For one of my classes, we were asked to read selections from “Glory of the Lord Volume 1: Seeing the Form” by the great Swiss theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar. Being a major fan of the great theology of this man, I quickly embraced the opportunity to not only read what was asked, but to re-read some areas I read in the past and wanted to read again. I had taken the concept of humility and receptivity to be at the center of his theology (summarized under the concept of obedience), and this was affirmed in my class on Thursday.
Why do I bring up this great theologian? Because what he promotes is a fundamental humility and receptivity towards the whole created order. For Balthasar, to be humble, to be open, to receive is the fundamental condition of humanity. Only sin has distorted this into a mastering-over which expresses itself in technique and technology – signs that man depends on his own power but not on the freely given grace of God.
If this is man’s fundamental condition, then it must be how he approaches both reality and God. For, by approaching reality and letting reality be-itself-to-you, you are able to sing the glories of what there is. By letting reality “be itself” and to accept it as it is to you, you have the openness necessary to grow in knowledge.
For Balthasar, then, skepticism has no place in the search for knowledge, nor can one have a “certainty” that they know all they need to know. Knowledge grows from letting all that is be itself to you, and, thereby, passing judgment upon reality. It involves questioning, but not in the realm of “is this true” but rather “what is the mystery contained here?”. Knowledge, fundamentally, must be based in complete and total awe towards all that is.
By doing so, we not only have the openness to reality, but to the God Who involves Himself in this reality in the Incarnation. In short: if we want to know the Person of Jesus, we need to have an openness and obedience towards all that is in the world and, by doing so, we have a searching heart and can have the openness to encountering the Gospel. Openness, obedience, receptivity, humility: these are man’s fundamental dispositions that help him grow to know all that is in all its mystery, splendor, and grandeur.
Where do we get a concrete example of this? Who else but the Mother of Jesus who was so open to the Word that He took flesh in her womb? Who else but she who said with conviction and boldness: fiat! Who else but she who pondered all that God was doing in her heart? Who else but she who trusted wholeheartedly in the God Who was the center of her life?
In our day to day lives, furthermore, this Marian character is revealed to us in women. Those who think the Church is against women, or hates women, has never encountered the true beauty the Church sees in women. Women, really, reveal to us what it means to be human! That receptivity, that openness, is the true humility everyone – male and female – is called to. Women carry that receptivity ever more clearly as stamped in their bodies and reveal to us the glory of humanity: to have an openness and receptivity to the God Who loves us and also wants to take flesh in our humanity so that He may bring His saving love to others.
I have realized, myself, that this is not only true in my life, but it has to become an ever increasing character of my life. I know that with my conversion – and I know not why – there was a moment of openness and it was in that openness that God broke into my life. I know, too, that I need to continue to re-live and re-discover that fundamental openness I had 8 years ago now.
What, though, if we are not open? We cannot judge the person who is not open. However, we must pray, fast, and do penance for those who are not open. Not only for the sake of them hearing the gentle love of Christ for their lives, but also so that they can, in a more fundamental way, see the beauty of reality! Openness is so fundamental: not cold skepticism. To put ourselves above all that is is contrary to our dignity as human persons and puts us at war with the world we live in. Until we can realize that we are not greater than the totality of things, until we acknowledge that we are of dust and it is to dust that we shall return, we will continue to be at war with our own humanity. Let us look to Mary, let us look to women and see the true attitude towards reality: humble acceptance of all there is in its splendor. Let us have wonder and awe at all there is!