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The form and drama of the church; Hans Urs von Balthasar on Mary, Peter, and the Eucharist.


The French Jesuit theologian Henri de Lubac once suggested the twentieth-century Swiss theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar to be the most cultivated man of his time. "If there is a Christian culture, then here it is!" (1) Father de Lubac's comment alludes to the breadth and depth of von Balthasar's work, which covers the expanse of much of Western intellectual history from classical antiquity to contemporary European literature. And perhaps Father de Lubac's comment also unwittingly serves as a caveat lector. For von Balthasar's erudition presents his readers with the formidable task of searching for the unity of his thought in a body of literature that is vast, diverse, and sometimes quite unsystematic (sometimes intentionally so).


More specifically, when one begins the task of understanding von Balthasar's ecclesiology, one immediately encounters the obstacle: von Balthasar neither developed a systematic treatise on the Church, nor as far as one can tell did he intend to do so. His reflections on the Church are, by his own admission, "a few building stones for a future [systematic ecclesiology]." (2) While several years later he would remark, should someone "like to make something out of these fragments, putting the stones in order and assembling them into a mosaic," he would mistrust such an endeavor as an attempt "to yank the mystery from its seclusion and cast it into the glare of our light." (3)

"Mystery" is perhaps the appropriate word to characterize von Balthasar's thought on the Church. The Church is a mystery of love, whose "most secret chamber" or center "remains hidden," to be approached only with reverence. Yet, this mystery can be approached because God enters into history, becomes flesh and blood and dwells among humanity in the person of Christ. Through God's self-gift, "many windows have been opened for us to see into the center" (ET II, 7). The most immediate "windows" that open upon the mystery are the theological persons most closely associated with and intimately involved in the mystery, Mary and Peter. They are, for von Balthasar, the windows through which we begin to see the visible form of the Church as Christ's concrete partner and the role the Church performs in the drama of salvation. The Eucharist too is a window that opens upon the mystery. But the Eucharist not only offers us a view of the mystery, it draws us into it, making us participants in the one body of Christ. Through the gift of the Holy Spirit the Church celebrates the Eucharist and in so doing enters into the Father's plan to redeem the world by Christ's missio (mission).

This article surveys a few themes in von Balthasar's ecclesiology, with the hope that an exploration of these themes might contribute to the Christian imagination and practice of the Church. (4) As prolegomena, the first section of this article discusses briefly the philosophical influences, languages, and grammars that animate von Balthasar's thought. The second section examines von Balthasar's Christology as an entree to the third, fourth, and fifth sections of this article, his understanding of the personhood of the Church in the form of the theological persons Mary and Peter. Christ's missio opens up an acting area for Mary and Peter to become "coactors" in the drama of salvation. The sixth section of this article investigates the Church's participation in "the mystery of the center" by discussing von Balthasar's treatment of the Eucharist as a gift given to the Church by Christ from the Father so the Church may have something to give back to the Father for the gift of the Son.

Prolegomena: Analogy, Expression, and Form

Perhaps the best way to bring into focus the philosophical concepts at work in von Balthasar's thought is to draw out the contrast he made in an interview in which he suggests that the difference between himself and his contemporary Karl Rahner is the difference between the eighteenth-century German philosopher Immanuel Kant and Kant's contemporary, the German poet and novelist Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. "Rahner has chosen Kant ... the transcendental starting point. And I--as a Germanist--have chosen Goethe, [who stressed] the figure: this indissolubly unique, organic, self-developing form ... this form [is] something that Kant, even in his aesthetics, never really dealt with." (5) This comment both indicates two distinct paths theologians might travel down in the twenty-first century and, more specifically, displays the philosophical difference between Rahner's transcendental approach, in which he unfolds the encounter between God and creation in the horizon of the subjectivity of the human being, and von Balthasar's more objective approach, in which the horizon upon which the relationship between God and creation is disclosed to the human being is the whole of reality. (6)

For both von Balthasar and Rahner, the contingent reality of human existence is key to understanding the mystery of God's revelation. However, the starting point for understanding contingency in von Balthasar and Rahner is different. Rahner stands in the philosophical tradition derived from the Belgian Jesuit Joseph Marechal's and Martin Heidegger's interpretations of Kant's philosophy that attempt to reconcile Thomistic metaphysics with German idealism. (7) What was known as the "Kantian problematic": Kant's understanding of the Transcendental Ideal as the principle of completeness that brings unity to conceptual knowledge but cannot be known itself, (8) a thesis rendering all theoretical knowledge of God dubious, as well as Hegel's attempt to overcome Kant's extreme "subjectivization," formed the epistemological horizon of Rahner's philosophical training.

As a student at the Jesuit seminary in Pullach near Munich, von Balthasar encountered his fellow Jesuit Erich Przywara, a philosopher of religion and theologian from Munich. His encounter with Przywara's formulation of the analogia entis (analogy of being) left an indelible mark on von Balthasar's thought. (9)

For Przywara, finite reality is characterized by a "real distinction," "polarity," or tension between esse (existence) and essentia (essence), unlike God, whose essentia (essence) is esse (existence) as actus purus (pure act). (10) Finite reality receives its esse from God, and insofar as it "is" (esse) it is essentia. Formulated within the analogia entis, this polarity in finite reality reveals both similarity and dissimilarity in finite reality's relationship to God. (11) On the one hand, the finite in its esse is a reflection--albeit, an imperfect reflection--of the Creator from whom it receives its (imperfect) identity. On the other hand, finite reality, as composite being, is always unsatisfied and seeks transcendence toward its Creator. This constant tension in human existence then, is such that in Przywara's formulation of the analogia entis the dissimilarity between creature and Creator is much greater than the similarity. (12)

The notion of being as dynamic difference, tension, or polarity is found in different aspects of von Balthasar's work; two are germane to this paper. (13) First, von Balthasar conceives of a "trinitarian analogia entis" in which the otherness between the Persons in the triune God, and in particular the difference between the person of the Son and the person of the Father, plays itself out in the abandonment or "letting-go" of the Son by the Father on the cross. (14) This difference-in-unity within the trinitarian relations is, for von Balthasar, the foundation for the "real distinction" in creation. It is, moreover, the foundation from which he begins to explore the Church in relation to Christ. Second, Przywara's notion of being as "polarity" resonates and intensifies von Balthasar's use of Goethe's understanding of form as the exterior expression of being. For Goethe, concrete form in its appearance is both the veiling and the unveiling of the interiority of being that comes to expression in all finite reality. In human beings interiority comes from the freedom to create the expression. Yet, human beings also are "expressed forms" or images of the "incarnate Word." In creation then, and particularly in the form of human existence, a polarity exists between freedom of expression and the expressed form that is both the real presence of the depths of the mystery of being and a real pointing beyond these depths. In other words, there is an indissoluble union between the interiority and exteriority in the appearance of the form, such that neither the form nor the content of the expression need be removed from each other. (15) This polarity between expression and form constitutes the philosophical backbone of von Balthasar's theological aesthetics.

For von Balthasar, theology ought to begin by focusing its attention on "beauty." While theology is always in pursuit of "truth" as it attempts to comprehend God's self-disclosure to the world and the "good" as it attempts to discern how this disclosure may be embodied, it also must attend to the encounter between God and creation. This being the case, "aesthetics" is first and foremost a theory of perception, a process of "seeing the form" of God's revelation in creation (GL I, 125). Since our knowledge is mediated through sensation, beauty first is disclosed as a form. But since our knowledge is not limited to sensation, there is an inner reality of the being of form that lies "veiled" in the outer, sensible appearance of the form--a deeper reality not immediately given in sensible appearances. Although this deeper, inner reality of the being of form does not immediately disclose itself, it does manifest itself in and through the outer appearance. Von Balthasar puts it this way:

The beautiful is above all a form (Gestalt) and the light does not fall on this form from above and from outside, rather it breaks forth from the form's interior. Species and lumen in beauty are one, if the species truly merits that name (which does not designate any form whatever, but pleasing, radiant form.)Visible form not only "points" to an invisible, unfathomable mystery; form is the apparition of this mystery, and reveals it while, naturally, at the same time protecting and veiling it. Both natural and artistic form has an exterior which appears and an interior depth, both of which, however, are not separable in the form itself. The content (Gehalt) does not lie behind the form (Gestalt), but within it. Whoever is not capable of seeing and "reading" the form will, by the same token, fail to perceive the content. Whoever is not illumined by the form will see no light in the content either. (GL I, 151)

Theological aesthetics, then, has as its primary object of perception God's self-disclosure in the form of Christ. It is important to note the object of perception here--Christ, the form of God's revelation--is to be considered not "as an independent image of God, standing over against what is imaged, but as a unique, hypostatic union between archetype and image" (GL I, 432).

As we begin to discuss the different parts of von Balthasar's ecclesiology, it will be instructive to keep in mind the relationship between form (exterior) and content (interior) in his theological aesthetics. It is not only the language in which he speaks about the Church, it is also the hermeneutical key to unlock the treasure of the Church.

En Christoi

The difference is "philosophy [Rahner] versus literature and music [von Balthasar]." Or so Werner Loser once responded to a question regarding the methodological differences between Rahner and von Balthasar. (16) Von Balthasar's "Theo-dramatics," situated between the first and third part of his trilogy, is a theological undertaking that considers the dramatic character of existence in light of biblical revelation. (17) It employs dramatic categories as instruments to elucidate theological realities. This is most palpable in the way he develops his view of God, the Church, the world, and humanity not chiefly from human self-understanding but rather from the drama with the world and humanity already staged by God through God's act of creation. The Theo-dramatics also marks the transition from Theological Aesthetics, the perception of the form of divine revelation, to Theo-Drama, the dramatic encounter in creation and in history between divine and human freedom.

To begin, we might ask two separate but interrelated questions: why a theological dramatic theory? And what does a theological dramatic theory have to do with ecclesiology? Von Balthasar himself answers the first question: "God does not want to be just 'contemplated' and 'perceived' by us, like a solitary actor by his public; no, from the beginning he has provided for a play in which we must all share." (18) To answer the second question is the task of this section.

For von Balthasar, "All the world's a stage" where the drama of salvation unfolds through God's "action in and upon the world." (19) The climax of this drama is God's address to humanity with an offer "to attain eternal life as a full human being." (20) But when God enters the stage, God finds humanity a "tormenting sphinx," twitching "like a fish on dry land" as a "sign of futility in the face of death" (TD III, 20). Humanity's sphinxlike character is most poignant in its exercise of freedom where it "strives to fulfill [itself] in an Absolute, and although it is 'causa sui,' it is unable to achieve this by its own power." (21) Put another way, as a synthesis of body and spirit, humanity finds itself in the paradoxical situation of being called beyond to something greater, transcendent, and infinite, but nevertheless humanity also always remains within its "finite acting area."

The "abyss," as von Balthasar calls it, between the divine and created natures is bridged by Christ without harm to the former or to the latter. (22) Since the hypostatic union of the person of Christ is the "ultimate union" of infinite and finite being, the person of Christ constitutes "the final proportion" or measure between divine and created being. Christ is, von Balthasar avers, the "'concrete analogia entis' itself," who, in his unique form as "the form of forms," does not abolish the difference between created and uncreated natures (TD III, 222).

However, the question arises how the union in Christ is possible should the "abyss" between the two different realities, the divine and the human, have nothing in common? How "can there be an identity between consciousness of a (divine) person in his assumed humanity and his inherent divine consciousness, particularly if the nature that has been adopted exists in the mode of alienation from God?" (ibid., 224). To answer this question von Balthasar employs the category of missio in which Jesus's human consciousness is entirely under the auspice of his trinitarian mission, the mission commissioned by the Father and guided by the Holy Spirit to reveal the truth of both divinity and humanity to humanity. Through the category of missio von Balthasar binds together inextricably the person of Jesus (human consciousness) to his trinitarian mission (divine consciousness), such that "there is no conceivable point at which the identity of [Jesus's] 'I' and his mission started " (ibid., 227).

Within Christ's mission the symbiotic identity between Christ's "I-consciousness" and "mission-consciousness" opens up a concrete acting area for the interaction of God and humanity, an area of Christian mission in which humanity, "en Christoi, can be given a share in [Christ's] salvific work and suffering for the world" (ibid., 241). To be sure, it is Christ who, in the role of God, is "the revealing of the triune God," and the one who allots roles to "his human fellow actors." But those "human fellow actors" who have been given roles and have been "touched, transformed and resettled" in the "acting area" that comes into being with the advent of Christ "also share in [Christ's] function of revealing God" (ibid., 258).

The Church: Body of Christ-Bride of Christ

Before delineating specific theological persons en Christoi, we begin with a general question: "Who is the Church?" The personal pronoun used in an essay title contained in von Balthasar's work Spouse of the Word suggests the Church is not simply a "collective subject" but definable as "someone," as a person (ET II, 143). Since the ontological origin of the Church is the kenosis of Christ, "consummated in the death on the Cross" (cf. ibid., 27-28), the immediate answer to this question is: "The ["someone"] of the Church is ... simply Christ; he posits and is responsible for her acts in the sense of St. Augustine's reiteration against the Donatists: it is not Peter who baptizes, nor Paul, nor John, but Christ alone" (ibid., 144). The Church, then, to recall Paul's simile, is "Christ's body," not as a new or second body, but as "an extension, a communication, a partaking in the personality of Christ," the Head, who is the source of its being (ibid, 145).

Yet to claim the Church to be Christ's body, a participation in Christ's self-consciousness, illuminates only part of the Christological-trinitarian mystery dwelling within the Church. While the Church is "one" with Christ (the Head) as Christ's "body," the Church is at the same time "other" to Christ, as the repository of "the grace and [the] fullness of Christ poured out into the 'other' (created) subject" (ibid., 21). As such the Church is "not only act but also result, yet result never separable from act" (ibid.). Or, in other terms, just as created grace--albeit distinct--cannot be thought in abstraction from uncreated grace, so too the Church cannot articulate itself unequivocally as "over against" Christ.

Should we return to von Balthasar's primary thesis, the origin of the Church is the kenosis of Christ on the Cross, then we begin to see how von Balthasar elucidates the reality of the Church as the "body of Christ." Two realities issue simultaneously from Christ's dying body: the reality of the "attributes of the spirit and body of the God-man being poured forth externally in the sacramental forms--and thereby the trinitarian grace granted to mankind in Christological form" (ibid., 147); and "some element of preexisting sinful man ... present so as to be a kind of second agent cooperating in this founding and outpouring of the Church" (ibid.). The exegetical key to these realities, and consequently the image of the body of Christ is Ephesians 5: Paul's comparison between husband and wife, on the one hand, and Christ and the Church, on the other.

For Paul, the image of "head" and "body" is to be interpreted in a "nuptial" and "personal" sense of "bride" and "bridegroom." The "'head' means the ruling partner, the lord, in a marriage; 'body' means completion and unification in the physical nuptial order" (ibid.). Here a transposition of images is at work between the Church as the body and the Church as the bride that requires that the tension between the two realities issuing from Christ's death be maintained. That is to say, the tension must be sustained between, on the one hand, the Church as a preexisting personal subject of Christ possessing a unique selfhood--a unique selfhood available for Christ as "someone" to love--and, on the other hand, the Church as the "bodily fruit of the Incarnation," born from the "generative power on the Cross." (23) This tension permits von Balthasar to name the Church as someone in both a "personal" and "somatic" sense without dissolving the polarity between Christ and the Church into a higher synthesis. As he puts it,

the opposition between Christ as Bridegroom and the Church as bride is subsumed in the identity of the one Christ, Head and Body, who, as Christus totus, is for Augustine "one person," and for Paul the "one" (see Gal 3:28). This seal of identity imprints itself right through the unity Christ-Church until it reaches that most fundamental opposition that rejects identity, because in it the dissimilarity is ever greater than the similarity--the opposition, that is, of God and creature. In the hypostatic union (and its imperfect participation in the Church), even this irreducible abyss, without being eliminated, is bridged and tunneled by the power of God's love. (ET II, 187-88)

Here the polarity between Christ and the Church is supported by Paul's theology of the sexes, a theology that originates in Genesis's suggestion that the first woman came from the rib of man; therefore, according to von Balthasar's reading of Paul, woman is both man's "'own flesh and blood' and a 'person' for whose sake the man is to 'leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife'"(ET II, 147). (24) However, since this statement to which Paul refers is "inapplicable" to Adam and Eve (Adam had no parents to leave), Paul treats the Genesis text as an eschatological reference point. In so doing he "elevates the sex relationship from type to antetype" while "undoubtedly thinking of the simultaneous realization of both aspects in the relationship between Christ [bridegroom] and the Church [bride]" (ibid, 147-48). By maintaining the union in distinction between the bride and the bridegroom, the Church can be defined as someone, as a subject or as a person.

As if taking a cue from Paul--who, while admonishing the Ephesians about their nuptial relationships by analogy to Christ and the Church, resigns to call the latter "a great mystery"--von Balthasar concedes the only true analogy for the Church is found in the Trinity: the trinitarian unity in difference of the active and mutual subsistent love of the three Persons from whom the Church receives its subjectivity. Such a concession need not be read as a negation of the bride/bridegroom analogy he employs; rather, it should be read as his deference to the mystery of Christ's relationship to the Church. Von Balthasar is, as it were, acknowledging the limits of reason to penetrate this mystery.

To answer, then, the question we asked at the beginning of this section, "Who is the Church?," we can conclude,

the only satisfactory answer is that [the Church] consists of real subjects. [It] is not a mere collectivity that ... always has something fictitious and accidental about it. Real subjects, then, but only such as participate through divine grace in a normative subject and its consciousness. And if this participation is possible only through infused grace, then that in which they participate is divine: the supreme subject demanded by the question posed can only be the Divine itself. Mankind gains participation in it through Christ and the sphere that is his (en Christo) and that he has prepared as Redeemer, namely, the Church. Insofar as this sphere is his own, he is her consciousness; and insofar as she makes to him the response of a woman and a bride, she has her supreme, normative subjectivity in Mary. (ibid., 179)


I tried to argue in the last section through the bride/bridegroom analogy that the Church is not "purely and simply, Christ." That the Church, in its mystery of union and opposition to Christ, could not be "hypostatically united to God who dwells in [it]" (ibid., 187) is a reflection of the mystery of unity and difference in the triune God. This section will explore how the Church receives its subjective form and identity in Mary. For in Mary "consists the fulfillment of the creaturely opposition that underlies the mystery of love" (ibid.).

Within the theo-drama, Mary is part of the "Christological constellation," one of the four theological persons who constitute the pillars of the Church. (25) But Mary is the theological person par excellence in this constellation, whose role (nature) within the drama of salvation contains a number of tensions. Mary is situated between the Old and the New Covenant and embodies the break between these two. Further, her existence "lies between the various states of human nature" (TD III, 318), insofar as she is human and therefore in need of redemption and also holy, "immaculate" as the "Theotokos." In the wake of the Second Vatican Council's intimation of Mary's relationship to Christ and to the Church as, among many other rubrics, "virginal-maternal," von Balthasar seeks to unfold her role in the drama of salvation as "Mother and as companion-bride." (26) Her role in the drama of salvation is most clearly adduced by von Balthasar's highly contentious theology of the sexes. (27)

For von Balthasar the basic truth about human beings is the polarity of sexual difference. And should God become human in the person of Jesus Christ, then the fundamental truth about human beings need not be bracketed. As we saw above in von Balthasar's exegesis of Ephesians 5, the nuptial relationship between man and woman offers an expression for God's encounter with humanity in Christ. The following three salient features of the nuptial relationship give it analogical precedence in exploring Christ's encounter with humanity (cf. ET II, 184-85). First, the marital union presupposes two persons who even in their union remain "unmixedly" persons. Second, the physical union that takes place makes them "one flesh, as is shown by the result, the child." And third, the physical opposition of the sexes, which represent the opposition of the spiritual persons in the bodily sphere, makes possible their union. By analogy, the male's role in the conjugal act expresses God's role as progenitor in the divine-human encounter. As one who is "wholly-other" to creation, God arouses creation's (woman's) active and fruitful receptivity.

To avoid a superficial reading of von Balthasar's theology of sexual difference and, furthermore, to avoid misrepresenting his theology of the sexes and its application to Christ's encounter with humanity, a number of qualifications need to be made. While von Balthasar is working with an analogy he finds in the creation stories of Genesis, he is not, as alluded to above, identifying Adam with God. Unlike Adam, who needs a partner but cannot produce her from himself, God needs no partner for his fulfillment. Even in the processions of the Trinity, the Father does not "generate the Son in order to have a vessel into which to pour his richness but out of the superabundant fullness of his 'selfless' love" (TD III, 286). Further, the Book of Genesis affirms that man and woman are created in the "image of God," and as such are equal in their natures. Nevertheless, the use of the man-woman analogy applied to the relationship between Creator and creature, in which woman is represented as creation's responsiveness to the Creator, has a long and tragic history of misinterpretation, whereby the woman often is disparaged. (28) Von Balthasar is aware of this troubled history of interpretation. However, he presents this analogy in his writings in a way such that woman need not occupy a subordinate role. (29) Indeed, in the sexual sphere of the woman's fruitfulness, she is not simply the receptacle of man's fruitfulness, "she is equipped with her own explicit fruitfulness" (TD III, 285). Her fruitfulness appears more active and more explicit than the fruitfulness of the man by "uniting in herself the fruitfulness of both" (ibid., 286). (30) In this respect, woman's fruitfulness transcends the "I-Thou" relationship of the husband and wife by generating something "new."

The elements of the marital union mentioned above provide a language and grammar for speaking about Mary's relationship to Christ and to the Church. Through God's grace in the gift of the Holy Spirit, Mary "is the subjectivity that, in its womanly and receptive manner, is enabled fully to correspond to the masculine subjectivity of Christ" (ET II, 161). Mary is not the Word but the "response" from creation to God's gift of himself in the Word. This response, however, requires a special grace, elevating Mary's response of faith to the position of "principle," exemplar and archetype of the Church's faith. The Marian response of faith is elevated to archetype because its origin proceeds from the immaculate conception, and its end is the bringing forth of the body of the One who is the Head of the Church. Mary is not only the archetype of the Church because of her virginal faith but also because of her fruitfulness. She becomes and remains the universal Mother of all believers. Nevertheless, the fruitfulness of Mary according to which we ascribe to her the status of Mother of the Church is not autonomous but ancillary as "helpmate" or "handmaid," since it is not Mary but Christ who, through his passion, brings the Church into existence.

Von Balthasar's use of the marital union analogy to explicate the relationship between Mary and Christ and Mary and the Church opens up conceptual and linguistic space to approach the mystery of the Church. What he suggests through the marital union analogy in analogue to Mary and Christ is not repetition of the finite nuptial relationship in Mary and Christ but its archetypal realization in them. What Mary receives is "the Son as seed of the Father through the realizing act of the Holy Spirit of Father and Son" (ibid., 162). The Church is given the gift of Mary as archetype of the Church in order that the Church might remain open to the trinitarian reality of the nuptial mystery that dwells within it.

At the outset of this section I sought to unfold Mary's role in the drama of salvation as Mother and as companion-bride. Should the following two realities be maintained, namely that "the Church comes to be from the 'breathing out' of the Spirit in Jesus's death and from his opened side, and [it] comes to be in virtue of the fact that the feminine assent to all that God wills becomes the inexhaustible fruitfulness of the new Eve," then we can see the Church, as subject, is ontologically present inchoately in Mary as the companion-bride of Christ. (31) And insofar as Mary fulfills her personal mission by surrendering her Son, she signifies not simply a vague symbol but the Realsymbol of the Church, the personal center of Church as the Mother of all believers. Mary, von Balthasar proposes, "has become so supple in the hand of the Creator that he can extend her beyond the limits of a private consciousness to a Church consciousness, to what the older theology since Origen and Ambrose is accustomed to call anima ecclesiastica"(ET II, 66).


In the previous section we saw the theological person Mary as archetype of the Church, the theological person from whom the Church receives its form of "subjective" holiness. The Church, however, needs and is given a form of completely "objective" holiness. This objective dimension of the Church is linked to the theological person Peter, whose existence (embodied in the hierarchal, the sacramental, and the institutional form of the Church), exists in tension with Mary, constituting the polarity of "objective-subjective" holiness of the Church. For von Balthasar the Church as both charism (Marian) and institution (Petrine) are inseparably united, because the Holy Spirit dwells in the Church as both objective and subjective Spirit: that is, as institution or rule and inspiration. (32)
 Neither aspect can be renounced but must be continually fitted
 to the other in mutual harmony. There are sides of external
 discipline that must be revived, perhaps even restored,
 by an inner inspiration. But there is also much in the same
 external form that would be sufficiently living and vital to
 free up true inner inspiration if one only had the desire to see
 it as the Holy Spirit presents it, undistorted by optical lenses
 through which one normally sees externals. (33)

The perichoresis between the Marian and the Petrine dimensions of the Church is such that von Balthasar will say, along with Charles Journet and Vatican I and Vatican II: "the entire Church is Marian" but "[it] is also Petrine." (34)

How are the charismatic and institutional dimensions coextensive with the Church? Von Balthasar answers this question by outlining five aspects of the relationship between the bride (Marian dimension) and the institution (Petrine dimension). First, the Church as institution is not an abstract reality in the world but is incarnational. As the bride of Christ, the Church receives its being and life from the Word made Flesh. This is evident in the fact that the office instituted by Christ "imparts to the Church the life-giving substance (in the sacrament of the Eucharist) and the word of forgiveness (in sacramental absolution)" (TD III, 355). Second, contrary to being the antithesis of the nuptial event between Mary-Church and Christ, the institution is the condition for the possibility of the perpetual presence of Christ (bridegroom) in the Church, his bride. Here, von Balthasar remarks, "'life' and 'form' presuppose each other." Christ the bridegroom-head is present to his body-bride through the sacramental life of the Church. Third, as mentioned above, the institutional (Petrine) form of the Church gives it a completely objective holiness that exists in a polarity with the charistmatic (Marian) subjective form of holiness. As the imperfect Church of sinners, "it is essential that there be not only the reality of a subjectively perfect holy Church (ecclesia mariana immaculate, which naturally includes the perfected heavenly Church to which we 'have come': Heb 12:22) but also the reality of an objectively perfect holiness in the office centered on Peter and all that it involves"(ibid., 356-57). The office-holder, who must acquire an "advance installment" of Johannine love and Marian subjective holiness, is empowered by this objective holiness to transform and perfect believers into the Church's perfect subjective holiness that resides in its core. Fourth, having been set free by the redemptive events of the Incarnation and the Cross, the Church is impelled by the Spirit to follow Christ. The Petrine dimension participates in the Church's members' transformation into the perfect love of Christ, by functioning as a pedagogical instrument that forms an anima ecclesiastica within them, which, in turn, allows them to share in the wisdom of the anima ecclesiastica, Mary, "the Seat of Wisdom." (35) Here the inner, dramatic tension between discipleship and authority in the Church is most acute:

Those who have been formed by the Church's ministry and discipline, by Christ's authority, are thus initiated into the mind of Christ; they have truly come of age in a Christian sense; this gives them an existential knowledge of Christian truth that is equal to that possessed by the Church in [its] official representatives. Perfect holiness is also wisdom; it is Mary, not Peter, who is called "Seat of Wisdom." The Church is the "Bride" of Christ, and at the same time [it] is equipped with an official and institutional side: in this intertwining relationship lies the Church's inner, dramatic constitution.(TD III, 357-58)

And finally, drawing on the tension within Newman's conception of the episcopal ministry and prophetic ministry, (36) von Balthasar argues the episcopal ministry (i.e., the Petrine dimension), through the charism of discernment, guards the authenticity of the prophetic sense (i.e., the Marian dimension) of all believers' living faith, while the prophetic sense of believers' living faith, whose charisms and inspirations pour forth from the Spirit, can provide insight and elucidate the episcopal ministry.

It is the inner dramatic tension or union in distinction between the Marian subjective holiness and the Petrine objective holiness that renders the Church the "body" of Christ as well as the "bride" of Christ. The Marian dimension of the Church enfolds the Petrine dimension without claiming the latter as the former's own. And, further, the Marian dimension of the Church precedes the Petrine, "without being in any way divided from it or being less complementary." (37) And yet, each dimension presupposes the other. As von Balthasar reminds us, "Mary, the (ecclesia) immaculata, is on the scene prior to the call of the Apostles, yet the concrete community is built on the 'rock'" (TD III, 358-59).

The Eucharist

The bridal-bodily relationship between Christ and the Church discussed throughout this article finds its complete communal form in the Eucharist. The Eucharist unifies the relationship between Christ and the Church, such that the Church becomes, St. Augustine tells us, "Christ himself." (38)

And to echo de Lubac, for von Balthasar, too, the Eucharist makes the Church.

The mystery of the Church is born when Jesus freely exercises the power he has to "lay down his life and take it up again" (Jn 10:8), when he exercises this power by giving to this surrender "for his friends" (Jn 15:13) the form of a meal, of eating and drinking his Flesh and Blood (Jn 6:55), an act whereby he fills his friends with his own substance--body and soul, divinity and humanity. (GL I, 571)

In the eucharistic event, God disposes himself to be taken and incorporated into humanity, so that in turn, humanity might participate in the mission of Christ. The practice of the eucharistic meal by the Church is a memoriale passionis Domini, recalling the birth of the Church in the passion and death of Christ, and at the same time is the very presence of the risen Lord in the Church's midst. The real presence of Christ and the anamnesis bring us into "objective truth by virtue of a subjective truthfulness whereby we overcome and transcend ourselves" (ibid., 573). The eucharistic meal is an "eschatological meal," it is our "sacramentally veiled" participation in the celestial liturgy.

In considering the eucharistic event, should finite conceptual emphasis fall on the real transformation ("transubstantiation") of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ, rather than Christ's encounter with the Church in the act of the meal, then this real encounter with Christ risks becoming a "magical demonstration of [Christ's] omnipotence," rather than "the proof of [Christ's] love to the end." Consequently, the preponderance of symbolic value in the Eucharist is in the activity of eating and drinking. "What is important for the Church is not that something is to be found on the table of the altar, but that by consuming this nourishment the Church becomes what [it] can and ought to be" (GL I, 574).

Since the principal reality in the eucharistic event is Christ's self-gift, his coming- to-be and his making himself present, the Church's (secondary) activity is taken up into this act of Christ. This is evident in the center of the liturgy, where the Church relinquishes any linguistic initiative of its own and recites the words and gestures of Christ, with the Church employing the ordained priest as the instrument for this recitation. Here the Church expresses itself through the interplay of the personal pronouns "we" and "I," which signify a shift of perspective between the Church at worship and Christ at the Last Supper. This shift of perspective, however, reveals the same event, namely the sacrificial death of Christ. (39)

Further, while repeating the words of institution, the words "we recall and offer" disclose the interplay between the present action taking place in the celebration and what was accomplished on the Cross. In so doing, the liturgical celebration presupposes Christ is really present along with his temporal history and, in particular, its summit in death and resurrection. In light of the Cross as Christ's eternal self-gift to the Father on behalf of humanity, the Church's eucharistic sacrifice appears to refer to that gift. Therefore the Church's primary activity in Christ's sacrifice is not so much to make present this offering to the Father from Christ as it is to communicate to believers the supernatural presence of this eternal mystery.

What, then, is the role or status of the Church in the eucharistic event? Is the Church already the body of Christ in offering its sacrifice, or is it through the Church's offering its sacrifice that it becomes the body of Christ? Or does the Church already participate in Christ's self-sacrifice such that the Church's offering is part of Christ's sacrifice? Von Balthasar suggests,
 what is sacrificial in this act inheres wholly in the offerendum,
 namely, Christ's sacrifice on the Cross (which the Church of God
 proclaims), not in the offerens. It may be true that the separation
 of the forms of bread and wine is a symbolic sign, referring to
 Christ's sacrificial death; but it is scarcely possible to say that
 this sign has the power to bring about as effective presence of
 this sacrificial death. Certainly, what is ultimately offered to
 God is no longer earthly food but Christ's body and blood, but it
 is not obvious how such an offering--nor its final result, that is,
 Communion--draws the Church's action inwardly into the sacrifice of
 Christ. (40)

When the Church celebrates the Eucharist it does not offer Christ's sacrifice as a new or foreign sacrifice but is itself drawn into Christ's original sacrifice to the Father, as can be discerned in Jesus's handing over his sacrifice to the Church. At the Last Supper, Jesus entrusts his sacrifice to his disciples so that they may perform it in imitation of him. Jesus gives his sacrifice to the Father to the disciples so they, in turn, may have something to offer to the Father. In this respect, the (Petrine) Church functions as the instrumental cause of Christ's sacrifice, which is subordinate to Christ, the principle cause. The Church then is "the official power to create for the presence of Christ in the Church the space in which it is made present." (41) And yet, in a eucharistic paradox, "the Church's entire eucharistic action--on the part of both [its] institutional office-bearers and [its] faithful community--is nothing but an echo of the Lord's prior action of grace; it is the action, through the Son, of the triune God" (TD IV, 405).

Within the background of the Church's liturgical participation in Christ's sacrifice lies veiled the reality, according to von Balthasar, that before the institutional (Petrine) form of the Church appears, the Marian form of the Church is present. (42) In this respect "it is only possible for the presbyters to exercise their office in the Church of the Incarnate, Crucified and Risen One if they are sustained by the 'supra-official' Woman who cherishes and nurtures this [institutional] side" (ibid., 397). It is from Mary's "Yes" that the Church and its members are, through the Eucharist, nourished and receptive to God's will. (43)

In celebrating the Eucharist, we see that the Lord of the banquet, the Father who, in the Holy Spirit, permits Christ, the Head, to offer himself to his members, the Mystical Body. As members of Christ's body we participate in this offering and in so doing are drawn ever deeper by the Spirit into the mystery of the triune God dwelling in the body. And the further we are drawn into the body the more clear our role in the drama of God's plan for salvation en Christoi becomes.


The various features in von Balthasar's ecclesiology orbit the leitmotif of God's encounter with humanity in Christ. His use of the bride and bridegroom analogy to illuminate the relationship between Christ (the Head) and the Church (the body) reflects the fact that the union of Christ and the Church is a union in distinction: a union so intimate Christ fills us with his substance in the eucharistic meal, a distinction so real Christ remains transcendent over the Church no matter how immanent his presence within it. (44) This relationship can be understood as personal, and therefore, nuptial. The nuptial relationship between Christ and the Church presupposes the bride to be free, dependant, and receptive. This bridal response is embodied perfectly in the Virgin Mary, in her receptive and unequivocal "fiat" to the Father's plan to redeem the world through the incarnate Son. In this respect the Church is "someone," a person in relation to Christ.

The synthetic role Mary plays in von Balthasar's ecclesiology as the Mother of Christ and the bride of Christ perhaps accounts for his criticism of the Second Vatican Council's approach to Mary as a form of minimalism that envisions Mary's relationship to the Church predominately in moral terms. (45) Von Balthasar laments the Council's ambiguity in addressing the relationship between Christ and Mary even while he applauds a number of other points in this area made by the Council. For instance, he praises the decision to integrate Mariology into ecclesiology; the Council's return to the biblical, the patristic (e.g., Mary/Eve in nos. 56, 63 and typus et exemplar in no. 53) and the early medieval (e.g., Realsymbol in nos. 65 and 68) starting points for Mariology; and the Council's distinction between Mary as "Immaculate Virgin" on earth and "Queen over all things" in heaven. (46) The way in which the Council adumbrates the relationship between Christ and Mary transcends the Son-Mother relationship toward the "paradisal man-woman relationship," but it is, von Balthasar remarks, "by no means clear how this relation ship is ultimately realized (on the basis of the Last Adam)" (TD III, 317-18).

The questions the Council's Mariology raise but leave unanswered lurk in the background of von Balthasar's own Mariology. Chief among them is how one woman, Mary, can be both the real and the concrete Mother of Christ (as archetype of the Church) and the concrete but analogical bride of Christ (as the Church's bridal assent to Christ). (47) Von Balthasar attends to this question in his Mariology (TD III, 288-92), but his response never clearly articulates, in the lucid manner he desires of the Council, how this relation can coexist in Mary. What his account rightly does, however, after it exhausts the analogical language and grammar for speaking about this relationship, is return to the trinitarian mystery on which this relationship is founded.

The bridal relationship between Christ and the Church is one that von Balthasar diligently unfolds according to the nuptial relationship analogy and is the one that achieves the highest form of personal subjectivity and personal union while preserving the distinction between the Church and Christ. Marriage is a real theological symbol of redemption only insofar as the subjects in the marital union remain distinct. And further, in employing the marital union analogy, von Balthasar is attempting to avoid both an ecclesiology that posits the Church as simply a sociological reality and an ecclesiology that univocally posits the Church as Christ. Were the distinction between the Church and Christ to collapse in their union, then, von Balthasar states, "we should have a pantheism that eliminates the creature" (ET II, 188). And were the Church and Christ not to be a union of "one flesh" as sacrament of one spirit then we should remain enthralled to a juridical conception of God's encounter with humanity, a conception that is necessary but not sufficient to bring into relief the mystery at the center of this encounter. This union in distinction permeates all von Balthasar's ecclesiology, even the eucharistic event. And further, it penetrates the members of Christ's body, each of whom is given his or her own personal mission by the Holy Spirit, a mission that is nothing other than a participation in the mission of Christ.

The objection could be made that to privilege the union in distinction analogy as the hermeneutical key to the relationship between Christ and the Church is to emphasize the divine character of the Church to the detriment of its human character. (48) Indeed, von Balthasar appears to neglect the historical and social reality of the Church as the pilgrim people of God "always in need of purification." (49) Perhaps this objection is warranted. Von Balthasar himself admits his theological hermeneutic comes suspiciously close to the Enlightenment's project to exclude all historical positivity and ground its thought in universal logical concepts, including "the concept" of God's revelation (cf. GL I, 556-64). And yet, what distinguishes von Balthasar's project from the Enlightenment's is that he always returns to the flesh, the concrete form of Christ, who is God's concrete and universal expression encountered by humanity.

It is wholly conceivable and plausible that this man Jesus, the goal of whose existence is to help men attain to God, should give expression likewise to God's will to save man's action and very being; and that this being of God, revealed to us in this way, should be one with his will to save us, that is to say, one with the image he has of us and which he wishes to realize in us. Hence, all of this can also become plausible for the Church and in the Church, if, that is, [it] is nothing other than what [it] is supposed to be: the imprint of Christ's form in the medium of those who have followed after him and whom he has called his own.(Ibid., 562)

In privileging the bride/bridegroom analogy to explore and to speak of the personhood of the Church, von Balthasar is not attempting to contravene the decision of the Second Vatican Council to privilege the notion of the Church as the "people of God." He is rather attempting to draw our attention to the Christological referent to which this expression points (ET II, 21). (50) Should the Church be marked with the indelible imprint of Christ's form, as von Balthasar suggests it is, then it is from this form and only this form that the Church receives its identity. And should the Church take seriously its identity as trinitarian gift, its proper response will be to express in its eucharistic action the original eucharistic event of Christ's kenosis, and in so doing, manifesting God's doxa (glory) to the world.


(1.) Cf. Henri de Lubac, "A Witness of Christ in the Church: Hans Urs von Balthasar," Communio 2 (1975): 230.

(2.) Hans Urs von Balthasar, Explorations in Theology II: Spouse of the Word, trans. A.V. Littledale and Alexander Dru (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1991), 7 (hereafter cited in text as ET II).

(3.) Hans Urs von Balthasar, Explorations in Theology IV: Spirit and Institution, trans. Edward T. Oakes, SJ (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1995), 11.

(4.) See John Milbank, Theology and Social Theory: Beyond Secular Reason (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1993), 249-52. The "imagination" and the "practice" of the Church need not be construed as two separate realms in isolation from each other. Rather, theory or "imagination" originates within a social context, and praxis or "practice" is situated always already within narrative structures.

(5.) Quoted in Edward T. Oakes, Pattern of Redemption: the Theology of Hans Urs von Balthasar (New York: Continuum, 1997), 72-73.

(6.) Cf. Karl Rahner, Spirit in the World, trans. William Dych, SJ (New York: Continuum, 1994), hereafter cited in text as SW. See Medard Kehl, SJ, "Hans Urs von Balthasar: A Portrait," in The Von Balthasar Reader, trans. Robert J. Daly, SJ and Fred Lawrence, ed. Medard Kehl, SJ and Werner Loser, SJ (New York: Crossroad, 1997), 3-50; Michael Waldstein, "An Introduction to von Balthasar's The Glory of the Lord," Communio 14 (Spring, 1987): 12-33; and James V. Zeitz, SJ, "Przywara and von Balthasar on Analogy," The Thomist 52 (1988): 473-98. For a useful but somewhat tendentious account of the philosophical and theological differences between Rahner and von Balthasar see Rowan Williams, "Balthasar and Rahner" in The Analogy of Beauty: The Theology of Hans Urs von Balthasar, ed. John Riches (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1986), 11-34.

(7.) See Francis P. Fiorenza's introduction to SW and Herbert Vogrimler, Karl Rahner: His Life, Thought and Works, trans. Edward Quinn (New Jersey: Paulist Press, 1966).

(8.) See division 2, chapter 3 of the Transcendental Dialectic in Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, trans. and ed. Paul Guyer and Allen W. Wood (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997).

(9.) Cf. Erich Przywara, Analogia Entis, 2nd ed. (Einsiedeln: Johannes-Verlag, 1962). It should be noted von Balthasar's use of analogy as a conceptual device for exploring revelation is worked out also in dialogue with the great Swiss Reformed theologian Karl Barth, whom von Balthasar encountered at the University of Basel while he served as student chaplain to Roman Catholic students. In 1948 and 1949 von Balthasar gave a series of lectures in Basel on Barth's thought. From these lectures came von Balthasar's work The Theology of Karl Barth: Exposition and Interpretation, trans. Edward T. Oakes (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992).

(10.) For von Balthasar, the "real distinction" is Aquinas's decisive insight and contribution as a metaphysician and theologian. The distinction itself has a long history of interpretation. While the scope of this article precludes further discussion of the history of this distinction, it should be noted von Balthasar considers this distinction in creatures "real," no pun intended, in contrast to interpretations of this distinction in creatures as "conceptual." For an excellent summary and discussion of the real distinction in von Balthasar's work and where he might be located in its history of interpretation see Fergus Kerr, "Balthasar and Metaphysics," in The Cambridge Companion To Hans Urs von Balthasar, ed. Edward T. Oakes, SJ and David Moss (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 224-38.

(11.) See Henricus Denzinger, Enchiridion Symbolorum: Definitionum et Declarationum (Friburgi Brisgoviae: Herder, 1937), 202. In their formulation and interpretation of the analogia entis Przywara and von Balthasar see the Fourth Lateran Council's (1215) famous formula as a signpost: "quia inter creatorem et creaturam non potest tanta similitude notary, quin inter eos maior sit dissimilitude notanda."

(12.) Cf. Kehl, "Hans Urs von Balthasar: A Portrait," 21-22. It is instructive to note that while von Balthasar's formulation and use of the analogia entis follows Przywara's account, it also departs from Przywara's formulation. Where Przywara's emphasis on the dissimilarity between the creature and Creator overwhelms the similarity, von Balthasar maintains the tension without overemphasizing the dissimilarity.

(13.) Here the first polarity might be understood best as a "vertical" polarity and the second, a "horizontal" polarity.

(14.) See Angela Franks, "Trinitarian Analogia Entis in Hans Urs von Balthasar," Thomist 62 (1998): 533-59, for an extended discussion of the trinitarian nature of von Balthasar's notion of the analogia entis.

(15.) Cf. Hans Urs von Balthasar, The Glory of the Lord, Vol. I: Seeing the Form, trans. Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis, ed. Joseph Fessio, SJ and John Riches (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1982), 118 (hereafter cited in text as GL I).

(16.) Brian W. Hughes, "Karl Rahner and Hans Urs von Balthasar: An Interview with Werner Loser," America (October 16, 1999): 18.

(17.) Each of the three parts of the trilogy corresponds to the transcendental properties of being: "beauty" (Herrlichkeit: The Glory of the Lord), "goodness" (Theo-Drama) and "truth" (Theo-Logic).

(18.) Hans Urs von Balthasar, "Another Ten Years," in The Analogy of Beauty: The Theology of Hans Urs von Balthasar, ed. John Riches (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1986), 225.

(19.) Hans Urs von Balthasar, Theo-Drama, Vol. I: Prolegomena, trans. Graham Harrison (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1988), 15.

(20.) Hans Urs von Balthasar, Theo-Drama, Vol. III: Dramatis Personae: The Person in Christ, trans. Graham Harrison (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992), 20 (hereafter cited in text as TD III).

(21.) Hans Urs von Balthasar, Theo-Drama, Vol. II: Dramatis Personae: Man in God, trans. Graham Harrison (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1990), 225 (hereafter cited in text as TD II).

(22.) Since this section of the article is intended only as an entree to ecclesiological themes in von Balthasar's thought and not a full exposition of his Christology, it assumes the Chalcedonian Christological formula without addressing the fourth- and fifth-century controversies, von Balthasar's commentary on the history of Christology, or questions raised by his Christology.

(23.) See Joseph Fessio, SJ, "The Origin of the Church in Christ's Kenosis: The Ontological Structure of the Church in the Ecclesiology of Hans Urs von Balthasar" (PhD diss., University of Regensburg, 1974), 262.

(24.) It should be noted von Balthasar is aware that the Genesis image is to be taken as myth or religious symbolism, neither of which preclude the theological content the image conveys.

(25.) See Brian McNeil, CRV, "The Exegete as Iconographer: Balthasar and the Gospels," in The Analogy of Beauty, 134-46. McNeil offers an important and helpful account of the methodology von Balthasar employs in elucidating the roles of Mary and Peter in relation to the Church.

(26.) Cf. "Lumen Gentium," in Vatican Council II, Vol. I: The Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents, New Revised Edition, ed. Austin Flannery, OP (Dublin: Dominican Publications, 1998), nos. 52-65.

(27.) Von Balthasar's theology of the sexes is the hermeneutic to understand Mary's relationship to Christ and the Church, and therefore requires the brief exposition I give it here. Sustained critical engagement with it exceeds the scope of this article. That is to say, whether von Balthasar espouses a substantialist account of gender, and, if so, the questions this might raise cannot be treated here. For critical assessments of his treatment of sexual difference, see Lucy Gardner and David Moss, "Something like Time; Something like the Sexes--an Essay in Reception," in Balthasar at the End of Modernity, ed. Lucy Gardner, David Moss, Ben Quash, and Graham Ward (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1999), 69-137; and Corrine Crammer, "Balthasar's Theology of the Sexes," in The Cambridge Companion To Hans Urs von Balthasar, ed. Edward T. Oakes, SJ and David Moss (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 93-112.

(28.) Even Paul, according to von Balthasar, is not immune from misinterpretation. "The ancient view of procreation may form a considerable part of the background of Paul's thought [in Ephesians]: the view, that is, that in procreation only the man plays an active, effective role, while the woman is merely passive and receptive, and that the nature of woman may be defined by a deficiency which makes her a mas occasionatum, a male manque. (This view persisted even into High and Late Scholasticism.)" (New Elucidations, trans. Sister Mary Theresilde Skerry [San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986], 212-13).

(29.) See Brendan Leahy, The Marian Profile in the Ecclesiology of Hans Urs von Balthasar (New York: New City Press, 2000).

(30.) It is worth noting von Balthasar refers to modern genetic research, which has indicated the basic embryonic framework of all living beings, including man, is primarily feminine. See New Elucidations, 213. The modern genetic research he refers to is Adolf Portmann, "Die biologischen Grundfragen der Typenlehre," Eranos 1974 (Leiden: Brill, 1977), 449-73.

(31.) Hans Urs von Balthasar, "Mary-Church-Office," Communio 23 (Spring 1996): 193-98.

(32.) Cf. Hans Urs von Balthasar, Explorations in Theology IV: Spirit and Institution, trans. Edward T. Oakes, SJ (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1995), 239.

(33.) Ibid., 241.

(34.) Hans Urs von Balthasar, The Office of Peter and the Structure of the Church, trans. Andree Emery (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986), 205. Cf. Charles Journet, L'eglise du Verbe Incarne, Vol. II: Sa structure interne et son unite catholique (Paris: Desclee de Brouwer, 1951), 438-46.

(35.) See Leahy, The Marian Profile, 133.

(36.) Cf. John Henry Newman, Via Media of the Anglican Church: illustrated in lectures, letters and tracts written between 1830 and 1841 (London: B.M. Pickering, 1877); and On Consulting the Faithful in Matters of Doctrine, ed. John Coulson (New York: Sheed & Ward, 1962).

(37.) Pope John Paul II, The Dignity and Vocation of Women (Boston: St. Paul Books, 1988), no. 27.

(38.) "Ergo gratulemur et agamus gratias, non solum nos christianos factos esse, sed Christus." Cf. St. Augustine, In Iohannis Evangelium tractatus in Corpus Christianorum, Series Latina, vol. 36 (Turnholti: Brepols, 1954), 21, 8: PL 1-2, 216.

(39.) See Robert Sokolowski, Eucharistic Presence: A Study in the Theology of Disclosure (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1994), 20-21.

(40.) Hans Urs von Balthasar, Theo-Drama, Vol. IV: The Action, trans. Graham Harrison (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1994), 394 (hereafter cited in text as TD IV).

(41.) Hans Urs von Balthasar, Explorations in Theology III: Creator Spirit, trans. Brian McNeil, CRV (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1993), 242.

(42.) Cf. John Paul II, Ecclesia de Eucharistia: On the Eucharist in Its Relationship to the Church (Boston: Pauline Books & Media, 2003), nos. 55, 68.

(43.) Ibid., nos. 55, 69.

(44.) That the bride/bridegroom analogy illuminates the relationship between Christ (the Head) and the Church (the body) reflects the fact that within the Church's repository of images, metaphors, and analogies for understanding itself, one particular image, metaphor, or analogy need not be considered to the exclusion of the other. Rather, these various images, metaphors, and analogies should compliment and critique one another.

(45.) Cf. Lumen Gentium, no. 64.

(46.) Cf. ibid., no. 29.

(47.) See John Saward, "Mary and Peter in the Christological Constellation: Balthasar's Ecclesiology," in The Analogy of Beauty, 118-19.

(48.) See Peter Casarella, "Analogia Donationis: Hans Urs von Balthasar in the Eucharist," Philosophy and Theology 11, no. 1 (1998): 151.

(49.) Cf. Lumen Gentium, no. 8.

(50.) "The 'bride' who, issuing from the wounded side of the new Adam, is at the same time his 'body' (and only for that reason his 'people')."
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Author:Koerpel, Robert C.
Publication:Logos: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture
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Date:Jan 1, 2008
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