covenant, grace, Hans Urs von Balthasar

Von Balthasar Synthesizing Grace, Covenant, and the Transcendent God

The great qualities of God, which make his holy sublimity concrete for man, seem at first glance almost to obliterate his utter otherness, for all are taken from the world of human relationships (where, admittedly, they always had a religious reference), and have taken on a unique character only when they are attributed to the absolute subject. But not for a moment is it forgotten who is the object of the affirmation: i.e., the one who as the only Lord stands alone over against all other beings, which are his creatures and servants. God’s remoteness does not actually lie in the fact that he is unknown, so much as in the incomprehensible fact that he, the only one (Is 43.10-12), who is absolutely free and sovereign, deigns to communicate himself to the others, to the many, permitting them to enter the sphere of his uniqueness and holiness. This grace is an unheard-of demand made of the creature, something that snatches it from its own dwelling in the land of servitude into a ‘land’ that belongs to God, and all the creature’s concepts are transformed thereby: a ray of God’s glory touches them all, and this makes them more beautiful, but also heavier. Everything is now measure against the standard of divine rightness, of this ethical ‘justice‘ and his aesthetic ‘justesse‘. In God’s covenant, grace and demand are inseparably locked into one another.

Hans Urs von Balthasar, The Glory of the Lord: A Theological Aesthetics: VI: Theology: The Old Covenant, 177.


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