Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Human Person comes to be deprivatized & socialized

Raymund Schwager writes on the drama of the Christian Life in his book, Jesus in the Drama of Salvation (pp 218-221)

If an actor plays his part well, he steps with his whole existence into the service of the character he is to represent. This does not make him a puppet, but his own experience with its hopes and sufferings, its dreams and disappointments is expressed in a transformed way in the person who appears on the stage. The actor puts something of his own life into the service of the figure whom he has to play. Certainly, in his performance he always remains in the role, out of which he must regularly step, in order to live his own life with his own responsibilities. But his service in the role has a great symbolic power.

Christian life can be understood from the viewpoint of this parable...

Even if a good actor puts everything into his part, his own life remains more important. It was different with the fate of Jesus. His human life had no aim of its own beside his mission. It was a matter of being the living flesh and dramatic instrumentality for that threefold life which had gripped him. A similar task stands before those who are ready to follow him. Given the spontaneous urge to live, all of us start with our own wishes, aims, and plans, and these, while preserving the person's own imperious will to life, can often be built into collective projects within history without any very great difficulty. Self-will thus appears as service. Christian faith demands, however, a different service and therefore includes a fundamental conversion. The decisive thing is the question of the whole understanding of life and the readiness ultimately not to live one's own life any longer, but Christ's, and to allow oneself to be led by the Spirit. One's own life becomes then a living instrument on which the melody of a higher life can be played. Such a conversion can naturally not be the fruit of one individual decision, but involves a lifelong process.

From the insight that the innermost dimension of human life is the divine life bestowed on humankind, H. U. von Balthasar distinguishes between spirit-subject and person. He ascribes the spiritual individual to the creation, while he defines personal existence by means of the supernatural mission and participation in the trinitarian life of God. In the case of Christ, from whom Balthasar draws the theological concept of person, this distinction can be established fairly easily, even by means of church doctrine (anhypostasis of human nature). However Balthasar tries to understand all human persons from the viewpoint of the supernatural mission, according to the archetype of Christ: "But in Christ there is hope to be no mere individual self, but to become a person of God, with a task likewise defined through Christ." Since the Christian task is always aimed at the others, together with supernatural personal existence, according to Balthasar, there is at the same time implied a community among humans: "The human self, becoming a person theologically through an individual calling and mission, comes to be simultaneously deprivatized and socialized; it is made into a space and bearer of community."


In all this, the human person should not be understood as a fixed quantity, closed in on itself, which can be changed only from outside. It is in its whole being oriented toward God and has as a creature something indeterminate in itself. It is of itself not finally self-determining or autonomous, but - despite its subsistence - must at the same time in its innermost being be thought of on the model of "material" which is in need of further determination. By receiving divine life it is, therefore, not alienated from itself. Existence in faith does not mean playing a role which is strange, but being addressed by the role received (mission) in the indeterminacy at the center of one's person and challenged to a new self-determination and freedom made possible by the Holy Spirit.

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