Christian revelation, according to Balthasar, is centered on love. At the beginning of the chapter “Love as revelation,” it seems that he is directly saying that revelation is love. Though it seems more complex throughout his writing, this idea remains.
When we encounter the love of God in Christ, we see what perfect love is, and yet as humans, we are incapable of truly perfect love – the absolute love that Balthasar is referring to. We can then begin to grasp what love is – Balthasar describes this as an “anticipation” of what love is – because we experience and recognize this as love, yet we cannot – as a sinner – know true love. Balthasar says we must then have a conversion, both of the heart and of thought, recognizing how we have failed to truly love, and also in an effort to relearn what love really is.
In order to perceive Christian revelation, we must perceive what true love is, and this begins with this conversion. We must recognize our finitude, our sinfulness, and the fullness of Christianity: the “playing out of the drama” which begins with the Old Covenant. Therefore, we must understand the identity of God in this drama – as “the divine Author, the divine and human Actor, and the divine Spirit.” What Balthasar is saying is that in order to understand Christianity and true love (and in turn Christian revelation), we must understand the Trinity – how God acts as love and how this is shown through the Trinity. Without this, we have an incomplete view of what love is.
We only have the ability to perceive the absolute Love in the first place because God has planted within us, his creatures, “the seed of love” which “lies dormant within us as the image of God” (76). This then must be awakened in the way God interprets himself to us. “He radiates love, which kindles the light of love in the heart of man, and it is precisely this light that allows man to perceive this, the absolute Love” (76). It is through grace and the image of the Son that we can come to any understanding of God.
Then, once we have perceived absolute Love, it is crucial how we respond to this. We receive the Word of God in the Holy Scriptures. However, the Scriptures do not give a response – this can only come from the “living response of love from a human spirit” through God’s grace. As Mary gave her “fiat,” so must we respond to revelation in faith and with love. We are not only to follow in her example, but we must see the importance of her response, that her “fiat,” in the completion of the Incarnation and so a necessary condition to the “playing out of the drama” which ultimately is centered on Christ’s Passion.
Balthasar’s discussion of the Passion was particularly striking – how “his life points as a whole toward the Cross” (84), and without this, even the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount would lose their meaning. This is the last major contributor to how we perceive revelation. We must understand the story of revelation – of absolute Love – in light of the fact that Christ’s life centers on the Cross. By the Spirit, we can come to see the full gravity of our sins and guilt and thus come to a fuller understanding of the Cross. And if we consider the Trinity together with his Passion, we can more deeply understand the significance of His obedience to the Father, and His abandonment by God.
All of these things contribute to our understanding of God’s love, and in order to perceive revelation, we must grow in this. “The figure of revelation remains unintelligible unless it is interpreted in light of God’s love” (58).