greenspun.com : LUSENET : von Balthasar Seminar : One Thread

ON MARRIAGE Anne Marie Lee 24th Nov. 02

I want to say something about the paragraph on page 27 on marriage as a form. Von Balthasar is extolling the riches and strengths of married life - marriage as an empowering, all encompassing form. "What could be stronger than marriage, or what shapes any particular life-form more profoundly than does marriage?"

There may be nothing stronger than marriage but I would see religious commuity life being equal to marriage as a form which profoundly shapes life-form. When either form is entered into freely, with reasoned choice and lived with an openness to the relationships involved under the guidance of the Holy Spirit then all fruitfulness, all freedom may be discovered within the form itself.

The form with its structure, rituals and traditions, supports the individual in difficult times and through crises in their personal or collective lives only when there is intimate engagment with each other and with that way of life. By intimate engagement I mean the freedom and trust to share ones innermost thoughts, fears, fantasies, hopes, joys, troubles etc with the significant other/s, the fullness of physical intimacy remaining exclusive to the marriage form. When this kind of engagement exists it greatly empowers the individual to move out from this place of love, safety and security to face, and carry out Gods work, in the often difficult reality of the wider world.

Marriage will fail if one or both partners refuse, or are unable to engage intimately with the other. There is nowhere to escape within the marriage. If the individual moves from a background of marriage difficulty to find solace, comfort and understanding outside the marriage he or she is as Von Balthasar says, trampling the marriage underfoot and is doomed to certain barrenness.

In religious community life all fruitfulness and freedom can be obtained, but only if the individual enters freely and with reasoned choice, into this way of life. In religious community life it is possible for the individual to live a lifetime without engaging with any degree of intimacy with his/her companions in the order. Those who live this way will not be gifted with the full fruitfulness of this form. So no matter what degree of richness of life and Spirit they have achieve, there is a vast wealth as yet untapped.

I don't agree with Von Balthasar when he gives the impression that all an individual's needs can or must be met within the marriage, even a good marriage. "And marriage is only true to itself if it is a kind of bracket that both transcends and contains all an individual's cravings to 'break out' of its bonds and to assert himself." "And now, suddenly, all fruitfulness, all freedom is discovered within the form itself, and the life of a married person can henceforth be understood only in terms of this interior mystery..."

True, the freedom, fullness and richness of relationship found within marriage cannot be found outside Christian Marriage because of the Grace and blessings bestowed on the couple by the Sacrament and because of the depth of committment required of the couple to live this way of life. I have difficulty with the idea that all ones human and spiritual needs can be satisfactorily met within this very narrow form. Looking at it from a womans viewpoint, Von Balthasar wrote this in the 1950s when women were expected to be content with domestic life. The increasing trend in society today for women to choose to raise their children outside marriage says something to me about women's discontent with how things were in the past and the Churches neglect to consult them when discussing how things should be.

Marriage as a form, in itself, is only a shell or structure that is brought to life by the quality of committment and openness of the people who enter into it, and the same goes for religious community life. Anne Marie Lee

-- Anonymous, November 24, 2002


Hi Anne Marie, Delighted to read your contribution. I hope Philip won't mind, but I just want to add that I did believe that marriage should answer all our needs,- Once I had made that commitment that was my life.- When I got my call to follow Jesus ,I said 'no' because I had my husband and children to care for. Then the Lord taught me, showed me that my first duty was to myself, to insure the safety of my own soul. It was very difficult for me to internalise this, I had been so steeped in the accepted way of life.

Iknow very little about religious community life, However I do think it is just as difficult as any other. Looking back from where I am now, I do think it is keeping the commitments we make, no matter how off the way they go that leads us to where we should go. Perhaps I should stop here, see you on Wednesday. Rita.

-- Anonymous, November 25, 2002

One brief comment, just to point out what reflection on marriage is doing here in this introduction to an theological aesthetics: Balthasar is writing about "life forms" (p. 24 top): "What is a person without a life-form, that is to say, without a formwhich he has chosen for his life, a form into which and through which to pour out his life, so that his life becomes th soul of the form and the form becomes the expression of his soul?" etc. Then Balthasar writes about the characteristics of form: "Our first principle must always be the indissolubility of the form and our second thefact that such form is determined by many antecedent conditions..." etc. on p. 26. Then he comes to marriage as the obvious pre-eminent life-form for human beings (p. 27), then he goes on to the life-form of being a Christian (p. 28). Then on p. 29 he writes: "It is from this standpoint that we must look to our supreme object: the form of divine revelation in salvation-history, leading to Christ and deriving from him." Aterwards he speaks of the way in which Scripture makes the form of Christ known and is itself a form (p. 32 near the end). So marriage is not presented as the only form for ordinary life, but as an obvious, fundamental life-form which can enlighten us on our path of reflecting on form. In other works, Balthasar treats of "states of life".

Now on the topic of the way in which different people realise life's possibilities in different ways of life... May God bless us all!

-- Anonymous, November 27, 2002

Moderation questions? read the FAQ