Hans Urs von Balthasar Responds to Mr. Akin

| | Comments (3)

from Two Sisters in the Spirit
Hans Urs von Balthasar

In recent times [he's referring here to the time of original publication about the 1950's] no religious order has been granted such clear graces for mission as has the Carmelite Order. Such divine favors admonish us and counter recent trends in the world and the Church. In an era of churchly projects and campaigns, they call us back to the one thing necessary, to contemplation, without considering whether it will succeed or be effective. In an age of psychology, we are called back to anonymity, not merely to the anonymity of the veil but deeper into pure liturgical adoration of God for his own sake, where the worshippers seem to be indistinguishable from each other. In an age of emphasis on religious personality, we are called back into the life of a supernatural mission, a mission for which each personal ability and preference can at most serve as material to be used, a mission that demands a readineess to sacrifice one's entire nature.

The well of pure contemplation, which is the innermost source and mover of all life in the Church., must either be kept clean or be restored to purity.

What I read here is that contemplation is the fuel that lights the fire for mission. Not that every person should spend all day or ever much of the day in contemplation, but that contemplation is necessary, indeed the one thing necessary. In real contemplation, which may not be what Mr. Akin is addressing, contemplation leads directly to action. Perhaps the action is small and confined locally, but contemplation and service seem to go hand in hand.

I wonder if Mr. Akin is not addressing a very distorted, almost quietist notion of contemplation that has once again sneaked in through the back door. His particular reference to the "female" nature of contemplation seems to suggest a passivity (at least that's how I read his use of the word) that, if not Quietist , is certainly not truly partaking of the force of contemplation. Who could look at Thérèse's contemplation and find in it something to fault? How was this cloistered nun made co-patron of the Missions that Mr. Akin so ardently supports if she were merely passive before the face of the Lord? And yet it is undeniable that she was indeed profoundly contemplative.

So the contemplation Mr. Akin appears to address is what I would call "in-name-only" contemplation, and kind of ritualized involved self-inspection and passivity that never quite gets off the ground. It is a contemplation that is more a navel-staring than a God-adoring. This contemplation while not culpable is certainly not the great work of past ages that so inspired generations of Saints and Catholics.

Contemplation, meditation, and frequent feeding on the word of God are essentials to evangelization. In fact, if these are done in humility and proper spirit, they are among the most effective forms of evangelization that one can engage in. Far more people are attracted to the visible fruits of the properly lived Christian life than are attracted to words telling them what those fruits must be like. My vocation lived out in the presence of the Holy Spirit is a far more effective witness than my weak words. In that witness I say "Do as I do." In my other witness too often, I must say, "Do as I say, not as I do." And as anyone who has children will tell you, that is the very weakest form of teaching. People will more often follow your example than follow your words.

Bookmark and Share


I have a quote from Pope Paul VI that I keep in my Palm Pilot that you are reminding me of here.

"Yet it is also more challenging, for this is a time when people listen more willingly to a witness than to teachers, and if they do listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses."

God bless you!!

Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy: For the liturgy, "through which the work of our redemption is accomplished," (1) most of all in the divine sacrifice of the eucharist, is the outstanding means whereby the faithful may express in their lives, and manifest to others, the mystery of Christ and the real nature of the true Church. It is of the essence of the Church that she be both human and divine, visible and yet invisibly equipped, eager to act and yet intent on contemplation, present in this world and yet not at home in it; and she is all these things in such wise that in her the human is directed and subordinated to the divine, the visible likewise to the invisible, action to contemplation, and this present world to that city yet to come, which we seek (2).

Action flows from contemplation NOT the other way around.

Wow, there are some pretty paternalistic sterotypes in the excerpt. I'm not very experienced in contemplation, but enough to know it's 'not for sissies'. Truly contemplating God can be a very daunting experience at times, and when we open up to God via contemplation it more often than not leads to action.



About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on July 9, 2004 7:34 AM.

We Don't Need no Contemplation. . . was the previous entry in this blog.

Prayer Requests 12 July 2004--Monday 15th Week Ordinary Time is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

My Blogroll