. 113 marriage 150–4 Mary, Mother of God 97–100, 102 n. 27, 104 n. 36, 142, 212 Maurer, Armand 29 n. 25 Maximus the Confessor 189

231

mediation 19–20, 175–9, 215 Meyendorff, John 132, 174 mission 92, 105–10, 116–27, 162 Moltmann, Jurgen 9, 131–2 ¨ mystery 22, 38 n. 48, 69, 81, 84, 95, 182–7 nature and grace 21–3, 82, 169 n. 25, 210–12 negative theology 22, 29–38, 50, 83, 90, 157 Nichols, Aidan 161 n. 5 O’Donnell, John J. 96 n. 13, 123 n. 84 O’Hanlon, Gerard F. 9 n. 32, 128 n. 96, 133 Origen 12–13, 132 n. 109, 200 O’Rourke, Fran 30 n. 28 Ouellet, Marc 60 n. 100, 116 n. 61, 145 n. 140, 147 Owens, Joseph 41 n. 59, 43 n. 62 Palamas, Gregory 11–12, 162–8, 172–5, 178–9, 184, 186, 188, 214 Patt, Walter 42 n. 59 ´ Peguy, Charles 154 n. 153, 216 Perrin, Norman 7 n. 22 philosophy and theology 1–6, 20–1, 22–3, 82–4, 211–12 Pickstock, Catherine 5 n. 17 Plato 1, 163 Potterie, Ignace de la 136 n. 119 Przywara, Erich 21, 27 n. 18, 94 n. 8 Rahner, Hugo 159 n. 1 Rahner, Karl 122–3, 135, 172 n. 37, 179 n. 53, 190 n. 81 Ratzinger, Joseph 6 n. 19, 9 n. 30, 136, 206, 208 real distinction, see being realized eschatology 7–10, 214–15 receptivity 19–20, 72–81, 185 resurrection 6 n. 19, 145 n. 140, 147, 161–2, 189, 195–7 Richard of St Victor 85, 125 Schindler, D. C. 4 n. 15, 58 n. 96, 69, 129 n. 100, 181 n. 60 Schindler, David L. 73–6, 81, 82 n. 153, 186 n. 72, 200 Schmemann, Alexander 192–3, 198 Schmitz, Kenneth L. 76–81 ¨ Schonborn, Christoph 10, 177 Schrijver, Georges de 21 n. 7 Schutz, Christian 7 n. 20 ¨ Schweitzer, Albert 7 ¨ Schwobel, Christoph 8 n. 25, 123 n. 85 Scola, Angelo 15

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vision of God, see beatific vision Waldstein, Michael 106 n. 40, 108 n. 44, 121, 181 n. 61 Walker, Adrian 22 n. 11 Wallner, Karl 3 n. 11, 96 n. 13 Weinandy, Thomas 94–5, 108 n. 45, 124 n. 85, 132 n. 109, 145–6 Weiss, Johannes 7 Wendebourg, Dorothea 174–5 Williams, A. N. 166–8, 174 n. 44 Williams, Rowan 60 n. 99, 89 n. 164, 165 n. 15 Wippel, John F. 28 n. 22, 29 n. 26, 30 n. 28, 36 n. 46, 37 n. 47, 41 n. 59, 56 Wolfson, Harry A. 20 n. 3 Yannaras, Christos 165 n. 14

Second Vatican Council 4, 6, 206 Siewerth, Gustav 5, 98 n. 17 Speyr, Adrienne von 5, 21 n. 6, 107 n. 41, 149, 160 n. 2, 205 n. 99, 206 Sweeney, Leo 29 n. 26 Trinity, and creation, 111–17; as the eschaton 15–16, 18, 118, 178–9, 197–8, 203–4; relation between economic and immanent Trinity 92, 122–7, 129; as revealed by Jesus 85–6, 92–3, 105–10, 115–18, 125–37; trinitarian difference and the real distinction, see being; trinitarian inversion 142–50, 155; Urkenosis of the Father 2, 114–18, 122, 127, 130–7, 155–6, 197 Ulrich, Ferdinand 48, 98 n. 17, 134–5 universal salvation 12–13, 122, 204–9, 215–16

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