Friday, May 16, 2008

Triune Love: A Hope that Does Not Deceive

Toward the beginning of this little book, Balthasar writes:
"Truth is not a thing, nor is it a system. It is One, or rather, The One, possessing and determining itself in its infinite freedom. It is genuinely self-determining and thus holds together; it is not like a shapeless ocean, flowing aimlessly and endlessly in all directions." (p. 19)
And he concludes describing (h/t Cynthia R. Nielsen at Per Caritatem), an insoluble paradox of Marism and Hegelianism and then presents Christianity as that which alone weds transcendence and immanence in triune love revealed in the shape of Jesus Christ. Turning first to Marxism, he writes:
"the joy of self-surrender for this eschatological ideal (which I personally shall not live to enjoy) is actually greater than the envisioned happiness of a humanity that will no longer have any need to go beyond itself in such a heroic manner. In the same way, for Hegel, ‘absolute knowledge’ was of less moment than the joy of collaborating, through self-sacrifice, in its discovery. For modern man, struggling and suffering man, who is more significant than God the spectator; painful yearning for the Absolute is more significant than the painless, self-enclosed ‘knowledge of knowledge’. The difference is that in modern times there is also an awareness of the process itself (evolution). No doubt that is why every day we calmly accept reports of ever-intensifying war and famine, and the threat of total destruction of mankind at all levels, as the inevitable public sacrifice that must be offered to a transcendent ideal that increasingly disappears into the mist. Once we realize, however, that in practical terms this ideal is unattainable, it is a fact that the genuine sacrificial joy that could have sustained us during the early stages fades away. It becomes clear, from the secular standpoint, that the path on which we have set out (and there is no other) cannot be followed to its completion.

A miracle needs to take place: the most unyielding categorical imperative of self-transcendence must coincide with the most blissful inclination of love. And this is only possible in Christianity, where God is not ‘thought thinking itself’ (Aristotle] and ‘absolute knowledge’ [Hegel] but triune love—a love that comes to us from its origin in the shape of the incarnate Son, taking upon himself, on his Cross, our ultimate failure and hence our loss of joy, and in himself transforming our attempts to go beyond ourselves into new joy through a ‘hope that does not deceive’” (pp. 160-161).

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