I've been dipping into Hans Urs von Balthasar over and over again this Advent. Love Alone is Credible is surely, as I've exuded before on this page, one of the best spiritual readings for the penitential seasons.
This week, it's been "Love as Form," which sounds awfully technical but is in fact not. Rather, as he nears the end of his little work, von Balthasar seems to be moving away from the philosophical and theological categories and analyses and into Scriptural and mystical themes (informed always, of course, by the truths of the faith). In this chapter in particular, he embarks on a long meditation on the form, or character, of Christ's own love: "Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, and patience, forbearing one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving one another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you forgive. And above all these put on love..." (Col 3:12-14)
This passage particularly strikes home in Advent, as he moves into a brief discussion of the Old Testament and the preparation for Jesus's coming: "This love is first of all the goal of the entire Old Testament education of man, which sought to conform man inwardly to God... [The Jewish people] thus knew only that [they] must continue to transcend toward some goal, but without having any vision of the final form itself."
Who could have guessed that this "final form" of love would be God taking on human nature in order to sacrifice that nature on behalf of all the world?
As we keep adding those ornaments to our Jesse Tree and reading the words of Isaiah and the prophets, we must give thanks that we have seen that "final form" of love. That little infant, born to die, is the absolute, final, and only necessary Word.
Giving order to the complexities and distress of our lives, our families, our nations.
Giving peace the world cannot give.
The form of love, for which the world was long prepared and for which our prophets longed.