Hans Urs von Balthasar - Christlicher Stand

Christlicher Stand The Christian State of Life

“The sole purpose of this book,” Balthasar writes, “is to provide a comprehensive meditation on the foundations and background of St. Ignatius’ contemplation on the ‘Call of Christ,’ on the answer we must give if we want ‘to give greater proof of [our] love’ (Sp Ex, 97), and on the choice explicitly demanded of us: either to follow Christ our Lord to ‘the first state of life, which is that of observing the commandments,’ of which he has given us an example by his obedience to his parents; or to follow him to ‘the second state, which is that of evangelical perfection,’ of which he has given us an example by leaving his family ‘to devote himself exclusively to the service of his eternal Father.’ And this so that we can ‘arrive at perfection” — which is, of course, the perfection of Christian love — ‘in whatever state or way of life God our Lord may grant us to choose’ (Sp Ex, 135)”.

From the “Preface on the Scope of this Book”

Preface on the Scope of This Book


I.  The Calling to Love
   1.   The Great Commandment
   2.   Obligation and Choice
   3.   Love and Counsel (Thomas / Ignatius)
   4.   Love and the Vows

II.  From Original State to Final State
   1.   Creation and Service
   2.   Grace and Mission
   3.   Man in Paradise
   4.   Heaven


I.  The First Division of the States of Life
   1.   The Process of Division
   2.   The Founding of the State of Election
   3.   On the Relationship between the States of Life
   4.   Image and Truth

II. The Christian State of Life
   1.   Christ’s State of Life
   2.   Mary’s State of Life
   3.   The Christian’s State of Life: “In Christ”
   4.   The Married State

III.  The Second Division of the States of Life
   1.   The Priestly State
   2.   The Priestly State and the State of the Counsels
     a.   Way of Life and Ethos
     b.   The Two States of Election in the New Testament
     c.   On the Evolution of the Two States of Election
     d.   Scholasticism and the State of Perfection
     e.   More Recent Pronouncements
     f.   The Present State of the Question
   3.   The State of Lay Persons in the World
   4.   The States of Life and the Secular Orders
   5.   Evangelical State, Priestly State, Lay State


I.  The Nature of the Call
   1.   The Divine Call
   2.   The Stages of the Call
   3.   The Forms of the Call
   4.   The Elements of the Call

II.  The Historical Actuality of the Call
   1.   The Call Is Made Known
   2.   Recognition of the Call
   3.   Acceptance of the Call
   4.   Rejection of the Call

The moment of solemn promise inherent in love itself is expressed in the Lord’s words: “He who loses his life for my sake will find it” (Mt 10:39); “He who would save his life will lose it; but he who loses his life for my sake will find it” (Mt 16:25); “He who loves his life loses it; and he who hates his life in this world, keeps it unto life everlasting” (Jn 12:25). The “losing” that is spoken of here is the total and definitive surrender of oneself in love. It decreases in fullness and strength with every egotistical attempt to retrieve something from it for oneself by somehow limiting either its content or its duration. This vow, let us remember, is something inherent in love itself and antecedent to every differentiation of individual Christian states and forms of life. Precisely because it is an essential characteristic of perfect love, and because all states within the Church are called to this love, every objective differentiation of the individual states of life will be based on the extent to which the totality of this vow to love is realized in each of them and the extent to which the very form of a given state of life pledges the Christian, not just to a gradual “losing” of self, but to a state in which the self has actually been totally “lost” for God’s sake. All small, repeated, and limited sacrifices are efficacious and pleasing to God only insofar as they express and confirm the undivided sacrifice of a love that is ready to give all and to let God take all that it pleases him to take.

From “The Calling to Love”