"Today the concept of truth is viewed with suspicion, because truth is identified with violence. Over history there have, unfortunately, been episodes when people sought to defend the truth with violence. But they are two contrasting realities. Truth cannot be imposed with means other than itself! Truth can only come with its own light. Yet, we need truth. ... Without truth we are blind in the world, we have no path to follow. The great gift of Christ was that He enabled us to see the face of God".Pope Benedict xvi, February 24th, 2012

The Church is ecumenical, catholic, God-human, ageless, and it is therefore a blasphemy—an unpardonable blasphemy against Christ and against the Holy Ghost—to turn the Church into a national institution, to narrow her down to petty, transient, time-bound aspirations and ways of doing things. Her purpose is beyond nationality, ecumenical, all-embracing: to unite all men in Christ, all without exception to nation or race or social strata. - St Justin Popovitch

Wednesday 4 June 2014


Culture and Theology: The Ressourcement Movement (Part 1)
MARCH 30, 2008
by Policraticus

The Historical Context

If one were pressed to isolate a single trend within the contemporary Catholic theological milieu whose powerful impact and enduring presence has most affected Catholicism from the top of the episcopal hierarchy down to the anonymous layperson in the pew, one would most certainly conclude that the ressourcement movement of twentieth century Catholic theology would be the only viable and worthy candidate for isolation. What began as a loose trend among a few Catholic scholars in the early twentieth century to rediscover the authentic thought of Thomas Aquinas burgeoned into a sweeping ecclesial tour de force emanating renewal and reform throughout academia and the Catholic Church itself. Indeed, the current shape of Catholic theology, spirituality and ecclesial perspective is by and large a direct product of the ressourcement movement.

‘Ressourcement’ is a difficult word to define. There is no adequate English equivalent to this French neologism. The spirit of the movement, coupled with the etymology of the French, has led most Anglophone scholars to simply transliterate the term as ‘return to the sources’ or, more awkwardly, ‘renewal through return to sources’. True, it’s always nice to return to our roots, but to which roots shall we return? Which sources shall be privileged? In short, the loosely-connected thinkers whose work ushered in the ressourcement movement sought to return to the writings of the early church, that is, to the works and ideas of the early Fathers of Christianity—everyone from Clement of Alexandria to Bede in the West, and everyone from Ignatius to John Damascene in the East. The progenitors of ressourcement believed that a return to the writings of these Christians would not only reestablish in the Catholic consciousness a sense of continuity and development of the treasury of faith across two millennia, but also renew the very face of Catholic theology, which had virtually ossified due to the Scholastic manual tradition that had been entrenched in Catholic universities and seminaries since the eighteenth century. Thus, their theology was not merely an exercise in Patristic study, but a reading of the Fathers as both historical figures (contextualized study) and as contemporaries (constructive implication).

It would be helpful to sketch the historical context in which the ressourcement originated before moving to a discussion of some of its specific emissaries. Catholic theology in the early twentieth century was indelibly marked, or so it seemed, by a fierce allegiance to the commentary tradition on the theology and philosophy of Thomas Aquinas. This tradition, dubbed Neo-Scholasticism, sprouted by means of the concerted studies and commentaries on Aquinas by Thomas Cajetan in the sixteenth century. It took definitive shape through the writings of Francisco Suarez, Domingo Bañez and John of St. Thomas, and was all but ubiquitous in Catholic thought by the start of the twentieth century. The preceding nineteenth century saw a few anomalies amidst the dominant neo-Scholastic party, in particular the historically and quasi-ecumenically conscious Tübingen school (especially Johann Sebastian Drey and Johann Adam Möhler), John Henry Newman and Matthias Scheeben, a Thomist who exhibited little allergy to the writings of the early Church, especially those of the Eastern Fathers. But exceptions, of course, did not alter the rule. This is not to say that neo-Scholasticism was a great monolith in terms of every theological opinion, but in terms of method, scope and form the tradition was rather uniform.

What most characterized neo-Scholasticism was the assumption that theology proceeds in deductive fashion, beginning with absolute first principles followed by theological conclusions of varying degrees of certainty therein deduced. Aristotelian logic, especially as outlined in the Prior and Posterior Analytics and the ‘timeless’ quality of Aristotelian science were paradigmatic to the neo-Scholastic method. Thus, when practitioners of neo-Scholasticism were not producing dogmatic handbooks chock full of theological deductions arranged by topic (e.g. De Deo Uno, De Deo Trino, De natura humana), they were penning commentaries on either Aquinas’ works or other commentaries on Aquinas’ works. Questions of historicity and hermeneutics were not important to the neo-Scholastic methodology which, by assuming it was simply perpetuating the spirit of Aquinas, placed its confidence in what it ultimately believed to be a watertight scientific system. Hence, the stamina of such a uniform theological method across a number of centuries.

This is not to suggest that the neo-Scholastics were collectively incognizant of the challenge of modern philosophy, which all but exiled Aristotle’s epistemological starting point with the knowledge of being. Indeed, the neo-Scholastics were quite aware of post-Cartesian trends in philosophy, as well as their Protestant theological interlocutors. However, the neo-Scholastics took for granted a spontaneous certainty of sense experience while trusting in the accuracy of cognitive appropriation of sense data. Add to this the self-evident presumption that the first thing known through cognition is being, the result is a philosophical system that does not take the cogito seriously, let alone as a valid departure point in philosophy. All this despite Descartes’ rather liberal partaking of Scholastic vocabulary and concepts. Neo-Scholasticism conceived of post-Cartesian philosophy as inherently incapable of handling the theological problems it inherited and bequeathed. Without establishing the distinct ordo naturae, it was thought that modern philosophy could not handle the important question of grace and nature. Without a proper metaphysics, it was thought that post-Cartesian philosophy was doomed to nihilism or immanentism due to its distrust of sense experience and rejection of a mediate grasp of being through cognition and judgment.

Up until the late nineteenth century, the regal presence of Neo-Scholasticism was relatively circumstantial. However, with Pope Leo XIII’s promulgation of Aeterni Patris in 1879, the philosophy of Aquinas—as interpreted solely by neo-Scholasticism—became the standard philosophy and theology of Catholic seminarian formation. Theological works that took a historical, developmental or ‘Cartesian’ approach to reason and faith were gradually removed and replaced by the dogmatic manuals of the neo-Scholastics. Solidifying the papal decree within the greater breadth of academia were Matteo Liberatore and Joseph Kleutgen, whose theological and philosophical manuals embodied the desire of Leo XIII for Catholic theology.

Despite the papal prerogative, the shortsightedness of Aeterni Patris became evident to the Catholic realm of theology less than two decades after its promulgation. In a theological climate virtually dominated neo-Scholasticism, Catholic thinkers such as Maurice Blondel (1861-1949), Pierre Rousselot (1878-1915) and Joseph Maréchal (1878-1944) began to question the philosophical aptitude of their manualist counterparts.Blondel, trained in philosophy in the secular French university system, did not find neo-Scholasticism amenable to Catholicism’s engagement with the modern world. He detected in the manual tradition a more Aristotelian than Augustinian spirit that resulted in a radical dichotomy between the world and God—between the natural and the supernatural—which actually aided the efforts of European secularists and their quest to banish religion from the public sphere. In his monumental L’Action (1893), Blondel attempted to illumine the philosophical and anthropological foundations of the volitional desire in humanity for the potential, but not necessary, action of the supernatural, that is, beyond the natural.

Rousselot and Maréchal were both priests, academically trained in the neo-Scholastic way. However, breaking with their predecessors, Rousselot and Maréchal took modern philosophy seriously. Rousselot, influenced by the anti-‘intellectualism’ of Blondel and Henri Bergson, bypassed the neo-Scholastic commentaries on Aquinas and turned to the actual writings of Aquinas himself. In his short career, Rousselot produced two treatises that would change the entire course of Thomistic studies in the 20th century: L’Intellectualism de Saint Thomas (1924) and Pour L’Histoire du probléme de l’amour au moyen-âge (1908). Rousselot sought to recover the historical Aquinas’ epistemology, situating his ideas within their historical context and medieval debate, rather than portraying Aquinas’ ideas through the medium of the 700 year commentary tradition of neo-Scholasticism.

Maréchal, though desirous of recovering the Aquinas of history, also took the trajectories of modern philosophy seriously. In particular, he perceived Kant’s critique of pure reason as a formidable and unassailable challenge to theology. In light of the Kantian problematic, Maréchal detected a fundamental need to map out the necessary conditions for the human knowledge of divine revelation in Thomistic terms. His voluminous notes, collated as Le Point de départ de la métaphysique (1944-1949) paved the way for a careful consideration of Aquinas in historical context while adapting Thomistic epistemology to meet the demands of modern philosophical projects. Maréchal’s work became the basis for the later movement known as ‘transcendental Thomism’ whose main proponents were Karl Rahner and Bernard Lonergan.

Despite the efforts of Blondel, Rousselot and Maréchal on the academic and public levels, the magisterial rule as laid out in Aeterni Patris still held sway in Catholic theology and philosophy. Neo-Scholasticism remained strong in the early 20th century, due largely to the political and polemical moves of prominent theologians such as Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange and M.-Michael Labourdette, both of whom had the constant ear of the pope and Roman Curia. However, a young Jesuit theologian in France was slyly slipping into his otherwise neo-Scholastic curriculum the writings of Origen, Augustine, Aquinas, Blondel, Rousselot and Maréchal. What began as tangential, idiosyncratic leisure reading soon became the defining quality of Henri de Lubac’s theological formation and shortly thereafter, by extension, the pivotal impulse for reform—ressourcement — from within the very heart of the Catholic Church.


Gerald A. McCool, The Search for a Unitary Method: Nineteenth-Century Scholasticism (New York: Fordham University Press, 1989).

idem, From Unity to Pluralism: The Internal Evolution of Thomism (New York: Fordham University Press, 1992).

Stephen J. Duffy, The Graced Horizon: Nature and Grace in Modern Catholic Thought (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1992), 50-65.

Pierre Rousselot, The Intellectualism of Saint Thomas, trans. James E. O’Mahony (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1935).

Maurice Blondel, Action (1893): Essay on a Critique of Life and a Science of Practice, trans. Oliva Blanchette (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1984).

Joseph Maréchal, A Maréchal Reader, trans. and ed. Joseph Donceel (New York: Herder and Herder, 1970).

An Overview of Balthasar's Project
by S. Joel Garver

The following summary is drawn from Balthasar’s own "Retrospective" (1988).

He starts with the philosophical wranglings of humanity: we recognize our own finitude and contingency as well as the contingency of the world of things around us—and yet we are aware of being itself as something absolute and unlimited. Various philosophical and theological attempts have been made at explaining the problem of being.

Some (such as Parmenides) have tried to say that all things are infinite and immutable being, while others (such as Heraclitus) have said that everything is movement and becoming. The Parmenidean solution—which is also that of Buddhism and neo-Platonism—falters since anything finite must be non-being, an illusion to be discovered, and the One is attained only through mystical experience. The Heraclitean solution must end in contradiction, identifying life with death, wisdom with folly. We are left then with an inescapable dualism between finite and infinite, contingent and necessary, and so on.

But leaves the question of the source of this duality. On one hand the duality may be the result of a falling away from or rupture withi a primordial unity and thus salvation is achieved through a reabsorption into the infinite One—but this is theopanism. On the other hand, perhaps the infinite had some need of the finite in order to perfect itself or to actualize its potential or the like—but this is pantheism. Wither case founders on the problem that the infinite is reduced to the finite.

According to Balthasar only theology—in particular Christian Trinitarian theism—could give an adequate response to these philosophical problems and, in fact, the solution could only be given to us by the infinite Being Himself, revealing Himself from Himself. But, asks Balthasar, could creatures such as us understand the revelation? He answers that this is the case only if the God of the universe is the God of the Bible since this God is the creator of the world and man, of the ear and of language. This is the God who constituted man to receive this revelation of the God who speaks and hears. This is the fundamental openness of man to the divine and so, simultaneously, knowledge of God and self-knowledge are inseparable.

Some further observations. Humanity exists only in dialogue with the neighbor—even infants are only brought to consciousness of themselves by love, as Balthasar is fond of saying, only by "the smile of the mother." This truth reveals four things. First, love unites the different as one even as it establishes that difference. Second, since love is joyful, being must be beautiful. Third, since love is good, being must be good. And finally, since love is true, being must be true.

There we have the basic outline of the Trilogy: aesthetics (beauty), dramatics (goodness), and logic (truth). We also have its major motif: while there is an absolute distinction between God and the creature, there is also an analogy between them and so God is beauty, goodness, and truth.

Thus, we conclude the following. First, since we exist only in interpersonal dialogue, God Himself must exist as interpersonal dialogue. Speech—the Word—is of His essence. Second, since God is truly God and in no need of the creature, He must be the true, the good, and the beautiful in Himself. So the analogous manifestation of these realities in the creature is only partial and finite. For example, for us as humans our unity as humans could either be that each of us is part of one humanity or that each of us is an individual. Only in the Trinity is such partial unity resolved since God’s unity is precisely in the individuality of the Persons.

Balthasar’s Trilogy, then, is an attempt to examine the True, the Good, and the Beautiful as they are concretely revealed (and not just as philosophical abstractions), working with the assumption of the analogia entis and the internal relations between these attributes. Thus the beautiful is also true and good. A thing appears to us as beautiful and in doing so gives itself to us. Such self-giving is the essence of goodness. And in giving itself it bespeaks itself, revealing the truth of itself.

In reference to God we have a theological aesthetic. God appears in theophany to Abraham, to Moses, to the prophets. Finally God appears to us in Christ. But we are left with questions. What makes this appearance distinct from every other phenomenon? What is different about the God of Israel from the idols of the pagans? What is different about the God of Israel from the vain philosophies of men? What is unique about the glory of this God revealed in Christ hung upon a Cross and Resurrected from the grave?

We also have a theological dramatics. God gives Himself to us in the drama of salvation. But more questions. How does the absolute freedom of God in Christ interact with the relative, but real, freedom of us? How is the final victory achieved?

And finally we have a theological logic. In Christ God has made Himself truly known, in the God-man. How can an infinite Word express Himself in a finite word? This is related to the two natures of Christ. How can finite men come to understand the unlimited riches of the Word of God? This is the work of the Holy Spirit.

Balthasar concludes this retrospective of his work by noting that Christianity alone is capable of answering the question why God created a world of which he had absolutely no need in order to be God. The monotheisms of Judaism and Islam cannot answer this question.

The doctrine of the Trinity alone tells us that God is one, good, true, and beautiful because His is essentially Love which both establishes the Other and their Unity. Thus God has no need of the creation, but freely creates it out of a Love which is already fully expressed. Moreover, since the Trinity necessarily includes otherness, the creation is not a fall from infinite perfection, but an image of God’s own otherness even while it is distinct from God. Since the Son is the express image of the Father He can assume to himself the creation which already images God. He can do so without, on one hand, dissolving the created order or, on the other hand, merely extrinsically adding something to a creation that is already complete in itself.

Balthasar concludes:

All true solutions offered by the Christian Faith hold, therefore, to these two mysteries [the Trinity and the Incarnation], categorically refused by a human reason that makes itself that absolute. It is because of this that the true battle between religions begins only after the coming of Christ. humanity will prefer to renounce all philosophical questions—in Marxism, or positivism of all stripes—rather than accept a philosophy that finds its final response only in the revelation of Christ. Foreseeing that, Christ sent his believers into the whole world as sheep among wolves. Before making a pact with the world, it is necessary to meditate on that comparison.

A Résumé of My Thought | Hans Urs von Balthasar  
Translated by Kelly Hamilton 

"... meeting Balthasar was for me the beginning of a lifelong friendship I can only be thankful for. Never again have I found anyone with such a comprehensive theological and humanistic education as Balthasar and de Lubac, and I cannot even begin to say how much I owe to my encounter with them." -- Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) 

Hans Urs von Balthasar (1905-88) was a Swiss theologian, considered to be one of the most important Catholic intellectuals and writers of the twentieth century. 

Incredibly prolific and diverse, he wrote over one hundred books and hundreds of articles. In this essay, first published in 1988 in Communio, the theological journal he helped found, and later in Hans Urs von Balthasar: His Life and Work (Communio Books/Ignatius Press, 1991; edited by David L. Schindler), he offers an introduction to his thought and writing. 

Visit this IgnatiusInsight.co  Author Page for mmore about Balthasar's life and for a full listing of the sixty volumes of his work translated and published by Ignatius Press. 

When a man has published many large books, people will ask themselves: What, fundamentally, did he want to say? If he is a prolific novelist-for example Dickens or Dostoevsky-one would choose one or another of his works without worrying oneself too much about all of them as a whole. But for a philosopher or theologian it is totally different. One wishes to touch the heart of his thought, because one presupposes that such a heart must exist.

The question has often been asked of me by those disconcerted by the large number of my books: Where must one start in order to understand you? I am going to attempt to condense my many fragments "in a nutshell", as the English say, as far as that can be done without too many betrayals. The danger of such a compression consists in being too abstract. It is necessary to amplify what follows with my biographical works on the one hand (on the Fathers of the Church, on Karl Barth, Buber, Bernanos, Guardini, Reinhold Schneider, and all the authors treated in the trilogy), with the works on spirituality on the other hand (such as those on contemplative prayer, on Christ, Mary and the Church), and finally, with the numerous translations of the Fathers of the Church, of the theologians of the Middle Ages, and of modern times. But here it is necessary to limit ourselves to presenting a schema of the trilogy: Aesthetic, Dramatic, and Logic. [1]

We start with a reflection on the situation of man. He exists as a limited being in a limited world, but his reason is open to the unlimited, to all of being. The proof consists in the recognition of his finitude, of his contingence: I am, but I could not-be. Many things which do not exist could exist. Essences are limited, but being (l'être) is not. That division, the "real distinction" of St. Thomas, is the source of all the religious and philosophical thought of humanity. It is not necessary to recall that all human philosophy (if we abstract the biblical domain and its influence) is essentially religious and theological at once, because it poses the problem of the Absolute Being, whether one attributes to it a personal character or not.

What are the major solutions to this enigma attempted by humanity? One can try to leave behind the division between being (Être) and essence, between the infinite and the finite; one will then say that all being is infinite and immutable (Parmenides) or that all is movement, rhythm between contraries, becoming (Heraclitus).

In the first case, the finite and limited will be non-being as such, thus an illusion that one must detect: this is the solution of Buddhist mysticism with its thousand nuances in the Far East. It is also the Plotinian solution: the truth is only attained in ecstasy where one touches the One, which is at the same time All and Nothing (relative to all the rest which only seems to exist). The second case contradicts itself: pure becoming in pure finitude can only conceive of itself in identifying the contraries: life and death, good fortune and adversity, wisdom and folly (Heraclitus did this). 

Thus it is necessary to commence from an inescapable duality: the finite is not the infinite. In Plato the sensible, terrestrial world is not the ideal, divine world. The question is then inevitable: Whence comes the division? Why are we not God?

The first attempt at a response: there must have been a fall, a decline, and the road to salvation can only be the return of the sensible finite into the intelligible infinite. That is the way of all non-biblical mystics. The second attempt at a response: the infinite God had need of a finite world. Why? To perfect himself, to actualize all of his possibilities? Or even to have an object to love? The two solutions lead to pantheism. In both cases, the Absolute, God in himself, has again become indigent, thus finite. But if God has no need of the world-yet again: Why does the world exist?

No philosophy could give a satisfactory response to that question. St. Paul would say to the philosophers that God created man so that he would seek the Divine, try to attain the Divine. That is why all pre-Christian philosophy is theological at its summit. But, in fact, the true response to philosophy could only be given by Being himself, revealing himself from himself. Will man be capable of understanding this revelation? The affirmative response will be given only by the God of the Bible. On the one hand, this God, Creator of the world and of man, knows his creature. "I who have created the eye, do I not see? I who have created the ear, do I not hear?" And we add "I who have created language, could I not speak and make myself heard?" And this posits a counterpart: to be able to hear and understand the auto-revelation of God man must in himself be a search for God, a question posed to him. Thus there is no biblical theology without a religious philosophy. Human reason must be open to the infinite.

It is here that the substance of my thought inserts itself. Let us say above all that the traditional term "metaphysical" signified the act of transcending physics, which for the Greeks signified the totality of the cosmos, of which man was a part. For us physics is something else: the science of the material world. For us the cosmos perfects itself in man, who at the same time sums up the world and surpasses it. Thus our philosophy will be essentially a meta-anthropology, presupposing not only the cosmological sciences, but also the anthropological sciences, and surpassing them towards the question of the being and essence of man.

Now man exists only in dialogue with his neighbor. The infant is brought to consciousness of himself only by love, by the smile of his mother. In that encounter the horizon of all unlimited being opens itself for him, revealing four things to him: (i) that he is one in love with the mother, even in being other than his mother, therefore all being is one; (2) that that love is good, therefore all being is good; (3) that that love is true, therefore all being is true; and (4) that that love evokes joy, therefore all being is beautiful.

We add here that the epiphany of being has sense only if in the appearance (Erscheinung) we grasp the essence which manifests itself (Ding an sich). The infant comes to the knowledge not of a pure appearance, but of his mother in herself. That does not exclude our grasping the essence only through the manifestation and not in itself (St. Thomas).

The One, the Good, the True, and the Beautiful, these are what we call the transcendental attributes of Being, because they surpass all the limits of essences and are coextensive with Being. If there is an insurmountable distance between God and his creature, but if there is also an analogy between them which cannot be resolved in any form of identity, there must also exist an analogy between the transcendentals– between those of the creature and those in God.

There are two conclusions to draw from this: one positive, the other negative. The positive: man exists only by interpersonal dialogue: therefore by language, speech (in gestures, in mimic, or in words). Why then deny speech to Being himself? "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God" (Jn 1:1).

The negative: supposing that God is truly God (that is to say that he is the totality of Being who has need of no creature), then God will be the plenitude of the One, the Good, the True, and the Beautiful, and by consequence the limited creature participates in the transcendentals only in a partial, fragmentary fashion. Let us take an example: What is unity in a finite world? Is it the species (each man is totally man, that is his unity), or is it the individual (each man is indivisibly himself)? Unity is thus polarized in the domain of finitude. One can demonstrate the same polarity for the Good, the True, and the Beautiful.

I have thus tried to construct a philosophy and a theology starting from an analogy not of an abstract Being, but of Being as it is encountered concretely in its attributes (not categorical, but transcendental). And as the transcendentals run through all Being, they must be interior to each other: that which is truly true is also truly good and beautiful and one. A being appears, it has an epiphany: in that it is beautiful and makes us marvel. In appearing it gives itself, it delivers itself to us: it is good. And in giving itself up, it speaks itself, it unveils itself: it is true (in itself, but in the other to which it reveals itself).

Thus one can construct above all a theological aesthetique ("Gloria"): God appears. He appeared to Abraham, to Moses, to Isaiah, finally in Jesus Christ. A theological question: How do we distinguish his appearance, his epiphany among the thousand other phenomena in the world? How do we distinguish the true and only living God of Israel from all the idols which surround him and from all the philosophical and theological attempts to attain God? How do we perceive the incomparable glory of God in the life, the Cross, the Resurrection of Christ, a glory different from all other glory in this world?

One can then continue with a dramatique since this God enters into an alliance with us: How does the absolute liberty of God in Jesus Christ confront the relative, but true, liberty of man? Will there perhaps be a mortal struggle between the two in which each one will defend against the other what it conceives and chooses as the good? What will be the unfolding of the battle, the final victory?

One can terminate with a logique (a theo-logique). How can God come to make himself understood to man, how can an infinite Word express itself in a finite word without losing its sense? That will be the problem of the two natures of Jesus Christ. And how can the limited spirit of man come to grasp the unlimited sense of the Word of God? That will be the problem of the Holy Spirit.

This, then, is the articulation of my trilogy. I have meant only to mention the questions posed by the method, without coming to the responses, because that would go well beyond the limits of an introductory summary such as this.

In conclusion, it is nonetheless necessary to touch briefly on the Christian response to the question posed in the beginning relative to the religious philosophies of humanity. I say the Christian response, because the responses of the Old Testament and a fortiori of Islam (which remains essentially in the enclosure of the religion of Israel) are incapable of giving a satisfactory answer to the question of why Yahweh, why Allah, created a world of which he did not have need in order to be God. Only the fact is affirmed in the two religions, not the why.

The Christian response is contained in these two fundamental dogmas: that of the Trinity and that of the Incarnation. In the trinitarian dogma God is one, good, true, and beautiful because he is essentially Love, and Love supposes the one, the other, and their unity. And if it is necessary to suppose the Other, the Word, the Son, in God, then the otherness of the creation is not a fall, a disgrace, but an image of God, even as it is not God.

And as the Son in God is the eternal icon of the Father, he can without contradiction assume in himself the image that is the creation, purify it, and make it enter into the communion of the divine life without dissolving it (in a false mysticism). It is here that one must distinguish nature and grace.

All true solutions offered by the Christian Faith hold, therefore, to these two mysteries, categorically refused by a human reason which makes itself absolute. It is because of this that the true battle between religions begins only after the coming of Christ. Humanity will prefer to renounce all philosophical questions-in Marxism, or positivism of all stripes, rather than accept a philosophy which finds its final response only in the revelation of Christ.

Forseeing that, Christ sent his believers into the whole world as sheep among wolves.

Before making a pact with the world it is necessary to meditate on that comparison.

Originally published in Communio 15 (Winter 1988). © 1988 by Communio: International Catholic Review.


[1] In the trilogy, Hans Urs von Balthasar approaches Christian revelation under the aspect of its beauty (Herrlichkeit), goodness (Theodramatik), and truth (Theologik). See "English Translations of German Titles" in Appendix of Hans Urs von Balthasar: His Life and Work for full titles.

by Aidan Nichols OP 

Hans Urs von Balthasar was considered to be one of the most important Catholic writers and theologians of the twentieth century. His works include over one hundred books and articles. He was devoted to addressing spiritual and practical issues of his time and resisted reductionism and the human focus of modernity, wanting Christians to challenge modern and philosophical assumptions. Balthasar is most famously known for his sixteen-volume systematic theology which is divided into three parts: The Glory of the Lord, Theo-Drama, and Theo-Logic. The Glory of the Lord, the seven-volume work on theological aesthetics, introduces theology based on the contemplation of the good, beautiful, and true. The second part of the trilogy, the five-volume Theo-Drama, focuses on theodramatics, the actions of God and our human response. Balthasar particularly focuses on the events of Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday. His soteriology, Christology, and eschatology are also developed in this series. The trilogy is completed with the three-volume Theo-Logic. Here, Balthasar describes the relation of the nature of Jesus Christ (Christology) to reality itself (ontology). Finally, in Epilogue Balthasar brings together the three parts of his trilogy by providing an overview and analysis of the preceeding 15 volumes. The Hans Urs von Balthasar Collection is sure to bring you insight, whether you’re wanting to discover new theological ideas or are seeking a deeper understanding of Christology, eschatology, Mariology, soteriology, and ontology.

John Christopher “Aidan” Nichols OP (born 17 September 1948) is an academic and Catholic priest. Nichols served as the first John Paul II Memorial Visiting Lecturer at the University of Oxford for 2006 to 2008, the first lectureship of Catholic theology at that university since the Reformation. He is a member of the Order of Preachers (Dominicans) and was formerly the Prior of St Michael and All Angels in Cambridge. Nichols began his academic work in the Russian theological tradition and has written on many figures including Sergei Bulgakov. However he is best known for his work on Hans Urs von Balthasar, publishing three analytic volumes on von Balthasar’s famous trilogy: The Word Has Been Abroad: A Guide Through Balthasar’s Aesthetics (1998) , No Bloodless Myth: A Guide Through Balthasar’s Dramatics (2000)   and Say It Is Pentecost: A Guide Through Balthasar’s Logic (2001).  He was also one of the contributors to the Cambridge Companion to Hans Urs von Balthasar (2004) . The following is taken from a chapter on a much shorter work concerning Beauty, Goodness and Truth in Balthazar’s thought.


The Place Of Beauty

Balthasar was deeply opposed to the separation of the beautiful from the true and the good. The idea of beauty, he lamented, has been reduced to that of a merely this-worldly aesthetics, with baleful consequences for Christian faith and morals. Beauty’s separation from the other transcendentals, and the consequent rise of what Balthasar terms the ‘aestheticisation’ of the beautiful, is at least partly responsible, he thinks, for the inability of people to pray and contemplate.

The notion of the sheer beauty of the divine Being has disappeared. The severance of beauty from goodness and truth also helps to explain the perceived reduction of the moral order to a self-centered relativism, and the retrenchment of the metaphysical order to a materialism placed at the service of either technology or psychology or both. The final upshot of all this, he predicts, will be incapacity for either faith or love.

Unfashionably, Balthasar holds that, in the modern Western epoch, the Church has become the guardian of metaphysics. We live in a period when `things are deprived of the splendor reflected from eternity’. In our time, only an orthodox Christian mind and heart can bridge the gap between, on the one hand, an acosmic spirituality — a religiosity concerned merely with salvation in some other realm, private, interior, extra-mundane, and, on the other hand, a present world consigned to domination by positivists for whom all that exists is only organized matter.

Revelation can be a therapy for a metaphysical malaise that has, at the moment, no other medicine available. Tutored by revelation, the orthodox believer can show people how once again to experience the cosmos as what Balthasar terms `the revelation of an infinity of grace and love’. In the course of the eighty or one hundred years before Balthasar was writing, imaginative writers like Gerard Manley Hopkins, in England, and, in France, Paul Claudel and Charles Peguy managed precisely this, as had in Austria, qua composer of music, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart a century before them. They showed it was possible.

And so they gave us marching orders for what we in our turn should be doing — `all proportions guarded’, as the French say, not all of us can be great creative artists — as Christians who reflect on the revelation given them and wish to apply its benefits to the surrounding culture.

More widely, in Balthasar’s analysis, there must be a reunion of philosophy and theology, and, within theology, a reunion of spirituality and dogmatic thought, if there is to be for Western man — who is now for many purposes global man — a recovery of the sense of the integrity of being, in its co-constitutive transcendent and immanent dimensions. Thus in the first part of his trilogy, which he called a `theological aesthetics’, Balthasar sets himself the task of trying to perceive the objective form of revelation, in creation and in Jesus Christ, in all its splendid, harmonious and symphonic fullness.

What Are `Theological Aesthetics’?

What, then, does Balthasar mean by `theological aesthetics’? It is important to get clear from the outset that he does not intend to confine himself to a consideration of the beauty of the created world — whether, with antiquity, we have in mind there the harmony of the cosmic order, or whether, in the spirit of European Romanticism, we are more struck by the terrible but wonderful power of nature. Without excluding such considerations, the defining question of theological aesthetics goes beyond them — as it must if it is to include in its purview not only creation but salvation. For Balthasar, that defining question runs: How can the revelation of God’s sovereign grace be perceived in the world?

In his use of the phrase `theological aesthetics’, Balthasar gives the `aesthetics’ component two co-essential meanings. The first of these is indebted to Immanuel Kant, who used the word frequently enough in his Critique of Judgment, which is itself an essay in philosophical aesthetics albeit of the limited sort that Kant, on his own presuppositions in epistemology and ontology, felt able to write. `Aesthetics’ considers the part played at the higher levels of our experience by the human senses, of which sight has often been singled out as the most noble. So `theological aesthetics’ will consider the part played by the senses — with their associated powers of memory and imagination — in the awareness of God.

Balthasar invokes this meaning of the phrase in relation to, above all, the series of revelatory events and processes which culminated in the appearance of Christ. In Christ, his eternal Word or Son now come on earth, God made himself — as the First Letter of St John insists — a sensuous Object, being seen, heard, touched. Indeed, thanks to the assumption of human nature by the Logos at the Incarnation, a woman (we call her, accordingly, the Theotokos, the ‘God-bearer’) felt him growing in her body.

In the opening volume of The Glory of the Lord, Balthasar stresses the way the divine ‘form’ that is made available to human perception in Jesus Christ is mediated by the historical record (the Gospels and other New Testament writings), but also by the Liturgy and Christian experience. In various ways, a number of which he explores, the human imagination has been seized by this central figure of revelation — this (in Latin) figura, this (in German) Gestalt, this (in both English and German) F/form, which is close enough to another Latin word for it: forma.

Still on the first meaning of the phrase ‘theological aesthetics’: when Balthasar embarked on this project, many readers seemed to have had difficulty in getting hold of what he was saying. But really, his concept of the aesthetic perception should not perplex a readership in any way familiar with the res Christiana, ‘the Christian thing’. Take, for example, what G. K. Chesterton has to say on the subject in his celebrated came to study St Thomas Aquinas. In the passage I have in mind, he is talking about the difference the Incarnation makes, or should make, to the way we evaluate the importance of the senses. In Christian theology, wrote Chesterton

[It]here really was a new reason for regarding the senses, and the sensations of the body, and the experiences of the common man, with a reverence at which great Aristotle would have stared, and no man in the ancient world could have begun to understand. The Body was no longer what it was when Plato and Porphyry and the old mystics had left it for dead. It had hung upon a gibbet. It had risen from a tomb. It was no longer possible for the soul to despise the senses, which had been the organs of something that was more than man. Plato might despise the flesh but God had not despised it. The senses had truly become sanctified; as they are blessed one by one at a Catholic baptism. ‘Seeing is believing’ was no longer the platitude of a mere idiot, or common individual, as in Plato’s world; it was mixed up with real conditions of real belief.
G.K. Chesterton, St. Thomas Aquinas27

So much, then, for the first meaning of `aesthetics’ in the term ‘theological aesthetics’: it signifies, quite simply, having to do with the senses.

The second way in which Balthasar uses the term `theological aesthetics’ is to denote a study of beauty — more especially an account of beauty as a transcendental determination of being, and most especially of all an exploration of the revealed cone-late of beauty which is, so Balthasar held, the glory of God.

Not all the Scholastics had treated pulchrum, `the beautiful’, explicitly as a transcendental, but the conviction gradually settled on the Thomist school that it is –just as much as truth and goodness or the remaining transcendental which Balthasar never used to structure a distinct theological treatise: unity. Thus for a mid-twentieth century Thomist, Jacques Maritain, beauty is the `splendor of being and of all the transcendentals re-united.’

On this presupposition, we might describe beautifully former objects as in-gatherings and out-pouring of that `splendor’. In Balthasar’s case, the most important of the key terms in the first use of `aesthetics’, namely `form’, recurs in the second way Balthasar uses the term. Form is just as important to an understanding of beauty as it is to an account of how reality is presented to us by the senses.

Again, some people confess themselves bemused by what Balthasar means by the word `form’, which owes something to Goethe but rather more to Aquinas. But here, once more, is what Chesterton had to say in his little book on St Thomas:

‘Formal’ in Thomist language means actual or possessing the real decisive quality that makes a thing itself Roughly, when [Thomas] describes a thing as made out of Form and Matter, he very rightly recognizes that Matter is the more mysterious and indefinite and featureless element; and that what stamps anything with its identity is its Form.

And Chesterton goes on to say in this same passage:

Every artist knows that the form is not superficial but fundamental; that the form is the foundation. Every sculptor knows that the form of the statue is not the outside of the statue, but rather the inside of the statue; even in the sense of the inside of the sculptor. Every poet knows that the sonnet form is not only the form of the poem, but the poem.

And Chesterton concludes, rather peremptorily perhaps:

No modern critic who does not understand what the mediaeval Schoolman meant by form can meet the mediaeval Schoolman as an intellectual equal.”

Like Chesterton and indeed Maritain, Balthasar is thinking of natural forms as well as humanly shaped ones. A relatively straightforward summary of what he has in mind might run something like this. The perceptible form of an object is the expression, under particular conditions, of its metaphysical form — its essence or nature. We are glad when a perceptual form is rich, clear, and expressive because we feel that it lays open the object to us, even though we may also feel there is more in the thing’s nature than appears in this or that single expression.

From here we can go one step further. Something’s nature, surely, is itself one expression of the inherent possibilities of being at large. So when, in appreciating the clear, rich, expressive sensuous form, we also look through it to the nature of the thing in question, through that again we look to what one student of Balthasar’s aesthetics has called `the vast ocean of formal fertility which is the mystery of being’. The form of a thing may tell us more than just about itself. It may also tell us something about the world in which it is situated, about the universe.

The clarity of form in Balthasar’s aesthetics can usefully be contrasted with Descartes’ equally strong emphasis on `clarity’ in his philosophy of mind. Descartes was in love with what he called `clear and distinct ideas’. Balthasar’s concept of clarity, however, is taken from Thomas, for whom clarity — radiance — is one of the essential traits of the beautiful, along with proportion and integrity.

This is a very different sort of `brightness’. The brightness of the beautiful is something that overwhelms us, impelling us and enabling us to enter further into the depths of being than the unaided intelligence can venture. And whereas the Cartesian `idea’ is, in Scholastic terms, an intuited potential essence — something that may or may not be the case about the world, the Thomistic `radiance’ is expressed by a form actually enacting its own existence, its being-in-act.

We could explain the meaning of the second component in ‘theological aesthetics’ as an intersection of two axes: `vertical’ and `horizontal’ (not exactly exhilarating language, but it is handy). For Balthasar, the dimensions of the beautiful are ‘vertically’, an infinite depth of splendor, which, `horizontally’, is expressed in a materially graspable extension of form. The beautiful unifies — on the one hand — the definitely shaped form of something present, something on which the mind can come to rest, with — on the other hand — an endless sea of radiant intelligibility in which the mind can move without limitation. The beautiful is, as he would put it, the meeting-place of finite form with infinite light.

Balthasar seems to expand the Scholastic teaching on pulchrum by marrying it with the notion of the `sublime’, an idea the late-eighteenth-century Romantic authors found, or thought they found, in the ancients. The sublime reminds people that ontological beauty is a mystery whose inner momentum can never fully be grasped.” Unlike the Romantics, however, Balthasar is always careful not to allow `sublimity’ to dissolve forms into a general sea of being, where objects lose their outlines and coalesce.

Beauty as Love: Hans Urs von Balthasar’s Theological Aesthetics
According to Hans Urs von Balthasar, in The Glory of the Lord: A Theological Aesthetics, vol. 1, Seeing the Form, if theological aesthetics is about anything it is about beauty, and if beauty is about anything in particular it is particularly about love, a love which Christ, the archetype of all forms, embodies and expresses perfectly and against which all created forms are to be measured and to find their ultimate telos.

663 pages of writing on theological aesthetics, then, yields a surprising result: von Balthasar is much less interested in “aesthetics,” even less so in the arts, than he is in love. Put otherwise, von Balthasar finds theological aesthetics to be a proper starting point for theology inasmuch as it allows him to speak about beauty, which for him rightly pushes the discipline of theology to confront the twin movement of beholding and of being enraptured by the Triune beauty—which again brings him back around to love, to desire.

To contemplate beauty is precisely to contemplate divine love, but this is not any kind of love. This is the concrete love of God in the form of Christ, a kenotic love, which the Holy Spirit sheds abroad in the human heart. Unless theology begins here, von Balthasar repeatedly insists, we will get neither truth nor goodness right (18-19). Without beauty, goodness will turn hedonistic and utilitarian, while truth will turn cold. Without beauty, we will neither pray right nor know how to love.

Form and splendor as a movement of love:

Two primary elements mark the beautiful, according to von Balthasar: form and splendor. Together, as “light” transforms the object in view (the species) into something comely (or speciosa), form and splendor produce something love-worthy. More properly, they generate a transportation of love. To be transported, he explains, “belongs to the very origin of Christianity. The Apostles were transported by what they saw, heart, and touched—by everything manifested in the form” (32). When von Balthasar describes a “theory of rapture,” which for him constitutes the very content of dogmatics, he talks of it as a double and reciprocal ekstasis: a movement of God to humankind in revelation and a movement of humankind to God in faith.

Riffing off of von Balthasar, I would diagram the encounter with beauty this way:

When we encounter beauty, we encounter it as a kind of epiphany that 1) pulls us in to the object of beauty (as an act of eros, where we simultaneously lay hold of and are laid hold of by the beautiful object), 2) pulls us up towards the Source of beauty (as an act of contemplation), 3) pulls us outside of ourselves (as an act of ecstasy), and 4)pulls us out towards others (as an agapic act).

In von Balthasar’s scheme, our encounter with beauty rightly occurs without our ever escaping into the object of beauty, and so falsely losing ourselves, nor escaping beyond the object of beauty, and so leaving it behind as if the object or form were no longer “needful.”

The Christomorphic pattern of beauty:

Echoing Karl Barth, it is instructive to note how von Balthasar hews his ideas on theological aesthetics to an intensively Christological pattern. Any theory of beauty, he argues, must reckon first and finally with the birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension of Christ. Following the 18th century German philosopher and pietist Johann Georg Hamann, von Balthasar describes an “aesthetic obedience to the Cross,” or a trinitarian glory as kenosis, this way: “as being proper not only to the God who became Man, but even before that to the Creator who, by creating, penetrates into nothingness—proper, also, to the Holy Spirit, who conceals himself ‘under all kinds of rags and tatters’” (80).

It is hard to match von Balthasar’s beautiful prose, so I will let him speak again in his own words:

In the face of the Cross, love is sobered to its very marrow before God’s agape, which clothes itself in the language of the body; and, in the face of this intoxicating language of flesh and blood that gives itself by being poured out, love is lifted above itself and elevated into the eternal, in order there, as creaturely eros, to be the tent and dwelling-place of the divine love! (654).

In the end:

In his vision for a sound theological aesthetics, von Balthasar sees, finally, the Bride of the Lamb coming down from heaven to earth, arrayed in the beauty of her form and splendor. His title, in a sense then, has nearly said it all: theological aesthetics is about Seeing the Form. Yet we might have arrived at a more accurate description of his theological aesthetics if he had titled his volume, Seeing the beloved Form.

David is a doctor of theology candidate at Duke Divinity School, where his research interests include the fields of pneumatology, liturgical theology and theological aesthetics. The editor of "For the Beauty of the Church: Casting a Vision for the Arts," he blogs at artspastor.blogspot.com. His wife Phaedra, a visual artist and gardener, is excited about the implications of von Balthasar’s ideas for an arts center out in the middle of nowhere in central Texas that combines hospitality, art-making, chicken-raising, goat-tending, dance-a-thons and Martha Stewart-like.


An excerpt from a book review in FAITH Magazine July-August 2006

my source: Faith

Augustine Holmes commends an aid to true ecumenism with the east.
Wisdom from Above. A Primer in the Theology of Father Sergei Bulgakov 
by Aidan Nichols OP, Gracewing, 317pp, £17.99 

A Greek monk of Mount Athos once told me that Russians were incapable of being truly Orthodox, “they believe that once we get to heaven we’ll find a fourth person of the Trinity called Sophia”. Behind this prejudice there is a garbled version of the theology of Sergei Bulgakov (18711944), in particular of his sophiology: a theological meditation on divine wisdom (in Greek, sophia). Bulgakov was indeed charged with heresy by some of his fellow Russian exiles, but he strenuously defended his orthodoxy and died in communion with the Patriarch of Constantinople.

This book began life as the author’s lectures to Ethiopian theological students and it begins with warm commendations from the Archbishop of Canterbury (himself an expert on the theology of the Russian diaspora) and the Orthodox Bishop Kallistos of Diokleia. This gives some idea of the wide interest in Bulgakov’s writings, which is bound to increase as more are translated into English. Aidan Nichols compares Bulgakov to Hans Urs von Balthasar and this seems to be valid. Both were men of wide erudition which ranged far beyond the theological, both left extensive writings, both combined a commitment to orthodoxy with daring theological speculation, and both were influenced by modern German philosophy. Bulgakov nearly became a Catholic and retained an openness to the Catholic Church which is unusual among Orthodox. Wisdom from Above opens with an overview of Bulgakov’s life, which is of interest in itself. A Marxist economist, he returned to the Church and, after the 1917 revolution, he settled in Paris where he taught at the Institut Saint-Serge. Nichols’ presentation of his theology broadly follows the shape of the creed: God, creation, incarnation, redemption, the Holy Spirit, Church and eschatology. These chapters are followed by three on the subjects of Bulgakov’s ‘little trilogy’: Our Lady, John the Baptist and the angels. Finally, his thoughts on iconography are discussed. The problematic aspects of his theology are not avoided, sophiology, his high doctrine of John the Baptist, and his universalism (all will be saved), but Nichols gives a ‘benign reading’ of these theories which shows that while Bulgakov may sometimes push ideas beyond their limits, he was fundamentally orthodox. Theology is about truth not safety, and each chapter is an invitation to a Catholic to look again at his own faith from a different angle. To note only one fruitful aspect, Bulgakov’s theology is rooted in worship, constantly referring to icons and the Byzantine liturgy. If we listen to the teaching of the Magisterium, Catholic theology, catechetics and faith should likewise be rooted in our liturgical worship, but is this so?

Vital to Balthasar’s own articulation of the dogmas of the Incarnation and the Trinity is the kenotic Trinitarian theology of Sergei Bulgakov. The ways in which Balthasar both incorporates and modifies Bulgakov's Trinitarian theology provide an insight into his overarching theological agenda. My dissertation argues that Sergei Bulgakov, a 20th century Russian Orthodox theologian, is an important resource for Balthasar, directly and indirectly influencing key doctrinal points as well as the overall shape and direction of his theological project. This dissertation explores how Balthasar employs and adapts the thought of Sergei Bulgakov, with the Trinitarian theology of Thomas Aquinas to form a kenotic Trinitarian theology that is based on the notion of Personhood as a relation of self-donating love. It is a Trinitarian theology that is descriptive of both the Divine life as relation and human nature made in the image of God. The structure of this Trinitarian theology leaves a sphere for genuine human and Divine freedom and agency that can be characterized as a real drama. When we look at Balthasar’s Trinitarian theology in light of Bulgakov, and particularly as a re-reading of Bulgakov in light of a Thomistic Trinitarian theology, we are not only able to more clearly understand the implications of Balthasar’s own Trinitarian theology, but also to highlight the beauty and relevance of Bulgakov’s Trinitarian contribution. Finally, this reading of Balthasar’s Trinitarian theology, read in light of a Thomistic adjustment of Bulgakov, provides an excellent point of integration for an ethics that takes into account, not only individual virtues and perfection, but also the social/relational context of human personhood. This ethics is based in a concept of human nature bearing the imago trinitatis, and fulfilling that nature through sacramental participation and ethical extension of Christ’s self-offering love.

Another dissertation on the debt that Hans Urs von Balthasar owes to Russian Orthodox Religious Philosophy and Theology can be found here complete.

In fact, the ressourcement theologians in war-time and post-war France were neighbours to a brilliant group of Russian Orthodox theologians, refugees from the Communists.   There were many Catholic-Orthodox friendships; but for distinct reasons, neither side wanted attention to be paid to this connection, even though it was completely informal, by their respective authorities, nor did they acknowledge any influence they  had on each other.   Yet, thanks to this relationship, through the Vatican Council, many Orthodox ideas have entered the mainstream of Catholic thought, and Catholic-Orthodox theological dialogue has become much closer, because each side is using eucharistic ecclesiology as a paradigm they accept in common, an ecclesiology that first saw the light of day among the Orthodox theologians of Saint-Serge; both sides talk of the life of grace as a synergy between the enabling activity of the Holy Spirit and human humble obedience; and both sides talk of salvation in terms of theosis.

A Russian priest, Father Alexander Elchaninov, wrote in his diary:Types of Christianity: 1)intellectual-contemplative; 2) volitional-active (Catholicism);   3) intellectual-ethical (Protestantism); and (4) Christianity understood as supreme Beauty - Orthodoxy.  ("Diary of a Russian Priest" by Alexander Elchaninov.   Faber and Faber, 1973.   ISBN 0 571 08029 4 pg 52)

Now, thanks to the influence of the ressourcement theologians and the strong influence on them of the theologians of the Russian diaspora, and the important role in Vatican II of ressourcement theologians in drawing up the council documents and of the Melkite bishops who played an active part in drawing to the notice of their fellow bishops the importance of the Eastern tradition for understanding our own in the West, we now share with the Orthodox that vision of Catholicism as Supreme Beauty.   Especially we have to thank Hans Urs von Balthasar and Sergei Bulgakov.  None use this language more than Pope Francis who, like me, followed the Council deliberations from the outside. Here is an example of the place of Beauty in the New Evangelisation.
'167. Every form of catechesis would do well to attend to the “way of beauty” (via pulchritudinis). Proclaiming Christ means showing that to believe in and to follow him is not only something right and true, but also something beautiful, capable of filling life with new splendour and profound joy, even in the midst of difficulties. Every expression of true beauty can thus be acknowledged as a path leading to an encounter with the Lord Jesus. This has nothing to do with fostering an aesthetic relativism which would downplay the inseparable bond between truth, goodness and beauty, but rather a renewed esteem for beauty as a means of touching the human heart and enabling the truth and goodness of the Risen Christ to radiate within it. If, as Saint Augustine says, we love only that which is beautiful, the incarnate Son, as the revelation of infinite beauty, is supremely lovable and draws us to himself with bonds of love. So a formation in the via pulchritudinis ought to be part of our effort to pass on the faith. Each particular Church should encourage the use of the arts in evangelization, building on the treasures of the past but also drawing upon the wide variety of contemporary expressions so as to transmit the faith in a new “language of parables”. We must be bold enough to discover new signs and new symbols, new flesh to embody and communicate the word, and different forms of beauty which are valued in different cultural settings, including those unconventional modes of beauty which may mean little to the evangelizers, yet prove particularly attractive for others.'  (Gaudium Evangelii)

Here is a prayer from the Byzantine Liturgy: 

"Pascha of beauty, the Pascha of the Lord, a Pascha worthy of all honor has dawned for us. Pascha! Let us embrace each other joyously. O Pascha, ransom from affliction! For today as from a bridal chamber Christ has shown forth from the tomb and filled the women with joy saying: Proclaim the glad tidings to the apostles.
This is the day of resurrection. Let us be illumined by the feast. Let us embrace each other. Let us call “Brothers” even those that hate us, and forgive all by the resurrection, and so let us cry:
Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life!Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life!"

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