Paths of Love: The Discernment of Vocation

Texts of Hans Urs von Balthasar cited in the book

Here you will find a compilation of the texts of Hans Urs von Balthasar cited or mentioned in the book Paths of Love.

  • Newness of the Spiritual Exercises

    • The Book of the Exercises by St. Ignatius of Loyola, looking back to the Gospel, was the first to uncover a new yet decisive dimension, to effect a revolution. (Christlicher Stand, p. 317).
  • Love waits for the will of the beloved

    • Love does not impose itself and its self-giving on the beloved; it asks for the will and wish of the beloved, which determine the measure of its self-giving... The beloved alone determines, he only makes the choice of what one may give him... True love is ready to go each way, the harder or the easier way. It is ready to go the way of the commandments, or that of the counsels. (Christlicher Stand, p. 42).
    • While the universal call to perfect Christian love goes out to all, the vocation to the external “state of perfection” is entirely based on the will of God, which chooses one for that state. The distinction of the states that the Lord makes, is determined so much by his choice, that even such as offer themselves to him to be his disciples, who believe themselves ready to follow him wherever he gives, he can turn away and send back into the secular state.... Indifference, as readiness for every manifestation of the divine will, is the expression of a love than which—before the Lord has declared his choice—no love could be thought more perfect. Such indifference, and not an anticipation of God’s choice by an autonomous entering upon the way of the vows, is the best possible attitude at this stage. (Christlicher Stand, pp. 130-31).
  • Vocation to life in the world is distinguished by a not-being-called in the special sense

    • The call to the state of election is a qualified, special, differentiated call, to which no equally qualified call to the secular state corresponds; rather, in comparison with the state of election, the secular state is distinguished by a not-being-called in this qualified sense. ... Because it is the instituting will of the Church’s founder that the state of those who are called out remain a continual minority in comparison with the common state of believers in the world, it is therefore equally his instituting will that the many who are not called to this special state remain in the common secular state. This instituting will, which does not allow one to consider the secular state as a mere negation of the state of election, but makes it into a real state in the realm of salvation and of the church, cannot, however, be construed as a second call of the Lord that is of equal rank with the first. Being placed in the secular state can only be described as a not-being-called to a qualitatively superior mission. (Christlicher Stand, pp. 116 & 133).
  • How a call may be heard

    • Many a youth, in considering his state, draws near the region of the special call; the call itself does not follow, but he knows that he is not forbidden from drawing ever closer to that region, in which the call may, or even probably will be heard. But he turns aside too soon, and consequently does not hear it... But it can also happen, that he moves into the region of the qualitatively superior call, draws within “calling range” of God, yet the call—by reason of its objective form, and not merely by reason of the imperfect way in which it is heard—allows him the choice to follow it or not to follow it. He sees quite factually: there is the usual way, and I am not forbidden to go along it. Yet this form of call lacks the magnetic attraction with which other forms draw one irresistibly to themselves. (Christlicher Stand, p. 353).
  • Obligation or necessity of following a call

    • The word “counsel” is not wholly adequate to convey God’s personal love that lies in the invitation to personal discipleship.... God’s predilection, by which he calls a man, and offers him the grace of receiving insight into and participation in the deeper mysteries of the divine love, is affected in a different way by the discourtesy of a rejection than if one transgressed what one considered a formal “law.” But that means at the same time, that the transformation of the call from a predominantly commanding tone to a predominantly inviting tone, may in no way be interpreted as a weakening of its urgency. On the contrary, the more love reveals itself in the call, the less therefore this call can arm itself with its own sanctions, the more it is the expression of the defenseless, indeed the help-seeking love of God, which can offer no other argument for following it than the hope that the needs of love will be understood, then the more compelling it is—if he who is addressed is a lover—for him to give the needed answer. (Christlicher Stand, p. 352).
    • Neither here nor in the vocation itself are there universally valid norms: every way is a new, unrepeatable love story... And yet the case of the rich young man is surely the more frequent case: God makes his invitation once, perhaps several times, but finally lets go of the soul that repudiates God’s friendship. With that, the episode of God’s courtship with this life is essentially at an end; not that we should despair of the salvation of this man, since he is constantly offered sufficient grace to save himself, but indeed, the chance to become a chosen friend of God is spoiled forever. God does not twice give a special, privileged mission; he can certainly wait until the man finally makes up his mind for the decisive choice, but if the choice is negative, then repentance will no longer help. (Christlicher Stand, pp. 354-55).
    • There are perhaps calls that are scarcely anything more than a permission to go one way or the other. Such calls—supposing that there are such—may be ignored without fault... But as soon as one leaves behind these lowest ranking forms of vocation, and considers the cases that indeed according to the tradition are the most numerous, those in which God declares his personal choice to the soul, then other laws come into play, the laws of love. One must be very careful here with the maxim that only “precepts” bind under pain of sin, that one can heedlessly set aside wishes, invitations, whisperings of God’s love. Does not God want to offer his best, perhaps his most important gifts more by asking than by demanding? And would not rejecting them mean injuring, perhaps rendering impossible the decisive plans of God’s love? ... When one rejects the mission that God had in mind for him, God does not give him another in its place. For missions are personal, and God does not speak the word that he saved for this man, indiscriminately to another man.(Christlicher Stand, pp. 407-408).
    • We already said earlier that when one rejects the mission God had in mind for him, God does not give him another in its place. For missions are personal, and God does not speak the word that he saved for one man, indiscriminately to another.... Since the moment of the identity between the divine and the human “yes” should be the center that gives meaning to the life of the one called, this life, because that moment does not occur, necessarily remains unfulfilled, empty, a longing that has nothing more to wait for, like the life of an abandoned young woman, whose whole future has already passed her by. (Christlicher Stand, pp. 408 & 410).
    • The fundamental “No” with which they once responded to their mission, even if confessed as a sin and forgiven, remains as an emptiness in their soul, and leads them to many a fault that otherwise would have remained undone. (Christlicher Stand, p. 412).
    • When the rejection lay on the border of the unconscious and therefore of blamelessness, then it can become the life of a man, which for him himself remains inexplicably unfulfilled. He is haunted by misfortune. He would, perhaps, like to marry, but the engagement miscarries; the girl refuses, without his understanding why. He tries again later, it again fails. His undertakings do not blossom. Either he gets no children, or death takes them from him. He doesn’t succeed as others do, to gain a foothold and to establish himself in life without worries. A disquiet fills him, more laid upon him by fortune than deriving from his character. Among the men of the world he remains a stranger and feels like one. People will not explain to him the true reason for his unsettled state, so as not to deprive him of hope. Perhaps God will have pity on him, and grant him peace. (Christlicher Stand, p. 410).
    • A hundred times would they have thrown the silver pieces into the temple, but their repentance does not make what happened not have happened. They are “cut off” as an example for all the others, that these may not become proud, but stand in awe (Rom 11:19–20). That they are cut off and burn, does not mean that they are going to be ultimately lost, just that they have played out their role on earth...
      They who perhaps thought, in place of the divine mission, to exercise a meaningful role in the world and a corresponding influence as a lay apostle, see gradually how their life dries up and—what for them is the worst, and the punishment—sinks into meaninglessness... Had God destined them for the lay state, they would have borne, in the place meant for them, the hidden but living fruit that God expected of them. But as it is, their life is wasted, and they consume themselves in unfruitful criticism, especially of the Church, without contributing to its betterment. (Christlicher Stand, pp. 410-12).

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