Hans Urs von Balthasar

Hans Urs von Balthasar

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Hans Urs von Balthasar was a Swiss
Switzerland
Switzerland name of one of the Swiss cantons. ; ; ; or ), in its full name the Swiss Confederation , is a federal republic consisting of 26 cantons, with Bern as the seat of the federal authorities. The country is situated in Western Europe,Or Central Europe depending on the definition....

 theologian and priest
Priest
A priest is a person authorized to perform the sacred rites of a religion, especially as a mediatory agent between humans and deities. They also have the authority or power to administer religious rites; in particular, rites of sacrifice to, and propitiation of, a deity or deities...

 (incardinated into Roman Catholic Diocese of Chur) who was nominated to be a cardinal
Cardinal (Catholicism)
A cardinal is a senior ecclesiastical official, usually an ordained bishop, and ecclesiastical prince of the Catholic Church. They are collectively known as the College of Cardinals, which as a body elects a new pope. The duties of the cardinals include attending the meetings of the College and...

 of the Catholic Church. He is considered one of the most important theologians of the 20th century.

Life and significance


Born in Lucerne
Lucerne
Lucerne is a city in north-central Switzerland, in the German-speaking portion of that country. Lucerne is the capital of the Canton of Lucerne and the capital of the district of the same name. With a population of about 76,200 people, Lucerne is the most populous city in Central Switzerland, and...

, Switzerland
Switzerland
Switzerland name of one of the Swiss cantons. ; ; ; or ), in its full name the Swiss Confederation , is a federal republic consisting of 26 cantons, with Bern as the seat of the federal authorities. The country is situated in Western Europe,Or Central Europe depending on the definition....

 on 12 August 1905, he attended Stella Matutina (Jesuit school)
Stella Matutina (Jesuit school)
Stella Matutina in Feldkirch, Austria, was a Jesuit school from 1651–1773 and from 1856-1979.- Short history:The “Kolleg” began in 1649 but opened formally in 1651. In 1773, when Pope Clement XIV discontinued the order of the Society of Jesus, the school closed...

 in Feldkirch
Feldkirch, Vorarlberg
- Schools :* Bundesgymnasium und Bundesrealgymnasium Feldkirch * Bundeshandelsakademie und Bundeshandelsschule Feldkirch* Bundesoberstufenrealgymnasium und Bundesrealgymnasium Schillerstrasse...

, Austria
Austria
Austria , officially the Republic of Austria , is a landlocked country of roughly 8.4 million people in Central Europe. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Slovakia and Hungary to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the...

. He studied in Vienna
Vienna
Vienna is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Austria and one of the nine states of Austria. Vienna is Austria's primary city, with a population of about 1.723 million , and is by far the largest city in Austria, as well as its cultural, economic, and political centre...

, Berlin
Berlin
Berlin is the capital city of Germany and is one of the 16 states of Germany. With a population of 3.45 million people, Berlin is Germany's largest city. It is the second most populous city proper and the seventh most populous urban area in the European Union...

 and Zurich
Zürich
Zurich is the largest city in Switzerland and the capital of the canton of Zurich. It is located in central Switzerland at the northwestern tip of Lake Zurich...

, gaining a doctorate in German literature
German literature
German literature comprises those literary texts written in the German language. This includes literature written in Germany, Austria, the German part of Switzerland, and to a lesser extent works of the German diaspora. German literature of the modern period is mostly in Standard German, but there...

. He joined the Jesuits in 1929, and was ordained in 1936. He worked in Basel
Basel
Basel or Basle In the national languages of Switzerland the city is also known as Bâle , Basilea and Basilea is Switzerland's third most populous city with about 166,000 inhabitants. Located where the Swiss, French and German borders meet, Basel also has suburbs in France and Germany...

 as a student chaplain
Chaplain
Traditionally, a chaplain is a minister in a specialized setting such as a priest, pastor, rabbi, or imam or lay representative of a religion attached to a secular institution such as a hospital, prison, military unit, police department, university, or private chapel...

. In 1950 he left the Jesuit order, feeling that God
God
God is the English name given to a singular being in theistic and deistic religions who is either the sole deity in monotheism, or a single deity in polytheism....

 had called him to found a Secular Institute
Secular institute
In the Roman Catholic Church, a secular institute is an organization of individuals who are consecrated persons – professing the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty and obedience – while living in the world, unlike members of a religious order who live in community. It is one of the...

, a lay form of consecrated life that sought to work for the sanctification of the world especially from within. In 1950, the Jesuits did not see running the secular institute as compatible with belonging to the Society of Jesus. So, von Balthasar had to choose between remaining a Jesuit and dropping the institute or keeping the institute and leaving the Jesuits. He joined the diocese
Diocese
A diocese is the district or see under the supervision of a bishop. It is divided into parishes.An archdiocese is more significant than a diocese. An archdiocese is presided over by an archbishop whose see may have or had importance due to size or historical significance...

 of Chur
Chur
Chur or Coire is the capital of the Swiss canton of Graubünden and lies in the northern part of the canton.-History:The name "chur" derives perhaps from the Celtic kora or koria, meaning "tribe", or from the Latin curia....

 as a Roman Catholic, diocesan priest. From the low point of being banned from teaching, his reputation eventually rose to the extent that John Paul II
Pope John Paul II
Blessed Pope John Paul II , born Karol Józef Wojtyła , reigned as Pope of the Catholic Church and Sovereign of Vatican City from 16 October 1978 until his death on 2 April 2005, at of age. His was the second-longest documented pontificate, which lasted ; only Pope Pius IX ...

 asked him to be a cardinal
Cardinal (Catholicism)
A cardinal is a senior ecclesiastical official, usually an ordained bishop, and ecclesiastical prince of the Catholic Church. They are collectively known as the College of Cardinals, which as a body elects a new pope. The duties of the cardinals include attending the meetings of the College and...

 in 1988. However he died in his home in Basel on 26 June 1988, two days before the ceremony. Balthasar was interred in the Hofkirche cemetery in Lucern.

Along with Karl Rahner
Karl Rahner
Karl Rahner, SJ was a German Jesuit and theologian who, alongside Bernard Lonergan and Hans Urs von Balthasar, is considered one of the most influential Roman Catholic theologians of the 20th century...

 and Bernard Lonergan
Bernard Lonergan
Fr. Bernard J.F. Lonergan, CC, SJ was a Canadian Jesuit priest, philosopher, and theologian widely regarded as one of the most important Catholic thinkers of the twentieth century....

, Balthasar sought to offer an intellectual, faithful response to Western modernism. 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 challenge modern sensibilities.

Balthasar is very eclectic in his approach, sources, and interests and remains difficult to categorize. An example of his eclecticism was his long study and conversation with the influential Reformed Swiss theologian, Karl Barth
Karl Barth
Karl Barth was a Swiss Reformed theologian whom critics hold to be among the most important Christian thinkers of the 20th century; Pope Pius XII described him as the most important theologian since Thomas Aquinas...

, of 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.

Balthasar's Theological Dramatic Theory has influenced the work of Raymund Schwager
Raymund Schwager
Raymund Schwager was a Swiss Roman Catholic theologian.-Life:He was born in Balterswil into a Swiss farming family as the second of seven children. After primary and secondary school he joined the Society of Jesus in 1955...

.

Writings and contributions


Balthasar's first major work Apokalypse der deutschen Seele (1937-1939) (Apocalypse of the German Soul) was a study in German literature, theology and philosophy; published in Germany and Austria during the Third Reich, some have argued that the work contains anti-Semitism
Anti-Semitism
Antisemitism is suspicion of, hatred toward, or discrimination against Jews for reasons connected to their Jewish heritage. According to a 2005 U.S...

.

In Balthasar's book Mysterium Paschale
Mysterium Paschale
Mysterium Paschale: The Mystery of Easter is a book by Hans Urs von Balthasar that offers an account of the death and resurrection of Christ, and their significance for the Christian life. Von Balthasar discusses the "bodiliness" of the Resurrection from the "radical" death of Jesus, involving his...

he explores the meaning of Holy Saturday
Holy Saturday
Holy Saturday , sometimes known as Easter Eve or Black Saturday, is the day after Good Friday. It is the day before Easter and the last day of Holy Week in which Christians prepare for Easter...

, where Jesus Christ dies and descends to the dead, to be resurrected by God the Father and His own power. Balthasar extrapolates from it the idea that God can endure and conquer godlessness, abandonment, and death.

Balthasar is well known for his 16 volume systematics (Trilogy) which is divided into three parts: The Glory of the Lord, the first 7-volume work on 'theological aesthetics' (a theology based upon contemplation of the good, the beautiful, and the true). 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.
In Theo-Drama: Theological Dramatic Theory—the following 5-volume work on 'theodramatics'—the action of God and the human response, especially in the events of Good Friday
Good Friday
Good Friday , is a religious holiday observed primarily by Christians commemorating the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and his death at Calvary. The holiday is observed during Holy Week as part of the Paschal Triduum on the Friday preceding Easter Sunday, and may coincide with the Jewish observance of...

, Holy Saturday
Holy Saturday
Holy Saturday , sometimes known as Easter Eve or Black Saturday, is the day after Good Friday. It is the day before Easter and the last day of Holy Week in which Christians prepare for Easter...

, and Easter Sunday are examined. Balthasar's soteriology, christology, and eschatology, are here developed. The final group of volumes are titled: Theo-Logic. These three volumes describing the relation of the nature of Jesus Christ (christology) to reality itself (ontology
Ontology
Ontology is the philosophical study of the nature of being, existence or reality as such, as well as the basic categories of being and their relations...

, 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.

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.

As a Latin Rite Catholic priest and member of a religious order, Balthasar was very concerned that he 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
Adrienne von Speyr
Adrienne von Speyr was a Swiss medical doctor and Catholic mystic.- Biography :Born September 20, 1902 in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland, Adrienne von Speyr was a laywoman, wife, medical doctor, spiritual writer, and Catholic mystic...

.

Balthasar published varied works spanning many decades, fields of study (e.g., literature and literary analysis, lives of the saints, and the Church Fathers
Church Fathers
The Church Fathers, Early Church Fathers, Christian Fathers, or Fathers of the Church were early and influential theologians, eminent Christian teachers and great bishops. Their scholarly works were used as a precedent for centuries to come...

), and languages. His most controversial theological assertions were that Christ deposited his divine knowledge with the Father before the incarnation (kenotic doctrine), the possibility that all people may be saved, that Christ literally was "made sin", and the idea that Christ experienced in Sheol after his death on the cross a state of abandonment from the Father worse than hell.

He has used the expression Casta Meretrix to argue that the term Whore of Babylon
Whore of Babylon
The Whore of Babylon or "Babylon the great" is a Christian allegorical figure of evil mentioned in the Book of Revelation in the Bible. Her full title is given as "Babylon the Great, the Mother of Prostitutes and Abominations of the Earth." -Symbolism:...

 was acceptable in a certain tradition of the Church, in the writings of Rabanus Maurus
Rabanus Maurus
Rabanus Maurus Magnentius , also known as Hrabanus or Rhabanus, was a Frankish Benedictine monk, the archbishop of Mainz in Germany and a theologian. He was the author of the encyclopaedia De rerum naturis . He also wrote treatises on education and grammar and commentaries on the Bible...

 for instance.

At Balthasar's funeral, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
Pope Benedict XVI
Benedict XVI is the 265th and current Pope, by virtue of his office of Bishop of Rome, the Sovereign of the Vatican City State and the leader of the Catholic Church as well as the other 22 sui iuris Eastern Catholic Churches in full communion with the Holy See...

 said, speaking of Balthasar's work in general, "What the pope intended to express by this mark of distinction [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." Those critical of particular aspects of von Balthasar's work noted that while he was so honored by a papal nomination, providence also intervened to deny final realization of that honor as the capstone of his faithful service.

Universal reconciliation?


Balthasar has expressed some sympathy with a "hope" for salvation for non-Christians, but warns against asserting it. Universal salvation, if it happens, would be the result of Christ's "utter abandoment". Alyssa Pitstick gave criticism to this novel aspect of his theology in her book "Light in Darkness" (Eerdmans).

Legacy


Balthasar has an enduring legacy as one of the most important Catholic theologians of the 20th century. Most, but not all, of his major writings have been translated into English, and the journal he co-founded with Henri de Lubac
Henri de Lubac
Henri-Marie de Lubac, SJ was a French Jesuit priest who became a Cardinal of the Catholic Church, and is considered to be one of the most influential theologians of the 20th century...

, Walter Kasper, and Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI
Pope Benedict XVI
Benedict XVI is the 265th and current Pope, by virtue of his office of Bishop of Rome, the Sovereign of the Vatican City State and the leader of the Catholic Church as well as the other 22 sui iuris Eastern Catholic Churches in full communion with the Holy See...

), Communio
Communio
Communio is a federation of theological journals, founded in 1972 by Joseph Ratzinger, Hans Urs von Balthasar, Henri de Lubac, Walter Kasper, Marc Ouellet, Louis Bouyer and others. Communio, now published in fifteen editions , has become one of the most important journals of Catholic thought...

, currently appears in twelve languages, including Arabic. 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.

Works


A complete listing of Balthasar’s books published by Ignatius Press
Ignatius Press
Ignatius Press, named for Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Jesuit Order, is a Catholic publishing house based in San Francisco, California, USA. It was founded in 1978 by Father Joseph Fessio SJ, a Jesuit priest and former pupil of Pope Benedict XVI...

:
  • Bernanos: An Ecclessial Existence
  • The Christian and Anxiety
  • Christian Meditation
  • The Christian State of Life
  • Convergences
  • Cosmic Liturgy: The Universe According to Maximus the Confessor
  • Credo: Meditations on the Apostles' Creed
  • Dare We Hope "That All Men Be Saved"?
  • Does Jesus Know Us?
  • Elucidations
  • Engagement with God
  • First Glance at Adrienne Von Speyr
  • The Grain of Wheat: Aphorisms
  • Heart of the World
  • In the Fullness of Faith: On the Centrality of the Distinctively Catholic
  • The Laity in the Life of the Counsels: The Church's Mission in the World
  • Light of the Word: Brief Reflections on the Sunday Readings
  • Love Alone is Credible
  • Mary for Today
  • Mary, The Church at the Source (with Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger)
  • The Moment of Christian Witness
  • My Work
  • Mysterium Paschale: The Mystery of Easter
  • New Elucidations
  • The Office of Peter And the Structure of the Church
  • Our Task
  • Paul Struggles with His Congregation: The Pastoral Message of the Letters to the Corinthians
  • Prayer
  • Presence and Thought: An Essay on the Religious Philosophy of Gregory of Nyssa
  • Principles of Christian Morality
  • Razing the Bastions: On the Church in this Age
  • Romano Guardini: Reform From the Source
  • The Scandal of the Incarnation: Irenaeus Against the Heresies
  • A Short Primer for Unsettled Laymen
  • Test Everything: Hold Fast to What Is Good
  • The Theology of Henri De Lubac
  • A Theology of History
  • The Theology of Karl Barth
  • The Threefold Garland
  • To the Heart of the Mystery of Redemption
  • Tragedy Under Grace: Reinhold Schneider on the Experience of the West
  • Truth Is Symphonic: Aspects of Christian Pluralism
  • Two Sisters in the Spirit: Thérèse of Lisieux and Elizabeth of the Trinity
  • Unless You Become Like This Child
  • You Crown the Year With Your Goodness: Sermons Throughout the Liturgical Year
  • You Have Words of Eternal Life: Scripture Meditations


Explorations in Theology

• Explorations in Theology: Word Made Flesh, vol 1
• Explorations in Theology: Spouse of the Word, vol 2
• Explorations in Theology: Creator Spirit, vol 3
• Explorations in Theology: Spirit and Institution, vol 4

The Glory of the Lord: A Theological Aesthetics

• Volume I: Seeing the Form
• Volume II: Clerical Styles
• Volume III: Lay Styles
• Volume IV: The Realm of Metaphysics in Antiquity
• Volume V: The Realm of Metaphysics in the Modern Age
• Volume VI: Theology: The Old Covenant
• Volume VII: Theology: The New Covenant

Theo-Logic

• Volume I: The Truth of the World
• Volume II: Truth of God
• Volume III: The Spirit of the Truth

Theo-Drama

• Volume I: Prolegomena
• Volume II: Dramatis Personae
• Volume III: Dramatis Personae
• Volume IV: The Action
• Volume V: The Last Act

• Epilogue

External links