Theology: June 2009 Archives


Just two days before he was to receive the cardinal's red hat from Pope John Paul II (an honor he declined to accept before) the Swiss theologian Father Hans Urs von Balthasar died. He was preparing to celebrate the morning Mass when the Lord called him home.

Von Balthasar was a prolific author of articles and books. He's widely known as the kneeling theologian, the starting point from he believed theology ought to be done. With Cardinals Henri de Lubac, Walter Kasper and Joseph Ratzinger he founded the Communio journal (which is published in a numerous languages).

O Lord, we pray Thee that the soul of Thy priest. Thy servant Hans Urs von Balthassar, which, while he abode in this world, Thou didst adorn with sacred gifts, may ever rejoice in a glorious place in heaven. Amen.

A short biography of Father von Balthasar can be read here.

Those wanting a fine introduction into the thinking of Hans Urs von Balthasar ought to read Jesuit Father Edward T. Oakes' book, Pattern of Redemption.

Using the method of Saint Cyril and Methodius Pope Benedict spoke about the work of the Church in making the faith intelligible to people using their own language. The task of inculturation is an extremely difficult work because of the nuances of language and culture. Just look at the headaches in translating catechisms, papal speeches and liturgical texts today. The coalescing of faith and culture is a work the Church has done since the time of Christ. Watch the video clip on the subject.

The Pope said, in part: 

This was a decisive factor for the development of the Slavic civilization in general. Cyril and Methodius were convinced that the various peoples could not consider that they had fully received Revelation until they had heard it in their own language and read it with the characters proper to their own alphabet.

To Methodius falls the merit of ensuring that the work began by his brother would not remain sharply interrupted. While Cyril, the "philosopher," tended toward contemplation, he [Methodius] was directed more toward the active life. In this way, he was able to establish the foundations of the successive affirmation of what we could call the "Cyril-Methodian idea," which accompanied the Slavic peoples in the various historical periods, favoring cultural, national and religious development. Pope Pius XI already recognized this with the apostolic letter Quod Sanctum Cyrillum, in which he classified the two brothers as "sons of the East, Byzantines by their homeland, Greeks by origin, Romans by their mission, Slavs by their apostolic fruits" (AAS 19 [1927] 93-96).

The historic role that they fulfilled was afterward officially proclaimed by Pope John Paul II who, with the apostolic letter Egregiae Virtutis Viri, declared them co-patrons of Europe, together with St. Benedict (AAS 73 [1981] 258-262). Indeed, Cyril and Methodius are a classic example of what is today referred to with the term "inculturation": Each people should make the revealed message penetrate into their own culture, and express the salvific truth with their own language. This implies a very exacting work of "translation," as it requires finding adequate terms to propose anew the richness of the revealed Word, without betraying it. The two brother saints have left in this sense a particularly significant testimony that the Church continues looking at today to be inspired and guided. (Wednesday Audience, June 17, 2009)

trinity.jpg... we contemplate the Most Holy Trinity as Jesus introduced us to it. He revealed to us that God is love "not in the oneness of a single Person, but in the Trinity of one substance" (Preface). He is the Creator and merciful Father; he is the Only-Begotten Son, eternal Wisdom incarnate, who died and rose for us; he is the Holy Spirit who moves all things, cosmos and history, toward their final, full recapitulation. Three Persons who are one God because the Father is love, the Son is love, the Spirit is love. God is wholly and only love, the purest, infinite and eternal love. He does not live in splendid solitude but rather is an inexhaustible source of life that is ceaselessly given and communicated. To a certain extent we can perceive this by observing both the macro-universe: our earth, the planets, the stars, the galaxies; and the micro-universe: cells, atoms, elementary particles. The "name" of the Blessed Trinity is, in a certain sense, imprinted upon all things because all that exists, down to the last particle, is in relation; in this way we catch a glimpse of God as relationship and ultimately, Creator Love. All things derive from love, aspire to love and move impelled by love, though naturally with varying degrees of awareness and freedom. "O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!" (Ps 8: 1) the Psalmist exclaims. In speaking of the "name", the Bible refers to God himself, his truest identity. It is an identity that shines upon the whole of Creation, in which all beings for the very fact that they exist and because of the "fabric" of which they are made point to a transcendent Principle, to eternal and infinite Life which is given, in a word, to Love. "In him we live and move and have our being", St Paul said at the Areopagus of Athens (Acts 17: 28). The strongest proof that we are made in the image of the Trinity is this: love alone makes us happy because we live in a relationship, and we live to love and to be loved. Borrowing an analogy from biology, we could say that imprinted upon his "genome", the human being bears a profound mark of the Trinity, of God as Love.

(Pope Benedict XVI, 7 June 2009)
God does not live in splendid solitude... watch the rest here.

Trinity Greco.jpg

The Church professes her faith in the one God, who is at the same time the Most Holy and ineffable Trinity of Persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Church lives by this truth contained in the most ancient symbols of faith. Paul VI recalled it in our times on the occasion of the 1900th anniversary of the martyrdom of the holy Apostles Peter and Paul (1968), in the symbol he presented which is universally known as the Credo of the People of God.

Only "he who has wished to make himself known to us, and who 'dwelling in light inaccessible' (1 Timothy 6:16) is in himself above every name, above every thing and above every created intellect...can give us right and full knowledge of this reality by revealing himself as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, in whose eternal life we are by grace called to share, here below in the obscurity of faith and after death in eternal light."

God is incomprehensible to us. He wished to reveal himself, not only as the one creator and Almighty Father, but also as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This revelation reveals in its essential source the truth about God, who is love: God is live in the interior life itself of the one divinity. This live is revealed as an ineffable communion of persons. This "mystery the most profound, the mystery of the intimate life of God himself" has been revealed to us by Jesus Christ: "He who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known" (John 1:18). The last words with which Christ concluded his earthly mission after the resurrection were addressed to the apostles, according to St. Matthew's Gospel: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations. Baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (Matthew 28:119). These words began the Church's mission and indicated her fundamental and constitutive task. The Church's first task is to teach and baptize, to baptize means "to immerse" (therefore one baptizes with water) so that all may come to share God's trinitarian life.

(Pope John Paul II, General Audience, October 9, 1985) 

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]



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This page is a archive of entries in the Theology category from June 2009.

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