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).