Summer 1997

The Fathers, the Scholastics, and Ourselves

Hans Urs von Balthasar

The change in the spiritual attitude contained in the transition from the patristic to the modern age can be described as a change from a world-condemning "dying to the world" to a world-affirming "dying to the world."

1. Posing the Question 


We are living in a time when the images of gods and idols are crashing all about us. The spiritual and cultural traditions of vast regions of the West are increasingly being called into question; indeed, we can go even further and say they are being liquidated, quickly and relatively painlessly. Just as a tree in autumn drops its leaves without pain or regret in order to gather once more new strength from within, to renew its powers in hibernal peace, so too the tree of culture is now being stripped of its leaves. Of course, in this, the late autumn of our times, the leaves lie thickly under our feet - and the books thickly in the bookstores; but we aren'r deceived for a moment about that. This colorful yellow and red swarm of leaves is animated no longer by life but, if at all, only by the wind. A small regret might well be permitted us here, just as autumn is the time of the elegiac lyric, but who would want on that account to huddle up under the blanket of an eschatological pathos! We trust the powers of nature, her wise economy and the laws of her renewal. 


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