Saturday, May 07, 2011

Good Counsel

Hans Urs von Balthasar first met the Swiss physician Adrienne von Speyr, his primary inspiration, in 1940.  Her husband had recently died, and she was grieving such that she was unable to say the Lord's Prayer.  Here was von Balthasar's advice:
When I showed her that the expression Thy will be done does not mean that we offer God what we are able to do ourselves, but rather that we offer him our willingness to let what he does take over our lives and move us anywhere at will, it was as though I had inadvertently touched a light switch that at one flick turned on all the lights in the hall.  Adrienne seemed to be freed from the claims of restraint and was carried away on a flood of prayer as though a dam had burst (31). 
Balthasar was indeed prolific, but he considered his recording the thirty-five books she dictated in similar flood-like fashion (mostly commentaries on Johannine literature) as the most important work of his life.  The relationship is often compared to, but is quite different from, Karl Barth's relationship with his assistant Charlotte von Kirschbaum.  In other words, it's no secret, but it's very easy to forget, that brilliant women stood behind the two greatest theologians of the twentieth century.  As did - if we take von Balthasar's advice seriously and go back a step further still - their mutual God.