Fall 2015

The Personal Unity of Glory and Poverty in Freedom as Love

Ferdinand Ulrich

“We are both at the same time . . . a serving and being fruitful, power and impotence, glory ‘through’ poverty!”

The mystery of man and the necessity of his self-understanding meet concretely and historically in the two forms of word and love, in becoming oneself by receiving oneself. He who speaks presupposes the one who hears him in his word—this condition of presupposing the listening Thou does not aim at the Thou’s disempowerment and impotence, but rather affirms the Thou in himself, in his empowerment. The lover indwells the beloved, letting the beloved be, and the lover is let be by the other. Thus, in order for the Thou truly to be a Thou, he must grow into his own being, and unfold himself out of the depths of his life-giving roots.

1. Freedom through the given
The mystery of man’s becoming himself and receiving himself is most clearly seen in the act of nurturing. In the beginning, parents communicate to their child, in word and through love, the life-giving power and the unveiling light of the revelatory word. Word and love are the way, the truth, and the light through which the child encounters himself, and undertakes his freedom as gift of the Freedom. The child enters into the word—which is granted to him from the Thou, from “without,” as it were—in the space of another’s freedom. The child will never become himself if he were, so to speak, in a pure “abstract identity” with himself, or in an empty repetition of what has always already “happened,” or remaining in the undeveloped seed of his existence, desperately revolving around and grasping at every possibility, or remaining in the impotent abyss of his own alienated substance, which is free neither to risk itself and call out to the Thou, nor free to give itself to the other, because he wishes to preserve his own self-actualization.

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