(CLJ) Hans Urs von Balthasar–Easter: We Walked Where There Was No Path

The next day the man we buried stands before us and greets us as if he has just come back from a journey. For our part, we do not know whether to laugh or cry; nothing like this is anticipated within the range of human experience and emotion, within the limited spectrum of our comprehension between the boundaries of bearable pain and bearable joy. Thus, while the event explodes upon us and reveals such vast dimensions that we dare not trust ourselves to it or believe it, because to us mortals it seems inhuman, he shows us his hands and feet and side—just as one might show souvenirs of some journey—in order to prove that he really was there (and was not, for instance, hidden in the house all the time), really was in the land of death and of shadows, the land of cold and of imprisonment without hope, of which the four coffin planks are only a symbol. He really was in the land where all life is of the past and where the soul is robbed of every hope that seemed justified here below, like losing a watch and not knowing when or how one lost it. He really was among the shades of Homer and Virgil, in the land of shadows of the Psalms and the Book of Job and the Wisdom literature, among the shadowy figures like Samuel when the Witch of Endor conjured him up for the doomed Saul, who, on the morrow, would be just such an insubstantial shadow himself, without hope, incapable of looking to heaven for help and deliverance, for heaven is more tightly closed than the Iron Curtain, and even if the whole world or hell were to burn, it would not melt this curtain; anyway, who knows what is behind the curtain, someone or no one.

From this realm, therefore, he returns and shows his wounds. The open wounds allow us to see through, as it were, to what was, a past that, as such, is past; they also allow us to see what was—what, evidently, now is—and what will be.

But now, friends, let us imagine something even more difficult, something even more fantastic. Let us assume, for argument’s sake, that the dead man of whom we have been speaking is actually the “Logos”, as understood by the received religious and philosophical wisdom of the late ancient world. It is not at all enough to translate it as “world reason”, “world soul” or “cosmic reason”: we must speak here of divine reason indwelling the world, mirroring and expressing itself in the universe; we must speak of a divine meaning informing the world, human existence and all things, a formal and material logic on which depend the truth and validity of all individual statements made by men and that forms the basis for the (albeit rather imperfect) continuity of our everyday life. If, for the sake of argument, we accept this presupposition, what would follow from it? As a result of the death of this person, the meaning of our personal existence and of the world’s existence, of the whole of nature and the whole of history, would have gone to the grave with him. Not just in the way that every death brings the world to an end and signifies an irreparable loss that puts a question mark over the meaning of life as such. No. For in such a case all other people go on living and believing in some meaning to existence; they presuppose it in order to go on living at all. But there is more: we need to go further and imagine that, after some indefinable period, this world meaning comes to life again on the celebrated “third day”; and now it acquires a meaning, a logos, a logic, that is no longer of this world, no longer transitory, but directly divine, eternal, so absolute and fulfilled in every respect that its meaning could not be or become fuller.

This is the supposition made by the Christian Faith.

Read it all.


Posted in Easter, Theology