Angilbert (fl. ca. 840/50), On the Battle Which was Fought at Fontenoy

The Law of Christians is broken,
Blood by the hands of hell profusely shed like rain,
And the throat of Cerberus bellows songs of joy.

Angelbertus, Versus de Bella que fuit acta Fontaneto

Fracta est lex christianorum
Sanguinis proluvio, unde manus inferorum,
gaudet gula Cerberi.

Friday, June 22, 2012

God's Glory Appears: The Ignatian Influence

FOR HANS URS VON BALTHASAR, the ethical response to Christ may be best likened to an aesthetic response to the theodrama of the Christ-event, in particularly to the revelation of God's glory in Christ on the cross. The aesthetic experience is a sort of "heuristic lense" or analog of the ethical response.  This response is a dynamic response, one ultimately that brings forth a loving response, perhaps first one founded in eros, dilectio, but one soon perfected in agape, caritas. There is love on both ends of the equation as man confronts the divine beauty, a love up and a love down: an Augustinian Neo-platonic love up which meets up with a Biblical kenotic love down.

In confronting and responding to the beauty, the glory that is found in the Christ-event, we put ourselves off-balance, as it were.  We must leave an ego-centrism and become other-centered.  At the same time, the movement is not uni-directional.  The Word of God, incarnate in Christ--indeed God the Trinity acting through the Word of God incarnate in Christ--has also in a manner of speaking become "other-centered."  God leans to us, as much (or perhaps more) a we lean to him.  "It is a fundamental principle of von Balthasar's aesthetics that human fulfillment is not found in an ek-static, one-directional movement of love toward the beloved.  Rather it is found in a bipolarity of receptivity and agency, as reflected in freedom's dismensions of relationality and self-possessions."  There is a certain "bipolarity" in von Balthsar's aesthetic (and, by extension, ethical) thought.

At the heart of this understanding is, if Steck is to be believed, the spiritual of St. Ignatius of Loyola.  "El hombre es criado para alabar, hacer reverencia y servir a Dios nuestro Señor y, mediante esto, salvar su ánima," states St. Ignatius in the beginning of his Spiritual Exercises.  "Man is created to praise, to reverence, and to serve God our Lord, and by doing so, to save his soul."  This simple view contains a clear bi-polarity: movement toward God and a reception of something from God (saving grace).  "For von Balthasar, these two movements reflect the bipolarity of personal love."  Steck, 77.

There is in St. Ignatius the notion of a "love up" and a simultaneous "love down."  It is phrased differently perhaps, as a love "from below" or de abajo, and a love "from above," de arriba.  But the meaning is the same, the love from below meets up with the love from above.  The Ignatian concept is without question Biblically steeped.  "The creature's surrender to God becomes a participation in God's surrender to it, and ultimately, in God's kentoic movement toward creation and its redemption."  Steck, 78.

The eros of the creature man (he has no other love) meets up with the agape love of God (he has no other love to give, except that it links up with the human eros of Christ which is in perfect conformity with the agape of the Son) and in that way, the eros gets caught up and "integrated into the divine, self-giving movement of agape (kenotic) love."  Steck, 78.

This mutual surrender is inter-personal: the personal God comes down from above, and the person of man reaches up from below.  Ultimately, there has to be a surrender or the creature to the Creator, the lover to the Beloved, but the marvel of it is that Creator has surrendered first, has loved first.

 St. Ignatius of Loyola

The Ignatian concept of response to God is a one-on-one notion.  Though it certainly does not ignore the Christian's obligation to abide by the natural moral law, it focuses one something beyond this bare minimum of obedience.  It seeks not submission to general law, but submission to the personal command of God to me.  As such, it is something that fits it with von Balthasar's command or covenantal view of ethics.

The Ignatian exercitant seeks to desire "solely according to what God our Lord will move ones will to choose."  The pilgrim seeks to have the desire, the affection to possess a created good or not to possess it with only one view in mind: según que Dios nuestro Señor le pondrá en voluntad, in whatever manner God our Lord informs his will.  This is a highly personal concept of ethics.

The ultimate ground of Christian love of the world is found [in Ignatius], not as for Augustine in the ontological participation of created things in the one goodness of God, but in the personal willing of God--a personal willing that, of course, includes God's decision to create, and his providential care of that creation. Christian love for the world contains an internal bipolarity: the movement of the creature de abajo, from below upward to the divine love and glory seen in the Christ-event, spontaneously issues forth into a movement de arriba, from above, where creation is embraced with the passion and intensity of divine love. Ethical judgmentsof the particular ways to love self, neighbor, and creation are complete and final only in light of this divine, personal willing.

Steck, 79. There is therefore a sort of indifference that must be developed to the things of this world, to creation (we must be, in Ignatian terms indiferentes).  But this is not some sort of Stoic apatheia.  This is an active effort to be indifferent so that we may use the things of this world (all of which in a certain particular way participate in the goodness of God) in the manner that God wills for us in our particular situation.  
For von Balthasar, Ignatian indifference is not so much a permanent stances vis-à-vis creaturely things, bur rather one moment in a dynamic posture toward them. Indifference moves back and forth, from an initial detachment in regard to earthly goods (in a flight from the world in order to make oneself available to divine movements), and toward a reengagement of those goods, now with the desires and love attuned to those of God.
Steck, 79.  It is here, in the middle of the indifference so that we may hear God's will, in the slight pause to our personal desires so that we have no desire, no tendentiousness, that God's will can be heard in its purity.  Once known, this personal communication of God's will is for me my will.  I am thus informed about what is my ethical norm.  It is, then, a response to a command, a command of a loving God, and interpersonal command-and-submission where eros and agape meet.  But it is not a submission to command which causes me to lose myself.  While perhaps in a way I do lose myself, it is a loss of self not in a Buddhist sense where I disappear into the Absolute, it is a loss of self in a Biblical sense where I am in the Absolute and the Absolute is in me.  "Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses it will save it." (Luke 17:33; see also Luke 9:24; Matt. 10:39, Mark 8:35; John 17:25)  It is a submission which confirms my personhood, not one which destroys it.

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