von Balthasar on anxiety

October 27, 2008

Only he who has left the anxiety of sin behind attains the fullness of faith and thus true indifference, and the entry into the realm of complete truth is unconditional joy, consolation, overwhelming light. When God bestows Christian suffering, including Christian anxiety, it is, viewed from his perspective, fundamentally an intensification of light and of joy, a “darkness bright as day,” because it is suffering out of joy, anxiety out of exultation: it is a sign of God’s ever-greater confidence in the one who believes. And what experientially seems constricting and frightening to the believer is in truth enlarging, a fruitful dilatatio of the birth canal, an interior trembling that expands faith, hope, and love. Even if subjectively it were mortal terror, objectively it is greater blessedness, a participation in the everlasting trinitarian ecstasy.

Hans Urs von Balthasar, The Christian and Anxiety, pp. 147-148.

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3 Responses to “von Balthasar on anxiety”

  1. kepha said

    Even if subjectively it were mortal terror, objectively it is greater blessedness, a participation in the everlasting trinitarian ecstasy.

    Hard to see the value in the objective reality if it does not penetrate into the subjective realm.

  2. Yes, very true, but the objective is primary. Von B deals with this failure in the subjective to correspond to the objective as part and parcel of our path to appropriating the faith, hope, and love of Christ, which dispels anxiety. Anxiety has a proper function in displaying our finitude and prompting us toward the Cross-Resurrection, i.e., our true reality, but it is only in this subordinate function that anxiety is “blessed.” Von B faults Kierkegaard (and Luther) with analyzing anxiety by our finitude and only within these confines — thus the subjective is primary and at most can only live in a dialectical (eschatologically-oriented) tension with the objective reality.

  3. I should probably say “displaying our fallen finitude,” instead of “displaying our finitude.” But that’s a whole ‘nother discussion.

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