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.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

God's Glory Appears: Love of Neighbor is Eucharistic

THE CHRISTIAN'S LOVE OF NEIGHBOR is eucharistic in nature. What this means for von Balthasar is that the love is radically self-giving to the other.  This love is imitative of the love of Jesus who prefers others to himself.  This eucharistic love of neighbor therefore mimics the eucharistic love of God.  However, von Balthasar does not fully equate the love of God with the love of neighbor.  While the love which expresses itself in self-giving is absolute when in reference to God, it is not similarly absolute when in reference to neighbor.  Even if not absolute, however, there is an radically-different aspect of love of neighbor that colors, indeed fundamentally affects, love of neighbor.

The Christian love of neighbor does not keep a balance sheet ("balanced settlement cease[s]," GL7.140).  It participates in the "pro nobis of Christ."  (Steck, 117, citing TD4.406)  This love, therefore, will have characteristics that might be viewed as "supererogatory," "and inversion of justice," and even "an unmerited burden."  Steck, 117.  Christian love of neighbor suffers, suffers if need be even unjustly. The love forgives wrongs.  This supererogatory, justice-inverting, unmerited, and forgiving love which is willing to suffer even unjustly is what it means to share in the cross of Christ.

Since Christian love of neighbor participates in the cross of Christ and exhibits the same sort of qualities as Christ's love for all men, it follows that the Christian love of neighbor participates in the mission of Christ.  It therefore betrays the qualities of "one who, in Christ, lives the mission of the Father and whose measure of love has its referent not in the quid pro quo of interpersonal fair play, but rather the Suffering Servant who laid down his life for him."  The entire paradigm is not one of justice, but one of self-giving love.

Love of neighbor in a sense "universalizes the Christ-event, like the Eucharist itself."  It therefore even shows itself to have liturgical qualities:

Borne by God's Spirit, the radical suffering love of the Christian makes Christ's own love visible in the broken bonds of human fellowship and his call to love audible to ears made deaf by sinful self-isolation. Christian love participates in the liturgical movement of the church's worship. Responding to God's Word, the gifts of the Christian are lifted up, so that they can be shared by the Father as eucharistic food for the neighbor.

Steck, 118.  In this regard, von Balthasar quotes Origen: "And thus every man is capable of becoming a pure food for his neighbor according to his worthiness and the purity of his intention. ... For these are mysteries of the Lord: every man has a certain food in himself."*  (Origen, Homily 7, in Lev.)

*Quoted in von Balthasar's TD5.383, Homo Creatus Est, 21, and The God Questions and Modern Man, 151.

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