"Conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary" | Hans Urs von Balthasar | An excerpt from Credo: Meditations on the Apostles' Creed
In the twelve months before his sudden death, Hans Urs von Balthasar had been writing a series of reflections on the twelve articles of the Apostles' Creed. These texts, which are undoubtedly among the last things he wrote, take on the character of a legacy, a spiritual testament. For they amount in their extraordinary compactness and depth to a little "summa" of his theology. What he had set out in detail in numerous books over five decades, he summarizes in Credo: Meditations on the Apostles' Creed in contemplative plainness and simplicity.
All the characteristics that make von Balthasar's work so distinctive and valuable are to be found here: breadth of vision, loveliness of style, and an intuitive-contemporary passion that allows him to "pray intellectually and think 'cordially'."
The following is von Balthasar's reflections on the phrase, "Conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary".
"Conceived." This is said of the Son of God, but it sounds passive; an Other is active in this conception, and he will be named immediately: the Holy Spirit. And an Other is she who conceives: the Virgin Mary. Just as a child is passive when conceived, whereas the parents take part actively. But it is only later on that a child awakens to consciousness, whereas the Son of God possesses eternal consciousness and also the will to become human. To be sure. Yet still we acknowledge in faith that he does not incarnate himself, does not himself take hold of the human nature that he will inhabit, but allows himself to be conveyed, as the "seed" of the Father, into the virginal womb by the Holy Spirit. But this means that the occasion of his Incarnation is already the beginning of his obedience. Theologians have very often claimed the opposite, on the ground that the union of the human and the divine natures occurs solely in the Son as the Second Person in the Divinity.