Hans Urs von Balthasar
Servant of God
Hans Urs von Balthasar
|Born||12 August 1905|
|Died||26 June 1988 (aged 82)|
|Venerated in||Roman Catholic Church|
Hans Urs von Balthasar (12 August 1905 – 26 June 1988) was a Swiss theologian and Catholic priest who was to be created a cardinal of the Catholic Church but died before the ceremony. He is considered one of the most important Roman Catholic theologians of the 20th century. On March 2018, together with the mystic and stigmatist Adrienne von Speyr, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Chur formally opened their cause towards sainthood.
Balthasar was born in Lucerne, Switzerland, on 12 August 1905, to a wealthy family. He was educated first by Benedictine monks at the abbey school at Engelberg in central Switzerland. Before finishing his secondary education, however, Balthasar was moved by his parents to the Stella Matutina College run by the Society of Jesus in Feldkirch, Austria. In 1923 he enrolled in the University of Zurich. His studies in philosophy and German literature led him to study subsequently in Vienna and Berlin and culminated in his doctoral work on German literature and idealism.
In 1929, having submitted his thesis, he entered the Society of Jesus ("Jesuits") in Germany, since the Jesuits were banned in Switzerland until 1973. For three years he studied philosophy at Pullach, near Munich, and came into contact with Erich Przywara, whose work on analogia entis (the analogy of being) was very influential on him. In 1932, he moved to Fourvières, the Jesuit school at Lyon, for his four years of theological study. Here he encountered Jean Daniélou, Gaston Fessard, and Henri de Lubac. Daniélou and de Lubac were both to become notable from the 1940s onwards as members of the nouvelle théologie, a group of thinkers raising deep questions about the neoscholastic doctrine of grace and nature, with its suggestion that human nature could be conceived of in isolation from its relation to the vision of God. Both Daniélou and de Lubac, as part of their re-assessment of neoscholastic thought, were increasingly turning to studies of patristic thinkers. Balthasar received from these theological studies an enduring love of the Church Fathers, which was later to lead to his studies of Origen of Alexandria (1938), Maximus the Confessor, Kosmische Liturgie (1941), and Gregory of Nyssa, Présence et pensée (1942).
Having completed his training in seven years, because of his previous studies, Balthasar was ordained a priest in 1936. He then worked briefly in Munich, on the Jesuit journal Stimmen der Zeit. In 1940, with the Nazi regime encroaching on the freedom of Catholic journalists, he left Germany and began work in Basel as a student chaplain.
While in Basel he met Adrienne von Speyr. She was a twice-married Protestant medical doctor in chronically poor health, who through her mystical experiences would have a huge impact on Balthasar's later thought. In 1940 he received her into the Catholic Church. In 1945, they founded a religious society, the Community of Saint John (Johannesgemeinschaft), for men and women. This became more widely known three years later when Balthasar produced a theology for secular institutes in his work Der Laie und der Ordenstand, the first book to be published by the Johannes Verlag, a publishing house established with the help of a friend.
Because the Jesuits did not see running the institute as compatible with belonging to the Society, von Balthasar had to choose between remaining a Jesuit and his involvement with the institute. In 1950 he left the Society of Jesus, feeling that God had called him to continue his work with this secular institute, a form of consecrated life that sought to work for the sanctification of the world from within the world. He accordingly remained without a role in the Church until in 1956 he was incardinated into the Diocese of Chur as a secular priest.
Balthasar was not invited to take part in any capacity in the Second Vatican Council but in later years his reputation as a theologian grew. In 1969 Pope Paul VI appointed him to the International Theological Commission, and in 1984 he was awarded the first Paul VI International Prize for his contributions to theology.
From the low point of being banned from teaching as a result of his leaving the Society of Jesus, his reputation eventually rose to the extent that Pope John Paul II named him to be a cardinal in 1988. He died, however, in his home in Basel on 26 June 1988, two days before the ceremony which would have granted him that position. His remains were interred in the Hofkirche cemetery in Lucerne.
Along with Karl Rahner and Bernard Lonergan, Balthasar sought to offer an intellectual, faithful response to Western modernity, which posed a challenge to traditional Catholic thought.:262 While Rahner offered a progressive, accommodating position on modernity and Lonergan worked out a philosophy of history that sought to critically appropriate modernity, Balthasar resisted the reductionism and human focus of modernity, wanting Christianity to be more challenging toward modern sensibilities.;:262  Balthasar is very eclectic in his approach, sources, and interests and remains difficult to categorize.:2 An example of his eclecticism was his long study and conversation with the influential Reformed Swiss theologian, Karl Barth, on whose work he wrote the first Catholic analysis and response. Although Balthasar's major points of analysis on Karl Barth's work have been disputed, his The Theology of Karl Barth: Exposition and Interpretation (1951) remains a classic work for its sensitivity and insight; Karl Barth himself agreed with its analysis of his own theological enterprise, calling it the best book on his own theology.
Writings and thought
Balthasar's first major work, the three volume Apokalypse der deutschen Seele (1937–39) (Apocalypse of the German Soul) was an expansion of his dissertation and a study in German literature, theology, and philosophy. Published in Germany and Austria during the Third Reich, one scholar has argued that the work contains anti-Semitism.
Balthasar was better known for his 15-volume systematics (Trilogy), published from 1961-1985, which is divided into three parts according to John 14:6 ("I am the way, the truth, and the life"), and therefore according to the transcendentals bonum, verum, and pulchrum (the good, the true and the beautiful).
(1) The Glory of the Lord (7 volumes) a work on 'theological aesthetics'. One of the often quoted passages from the entire Trilogy comes from the First Volume (Seeing the Form) of The Glory of the Lord:
Before the beautiful—no, not really before but within the beautiful—the whole person quivers. He not only 'finds' the beautiful moving; rather, he experiences himself as being moved and possessed by it.:270
(2) Theo-Drama: Theological Dramatic Theory (5 volumes), a work on 'theodramatics', examines the ethics and goodness in the action of God and in the human response, especially in the events of Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday. Balthasar's soteriology, christology, and eschatology, are here developed.
(3) The final group of volumes is titled Theo-Logic (3 volumes), describing the truth about the relation of the nature of Jesus Christ (christology) to reality itself (ontology, or the study of being). He completes the third part of his trilogy with a brief Epilogue.
A distinctive thought in Balthasar's work is that our first experience after birth is the face of love of our mothers, where the I encounters for the first time the Thou, and the Thou smiles in a relationship of love and sustenance.:236
Balthasar also wrote of the lives of saints and Church fathers. Saints appear as an example of the lived Christian life throughout his writings. Instead of merely systematic analysis of theology, Balthasar described his theology as a "kneeling theology" deeply connected to contemplative prayer and as a "sitting theology" intensely connected to faith seeking understanding guided by the heart and mind of the Catholic Church.:265
Balthasar was very concerned that his writings address spiritual and practical issues. He insisted that his theology never be divorced from the mystical experiences of his long-time friend and convert, the physician Adrienne von Speyr.
Balthasar published varied works spanning many decades, fields of study (e.g., literature and literary analysis, lives of the saints, and the Church Fathers), and languages.
At Balthasar's funeral, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, later to become Pope Benedict XVI, said, speaking of Balthasar's work in general: "What the pope intended to express by this mark of distinction [i.e., elevation to the cardinalate], and of honor, remains valid; no longer only private individuals but the Church itself, in its official responsibility, tells us that he is right in what he teaches of the faith."
The most comprehensive bibliography (223 pages, including translations up to 2005) now available of all of von Balthasar's writings is Capol, Cornelia; Müller, Claudia, eds. (2005). Hans Urs von Balthasar: Bibliographie 1925-2005. Einsiedeln: Johannes Verlag. ISBN 978-3894110291.
Hans Urs von Balthasar (1988) . In the Fullness of Faith. On the Centrality of the Distinctively Catholic. Translated by Graham Harrison of the German original Katholisch (1975). Ignatius Press. p. 130. ISBN 978-0898701661.
In the 1970 book Theologie der Drei Tage (English translation: Mysterium Paschale) he explored the meaning of Holy Saturday, where Jesus Christ dies and descends to the dead, to be resurrected by God the Father and His own power. In the "Preface to the Second Edition", Balthasar takes a cue from Revelation 13:8 (Vulgate: agni qui occisus est ab origine mundi, NIV: "the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world") to extrapolate the idea that God as "immanent Trinity" can endure and conquer godlessness, abandonment, and death in an "eternal super-kenosis". Christ would deposit his divine knowledge with the Father before the Incarnation and, after it, he would literally be "made sin" (2 Corinthians 5:21), experiencing in Sheol after his death on the cross a state of abandonment from the Father worse than hell. In the words of Balthasar himself: "At this point, where the subject undergoing the 'hour' is the Son speaking with the Father, the controversial 'Theopaschist formula' has its proper place: 'One of the Trinity has suffered.' The formula can already be found in Gregory Nazianzen: 'We needed a...crucified God'."
His other controversial theological assertions were in favor of a rehabilitation of Origen and his soteriology. In a sort of conflict among the theological virtues, since "Love believes all things, [but also] hopes all things" (1 Corinthians 13:7), what for fides must be rejected, for spes must be accepted, in order to recover with the theology of hope what in 553 the dogmatic theology had condemned with the anathema of the fifth Ecumenical Council of Constantinople against the possibility of apocatastasis, i.e. of a universal salvation. Universal salvation, if it happens, would be the result of the "utter abandonment the Son undergoes". Balthasar cited the list of other Catholic thinkers who have agreed with such a perspective: Przywara, de Lubac, Fessard, Blondel, Péguy, Claudel, Marcel, Bloy, Ratzinger, Kasper, Greshake, Guardini, Rahner. "In summa: a company in which one can feel quite confortable."
Balthasar provided a glowing testimonial, published on the back of the jacket of the first (hardback) English-language edition, for Valentin Tomberg's major work of Christian occultism, Méditations sur les 22 arcanes majeurs du Tarot (initially attributed only to an anonymous author, as Tomberg wished, and later published in English as Meditations on the Tarot); an Afterword attached to the more recent English paperback edition notes "Cardinal Urs von Balthasar" on the front cover.
Balthasar's major writings have been translated into English, and the journal he co-founded with Henri de Lubac, Karl Lehmann, and Joseph Ratzinger, Communio, currently appears in twelve languages. In delivering his eulogy, Ratzinger, quoting de Lubac, called Balthasar, "perhaps the most cultured man of our time," a tribute to Balthasar's immense erudition.
- Edward T. Oakes, S.J.; David Moss, eds. (2004). The Cambridge Companion to Hans Urs von Balthasar. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 1-13982680-8. ISBN 978-1-139-82680-8.
- "1988". newsaints.faithweb.com. Retrieved 28 March 2018.
- The doctorate was entitled "History of the Eschatological Problem in German Literature". It appeared, considerably rewritten, as Apokalypse der deutschen Seele, 3 vols, (Salzburg, 1937-9)
- While, as stated above, Jesuits were banned from running schools or parishes, student chaplaincy did not fall under the ban on Jesuits. This was because the anti-clerical laws of the 1840s which had banned the Jesuits had not envisaged this type of institution.F Kerr, Twentieth Century Catholic Theologians: From Neoscholasticism to Nuptial Mystery, (Malden, MA; Oxford: Blackwell, 2007), p122
- Aidan Nichols, The word has been abroad: a guide through Balthasar's aesthetics, Introduction to Hans Urs von Balthasar 1, (1998), p. xviii.
- Munro, André (21 January 2014). "Hans Urs von Balthasar". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 9 July 2018.
- Leaving the Society meant that Balthasar was without a position, a pastorate, a place to live, or an income. Because he had left the Jesuit order, the Catholic Congregation for Seminaries and Universities had banned him from teaching. But he eventually found an ecclesiastical home under a sympathetic bishop and was able to live by a grueling schedule of lecture tours. "Hans Urs von Balthasar (1905-1988)" Radical Faith The Society of the Sacred Mission Archived 2007-04-05 at the Wayback Machine, retrieved 1 February 2009.
- On 29 May 1988 Pope John Paul II announced his intention to nominate von Balthasar as cardinal at the next consistory, held 28 June 1988; see Salvador Miranda, "Consistories for the creation of Cardinals: 20th Century (1903-2005)," retrieved 9 May 2013. One is not a cardinal until the Pope formally announces the new cardinal in a consistory with the existing members of the college of cardinals; see Code of Canon Law (1983), canon 351.
- Hans Urs von Balthasar at Find a Grave.
- John Anthony Berry (2012). "Tested in Fire: Hans Urs von Balthasar on the Moment of Christian Witness" (PDF). MELiTA THEoLoGiCA. 62: 145–170. Retrieved 11 October 2018.
- Colón-Emeric, Edgardo Antonio (31 May 2005). "Symphonic Truth: Von Balthasar and Christian Humanism". The Christian Century. 122 (11): 30–. Retrieved 21 November 2016.
- See "Chapter Seven: The anti-modern anti-Semitic complex" in Paul Silas Peterson, The Early Hans Urs von Balthasar: Historical Contexts and Intellectual Formation (2015).
- Mathijs Lamberigts; Lieven Boeve; Terrence Merrigan, eds. (2007). Theology and the Quest for Truth. Historical- and Systematic-theological Studies. In collaboration with Dirk Claes. Leuven: Peeters Publishers. p. 79. ISBN 9-04291873-X. ISBN 978-9-042-91873-3.
- Aidan Nichols, O.P. (2011). A Key to Balthasar. Hans Urs von Balthasar on Beauty, Goodness, and Truth. Ada Township, Michigan: Baker Publishing Group. ISBN 0-80103974-6. ISBN 978-0-801-03974-4.
- Hans Urs von Balthasar (1993) . My Work. In Retrospect. San Francisco: Ignatius Press. p. 153. ISBN 1-68149347-0. ISBN 978-1-68149347-3.
- Casta Meretrix: The Church as Harlot Archived 2010-02-01 at the Wayback Machine.
- John L. Allen Jr. (November 28, 2003). "The Word From Rome". National Catholic Reporter. 3 (15).
- See occurrences on Google Books.
- Hans Urs von Balthasar (2000) . "Preface to the Second Edition". Mysterium Paschale. The Mystery of Easter. Translated with an Introduction by Aidan Nichols, O.P. (2nd ed.). San Francisco: Ignatius Press. ISBN 1-68149348-9. ISBN 978-1-681-49348-0.
- Hans Urs von Balthasar (1998). Theo-Drama. Theological Dramatic Theory, Vol. 5: The Last Act. Translated by Graham Harrison from the German Theodramatik. Das Endspiel, 1983. San Francisco: Ignatius Press. ISBN 1-68149579-1. ISBN 978-1-681-49579-8.
- Latin: unus de Trinitate passus est. DS 401 (Pope John II, letter Olim quidem addressed to the senators of Constantinople, March 534).
- Hans Urs von Balthasar (1992). Theo-drama. Theological Dramatic Theory. Vol. 3: Dramatis Personae: Persons in Christ. Translated by Graham Harrison from the German Theodramatik: Teil 2. Die Personen des Spiels : Die Personen in Christus, 1973. San Francisco: Ignatius Press. ISBN 1-68149577-5. ISBN 978-1-681-49577-4.
- Hans Urs von Balthasar (1988). "Epilogue. Apokatastasis: Universal reconciliation (pp. 137ff.)". Dare We Hope "that All Men be Saved"? With a Short Discourse on Hell ["Was dürfen wir hoffen?" (1986) and "Kleiner Diskurs über die Hölle" (1987)]. Translated by Dr. David Kipp and Rev. Lothar Krauth. San Francisco: Ignatius Press. ISBN 0-89870-207-0. ISBN 978-0-898-70207-1.
- Oakes; Moss, eds. (2004). p. 261. Quotation: "Balthasar does not deny the possibility of salvation outside the boundaries of explicit Christianity - in fact he is probably more emphatic than Rahner in maintaining the legitimacy of Christian hope for universal salvation."
- Morwenna Ludlow (2000). Universal salvation: eschatology in the thought of Gregory of Nyssa p. 5. "Von Balthasar hopes for universal salvation and warns against asserting it outright (e.g. Mysterium Paschale, 177–8, 262–6; Dare We Hope . . ., 148–57, 236–54)
- Alyssa Lyra Pitstick (2007). Light in darkness. Hans Urs von Balthasar and the Catholic Doctrine of Christ's Descent Into Hell. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. p. 264. ISBN 0-80284-039-6. ISBN 978-0-802-84039-4.
- Hans Urs von Balthasar (1988). p. 101.
- Anonymous (2002-06-01). Meditations on the Tarot: A Journey Into Christian Hermeticism. Translated by Powell, Robert. Jeremy P. Tarcher/ Putnam. ISBN 9781585421619.
- The influence is reflected in some of Schwager's titles, i.e.: Jesus in the Drama of Salvation. Toward a Biblical Doctrine of Redemption (German: Jesus im Heilsdrama. Entwurf einer biblischen Erlösungslehre), New York: Crossroad 1999, and: Banished from Eden: Original Sin and Evolutionary Theory in the Drama of Salvation (Duits: Erbsünde und Heilsdrama: Im Kontext von Evolution, Gentechnik und Apokalyptik), Londen: Gracewing 2006.
- "Hans Urs von Balthasar Eulogy - Cardinal Henri de Lubac -A Witness of Christ in the Church -Welcome to The Crossroads Initiative".
- Volumes 4 and 5 of The Glory of the Lord span all of Western philosophy, literature, and theology. Balthasar translated many authors, from Peguy to Ignatius of Loyla and Augustine to Calderon de la Barca and Claudel's "Satin Slipper". He was an incredible musician, with a particular affinity for Mozart.
- Peter Henrici, SJ, "Hans Urs von Balthasar: a Sketch of His Life", Communio: International Catholic Review 16/3 (fall, 1989): 306–50
- Rodney Howsare, Balthasar: a guide for the perplexed, (2009)
- Karen Kilby, Balthasar: A (Very) Critical Introduction, (2012)
- Aidan Nichols, The word has been abroad: a guide through Balthasar's aesthetics, Introduction to Hans Urs von Balthasar 1, (1998)
- Aidan Nichols, No bloodless myth: a guide through Balthasar's dramatics, Introduction to Hans Urs von Balthasar, (2000)
- Aidan Nichols, Say it is Pentecost: a guide through Balthasar's logic, Introduction to Hans Urs von Balthasar (2001)
- Aidan Nichols, Scattering the seed: a guide through Balthasar's early writings on philosophy and the arts", Introduction to Hans Urs von Balthasar, (2006)
- Aidan Nichols, Divine fruitfulness: a guide through Balthasar's theology beyond the trilogy, Introduction to Hans Urs von Balthasar, (2007)
- John O’Donnell, Hans Urs von Balthasar, Outstanding Christian Thinkers, (2000)
- Ben Quash, "Hans Urs von Balthasar", in David F. Ford, The Modern Theologians, (3rd edn, 2005)
- Lucy Gardner et al., Balthasar at the end of modernity, (1999)
- Mark A McIntosh, Christology from within: spirituality and the incarnation in Hans Urs von Balthasar, Studies in spirituality and theology; 3, (2000)
- Aidan Nichols, A key to Balthasar: Hans Urs von Balthasar on beauty, goodness and truth, (2011)
- Paul Silas Peterson, The Early Hans Urs von Balthasar: Historical Contexts and Intellectual Formation (2015)
- J. Riches, ed, The Analogy of Beauty: The theology of Hans Urs von Balthasar (Edinburgh, 1986)
- Gordon, James. 2016. A holy one in our midst. Minneapolis: Fortress Press
- Denny, Christopher. 2016. A generous symphony. Minneapolis: Fortress Press
- O'Regan, Cyril. 2014. The Anatomy of Misremembering: Von Balthasar’s Response to Philosophical Modernity, Volume 1: Hegel. Chestnut Ridge: Crossroad Publishing
- O'Regan, Cyril. Forthcoming. The Anatomy of Misremembering: Von Balthasar's Response to Philosophical Modernity, Volume 2: Heidegger. Chestnut Ridge: Crossroad Publishing
|Wikiquote has quotations related to: Hans Urs von Balthasar|
- Publications by and about Hans Urs von Balthasar in the catalogue Helveticat of the Swiss National Library
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- Literature by and about Hans Urs von Balthasar in the German National Library catalogue
- Works by and about Hans Urs von Balthasar in the Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek (German Digital Library)
- Victor Conzemius: Balthasar, Hans Urs von in German, French and Italian in the online Historical Dictionary of Switzerland.
- "bishop/bvbalt". Catholic-Hierarchy.org. David M. Cheney.
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