Holy Saturday: Nature and Grace

Von Balthasar’s insistence, which I wrote of yesterday, that the Paschal Mystery not be made natural reveals something of his approach to the perennial issue of the interrelationship of nature and grace. He has an absolute conviction of the chasm between the two, between infinite and finite, between Creator and creature, that is only bridged from the other side when God, by grace and gift, makes the move to which we can respond.

How differently von Balthasar’s contemporary Karl Rahner approaches the subject. For Rahner nature is only ever a ‘limit concept’. As we experience the world ‘nature’ is always ‘graced’ and the two can only be spoken about separately on the understanding that they can never be prised apart. It leads Rahner in a somewhat different direction to von Balthasar:

Holy Saturday is a strange day, mysterious ans silent. It is a day without a liturgy. This is, as it were, a symbol of everyday life which is a mean between the abysmal terror of Good Friday and the exuberant joy of Easter. For ordinary life is also mostly in between the two, in the centre which is also a transition and can only be this.

The Holy Saturday of our life must be the preparation for Easter, the persistent hope for the final glory of God. If we live the Holy Saturday of our existence properly, this will not be a merely ideological addition to this common life as the mean between its contraries. It is realised in what makes out everyday life specifically human: in the patience that can wait, in the sense of humour which does not take things too seriously, in being prepared to let others be first, in the courage which always seeks for a way out of the difficulties.

The virtue of our daily life is the hope which does what is possible and expects God to do the impossible. To express it somewhat paradoxically, but nevertheless seriously: the worst has actually already happened; we exist, and even death cannot deprive us of this. Now is the Holy Saturday of our ordinary life, but there will also be Easter, our true and eternal life.

Karl Rahner, The Great Church Year

2 replies on “Holy Saturday: Nature and Grace”

  1. Love the Rahner. To me he is saying the same as Von Balthasar although coming at it from a differenct angle. I’ve made a choice to avoid the overload of imagery and the wordiness of the Easter Vigil this year. I hope it leaves more room for what both of them are talking about. Thanks for sharing them.

  2. I have to ask rhetorically – “You mean von Balthasar got it right and Rahner was just plain confused! ?”

    Yes I’m biassed ; being inundated with Eckhardt, de Chardin and way too much Evolutionary Hegelian-contaminated systematic theology – Rahner just becomes too panentheistic and I’m sorry,but Grace is a supernatural gift from God, not a hypernatural unfurling of self in respect of natural Divine revelation.
    I’m not clever enough to suggest that Rahner was wrong, but I know when von Balthasar speaks with truth – the Person of Christ.

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