Sunday 11 June 2006

The ecumenical requirement

“But the most important requirement for [the ecumenical] venture is that both partners in the dialogue have God before them and not behind them. All movement must be towards God, the depth of whose wisdom and mystery appears always to increase.”

—Hans Urs von Balthasar, Who Is a Christian? (London: Burns & Oates, 1968), p. 39.


Fred said...

This quote reminds me of another that I've recently read:

"The community only has value as a community because of the action of God, who by "appointing" and drawing his elected close, he thereby unites them." ~Luigi Giussani, Why the Church? (Quebec: McGill-Queens: 2001 trans. Viviane Hewitt), p.84.

Steve Blakemore said...

How beautiful and true and consistently Balthasarian. Too much ecumenical dialogue is about the traditions that launched us rather than the one who is the destination.

Cynthia R. Nielsen said...

The more Balthasar I taste, the more I want.


Bill Williams said...

Yes! Great quote!

And there is, IMO, a certain attitude of heart that makes this possible: humility. I read somewhere--can't remember where--the following:

In order for people to be united the cause for which they are working must be greater than themselves.

John 17:20-21 seems to have that covered:

"My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.

Looney said...

I generally look for the Lordship of Jesus Christ as the beginning of ecumenical dialogue. But then even here we have some challenges: My Mormon friends would immediately say "yes!", but it seems their Jesus Christ is somewhat different from the one I know.

The RCC would also agree, but then insist that Jesus gave them an exclusive distribution license. Others say that Jesus is Lord, but this can only be experienced via a ISO-9000 certified worship procedure based on certain rituals performed in exactly the same way week after week. It is soooo hard for something that seems so easy.

Anonymous said...

Amen to von Balthasar for getting to the heart of the ecumenical matter, but to his Church I then want to ask, "Do you have the stomach for it?"

By the way, I am a great admirer of von Balthasar - he is undoubtedly the outstanding RC theologian of the twentieth century - but his posthumus status, especially among Protestants, borders on the cultic. Presumably the guy made mistakes? Even Barth made mistakes!

Fred said...


Jesus Christ is near to all who seek him (God before them), but those who are content that they know all about Him reduce Him to an abstract, intangible idea of their own making, an idol (God behind them). We must receive Him anew every morning - the true Manna sent from heaven. If we beg for Him, He will make Himself present to us despite and even amid the contradiction, confusion, and interpretations of Christians. This way is open to all regardless of who is asking.

Do any Christians have the stomach for this precarious humility (besides Peguy)? I don't know. Let us beg Christ to accomplish this work in us.


Looney said...

Thanks Deep Fred, I can accept that completely. The Jesus we have a relationship with is the most important.

Anonymous said...

The easiest way to reduce Christ to "an abstract, intangible idea" is to seek him apart from relationship with the human other God gives me to love - particularly the hard ones to love! - either in the church or the world. Christ doesn't play one-on-one.

Looney said...

Kim, did you just explain why hermit-monks aren't better at knowing Jesus?

Fred said...

Excellent point, Kim!
What you said could be a concise summary of the Rule of St. Benedict.

Anonymous said...

It is interesting what you say, Looney and Deep Furrows. In Silence and Honey Cakes: the Wisdom of the Desert (2003), Rowan Williams speaks of the "danger" of thinking "about this odd thing called 'spiritual life' as if it were a matter we could deal with in isolation. . . And this is where the desert monastics have an uncompromising message for us: a relationship with eternal truth and love simply doesn't happen unless we mend our relations with Tom, Dick and Harriet. The actual substance of our relationship with eternal truth and love is bound up with how we manage the promixity of these human neighbours."

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