Henri de Lubac

book review: to the heart of the mystery of redemption

A new Hans Urs von Balthsar book is out that includes a few selections from Adrienne von Speyr (emphasis on a few).

To the Heart of the Mystery of Redemption (THMR), which you can find here, is actually a book of four authors in one. The shortest contribution comes from von Speyr.

To see von Speyr in print is always good (let us remember the Speyrian phrase “always more”). This book is actually a sketch of von Balthasar’s soteriology with a long essay from Jacques Servais, S.J., a scholar of von Balthasar and von Speyr as well as the director of the Casa Balthasar.

Henri de LubacHenri de Lubac, teacher and friend to von Balthasar compiled the original collection, which were two conferences von Balthasar gave to priests in Paris. After these conferences there are seven one-page selections from von Speyr, mostly from Objectiv Mystik and Passion nach Matthaeus. It is fascinating that de Lubac would have included von Speyr in this collection. In the introduction, he says that “there is no better initiation into this mystery than the experience received from the mystics, who are no more lacking to the present generation than to earlier ones” and this why von Speyr’s selections were added because “They will introduce the reader into that participation in the mystery of the redemption” (p. 12). I have always wondered about de Lubac’s understanding of von Speyr. Now we know more.

Fr. Servais was responsible for releasing the book again in French and included with it his essay on Balthasar’s soteriology from 2005. The book has now come to us in English by the translating work of Anne Englund Nash. This book has actually been touched by many hands.

Immer mehr (always more) Adrienne is good. Yet, this book gives us very, very little. True, these are words not yet read by English-only readers of von Speyr. But, after the bold release of Book of All Saints (Nachlassbaende vol. 1), this is disappointing to von Speyr readers.

Let me be clear. The book is not a disappointment. Von Balthasar is at his most highly associative in these conferences. You see his mind at work as he leads you through multiple sources in order to provide you with an elevated ground to consider the whole landscape of soteriology in the modern age. Even though you will need some background in von Balthasar to work through his thoughts here, he is always worth reading.

Still … (how to say this gently) … the English-speaking world needs more substantive von Speyr than this book. What about offering these: Subjective Mystik, Objective Mystik, Markus, and the very important Apokalypse (her commentary on the Book of Revelation)? When the English theological world reads these, Speyrian theology will really blossom.

Yes, read THMR if you are interested in de Lubac, von Balthasar, or Servais. You should know, it is not required reading for those interested in von Speyr. Instead, pick up John, Confession, Handmaid of the Lord, or Book of All Saints. Better yet, read her auf Deutsch. Sie werden nicht enttäuscht sein.

Here is a brief exerpt from von Speyr’s commentary on Matthew 5:39 in Bergpredigt:

“On the Cross the Lord does not show merely that he allows his grace to flow visibly over all … but he also shows that he can make use of all they have accomplished for him. And thus that he does not suffer his Passion simply for sins, but that he is in a mysterious compassion with all believers. … He assumes all the trials of their faith, of their suffering, and of their availability and opens wide to them the grace that flows from the Cross” (THMR, p. 78).

Immer mehr, please.