What is the highest and deepest form of prayer that can be achieved in the spiritual life? In the tradition of the Catholic Church it has a name: contemplative prayer.
Here’s a book –contemplative prayer, by Hans Urs Von Balthasar, Ed. Encounter- on how to carry it out and on what is its place in the spiritual life. But above all, here is a dense and intellectually challenging book on the theological dimension of contemplative prayer analyzed here from a biblical-theological perspective.
The head is abuzz, and that is why we need purifying silence, he wrote in his day Thomas Merton In his book also titled contemplative prayer. Life tends towards spiritual silence, and for this reason we need contemplative prayer (that is, prayer that goes beyond words and external gestures) as a way to the transforming encounter with the Lord – wrote Hans Urs Von Balthasar in the book of the same title that we are now discussing here, and that undoubtedly surpasses that of Merton-… And HUrsVB adds: we need contemplative prayer understood as a simultaneous looking inward (towards the springs of the soul) and upwards (towards God).
As it is, the book contemplative prayerof Hans Urs Von Balthasar, can truly be understood as a treatise on high prayer in today’s world. But it is not only that: it is also a complete essay on general theology, although, as we say, approached as a whole from a topic –the one announced in the title- that, not without great difficulty and a lot of audacity, has been in these pages embedded in systematic theology from three angles: the act of contemplation, the object of contemplation and the tensions inherent in contemplative prayer.
And, in doing so, the author offers us endless luminous interconnections between systematic theology and spirituality (which have always been two contiguous but not well connected territories). All at the same time that this great spiritual thinker delves into his magisterial universalist conception of faith and culture: a conception that has led HU Von Balthasar in his day to be called by Joseph Ratzinger as a “teacher of the faith.”
As shown in these pages, contemplative prayer has traditionally been dominated by a generalized and orientalizing mysticism that has not achieved a clear and luminous incursion (this book does) into the quintessential incarnationist mystery.
Going beyond this, our author here analyzes the subject of contemplative prayer with conceptual rigor and epistemological solidity, and approaches it from all angles of theology, although especially from that of eschatology (there are illuminating pages in this book on the importance of contemplative prayer regarding the paschal triduum, undoubtedly inspired by the fascinating mystic Adrienne von Speyr). And especially brilliant in this book we find the analysis of contemplative prayer as an ultimate indifference of man to himself as the starting point of the sudden journey towards God (thus understanding prayer as a return journey, as understood by a little also the mystics of the Christian East –Evagrius Ponticus Y Maximus the Confessorwhich had such an influence on Saint Gregory the Great– that “make God more transparent through the necessary death of every mind that contemplative prayer implies”: everything so that, after the prayer thus exercised, the self resurrects beyond one’s own mind to the longed-for land of God, where it is settles the mundane tension between the transcendent and the immanent that Christian life implies, which thus no longer needs to be interpreted only in a mystical way, but can be tested daily”)… Although there are key references to contemplative prayer in a community of baptized lay people with “liturgical mentality”.
Everything so that the author ends up situating in a distinguished way in the Catholic faith the origins of contemplation in the virgin mary.
But we do not want to stop highlighting the beauty of expression of this theologian whose prose is full of phrases with the vocation of an eternal literary quote of the type “whoever loves discovers the constant novelty of what is loved”…
Here is a necessary work of HU von Balthasar which should be read and attended to with the utmost effort by theologians and teachers of spirituality in this very pressing and timely hour for Christianity, in which the Christian needs to overcome obstacles of a height rarely seen in all of history. A truly great work that offers us a conception of contemplation as attentive to our time as to the biblical text and to the entire deposit of sacred tradition.