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  • A Trinitarian Anthropology: Adrienne von Speyr and Hans Urs von Balthasar in Dialogue with Thomas Aquinas by Michele M. Schumacher
  • Roch Kereszty, O.Cist.
A Trinitarian Anthropology: Adrienne von Speyr and Hans Urs von Balthasar in Dialogue with Thomas Aquinas. By Michele M. Schumacher. Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 2014. Pp. xiii + 451. $79.95 (cloth). ISBN: 978-0-8132-2697-2.

Schumacher's work is a detailed, competent study of one of the important issues in contemporary Catholic theology: a careful comparison of the theological anthropology of Hans Urs von Balthasar and Adrienne von Speyr with that of Thomas Aquinas. Such a serene, objective treatment, combined with Schumacher's respect and empathy for all three theologians, is indeed rare.

Balthasar characterizes his theological method as distinct from, but complementary to, the Thomistic approach. Saint Thomas chiefly uses analogies of the created world to illuminate supernatural mysteries. Balthasar employs the analogical approach too, as well as what he calls the katalogical method. If analogy moves upward from created perfection to divine perfection, the katalogical method is directed downward from the revealed divine truths or archetypes to an understanding of created realities. In Balthasar's theology, which he shares with Adrienne von Speyr, the divinely revealed Trinitarian mystery sheds light on the many aspects of human realities. Just as the Trinity is a mystery of unity in difference, so too are anthropological mysteries characterized by "unity in difference," all of which can be explicated on the basis of the Trinitarian archetype. Schumacher analyzes five of these mysteries: the relationship between the act and object of faith, nature and grace, body and spirit, individual and community, man and woman.

Schumacher accepts Balthasar's multiple attestations that his work and Adrienne von Speyr's are two sides of one and the same mission, and that Balthasar's work only unfolded in its full scope after he began working with Adrienne. In fact, Balthasar adopted most of his unusual images, metaphors, [End Page 134] and phrases from Adrienne's work and made them his own. (Therefore, I will refer to their common work and beliefs as B-A.)

While St. Thomas theorizes that the eternal generation of the Son from the Father and the eternal procession from the Father and the Son both take place by way of the divine essence, which is the same in each divine person, B-A believe that the two processes—generation and procession—happen by way of the persons, since the Trinity is a communion of persons. B-A are convinced that only personalist images and metaphors can express analogically the Trinitarian mystery. Balthasar accepts from Adrienne the term Hingabe—surrender—to describe the mutual relationships between the Father and the Son, and between the Father and the Son on the one hand and the Holy Spirit on the other. From all eternity, the Father surrenders to his Son all that he has and is. The Son, in turn, receives the self-donation of the Father, and in the Son's very act of acceptance, he returns himself to the Father in thanksgiving and praise. Both the Father and the Son together give themselves to the Holy Spirit, who accepts and returns all that he has received in love. According to B-A, these relationships in God suppose both an infinite distance and an infinitely intimate union among all three divine persons.

Creation is not simply the act of God in his unity, B-A explain, but it has a specific relationship to the divine person of the Son, who is creation's divine archetype. That the Father creates the universe in the Son means no new relationship on God's part but rather creation's participation in the Son, who returns the universe in and with himself to the Father.

We participate in the archetypal unity and distance between the Son and the Father through the relationship of our act of faith and the object of our faith. "The Christian [and, in particular, the theologian] participates in Christ's mission of giving expression, or more correctly said, to be the expression, or 'the definitive "interpretation" (Jn 1:18)' of...


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