I’ve wanted to write a book review for awhile but for some reason I thought it was a bit of a creative cop out. Like, let me review in text something greater that someone already published in text?
But I am low on creative juices so here is my very first book review!
Heart of the World by Hans urs von Balthasar
Rarely do I read a book multiple times, but I am currently enjoying this book (which, in all fairness, took me almost a year to get through the first time) for the third time. I am a voracious underliner in books and my copy is so marked up that a page does not go by without multiple sections underlined.
If I had to pick a book that changed my world view, changed my way of thinking, or one that I would take with me on a desert island, it would be this one.
Father von Balthasar weaves a beautifully poetic and soul shaking text that dives deeply into the Heart of Christ. What does it mean that Christ, who is fully man and fully divine, had a human heart just like ours? Literally, it was made of same stuff as ours and emotionally it experienced the full spectrum of feelings and emotions.
The chapters vary from the perspective of a speaker (like us, fully human) and Christ addressing us. It is remarkable to me that a Swiss theologian and priest who died in 1988 can write in such a way that is so reflective of my own heart. There are sections in this book that made me stop and wonder if Father von Balthasar can read my soul, even years after his death.
Of course, he can’t, but he can write in a way that addresses all of humanity, how we deeply and intimately Christ loves us, how if we believe that Christ died and rose for our salvation that it should affect every aspect of our lives.
I pulled some sections from the book that seemed especially appropriate for Lent. They, of course, do not do the book justice since von Balthasar’s sprawling chapters need to be read in context (in my opinion, one sitting) to really experience the beauty of the text.
“Into what hole can I crawl so that you will no longer see me, so that I will no longer be a burden to you and that the decay of my person may no longer importune you? I have sinned right to your face, and the mouth which touched your lips — your divine lips –a thousand times has kissed the lips of the world and said: ‘I do not know him'” (p.145)
“He seeks trust, intimacy: he is a beggar for your love” (p.121)
“But see: the weakness with which you weaken me can no longer be an obstacle. When I am weak, then I am strong. Let yourself be weakened by my weakness, my Bride, that the fruit of your body may grow within you, the child of our love. How much longer will you insist on my making up for your refusals by my suffering? How much longer will you shift the burden onto my shoulders, a burden, which, if bourne by both of us, would become the delight of the Kingdom of Heaven?” (p.82)
In a real and unapologetic way, von Balthasar reminds us of how we quarantine Christ to sections of our life, of our hearts. We let Him reign on Sundays, we let Him in when we have cleaned our homes, but we refuse to let Him see the messy parts, to enter into our lives when we feel that we have control.
Truly, I love this book. It combines Scripture, allegory, imaginative language, and alarmingly honest human thoughts that ultimately point back to the Heart of Christ which beats with love for us all.