love smiling through all things

          “When did you first touch my heart?”[1] Was it in the womb, was it my mother’s smile, was it the first time I heard music? Did my mother’s prayers for me begin to gently acquaint me with your heart? Was it woven into the fabric of my being as an irresistable urge to explore coupled with the unquenchable thirst for love? Was it the first time I opened my eyes to light? These questions, directed to the creator, exist because beauty exists. Beauty enlivens the natural world with color, vibrancy, purpose, telos and clarity. “The brightness of the beautiful is something that overwhelms us, impelling and enabling us to enter further into the depths of being then the unaided intelligence can venture.” [2] Through the glorious brightness of the beautiful we are offered “new eyes” through which to see the world, God, scripture and ourselves.[3] Balthasar calls this the, “…mysterious character inherent in the knowable.”[4]  Kevin Mongrain suggests, “…seeing forms with a genuinely spiritual knowledge requires a special aptitude for attunement and discernment.”  Mongrain explains that, “ God designed the creation at all its levels to teach this skill by enabling all its natural forms to be vessels of spiritual light capable of drawing those with attentive eyes and listening hearts into deeper and deeper engagement with their beauty.”[5] This alluring spiritual light invites, beckons and initiates us to the dance of life wherein beautiful people and things simultaneously “reveal and conceal” themselves in an ecstatic rhythm like unto man and wife learning the intricacies and exquisite details of each other’s soul. To borrow from Mongrain again, in giving ourselves we “also communicate that there is a depth not shown.”[6]

            How can we come to know the “depth not shown?” Where is the road less traveled that I may take it? “Balthasar identifies its key as humility, which is the readiness to accept the gift of divine love as it is.”[7] When we accept things as they are we finally see them for what they are. If I can love my wife without trying to change her then I just took a huge step towards the intimacy of knowing as I am fully known. True and beautiful forms communicate clearly who and what they are, they are not restrained by fear or bounded by insecurity. Even as they reflect themselves they share the greater reflection of the grand illumination of all things, which is the glory of God flooding the heavens and filling the earth. There is no greater way to reflect the glory of God on this earth then to be yourself.

            In the Tree of Life the father had the painful realization that he was a fool. After losing his prestigious job which inflated and undergirded his sense of self-worth he lamented of his life that he, “… dishonored it all and did not see the glory!”[8] His was the way of nature- brutish, strong, powerful, and proud. He was austere in appearance, harsh in discipline and unwavering in opinion. Grace embodied by his wife said “Nature finds reasons to be unhappy when all the world is shining around and love is smiling through all things.”[9] Without humility we will not see “love smiling through all things.” Without being ourselves we cannot glorify God. Without beauty there is no evangelist to tell us of God and without grace there is no way to live with God. In response to the eros, the telos and all the signposts I would not ask of God when did you first touch my heart but when did I last touch yours?

[1] Tree of Life (Bb) (accessed 6.20.12.)

 [2] Aidan Nichols, A Key to Balthasar (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2011), 17.

 [3] Ibid, 45.

 [4] Kevin Mongrain, Von Balthasar’s Way from Doxology to Theology (Bb) (accessed 6.13.12), 64.

 [5] Ibid.

 [6] Ibid.

 [7] Nichols, 44.

[8] Tree of Life.


[9] Ibid. 


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