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.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

God's Glory Appears: Grateful Response to the Lord

THE CHRISTIAN RESPONDS TO the gift of God in Jesus Christ with a grateful answer of love. This response is a moral act, a moral act that distinguishes or particularizes the Christian moral response from any other.  Von Balthasar puts it simply:  "I have been 'addressed by a free loving Thou, I am both given an answer and called to give one in return.'"  There is something additional to just mere internal response: the giving implies a task.  "'[W]hat I have been given is to be transformed and freely given back.'"  Steck, 115 (quoting TD3.458).

This gratefulness extends itself to the entirety of one's life: the natural and the supernatural.  We respond to our benefactor--the Creator--by thanksgiving for the utterly gratuitous gift of being, of life.  "The complete 'why-lessness' of every creaturely form transforms its appearance into a moment of natural grace: something whose Origin and Giver life hidden has come to expression before me."  Steck, 115.

 Salvador Dali's Corpus Hypercubicus

For the Christian, the grateful response to God the Creator is multiplied by our grateful response to God the Redeemer.  "When we consider Jesus Christ, we see that God is not just personal Other [as he reveals himself in nature], but the one whose gift of forgiving love to us is absolute.":

This other, whose presence and agency lie beyond my own will, compounds his mystery by surrendering himself to me and by intentionally allowing his freedom to be tied to mine. Whatever response I will make,should it be appropriate (or aesthetically fitting), it will be enabled and guided by the gift I have received and my grateful recognition of it.

Steck, 115.   It is the absolute, self-giving, and totally depreciating (kenotic) love of God which is made manifest to us in all its hidden glory in Christ that drives from us our response, which motivates, enables, and shapes our "Yes" in response to God's "Yes."  The forgiveness which is proffered to us in Christ is the heart and center of our "Yes."  "We must learn 'what it means to be forgiven,' and respond from within that reality, not as some past accomplishment, but as an ongoing dimension of our daily existence."  Steck,116.  There is a constant "ite missa est" in the Christian response to Christ's self-giving sacrifice which purchased man's redemption and which effected our salvation, our forgiveness.

The response that this great act of love on the part elicits is not limited to the response between a man and his God.  It also colors the response of man to his fellow man.  Christ's solidarity with man should make a big difference in the manner in which I behold my fellows.  In an unusual expression of it, our neighbors' "words have been brought into the triune conversation through Christ's solidarity with them and enclosed into the one Word of God.  The neighbor's word now comes to us as a gift of God since everything 'in the created order, with the exception of sin, is enabled, through Christ, to be an expression of God.'"  Steck, 116 (quoting VB's "Characteristics of Christian," in the Word Made Flesh, vol. 1 of Explorations of Theology (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1989, 176).

It is difficult to distinguish nature and supernature in von Balthasar, and this would appear to be by design since he shuns the traditional Catholic way of thinking on this matter.  While there is a point to be made (nature has a "relic" of original grace, or perhaps better a "hole" which is a relic of the original grace, since God intended to have nature and grace together in man, as it was in Adam), one fears also a collapse, where everything is grace and everything is nature.  Is Christ's death on the Cross really nothing other than a re-expression of Creation?  It is difficult to see how "nature" is raised by "grace" in von Balthasar's thought since nature is already grace and grace nature.
These temporal and limited words of pain and joy, of praise and judgment,, of understanding and direction, become God's particular word to the believer because, in Christ, God has decided to make these words part of the eternal triune conversation.They are always heard and understood within the one Word of forgiveness and mercy spoken in Christ and addressed to me and to the other, but, so heard, they are genuinely graced addresses to which the Christian is called to respond. The neighbor then is not only the recipient of Christian love but also the means in which God calls forth the Christian's response.
Steck, 116.

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