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.

Monday, July 16, 2012

God's Glory Appears: Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam

AS WE HAVE SEEN,VON BALTHASAR RECOGNIZES at least three things about the created order--(i) agency distinct from God; (ii) the ability to read a sort of call within creation; and (iii) "created spheres" whose meaning are preserved in their encounter with supernatural grace. Von Balthasar, however, never develops an ethic using these three realities about the created order.  So von Balthasar never has any sort of natural ethics.  Whatever a natural ethic might be, von Balthasar does not tell us.  These three realities of the created order have been integrally transformed by Christ, and so the only really ethics von Balthasar knows are already baptized as it were by the Christ-event.

In presenting his ethical thinking--which is a Christian ethics only--von Balthasar betrays an Ignatian model: a contemplation to determine God's will precedes the use of any created good.  There is contemplatio: then there is actio.   The Ignatian model of action has the following elements: (i) a beholding of the situation; (ii) placing that situation within the context of the triune God and his desire to reconcile all mankind to himself; (iii) one's possible role in that labor of God to bring all men to himself; (iv) all performed for the greater glory of God.  Steck, 108-09.

Von Balthasar's ethics therefore begin with a sort of "beholding."  This "beholding" has a two-part dynamic.  First, one beholds any created good in question in the light of the theo-drama, particularly the Christ-event, where the glory of God is most revealed.  Second, one tries to discover what might one's own response when the created good is contemplated within the light of the Christ-event.  Everything is therefore beheld within the "Christ-form," which provides "a particular, christological shape" to "the general and fluid meaningfulness of the world."  Steck, 108.

[T]he Christ-even does not simply insert itself into the horizontal order and substitute itself for various meanings formerly found there (that would be to trump creation); nor does it just confirm the goodness of what is already there (that would be to eclipse the giftedness of the covenant). Rather, among the various meanings any human reality can sustain, it gently places in relief and completes the christological meaning it was always intended to bear in the one plan of God.

Steck, 109.  The will of God is therefore found in creation in a sort of stammering or stuttering way, and viewing it within the light of the Christ-event brings the stuttering or stammering into a greater connectedness.  The uncreated Word draws out what one may call the created word.  The effect of the Christ-event, however, affects the created order in different ways.  "[T]here will be some spheres in which the Christ-event 'totally eclipses' their general laws, 'practically replacing them,' but also other spheres 'whose relative autonomy persists practically untouched.'"  Steck, 109 (quoting VB's Theology of History, 20)

 The Ignatian motto: Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam

Since the Christ-event affects the created order differently, von Balthasar therefore is able to separate those parts of the created order that retain their validity in an almost unchanged form (e.g., the laws of physics, literature, but even moral areas, e.g., the Golden Rule) and so apply to all men universally, and those that are particular to the Christian life (e.g., the evangelical counsels) and so apply specifically to Christians, and so are particular and not universal.  There are some areas, however, where Christ has changed things radically, e.g., the ethical response to suffering, to reconciliation, the Sacraments, the approach to death.

During his life, a Christian will of course encounter numerous goods and numerous situations, and likewise a plethora of choices.  There is no one set pattern for any one of us, but it always has two dimensions: (i) a general one, and (ii) a particular.  The first has to do with viewing all things within the light of the Gospel.  The second dimension is one that is tied to God's particular call to us.  Importantly, there must be some sort of unity in the pattern of our lives.  The Christian is called to a sort of "subjective unity," based upon God's particular design, wherein "God fashions the concrete goods of the individual's life into a meaningful, personal whole, 'like letters that form a sentence.'"  Steck, 110 (quoting VB, Christian State of Life, 82)  Within the light of the Gospel and God's particular call to us, the "fragmented goods and values of the world which occur within the field of Christian activity are reformed into a unity."  Steck, 110.

Nowhere is this unity better displayed than in our model, Jesus.  By incorporating ourselves into Jesus we likewise are able to share in this unity.  Christ's mission was to do the will of his Father, and that becomes our mission in Christ.  "The mission--the particular way God has called each of us to be an image of his Son--acts as a 'grid' to guide us in the choices that we must make among the almost endless forms of earthly goodness available for Christian embodiment."  Steck, 110.  Christ and his mission is a sort of "magnet that gives the natural orders their Christian polarization," and which "gives meaning and discrimination to [our choices] of secular ways and means."  Steck, 110-11 (quoting VB, Christian State of Life, 420).
In following the path that God has wille for them, Christians intensify the diffused glory of Christ and make the christological transfiguration of earthly goods present and real for their sisters and brothers within the Christian community and for those without. The glory that appears in one's own life then strengthens the light cast on the world by the Christian narrative and makes brighter the paths of Christian discipleship. But the Christians' first priority, the glory and praise of God, will relativize the earthly goods that are at stake in their actions . . . .

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