Presence and Thought // Hans Urs von Balthasar.


Gregory of Nyssa is an enigma Church Father. By far the least known of the Cappadocian Fathers (apparently, it’s disputed whether the three–Basil the Great, Gregory of Nazianzus, and Gregory of Nyssa–should be categorized together), Nyssa dissipates as soon as one tries to systematize his thoughts. Hans Urs von Balthasar, one of the most luminous, Catholic theologians of the 20th century, puts his hand to it in his short collection of essays. Balthasar centers Nyssa’s thoughts as anthropological. His three-step format–(1) Philosophy of Being, (2) Philosophy of Image, and (3) Philosophy of Love–emulates Nyssa’s dialectical ascent into God, who is love. Starting with the human subject problem (what is it? A soul? A body? Both? How?) to the human uniqueness problem (what does it mean to be in the image of God?), he finishes with the human fully realized problem (how can we become like God/Christ?).

Balthasar is undoubtedly known for his intellect. This text, however, is nothing short but a difficult read. Perhaps it is the translation (French to English) or Balthasar’s writing style (I cannot comment on this since this is my first text on him, but definitely more to come). Or maybe, again, it is just the Nyssa-enigma.


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