presentations

adrienne von speyr on the meaning of suffering

Recently, I spoke with the new international volunteers working with Heart’s Home to prepare them for their compassionate service to those who are suffering.

My thesis for the presentation is this:

“Things have meaning only to the extent that they lead to God, come from him and can be placed at his service” (Adrienne von Speyr, Mystery of Death, p. 47).

Two parts make up this presentation on Adrienne von Speyr and the meaning of suffering. The first part below is an overview of Adrienne’s life and thought especially as it relates the meaning of personhood and how suffering fits within her understanding of being a person in relation to God and others. Here is part one:

I hope you enjoyed that one. We go deeper yet.

The second part of the presentation below is a discussion of the chapter “Death as God’s Action” from Adrienne’s book The Mystery of Death. Here is part two:

I hope you enjoyed that one too.

For those interested in a tangent about how I’ve come to these insights about Adrienne on the meaning of suffering, please continue to read on.

I’ve been working on several major research projects on the meaning of suffering through the academic conference Making Sense of Suffering with the scholar community Inter-Disciplinary.Net. I presented at their Prague conference last year on Balthasar and the Meaning of Suffering. A version of the presentation is in the conference proceedings eBook Making Sense of Suffering: Theory, Practice, and Representation. I will be presenting at their next conference on Adrienne and the Meaning of Suffering, which I will post here when it becomes available. Additionally, if you are really interested in the postmodern debate on the meaning of suffering, I have recently co-edited a book on it, which is will be available in a few months.

Thank you for being such loyal readers of this website. I’m grateful for your comments and emails. Blessings to you all.

"service as compassionate confession" - audio presentation on adrienne von speyr

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Alfred Hitchcock’s “I, Confess”On October 23, 2010 and February 19, 2011, I presented (my best yet) orientation to Adrienne von Speyr and her theology of Confession. I was speaking to Heart’s Home international volunteers (more about them here). You may remember, I gave a presentation to them last summer on Adrienne’s understanding of finitude and infinitude

Here’s the audio from my presentation: The Mission of Service as Compassionate Confession.

Von Speyr’s theology of Confession from her book Confession places the sacrament within the divine relations of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I have never met a more profound, accessible, important theology of confession anywhere else.

I begin my discussion with this central quotation:

“There is no mission that is not determined decisively by one’s confessional attitude” (Confession, p. 208)

As you follow my discussion of the confessional attitude and how it relates to mission, you will also need these quotations below from Adrienne’s book Confession (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1985).

1. “In all events which are not inevitable and in whose course freedom and inclination can intervene, a person usually searches for a solution or a way out and often for a reason or cause as well. … Only when this success fails to materialize according to his wish does he look for the causes behind the failure, and it is in this search that he first encounters the question concerning the state of his own life. … Yet it is precisely when he justifies himself and concludes that he is innocent that his deeper discomfort—the feeling of a hidden guilt—begins” (11).

2. “Ultimately, only the Creator of the human soul will be able to treat it so that it becomes the soul he needs. Only he can heal it, and he does this in ways that only he knows and discloses and prescribes for healing. … the decisive way of God—confession—is based on obedience: more specifically, on the obedience to God” (15).

3. “If a person … comprehends himself as standing before God, and if he knows that he, like Adam, was created by God and redeemed by Christ and that Christ opens for him the way to the Father and the doors of heaven, then … he will expect confession with a kind of necessity” (16).

4. “As long as a person is not confessing, he feels free to speak or keep silent about whatever he wishes. What he then hates in confession is not the humbling experience of revealing himself, and not the fact that he is a sinner—he already knows that somehow—but the necessity of capitulating before and within total confession, the fact that the freedom of selection has been withdrawn and that the only choice remaining is to reveal everything or nothing. He is sick as a whole person and must be healed as such, and not eclectically. That is the first humbling experience. The second is that he is only one of many and has to accept the same conditions as do the others … [he experiences] the elimination of all external differentiation … merely one penitent in the line of other sinners. The peculiarities of my particular ‘case’, which made it seem so interesting to me and which I would so gladly have explained to the listener, do not matter at all any more” (18).

5. “Whoever would learn how to confess must first look at the life of the Son of God” (20).

6. “God stands before God in the attitude that is fitting for God. Analogously, we can designate this as the attitude of confession, since it is the attitude in which God shows himself as he is. … When the Son institutes confession at Easter, he does so to bring this divine attitude closer to human beings, to mediate to them part of the trinitarian life” (21).

7. “One can say that the Lord lives on earth before the Father in the same condition in which the perfect penitent should live before his own confessor, before the Church and before God: in complete openness, concealing nothing, always ready in every moment to expect the intervention of the Holy Spirit, drawing security from the Father and his Spirit instead of from within himself. The Son lives in perpetual contact with the Father, and the expression of this contact is his word, ‘Not my will, but thy will be done’” (23).

8. “Anyone who has recognized, in confession and in the prayer belonging to it, the possibility not only of ridding himself of his own sins through the grace of the Lord but also of helping others at the same time will suddenly realize that there is a place where confession and mission encounter and permeate one another to the point of coincidence” (206).

9. “There is no mission that is not determined decisively by one’s confessional attitude” (208). 

I hope that you enjoy this discussion. Please leave your comments below.

NB: If you want to read more, chapter eleven of Confession, which is on the confession of the saints, can be found here.

"our finitude encounters the trinity's infinitude" - audio presentation on adrienne von speyr

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On June 17, 2010, I presented an hour and a half long orientation on Adrienne von Speyr to the new volunteers for Heart’s Home, a religious movement I wrote about earlier. I thought I would share the digital audio version of the presentation. 

The presentation is divided into three parts. The first third of the talk (00’-22’) gives an interpretive key to Adrienne’s thought. In the second third (22’-41’), I present an biographical overview to her life. In the last third (41’-1:08’), we read and discuss a few quotations from Adrienne’s book, The Boundless God, which I give to you below. In closing (1:08’-1:25’), we have question and answer.  

I am presenting to the six new volunteers for Heart’s Home for their orientation program before they are sent to their destination for 14-18 months. Oh, and you’ll also hear me laughing at my own jokes. If I don’t, who will? There is much imperfection here, but you may find this worth listening to if you would like to learn more about who Adrienne was and how to begin to understand her.

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Quotations from The Boundless God referenced during the presentation:

1. “When God creates the world he makes a beginning right in the middle of his eternity, a beginning that inaugurates the realm of number and numeration; day and night are already separated, and so times are placed in rhythmic succession.  … The realm of number and of finitude does not close in on itself; it remains the arena of infinite, that is, eternal life.  And when we are told that the Father is in communion with the Son and with the Spirit from eternity, we also experience that he is a God of love who begets the Son as his image and likeness, who pours out the Spirit, and who lets them both participate in the same eternity and infinity while receiving from them this very same eternity and infinity. Love thus knows no bounds; it proceeds from and to the eternal God.” (21)

2. “Because man sins and becomes unworthy of God’s love, God creates a punishment while at the same time also creating—as a new testimony of love—time which alone can be identified as the experience of finitude in the actual sense: he creates death. Through death, God puts an end to the creature who has chosen sin so that the condition of being in sin does not continue without bounds.” (22)

3. “the Son has taken upon himself the end that is death and has died for all men … Because the Son dies for and with him, he will be entrusted in death completely to the grace of God. Therefore, he already knows in life that the finitude of his existence corresponds to a grace from God that has been granted to all men and not just to him. The experience of his finitude, however, affords him knowledge of God’s infinity: his knowledge of the end of earthly life is a recognition of eternal life.  He can thus regard death, not only as punishment, but equally as the Father’s grace. The Son has taken death’s purely punitive character upon himself and thereby released the character of grace for his brothers, whereby he unveils and fulfills the purpose of finitude.” (22-23)

4. “His descent into the underworld is part of this sign: he does not just pass fleetingly through these areas unknown to us; he stays there for three days. He therefore takes the entire accumulation of his strength into the sacrifice that led to his death, beyond death and into the underworld.  … the world that he brought with him is his heavenly world, the world of the Father and of the Spirit, a world that infinitely surpasses our own. As humans, we are inclined to regard each act that the Son performs as finite, yet with each act he opens up infinity. Each time he does something as man, he does something divine. In everything he is and does, he grants us glimpses into the boundlessness of heaven. “ (24)

5. “Confession grants us just such a view of infinity. When we go to confession, we pass through a kind of death and, by acknowledging our sin, reach the end of it—the end that God has instituted through death. We repentantly confess and reach a boundary, an endpoint given us by the Son. The absolution we receive comes from beyond the here and now and is comparable to going to heaven. Sin is  shown its end in accordance with God’s punitive judgment, but a new life is also shown its beginning. Man experiences through this that God is exercising his love anew. He has been granted death and confession so that he can grant new space to the infinite love of the triune God.” (24-25)

6. “for the individual is always invited by the Son to satisfy the demands of the Father with the strength of the Holy Spirit, in the unity of the Son who lives on in the communion of saints, and with the definitive wherewithal of the Mother’s Yes.” (150)

My thanks to Sr. Regine for the invitation to present on Adrienne von Speyr.  Let me know what you think in the comments section below.

presentation on balthasar and speyr

On May 29, 2009, I will be presenting a paper called "Paul's Theology of Charism and the Ecclesial Relationship between Hans Urs von Balthasar and Adrienne von Speyr" at the annual meeting of the College Theology Society.

I gave an undergraduate-friendly version of this presentation a few months ago.  Here is the abstract of my upcoming presentation:

Many systematic theologians acknowledge the relationship between Hans Urs von Balthasar, the significant twentieth-century Catholic theologian, and Adrienne von Speyr, the Swiss physician and Catholic mystic.  There is, however, difficulty understanding the actual character and purpose of this relationship.  What precisely does von Balthasar mean when he calls the greater part of his writings "a translation of what is present in more immediate, less technical fashion in the powerful work of Adrienne von Speyr" (Hans Urs von Balthasar, My Work in Retrospect, 105)?

I argue in this paper that Paul's theology of charism, particularly dealing with double mission charisms, will help us understand correctly the ecclesial relationship between von Balthasar and von Speyr.  While Paul's theology of charism (1 Cor 12-14) speaks mostly of singular missions (preaching, teaching, etc.) for the building up of the church, he also sees a necessary place for double missions.  For example, the charism given to the interpreter of tongues accompanies the one who speaks in tongues "so that the Church may be edified" (1 Cor 14:5).  This Pauline theology of the mutual dependence of charisms will provide a way for understanding the inextricably interwoven relationship between Hans Urs von Balthasar and Adrienne von Speyr.

The presentation is my small effort to advance the essential insight that the joint work of von Balthasar and von Speyr is inextricably connected.  To be comprehensive and valuable, interpretations of their work must acknowledge this connection.

the ecclesial relationship between von balthasar and von speyr

I am happy to present to you a very imperfect presentation I gave to the St. John’s University chapter of Theta Alpha Kappa Society (a theology major and minors honors society).  There is nothing more humbling than listening to yourself speak.  There are some minor misstatements that I would like to revise, but you may enjoy hearing this informal presentation on Hans Urs von Balthasar and Adrienne von Speyr.

Here is an unedited mp3 of my presentation called “The Ecclesial Relationship between the theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar and mystic Adrienne von Speyr.”

To introduce my presentation, I used this PDF handout.

Please tell me what you think in the comments section below.  Enjoy!