freedom to love

We have been given the freedom to love.

On September 29, 2012, I gave a moving presentation on freedom in relation to suffering, love, and the writings of Adrienne von Speyr on Mary.

The word that begins the presentation is from a volunteer at Heart’s Home, Marian W., “I wanted the freedom to love.”

Freedom as a gift from God is the critcal word of the presentation, but then I use it in relation to Adrienne von Speyr’s understanding of Mary as the perfectly free woman to help us understand that freedom enables love.

Here’s the presentation. I hope it helps you to love freely.

new translation of adrienne's commentary on Mark

Transient

You need to read this commentary on the Gospel of Mark. Last fall, Ignatius Press released the translation of Adrienne von Speyr's commentary on Mark. For any theological study of her, this book is central to Adrienne's earlier thought and should belong to any Adrienne essential reading list, which must also include her commentary on John, Handmaid of the Lord, and Confession.

Mark: Meditations for a Community, translated by Michelle K. Borras, is special because of its time and method. When founding her secular institute, the Johannesgemeinshaft, Adrienne composed a series of foundational meditations on the Gospel of Mark to give the new community a a contemplative bedrock. Whereas Balthasar wrote the community's rule with his book Our Task: A Report and a Plan, Adrienne's meditations on Mark were to be the formal spiritual opening of the gate to the community's new life and mission. One of the members present at this gate opening was Frau Cornelia Capol who will tell you that this book is her favorite of all Adrienne's books.

The method of composition is special in that the vast majority of Adrienne works were dictated to Balthasar who later edited them (some more than others) into publishable books. We should remember that he founded the Johannesverlag for publishing these works. So unlike her other books, Mark was dictated to the community and these notes of the community (including Balthasar's initial notes as he tells us in the "Forward" of the book) became the text we now have before us. It appears too that Adrienne was involved in some of the initial editing of these notes. This information should give you an idea of these meditations' importance and also give you insight on how to read the commentary.

Let us think about that insight. Balthasar explained in the "Forward" that the "meditations are addressed to young people who have made a decision for the state of the evangelical counsels in a worldly profession, for a secular institute that was coming into being." In these meditates Adrienne will be using the Gospel of Mark to prepare the community for living in the world following the way of Jesus through the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience. While of course Adrienne is not intent on composing an academic commentary, her interpretation of the text is all within the dogma of the Catholic Church and comes from her own contemplation. It is also not a full commentary on the Gospel. The passion narratives of Mark were not offered because we are told the initial meditations were given during Eastertide. If you are familiar with Mark this could be read as a major oversight of a proper spiritual commentary, but like all of Adrienne's writings the passion of Christ is never absent. The loving sacrifice of Jesus Christ is the foundation for one's mission to be in the world through the evangelical counsels.

As I come back to this book now in English having read it in German, I am reminded of how the book gives you continually new openings toward new paths of contemplation. Like a lot of Adrienne's writings, this is a hard book to read quickly. So many doors open as you walk down the hallway of the book. I hope you will read the book and get distracted into deep contemplation.

You can find it at Ignatius Press paperback and ebook and at any other major online book seller.

As a closing, here is a picture I took of Lac-de-Neuchatel from the town of Estavayer-le-Lac where these meditations were given and where the founding of the Johannesgemeinshaft began.

View of Lac-de-Neuchatel from Estavayer-le-Lac

View of Lac-de-Neuchatel from Estavayer-le-Lac

my book Heaven Opens to be published next year

Adrienne von Speyr 1936 focused.jpg

Deo gratias. My book Heaven Opens: The Trinitarian Mysticism of Adrienne von Speyr will be published by Fortress Press and will be available early 2014. Yes, this is a little bit of a long wait, but it will be well worth it. This book will be the first significant book in English on Adrienne von Speyr.

Please stay tuned here for all of the details for how you can get the book to learn more about Adrienne von Speyr's theology of the Trinity.

In the book, you will find a comprehensive presentation of Adrienne von Speyr's mystical visions of the Trinity placed in constructive dialogue with the tradition of Catholic trinitarian theology. The goal of the book seeks to help develop this tradition, to aid your understanding of Adrienne, and more importantly, to guide you in your encounter with the Trinity--the beginning and the end of all love.

My thanks to Fortress Press for accepting the book manuscript and working with me to promote this important book that will help in their mission to make Adrienne von Speyr known.

Thank you for all your support through reading the vonspeyr.net journal, commenting on my posts, and corresponding with me. You've made this book into something better than it ever could have been. Thank you.

In the meantime, let's read some more Adrienne.

"Our Father. Your Fatherhood did not stop when You created us; it remains our lifelong companion; it is not subject to randomness but is steady like nothing else. You were, are, and will remain: the Father, and we have the privilege of calling You that in simplicity and love. But at the same time, we include all the requests that a child, in whatever situation he finds himself, can bring before his father. We stammer, full of care, afraid that You might not understand; and we speak out, calmly, confidently, knowing that You are always ready to receive us, that You have time for all our concerns; and we cry with our last ounce of strength, and what we want is so enormous that even that cry falls short of it. You remain the same, O Father.

"We want to have Your name always on our lips, but it is often smothered by everything that is not You, that is probably just us, us children of ingratitude and unreason. But You know how we are, You are in us, even when we refuse to recognize it. Your greatness, Your unity, fill what we like so much to explain with many words, although we do not have a clear view of it: our inmost being. And this inmost being, our ultimate I-hood, is what is united eternally with You through our voice, for it needs neither to seek nor to find. Despite all sin, it remains intact; despite all external doubts, it does not waver. In all certainty it is tentative and questioning, perhaps still foreign to us, because it consists almost too much of only what is most intimate, ultimately of what comes from You and goes to You, knowing just one word: Our Father.

"Being Father, you give everything, and we receive everything. You do ask for an account, but there is never a final calculation: goes on into your Love."

(Adrienne von Speyr, Lumina and New Lumina, p. 108-109)

the jesuits still love adrienne

A while back, I wrote about how more and more Jesuits are reading Adrienne. They are also writing about her too. Fr. John O'Brien, S.J., has some good introductory words about Adrienne for his blog's readers.

I particularly like this insight:

"Adrienne’s mystical insights all have an Ignatian bent, and are strongly centered on the desire to give oneself radically to follow Christ. ... But it is the humble figure of Mary that grounds Adrienne’s writing in the day-to-day world of the here and now."

Yes, truly Mary helps us live radically in her son and thereby also helping us articulate that living in Christ in the world here and now.

the world of prayer

Adrienne von Speyr begins her longest and deepest book on prayer, The World of Prayer [Die Welt des Gebetes], by anchoring the original source of prayer in the eternal dialogue exchange of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Her insight is an original and fruitful contribution that has yet to be realized in Christian reflection on prayer. It is an idea that once realized makes perfect and profound sense. As far as I know, as a theologian, this idea has never been said with this much clarity and depth.

Each person of the Trinity relates to the other in an attitude of prayer. The Son looks to the Father in that attitude of expectation and fulfillment that characterizes prayer. The Son beholds the Father in love, trust, and expectation. The Father responds with beholding, love, and fulfillment. The Holy Spirit wraps all of this eternal dialogue of exchange with the divine fire of his love while also being the eternally spirated fruit of this prayerful contemplation and action. The prayerful aspects of worship, petition, and decision are also present in the loving exchange between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This first section of the book makes one realize the dynamic relations in the one God who is Trinity.

Adrienne then moves to discussing the prayer of Adam and Eve before and after the Fall. The prayerful intimacy with God in Paradise is recognized by Adam and Eve simply as walking with God in the Garden. After the Fall, the realm of prayer is characterized by distance and longing ("De profundis", Ps 130:1) to behold once more the face of God.

With the Incarnation, creation is brought through Christ's work of redemption into his triune intimacy with the Father and Holy Spirit. He breathes on us the Holy Spirit enabling us to pray the prayer he taught us, the Our Father.

Adrienne also offers Mary as a source for understanding prayer. At each stage in Mary's life, which was lived so closely to her son, the Son of God, we are taken into the simplicity of praying to God with transparency, "I know not man" (Lk 1:34), and obedience, "be it done unto me" (Lk 1:38). We learn that authentic prayer is letting our subjective word be taken over by the Lord's objective Word.

The book could stop here, but it keeps offering more and more profound insights. Adrienne examines the growth of prayer, prayer in the different vocations, or states, of life, three kinds of prayer, direct and indirect prayer, prayer as standing before the face of God, the relation of nature and grace in prayer, and the love and fruit of prayer.

When reading this rich book on prayer life, one should know that Adrienne dictated it from within a mystical state of prayer. So it is a book on prayer written in prayer; therefore, it is best read in prayer. I can think of no book on prayer better than this one. Accessible to the beginner and profoundly deep for the advanced, I heartily, and urgently, recommend it.

You can find the book here

My review presented above was offered in another forum and is offered here as further encouragement to you to read more Adrienne

adrienne for today

Today is the forty-fifth anniversary of the death of Adrienne von Speyr. In remembrance of her, I've written a piece that has appeared in two of my favorite blogs. The first is Land of Compassion (english) and the second is Terre de Compassion (french).

I hope you will take some time today to think of the great gift given to us in Adrienne.

Maybe you could pray this novena or this prayer below.

Prayer for Constancy

Lord our God, give your children ready perseverance in loving you. You know all too well what we are like: moved by your goodness when it comes to us unexpectedly, dismayed by your severity when it reveals itself to us with its demands.

When we live through happy or hard days, we think of you, seeing what comes from you; but in the monotony of every day we grow lukewarm, we forget you, we keep you far from our thoughts and from our action, as if we needed you only on the eventful days, as if we wanted to have you at our disposal

We beg you, change this, let us turn back while there is time, act decisively, tear out our tepidity, replace it with fire or cold or with both at once, only, allow your Spirit to blow in us.

Destroy everything that is not yours, And let us think no thought whose center is not you, so that by this destruction we are compelled to a livelier love.

We do not demand of this love that it be painful or delightful, only that it be yours, forevermore.

Lord, give us the grace to offer you again and again what you have given us. Only in this way will we unprofitable servants not remain fruitless.

Bless your love in us, so that it may yield the fruits that you desire. Amen.

May Adrienne pray for us

new article on balthasar and speyr

A journal article of mine is now available online through the theology journal New Blackfriars. My article called “Hans Urs von Balthasar and Adrienne von Speyr’s Ecclesial Relationship” explores the double mission charism of their relationship.

Since I analyze this complex relationship theologically through Paul’s theology of charism, I think I’m able to find a more appropriate way to see the mutual influence of these two. In the article, I analyze a couple alternative assessments of this relationship in order to highlight my understanding of it. I appreciate all of the attempts to see von Balthasar on his own apart from von Speyr’s influence. I have learned a lot from these attempts. And yet, in my reading of these two, I find so much more interpretive power by considering them both mutually influencing each other. For me, it is hard to see von Balthasar’s method as articulated in his important article “Theology and Sanctity” without seeing it lived out in his ecclesial cooperation with von Speyr. What is missing in this article is a more exhaustive comparative textual analysis of these two figures. My article only attempts to give a theo-logical interpretive for their ecclesial relationship. I hope you will see this article brings us one step closer to seeing the great gift God has given to the Church through von Balthasar and von Speyr.

Here’s the abstract:

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. 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. After an overview of von Balthasar’s statements regarding the relationship and the three main interpretations of it, I offer my own interpretation of this relationship by using Paul’s theology of charism. The ramifications will be a reinterpretation of central aspects of von Balthasar’s theology including but not limited to his theology of Holy Saturday, Trinitarian theology, and theology of the communion of saints.

The print edition of the article may take some time to become available. The editors informed me that it may be in a print issue next year. But with the availability of online early editions, I chose to spread the love now. As with most academic journals, you will need to access the online edition through your academic library in order to read the full article. My thanks to the editors of the New Blackfriars for such a quick turn around on this article.

Please let me know what you think of the article. Enjoy.

community of st. john

Hello, members of the Community of St. John. I'm writing this post in the hopes of reaching you. I often receive requests for information about the Johannesgemeinschaft (Community of St. John). I even receive requests about joining the community. I greatly admire the community founded by Balthasar and Speyr. The spirituality of it, which we find in Balthasar's important book Our Task, is deeply attractive.

Here's my request. Could someone from the Community of St. John please reach out to me so that I have a better way of directing inquires from this website about the Community of St. John?

I would be glad to point my readers who are interested in the community to you. Please reach out to me. Thank you.


For those interested in the Community of St. John, here's what I know about them so far:

The formal rule and spirituality of the community can be found in the book Our Task written by Hans Urs von Balthasar.

The community follows von Speyr's deep desire for the community to not be yet another "institution" within the institution of the Church. Von Speyr did not want this secular institute to be another obvious alternative structure within the already multifacted structure of the Church. The community desires to serve the church and world in a hidden, non-self-referential way. This desire is a beautiful call, but it can make it difficult to learn about or even join the community.

As far as I can tell the central hub of the community is located in Basel, Switzerland attached to the Archive of Hans Urs von Balthasar and Adrienne von Speyr, which is run by members of the Community of St. John. Not too long ago, I had a blessed visit with members of the community at this archive. Right now, the best way to come into contact with the Community of St. John online would be through the "Contact" link on the Archive's website here.

If you are interested in experiencing the spirituality of Balthasar and Speyr, the Casa Balthasar is a beautiful community of vocational discernment in Rome. Their community life is gracious and profound. You can contact them here. I know that Rev. Jacques Servais, SJ, who leads the Casa, would be glad to speak with you.

Many religious communities have been touched by the spirituality of Balthasar and Speyr. One of them mentioned a few times on this website is called Points-Coeur, but there are others.

By the way, the Community of St. John (Johannesgemeinshaft), which was founded by Balthasar and Speyr, is different than the larger Dominican contemplative Community of St. John founded by Fr. Marie-Domonique Phillipe in 1975.

As always, I will continue to gather more information about the Community of St. John and present it here. Many people have been so impacted by Speyr's spirituality that they desire to commit to it in some formal, objective way. May God guide this desire in you. May we all be freely obedient to what God wants of us. Through the intercession of St. John, may we respond to love in love for love.

update

I have some updates on contacting the Community of St. John. Lo Miles, a generous reader of this journal and a wonderful scholar of Adrienne, provided some additional ideas.

She confirmed that the Casa Balthasar will be a good way for men to come into contact with the Community. For women, the best will be corresponding with Frau Cornelia Capol through the Balthasar Stiftung.

Additionally, she suggests finding local Communio study groups called Circles.

Above all, wait patiently for the Lord to direct you in your vocation.

Thank you, Lo Miles. So many of us are in your debt.

iconographer of adrienne von speyr

The Catholic Iconographer, Fr. William McNichols, S.J., sent me the most beautiful hand-painted icon of Adrienne von Speyr. I hope you will visit his website www.fatherbill.org and consider purchasing one his glorious icons.

Here’s what I have learned about Adrienne von Speyr by praying with this icon.

* wisdom and light obtain a special maturity of radiance in Adrienne’s later years
* true joy comes from surrendering all out of compassion
* prayer includes others even when praying in solitude
* do not let go of the mission - there you will find your identity

More will come. This window into heaven has much to teach me. I hope you’ll visit the beautiful icons written by Fr. McNichols at www.fatherbill.org.

Thank you, Iconographer of Adrienne, for this generous gift. May God bless you and your work.

our faith is not our own

Adrienne von Speyr has a quite profound understanding of faith that overcomes the usually traps. For Adrienne, our faith is not our own, but is God’s own vision of himself shared with humanity.

“The gift the triune God gives to man in the grace of faith may indeed have a similarity to the reciprocal vision of the three Persons in God and to the incarnate Son’s vision of the Father, but it is the sort of seeing that befalls man in his pilgrim state; it is a relationship that God establishes on his own terms and gives to man, and at the same time allows the believer to give in return.” Adrienne von Speyr, Light and Images, pg. 39

Faith is our entrance into the triune vision of God as God sees his triune self. In this participatory realm of vision, room is created for response. We could call this response assent or even works, but all faith is within the sovereignty of God’s grace. So the assent or work is already within the realm of saving faith, which is already within the realm of God’s own vision of himself.

To see as God sees himself … this is faith and this faith is not our own.

e-adrienne - digital editions of adrienne's works

As you may not have realized, the digitial revolution has officially begun. The clear sign—Adrienne von Speyr’s books are now available on the Kindle. The texts available are Book of All Saints, Confession, The Boundless God, To the Heart of the Mystery of the Redemption, and The Christian State of Life. You can also find these e-books at Ignatius Press too. You will also find that Ignatius offers an audio book of Three Women and the Lord

NB: I receive no sponsorship from Amazon, Ignatius Press, or any other publisher of Adrienne von Speyr’s books. I intend to keep it that way. Mind you, no publisher has asked. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge.

Happy e-reading your e-adrienne.

i submitted my book manuscript today

I submitted my book manuscript today. It is a comprehensive interpretation of Adrienne von Speyr’s vision of the Trinity. I focused instensely on the one critical thing in Adrienne’s thought. This one critical thing, her trinitarian mysticism, must be at the center of receiving what is true, good, and beautiful about her writings.

I will let you know the progress of the book manuscript as it advances through the publishing stages. You will know first when the book is available. Like you, I hope it will be published soon, but so many factors and the hard work of good people go into the process. It can take some time. Still, I will be waiting in hope.

And as I wait, please look for more frequent postings here at the best place on the web to learn about Adrienne von Speyr.

a compelling trinitarian theology

Happily my article “A Compelling Trinitarian Theology: Hans Urs von Balthasar’s Theology of the Trinitarian Inversion and Reversion” has just been published by the International Journal of Systematic Theology. If your institution gives you access to the journal’s articles, you can find it here.

The abstract of the article:

In trinitarian theology, the problematic place of the Holy Spirit in the taxonomy of the immanent Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) does not seem to correspond to what is revealed in the economy (Father, Holy Spirit and Son). Because of this pneumatological problem, some theologians have abandoned the traditional trinitarian taxonomy. This approach, however, does not provide a finally convincing answer that is consistent with both the biblical witness and the theological tradition. In this article, I argue that Hans Urs von Balthasar’s theology of the trinitarian inversion and reversion does provide a convincing answer to the trinitarian taxonomy problem. After supporting my thesis by first referencing the traditional trinitarian taxonomy offered in Augustine’s de Trinitate and then examining the possibility of abandoning the taxonomy given by Jürgen Moltmann and Leonardo Boff, I will offer von Balthasar’s solution as the most compelling trinitarian taxonomy, especially in light of the ecumenical dialogue between the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches.

This was first posted at my other website doctorsutton.net.

where can you write a dissertation on adrienne?

If you would like to do a dissertation on Adrienne von Speyr, I wanted to let you know that Dr. Philip Zeigler at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland is very interested in advising research on Adrienne von Speyr. A scholar of twentieth-century Reformed theologians, Dr. Zeigler is well versed in Karl Rahner and Hans Urs von Balthasar from his studies at the University of Toronto. He is also helping the University of Aberdeen library collect von Speyr’s complete works.

Scotland … a beautiful place for Adrienne von Speyr research.

Thanks to Ms. Lois Miles for this information.

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.

the meaning of suffering

This Friday I will be speaking at Heart’s Home again to help prepare their international volunteers. I will be speaking about the meaning of suffering according to Adrienne von Speyr. I’ll post the audio of my talk soon afterward.

Thank you kindly for your reading and listening.

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

I, Confess.jpg

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.

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.

why the jesuits love adrienne

Here’s how I see it. When you read Adrienne von Speyr, you will be lead sooner or later to Ignatius of Loyola. When you read Ignatius and you are looking for living this contemplative action today, you might be lead sooner or later to Adrienne.

The blessings of this website is that you contact me. And many of you are Jesuit, either spiritually or actually.

Rev. Raymond Gawronski, S.J.

I love this because a Jesuit, Rev. Raymond Gawronski, S.J., introduced me to Adrienne. He was my dissertation director while I was at Marquette University and is now the director of spiritual formation at the St. John Vianney Seminary in Denver, CO. You might recongize him from this DVD series on the Spiritual Exercises.

What I am seeing (anecdotally) is that Jesuit scholastics are introducing each other to Adrienne. And here’s the important point, she is helping them to be more Ignatian!

In her writings, we learn contemplative action grounded in scripture and raised high by the theology of prayer and the saints. May she continue to guide the Jesuits into ever deeper contemplation and action.

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Ignatius taught Adrienne this prayer:

CORPUS CHRISTI, adoro te tribus sub tuis formis,
Sub forma divina, simili deo patri,
Sub forma hominis, sacrificii et crucis,
Sub forma hostiae rotundæ, sine principio et fine.

Ubi es, est amor sempiternus,
Omni tanges quæ creavit pater,
Omnia quæ passus est filius,
Omni quæ vivificat spiritus.

Amorem tui cum gratia mihi dones, 
ac dives sum satis 
nec quidquam ultra posco.
Amen.

(from With God and With Men: Prayers, trans. Adrian Walker [San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1995], p. 50)

My translation:

BODY OF CHRIST, I adore you under your three forms,
under the form of God, equal to God the Father,
under the form of man, of sacrifice and of the Cross,
under the form of the round Host, without beginning or end.

Wherever you are, is love eternal,
all things that the Father created, 
all that the Son suffered,
all that the Spirit vivifies.

Give me your love with grace,
then I am rich enough
and wish for nothing further. 
Amen.

how to read the book of all saints

Last year, the publication of the Book of All Saints in English caused quite a lot of excitement. I received many emails from people asking for more information about this fascinating, bewildering book. Here is a collection of advice that I have given over the past year on how to read Adrienne von Speyr’s Book of All Saints.
  • Resist the tendency to read this as a reference book on your favorite saints. Often you will look them up to confirm or deny Adrienne’s views of your favorite saints’ spirituality. This book, however, is about prayer. Or better it teaches you how to pray like all the saints. When (not if) you read the whole book, you will discover you have learned a lot about deep, contemplative prayer. Rather than learning a lot about a lot of saints, you will find that above all you have learned to pray deeply and intimately. In many ways, I think we are incapable of proving or disproving Adrienne’s judgments of a particular saint’s prayer. What we read are her teachings about the communion of saints as a deep, multi-layered communion of prayer.

 

  • The Book of All Saints is the first book of Adrienne’s posthumous works. When Adrienne dictated these prayer portraits, it was not meant to be a collected volume. These are spiritual sketches of saints composed over a long period of time. Von Balthasar only chose to collect and publish them after Adrienne’s death at least as far as I can tell. Because of this, the vignettes on a saint’s prayer are sometimes loosely related to each other and therefore are somewhat episodic.

 

  • While Adrienne strives for objectivity in her mysticism so as to disappear in God’s will, she is nonetheless still a subjective interpreter. These are not definitive portraits of a saint’s prayer life. By God’s grace she was invited in as a guest to observe the saint in prayer. She participates imperfectly in God’s vision of the saint in prayer. She articulates imperfectly the status and character of the saint in prayer. I am amazed, stunned, enthralled, repelled, and always drawn in deeper by these prayer portraits. Above all, because of this book, I have learned much about prayer.

 

  • My last advise: once you’ve read it, read it again. New and substantial insights will emerge. I think this could be a classic of twentieth-century Catholic spirituality. 
As always, I am humbled by the good conversations we have. I look forward to more. Please leave a comment or find my email on my about page. Keep reading Adrienne and let others know what you think. I’ve been struck, how about you?