From the essay, "Love Alone is Believable: Hans Urs von Balthasar’s Apologetics" by Monsignor John R. Cihak:
The Father, Son and Holy Spirit have revealed themselves as one God in order to liberate man and bring him to live within the divine life of the Trinity. Man could never anticipate God’s astounding initiative in reaching out to save him.
The Form of the Cross
The pinnacle of this revelation, which Balthasar calls the "Christform", is Jesus nailed to the Cross. One may object, "How can the crucifixion of Jesus be the preeminent revelation of Beauty?" In the ugliest place of human existence (crucifixion and death) God reveals himself as absolute, total self-giving love. The Trinity is self-giving love. Being disguised under the disfigurement of an ugly crucifixion and death, the Christform is paradoxically the clearest revelation of who God is. This love can only be fully revealed in a world corrupted by sin through death, the ultimate expression of self-giving in this world.
And so this is the supreme moment of transcending beauty, a revelation of love visible in the world, yet pointing to a love beyond this world. As St. John so profoundly grasps in his Gospel, the concealment of the Son under the form of the Cross is his glory because it reveals a love to the absolute end. The glory of the Son does not come after the Cross. The Cross is his glory. Even in this ultimate form of beauty in self-giving love, God does not overwhelm human freedom. No one is forced to believe that this crucified man is the divine Son of God saving the world.
As in the aesthetical encounter, the form is Jesus nailed to the Cross. One must decipher the Christform which stands in history as a concrete sign (species). Anyone can stand before it and wonder, "Who is this?" God has disturbed history forever with his provocative sign of love. The perception of faith, however, is beyond the ability of man alone. What is required is a new light. Without this light man cannot see the depths of the form. In other words, the non-believer looks at the Cross and says, "I see just a man." God must awaken in man the capacity to recognize him.
Divine grace, working in the interior of the person, allows him to see the form for what it is. Only grace enables him to organize the evidence for belief into a coherent whole and see what the sign reveals. As in beauty, to share in the revelation of divine love, one must renounce himself and surrender to the grace offered. Furthermore, one does not "get behind" the form of the Cross in order to then see God. Rather the Trinity is revealed in the Cross. Jesus said to Philip, "He who has seen me has seen the Father" (John 14:9). When the non-believer encounters Christ crucified, an historical event situated in time and space, he can be pulled into that form, by assenting to the grace offered, for an encounter with the Triune God.
In the Cross man encounters a love not of this world. Man sees "that the love offered him is quite unlike anything he knows as love; and that the scandal [of God’s love] exists in order to make him see the uniqueness of this new love -- and by its light to reveal and lay bare to him his own love for what it is, lack of love" (LA). The non-believer asks, "With my broken love, and my life hurtling toward death, is there anything worthy of my belief?" Jesus of Nazareth is the unique sign, expressive of a persuasive love which draws the beholder into the same dynamic of love. In the act of faith, as in the encounter with beauty, one is marked by the beautiful form. The Father impresses his form on the Son, and the Son, through the Holy Spirit, presses his form on the believer. The person’s own life is to take on the dimensions of the Christform. He is not to be a bystander but a participant in this dynamic of divine love.
The credibility of the revelation comes through the Christform, from which breaks forth the pulsating, burning furnace of Trinitarian love. This sign needs no other proofs. It is the proof of love. In the encounter of faith, the non-believer realizes that this revelation not only unites the fragments of truth in the world, not only gives meaning to mankind at its deepest level, but that it pulls him beyond into the very life of God encountering a love beyond his capacity to imagine. Finally, one finds a love worthy of his faith, of his very life. This is a love that is believable.
• Read the entire essay on Ignatius Insight.