Scribbles, &c.

von Balthasar

Finished Hans Urs von Balthasar’s Mysterium Paschale. Much of it was beyond me; I can’t pretend otherwise. Chapter 4 (“Going to the Dead: Holy Saturday”) is something I will probably return to in Lent. I also found this bit from Chapter 2 worth highlighting and saving:

Philosophy can speak of the Cross in many tongues; when it is not the ‘Word of the Cross’ (1 Corinthians 1,18), issuing from faith in Jesus Christ, it knows too much or too little. Too much: because it makes bold with words and concepts at a point where the Word of God is silent, suffers and dies, in order to reveal what no philosophy can know, except through faith, namely, God’s ever greater Trinitarian love; and in order, also, to vanquish what no philosophy can make an end of, human dying so that the human totality may be restored in God. Too little, because philosophy does not measure that abyss into which the Word sinks down, and, having no inkling of it, closes the hiatus, or deliberately festoons the appalling thing with garlands…

Either philosophy misconceives man, failing, in Gnostic or Platonic guise, to take with full seriousness his earthly existence, settling him elsewhere, in heaven, in the pure realm of spirit or sacrificing his unique personality to nature or evolution. Or, alternatively, philosophy forms man so exactly in God’s image and likeness that God descends to man’s image and likeness, since man in in his suffering and overcoming of suffering shows himself God’s superior….

If philosophy is not willing to content itself with, either, speaking abstractly of being, or with thinking concretely of the earthly and worldly (and no further), then it must at once empty itself in order to ‘know nothing…except Jesus Christ and him crucified’ (1 Corinthians 2, 2). Then it may, starting out from this source, go on to ‘impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glorification’ (ibid., 2, 7). This proclamation, however, rises up over a deeper silence and darker abyss than pure philosophy can know.

And this is just a small taste. von Balthasar conducts a deep meditation on the triduum, setting the table with the Incarnation and the section just quoted on the folly of the Cross before proceeding to a careful study of His going to the Cross, to the Dead, and to the Father, each in turn.

It feels like Holy Saturday gets a bit of the short end sometimes. Between the agony of Good Friday and the ecstasy of Easter Sunday, though, there is a time of silence and this, too, is full of deep meaning. What does it mean, that very-God and very-Man lay in a tomb? If no one can come to the Father, except through the Son, and the Son lies beneath the ground, is the Way closed, however briefly?

Not even for a moment. In the Liturgy of Hours for Holy Saturday, the Office of Readings quotes an ancient homily:

Today a great silence reigns on earth, a great silence and a great stillness. A great silence because the King is asleep. the earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began…He has gone to search for Adam, our first father, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow Adam in his bonds and Eve, captive with him - He who is both their God and the son of Eve…“I am your God, who for your sake have become your son…I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be a prisoner in hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead.”

As the Catechism (no. 634, from whence I hustled that homily excerpt) teaches, the Descent brings the Gospel message of salvation to complete fulfillment. Reaching backward in time, Christ’s redemptive work is now spread to people of all times and places, even to the beginning.

Speaking of the Catechism: I’ve volunteered to assist in our parish’s RCIA program. The class was introduced to the CCC last night. I remember the first time I saw one, at the outset of my own RCIA experience. I remember thinking it was really heavy and, leaving through it, sort of confusing at first glance. Our teacher, though, hammered this home right quick: there are no secrets in Catholic teaching. Everything that we are bound to believe as Catholics is right here in this book. If it’s not in there, I am not bound to believe it. Everything in there is fully annotated, footnoted and cross reference with Scripture, Patristics, Conciliar documents - in short, the depositum fidei. If you have a question, you can find not only the answer, but the vast body of work and thought that led to it. So many rabbit-holes. Hooray for the Magisterium!

Speaking of rabbit-holes: I’m working my way through a collection of Newman’s sermons on faith and reason. I’ll finish the book because I love Newman, but the it’s one of those I-bound-a-public-domain-text-and-sold-it-on-Amazon books. Crappy typesetting and so on. If you’re going to sell it, add some value, man. Clean it up or throw in some footnotes. Getting to the Newman book means I have nothing in the on-deck circle, something I need to remedy post-haste.

Radio-wise: this summer I was able to get the vertical antenna site, installed, and tuned. Seems to be doing pretty well - I’ve made my first JA contacts and hope to add to my DXCC pile this winter when there’s less yard work to do. Hopefully the bands will improve a bit, too. Made my first attempt to capture some NOAA GOES imagery last week but it was a bust. Like all satellite-related things, the best passes seem to either happen right in the middle of times when I have Other Stuff To Do or when it’s raining.