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Heaven Opens

The Trinitarian Mysticism of Adrienne von Speyr

By Matthew Lewis Sutton

Publication Year: 2014

Adrienne von Speyr was one of the most important mystical theologians of the last century, heralded by figures like John Paul II and T.S. Eliot. However, her work has been eclipsed in many ways by her personal connection to Catholic theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar. Heaven Opens provides one of the first comprehensive accounts of von Speyr’s theology, MatthewLewis Sutton argues that the eternal, immanent relations of the Triune God ground the mystical theological vision of von Speyr. Rooted in this vision of divine love, von Speyr’s work is an account of the opening of heaven, a revelation of the Trinity’s interior life turned outward to the world, that links intimately to the sacraments, prayer, the church, and the ethical life of obedience. In von Speyr’s mystical theology, God as Triune journeys to us in order to brings into the inner life of the Trinity. Here, von Speyr’s work is for the first time given an independent hearing, expositing its content, features, and connections, and assessing its contribution to contemporary Catholic theology.

Published by: Augsburg Fortress Publishers

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xii

Two streams led me to writing this book. The first was Catholic mystical theology, and the second was Trinitarian theology. This preface will chart these two streams and how they came together for me in the Trinitarian mysticism of Adrienne von Speyr. My undergraduate work at the University of St. Thomas, Minnesota, was in Catholic Studies. Under Fr. J. Michael Joncas, I learned that the Catholic...

Chronology of Adrienne Von Speyr

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pp. xiii-xiv

Abbreviations of Adrienne Von Speyr's Works

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pp. xv-xvi

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1. Encountering Adrienne Von Speyr

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pp. 1-36

As Adrienne von Speyr was driving home from her medical practice in Basel, Switzerland, one day in 1942, she suddenly saw a bright light in front of her car.1 Someone shouted from the sidewalk, “Is something burning in that car?” At that moment in the car, she heard a voice say to her, “Tu vivras au ciel et sur la terre [You will live in heaven and on earth].” For the rest of her life, von Speyr...

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2. Trinitarian Mysticism as an Opening of Heaven

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pp. 37-60

In the previous chapter, we were able to trace the biographical landscape of Adrienne von Speyr. The task ahead in this chapter is to paint the foreground of the Trinitarian mysticism of Adrienne von Speyr. This chapter examines what she means by mysticism. The next chapter examines her as a Trinitarian mystic. We will examine first mysticism generally then Trinitarian mysticism...

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3. Trinitarian Mysticism in the Drama of Redemption

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pp. 61-86

In the previous chapter, we defined von Speyr’s understanding of mysticism as the mystic’s subjective word taken over by the Father’s objective Word by which the mystic is given a vision of the open heaven. The purpose of this chapter is to articulate mysticism’s relation to the Christian revelation of the Trinity. Mysticism must be seen as an essential part in the drama of...

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4. Original Image of the Always-Greater God

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pp. 87-102

Von Speyr often begins her scriptural commentaries and her thematic works by first returning to the vision of the Urbild, which for her means the original image of the immanent Trinity.1 This return is particularly true when she discusses mysticism: “All mysticism is oriented by this original image...

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5. Love Theology of the Immanent Trinity

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pp. 103-126

The previous chapter provided the point of access (via eminentiae) to human understanding of the immanent Trinity through the economic Trinity. This chapter now unfolds the immanent triune relations as a love theology, which von Speyr has elaborated from within her Trinitarian mysticism. A short overview of the development of the love theology of the Trinity begins the first...

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6. Obedience and Mission

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pp. 127-146

The preceding chapters unfolded von Speyr’s vision of the original image (Urbild) of the immanent Trinity as one of love. In this chapter, I will discuss obedience (Gehorsam) and mission (Sendung) as the economic articulation of the triune immanent love. In the two chapters following this one, I will specifically focus on interpreting von Speyr’s theology of the missions of the Son and the...

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7. The Son’s Mission of Obedience

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pp. 147-188

By bringing together the theological interpretation of obedience and mission in the previous chapter, I can now interpret von Speyr’s thought on the economic Trinity as an obediential theology of the Trinitarian missions. The Son’s mission will occupy this chapter, and the Holy Spirit’s mission will be the focus of the next.
The redemption of the world happens through the passion of the...

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8. The Holy Spirit’s Mission of Obedience

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pp. 189-208

The previous chapter synthesized and analyzed the economic mission of the Son as an obediential theology. This chapter continues with the Holy Spirit’s economic mission and characterizes the Holy Spirit as a religious rule—over and in the Son and over and in the disciple. This chapter also offers von Speyr’s intriguing insight that the Trinity is at the origin of the sacraments and...

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9. The Trinitarian Origin of the Sacraments

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pp. 209-224

According to von Speyr’s Trinitarian mysticism, the sacraments and prayer have their origin (Ursprung) in the triune relations. For her, everything ecclesial and Christian has it origin in the Father’s and Son’s relation of love in the Holy Spirit. Von Speyr displays how thoroughly Trinitarian her mysticism is in many ecclesial and Christian topics.
The two Christian topics that seem most profound...

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10. The Trinitarian Origin of Prayer

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pp. 225-234

Prayer is a central part of von Speyr’s Trinitarian mysticism, because for her prayer is rooted in the Trinity itself. The central insight of her writings on prayer is that its basis is found wholly in the Trinitarian relations.1 Perhaps it is unexpected here to have a theological discussion of prayer as it has it origin in the Trinity. But prayer is a necessary theological locus. If theology is about...

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11. “Lift Up Your Heads, O Gates”

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pp. 235-244

In Adrienne von Speyr’s Trinitarian mysticism, we have a theology of the Trinity where the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are truly alive in dynamic relations of love with each other and the world. Von Speyr’s vision of the Trinity presents God not as a static monad but as a full perichoretic, triune interchange of divine being and love. Her vision is so charged with the life of...


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pp. 245-266

Index of Names

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pp. 267-269

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9781451479881
E-ISBN-10: 1451479883
Print-ISBN-13: 9781451473018
Print-ISBN-10: 145147301x

Page Count: 272
Publication Year: 2014

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Subject Headings

  • Speyr, Adrienne von.
  • Mysticism.
  • Trinity.
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