Balthasar on Being Awakened to Love by Love

In chapter five of Love Alone is Credible, Balthasar observes that in order for God to reveal his love for the world, this love—even in its wholly-otherness—must be recognizable by the world. Paradoxically, from the (humanly speaking) grandest to the most selfish lover, each must in some inchoate way already have at least a taste of love in order to recognize true love. As the Christian tradition confesses, God is our Creator, and if he is our Creator, he can no doubt create us with a capacity to love him and can implant within us the seeds of such love which he himself can then (non-violently) bring to fruition. To illustrate how such love might be awakened, Balthasar offers the following analogy.

“After a mother has smiled at her child for many days and weeks, she finally receives her child’s smile in response. She has awakened love in the heart of her child, and as the child awakens to love, it also awakens to knowledge: the initially empty-sense impressions gather meaningfully around the core of the Thou. Knowledge (with its whole complex of intuition and concept) comes into play, because the play of love has already begun beforehand, initiated by the mother, the transcendent. God interprets himself to man as love in the same way: he radiates love, which kindles the light of love in the heart of man, and it is precisely this light that allows man to perceive this, the absolute Love: ‘For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness”, who has shown in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ’ (2 Cor 4:6). In this face, the primal foundation of being smiles at us as a mother and as a father. Insofar as we are his creatures, the seed of love lives dormant within us as the image of God (imago). But just as no child can be awakened to love without being loved, so too no human heart can come to an understanding of God without the free gift of his grace—in the image of his Son” (p. 76; emphasis added).

5 thoughts on “Balthasar on Being Awakened to Love by Love”

  1. Dear Cynthia,

    I’ve been following the recent postings on your blog and have meant to comment but, given all the craziness and business presently occupying my life, haven’t gotten around to doing so. My apologies.

    But, as usual, you’ve posted on a subject near and dear to my heart. In fact, something I’ve considered myself with respect to von Balthasar and analogy. I have the following passage to share–also from von Balthasar and also on analogy in the manner suggested in your posting–from his Glory of the Lord: vol. 4 The Realm of Metaphysics in Antiquity:

    “[I]f a concept that is fundamental to the Bible [i.e., to revelation] has no kind of analogy in the general intellectual sphere, and awoke no familiar echo in the heart of man, it would remain absolutely incomprehensible and thereby a matter of indifference. It is only when there is an analogy (be it only distant) between the human sense of the divine and divine revelation that the height, the difference and the distance of that which the revelation discloses may be measured in God’s grace” (14).

    Well done as usual!

    Kind regards,

  2. Dear Anxietas,

    So good to hear from you. Have you finished your dissertation? If so, I still want a copy : )

    Thanks for sending the Balthasar quote–very nice. I am reading through Love Alone is Credible and thoroughly enjoying it.

    Warm regards,

  3. Cynthia,

    Well, I finished a draft of the dissertation, and now it’s in my director’s hands. We’ll see if he likes it or not. Now, it’s just a matter of waiting, which, for me, is always the hardest part.

    As for von Balthasar, I’ve always enjoyed reading him. I remember also reading his Love Alone is Credible, although, to be honest, I’m not quite certain that I really understood what he was up to in the first two chapters or so. I know he’s arguing against cosmological and anthropological (i.e., Rahner) approaches to theology, but I didn’t quite get the reasoning. Oh well, maybe now I’ll have some more time to devote to HUvB.

    All the best,

  4. Dear Anxietas,

    Having your draft finished is a huge accomplishment–congratulations.

    I plan to post more on Balthasar over the summer, so please continue to drop by!

    Warm regards,

  5. Dear Cynthia,
    Great post! I think Balthasar re-interprets Heidegger’s Fourfold so well, this being the first one. I love the fact that according to Balthasar the moment of personal identification, of knowing ourselves as beings, is the moment developed from and in-wrapped by a mother’s love. Sounds like a small example of the Church as Mother to me! Thanks for this!

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