Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Heart of the World

As part of my Lenten mediations this year, I’ve been re-reading The Heart of the World by Hans Urs Von Balthasar. Even in translation, the force of his metaphors shapes words into images that pierce with heart with stunning clarity. I might try to jot down a few highlights that are cause for particular celebration.

Von Balthasar opens by focusing upon the thrust of the book, the cross of Christ at the center of all things. He says,
The very form of the cross, extending out into the four winds, always told the ancient Church that the Cross means solidarity: its outstretched arms would gladly embrace the universe. (13)

He quotes Cyril of Jerusalem, “On the Cross God stretched out his hands to encompass the bounds of the universe.” The cross is real power revealed in real weakness, and it reveals the love of God that beats as the heart of all things—anticipating and sustaining all things by his Word alone.

The broken body of Christ becomes the focal point of the people of God. And in Christ we who were not a people become a people. Thus the cross is at the heart of all restored relations: between man and God and between man and man.

In chapter 1, Von Balthasar highlights the despondent condition of humanity: “Prisons of finitude! Like every other being, man is born in many prisons.” In the fall, the cosmic harmony of particularity and universality collapse. All humans wander alone in their grief—longing for and resisting the restored bonds of relation. He says,
How far it is from one being to its closest neighbor! And even if they love each oter and wave to one another from island to island, even if they attempt to exchange solitudes and pretend they have unity, how much more painfully does disappointment then fall upon them when they touch invisible bars—the cold glass pane against which they hurl themselves like captive birds. No one can tear down his own dungeon; no one knows who inhabits the next cell. (19)

We as isolated beings long for communion, but we don’t live in a vacuum. We live in the endlessly moving stream of time. “The rigid ground under is already beginning to tremble and give way” (21). In one sense, all of existence appears in a flux. He says,
Are you grieving? Trust Time: soon you will be laughing. Are you laughing? You cannot hold fast your laughter, for soon you will be weeping. You are blown from mood to mood, from one state to another, from waking to sleeping and from sleeping again to waking. (21)

Time continues to swirl and move and nothing can stop it. “You cannot draw the river onto the dry bank, there to trap its imperative to flow, as if it were a fish” (22). “The wise among men seek to fathom the foundations of existence, but all they can do is to describe one wave of the current” (22). As Von Balthasar continues discussing the ever changing, transforming nature of time, he looks to the fact of our existence in this ocean as a sign of love. And the rhythm of the oceans of time might be likened to the beating of a heart, the heart of this world: the love of God. Beneath the ever changing flux of existence, beneath the seeming chaos of this world, is a love that cannot be denied.
You sense Time and yet have not sensed this heart? You feel the stream of grace which rushes into you, warm and red, and yet have not felt how you are loved? You seek for a proof, and yet you yourself are that proof. You seek to entrap him, the Unknown One, in the mesh of your knowledge, and yet you yourself are entrapped in the inescapable net of his might. You would like to grasp, but you yourself are already grasped. You would like to overpower and you yourself being overpowered. You pretend to be seeking but you have long (and for all time) been found. (29)

As long as we are blind to the hand of God that sustains and supports our every breath, we continue to struggle in the darkness like blind, drunk men. But when God in His grace opens our eyes to the presence of His love, the isolation of space and endless flux of time become the very realms where I rest in the endless flow of His love. I am his servant and He is Lord of all.


David M said...

I tried to publish a blog which concerned myself ever brooding over something whose name nor defintion can either be identified. Alas, due to popup blockers, it was erased. Yet, this soul searching is essentially a longing for peace and love, which theologically exist. Tozer, among others, says that God is everspeaking. Why is it so hard to hear?

Doug Floyd said...

Good question. And good word: brooding (pregnant with energy).