Yves De Maeseneer’s Lecture on Angels Published
In May 2015, Prof. Dr. Yves De Maeseneer (KU Leuven, Belgium) visited the cTPM and delivered a public lecture entitled “Angels as Mirrors of the Human: The Anthropologies of Rilke and Bonaventure through the Lenses of Hans Urs von Balthasar.” Good news for all those who missed this remarkable paper is that the full text is now available in the most recent issue of Acta Universitatis Carolinae Theologica. Moreover, even better news is that the journal is open-access.
In this article we present a theological-anthropological exploration, interpreting the figure of the angel as a mirror of our human condition. The point of departure is an analysis of Hans Urs von Balthasar’s approach to two major sources for our imagination of the angel: Bonaventure (1221-1274) and Maria Rainer Rilke (1875-1926). A comparison of his accounts of the Franciscan theologian and the Modern poet, respectively, reveals remarkable parallels in discourse, clustered around the tensions between vulnerability and openness, immanence and transcendence, and love and loss. Both Rilke and Bonaventure reject the classical angel figure as a human ideal, as it cannot integrate the paradoxes of human existence. Their alternative visions of what it means to be human, have many terms in common: heart, vulnerability, mortality, openness, abyss, suspension, transparency, receptivity, descent (kenosis), humility, poverty, etc. However, their meaning is different because Rilke does not recognize an absolute transcendence as the source of love and the vis-à-vis of the human. This immanentism leaves him no other option than the vain attempt to exorcize the angel figure altogether, while Bonaventure’s vision preserves the angel as an anthropological mirror, be it an angel radically transfigured by God’s wounded love.