Light in Darkness: Hans Urs von Balthasar and the Catholic Doctrine of Christ's Descent into Hell

Light in Darkness: Hans Urs von Balthasar and the Catholic Doctrine of Christ's Descent into Hell

Light in Darkness: Hans Urs von Balthasar and the Catholic Doctrine of Christ's Descent into Hell

Light in Darkness: Hans Urs von Balthasar and the Catholic Doctrine of Christ's Descent into Hell

Synopsis

Alyssa Lyra Pitstick's 'Light in Darkness' - the comprehensive treatment of Balthasar's theology of Holy Saturday - draws on the multiple yet unified resource of authoritative Catholic teaching on Christ's descent to challenge Balthasar's conclusions.

Excerpt

Christus descendit ad inferos. This article of the Christian Faith, most often translated into English as “He descended into hell,” is increasingly an object of interest in contemporary theology, and even more so since the writings of Hans Urs von Balthasar last century. the article is very brief in many formulations of the Faith, including the Apostles’ Creed, while it appears only implicitly in others, such as in the Nicene Creed. Yet this mystery of faith is by no means insignificant, though it is often overlooked. Its very presence in the creeds indicates that it is tied in a peculiarly intimate way to the revelation of God, and in particular to the Person of Christ and His redeeming work. Every theological investigation of the Descent into hell reveals this close relation, explicitly or implicitly.

Traditionally, Christ’s descent has been seen as the beginning of the manifestation of His triumph over death and the first application of the fruits of redemption. Gloriously descending to the holy souls in the abode of the dead called the limbo of the Fathers, Christ bestowed upon them the beatific vision and gave them the fullness of freedom. the multivalent Anastasis icon of the Eastern Catholic Church, as well as Catholic artistic representations in the West, portrays this doctrine visually. There one sees Christ freeing Adam and Eve from their graves, and the broken gates of hell beneath His feet. in the West, this doctrine of a triumphal Descent of Christ was held universally until the Protestant Reformation, and then also afterward by the Catholic Church. It remains, then, part of the heritage of Christians of all denominations.

The writings of Hans Urs von Balthasar, however, suggest that this doctrine does not do justice to the depths to which Christ went for man’s redemption nor, consequently, to His love. Instead, Christ must have suffered after His . . .

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