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 23, 2012

God's Glory Appears: Hope for Neighbor

A FOURTH HORIZONTAL COMPONENT of von Balthasar's Christian ethics is the Christological hope which moves the relationship with neighbor.  The "horizontal time" in which our relationship with neighbor exists has been incorporated into the "vertical time" of God and man.  God's love is found in the life of all men: from the love that is found in creation to the love that is displayed by Christ on the cross.  Especially in the triduum--the three days wherein Christ suffered his passion, his death, and his resurrection--we find the hope of humankind.  This three-day, hope-filled event changed the horizontal relationship that men have one with another because it becomes enveloped by it:

The new meaning of human history is revealed in the entire divine economy, but especially in the Christ of the Triduum.  The no of humanity has been answered and enveloped by the costly self-giving yes of Christ.  His love dissolves the objective burden of sin, but it hopes to do more--to win back sinful human hearts by his greater love.  This radical and daring hope of triune love which inspires God's work in Christ is the meaning that God has given horizontal history. 

Steck,116.  While Christ's victory is not fully completed in the existential present, there is a completion in future, eschatological hope.  Von Balthasar's seems to lean towards a doctrine of universal salvation, in that he advances the notion that this eschatalogical hope will be fulfilled, that God's love will win out so that hope will be fulfilled and every human will respond to God's love in the end.  This notion is caged in words of hope: ""Can we say . . . that there is anxiety and anguish in the heart of God producing not 'certainty of salvation,' but something far more, namely the flower of hope?"*  Steck, 196 n. 85 (quoting TD5.290)

 The Theological Virtue of Hope

By shifting the focus from "certainty of salvation" to "flower of hope" and saying that this "flower of hope" is "something far more" than "certainty of salvation," von Balthasar might be said to advocate an even more extreme form of salvation certainty.  This "flower of hope" is a super-certainty of salvation.

God's love for all men, a love which shows itself in hope, embraces all, even the most alienated.  In von Balthasar's view, there is no room for tragedy in Christian life.  Future hope prevents any possibility of eternal tragedy.  All Christian acts that relate to neighbor will be influenced by this hope that knows no bounds.
The theological hope of the Christian is ultimately directed toward the reconciliation of all persons with God. But while this hope goes "beyond this world," it does not "pass it by" (TD5.176). Von Balthasar cites approvingly Jürgen Motlmann's observation that there is an "other face" to our reconciliation with God that "has always been short-changed" in Christian history: "the realization of an eschatological hope for justice, the humanization of man, the socialization of humanity, peace for all creation.
Steck, 117.

This hope is to be awakened in the world.  The most hopeless, the most alienated are not to be considered outside of  hope.  This hope will show itself in the Christian response to the poor and oppressed, and will express itself in the creation of "such humane conditions as will actually allow the poor and oppressed to have hope."  The hope in eternal salvation must show itself in acts that will elicit from our neighbor this hope "by creating conditions" in this world "apt to promote it."  TD5.176.   Thus it is that the work in this world for "justice" is part of the moral endeavor which is brought into the Christian mission.  It is part of our effort to work towards the salvation of souls, to reconcile the world to God.

Again, in the real of hope there seems to be a conflation or collapse of the natural and supernatural so that all the natural is supernaturalized or the supernatural is naturalized.  Earthly justice becomes inextricably wrapped up and equated with eschatalogical hope.  Von Balthasar's rejection of the grace/nature or nature/supernature distinction seems to lead to some less-than-traditional, unsettling, even disturbing--dare we say temerarious if not outrightly heretical?--views.

Along with great beauty and heart-felt Christian sentiment, there is something not quite right in the von Balthsarian formulae.

*Steck also refers to von Balthasar's controversial work Dare We Hope 'That All Men Be Saved?'  (D. Kipp and L.Krauth,trans.) (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1988).

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