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How Jesus is constantly working in our lives

The words of the Catholic mystic who collaborated with Hans Urs von Balthasar

Adrienne von Speyr (La Chaux- de-Fonds, September 20, 1902 - Basel, September 17, 1967 ) was one of the most important Catholic mystics of the twentieth century. The first woman to practice as a doctor in Switzerland, she had her life marked by intense illuminations from childhood, experienced with some discomfort in her Protestant confession of birth. She converted to Catholicism at thirty-eight years of age, in 1940, following a long period of crisis and research, shortly after meeting the Jesuit Hans Urs von Balthasar, one of the greatest Catholic theologians of the twentieth century. She was from then on bound by an intense spiritual relationship with him and began a fruitful intellectual collaboration. Along with her commitment to her neighbour to whom she dedicated her entire mission as a doctor, she added a family life - married twice , the second time after widowhood - and above all an intense spiritual life with, in particular, focus on the mystery of the Trinity. The starting-point of her creative theology is in fact the Trinity of God, who from eternity loves, dialogues, creates. This proximity to the centre of the Christian mystery, along with the clarity and expressive power of her writing , make her work one of the most insightful and incisive presentations of Christian doctrine. For Adrienne von Speyr the life of faith is a source of joy and peace, even if the believer ( let alone the mystic) is not spared the cross: in this sense her experiences related to Holy Saturday are important. The second part of her life, having  finally achieved spiritual peace after her conversion, was especially marked by serious illness, extreme suffering and eventually blindness. She died in 1967, after having received the gift of the stigmata, on the day itself of the feast of St. Hildegard, also a doctor and mystic. The passage that we publish is from " Drei Frauen und der Herr " (“ Tre donne e il Signore ", in Italian published by Jaca Book).

The encounters of Jesus with people seem, in the Gospel, to be completely random. Some characters appear and reappear, large crowds follow him and become witnesses of his miracles and listeners to his preaching. Most remain anonymous, and some appear only because the situation is clearly delineated, they could almost be replaced by others. But there are also people who, little by little or suddenly, emerge from a certain obscurity to personify from that moment on, before the meditative gaze of the Church, the form of a particular service offered to the Lord .

When they appear, we realize that they have been for some time the object of the consideration and acceptance of the Lord. He has singled them out, welcomed them long before they were aware of it. And for the moment, until they come out of their secrecy in him, he supports them. Some already have a premonition that one day he will need them, that he already needs them today, in fact, that he even he had already had need of them. The relationship that exists between them and him, a relationship established by him alone, is not completely unknown to them. But there are also people who do not know, who have encountered  him in total secrecy, without having light cast upon them, and yet they are supported by him for years while he shapes their path, directs them, helps them to become what he needs them to become. In these people, who for a long time remain unknown and who also represent the innumerable people whose relationship with the Lord we will never ever know anything about, is manifested to us in a particular way his power in himself to sustain every man. With each person he is able to enter into a relationship, in a connection in which from the first moment he alone pronounced the word yes. He has placed him as his creation - and this position is grace which precedes every movement and every response of man- but in this yes to man there is also included, like a living latent seed, the yes of the man: in the unilaterality of  the call there is already the bilaterality of the encounter.

About Mary, who speaks her yes to the angel, we know in faith that the Son already for a long time, from all eternity, has supported and carried her in that yes. He chose her as his mother, he predestined and also pre-redeemed her. It is as if she had been supported by the yes of the Son as much as possible: up to the moment of the decision. Just as is the case for someone who goes to confession, he is supported up to the moment when he makes his confession.

This being supported by the Lord does not in any way mean that he takes away responsibility from us, rather he strengthens us in the right decision, so that we can meet him in the fullness of our own free will, so that through the strength given to us by him we become able to choose what is the will of the Father. All of Mary’s past is perfectly contained in her yes; in this yes we can read what consumed her life, all that helped to shape this yes, in what way she demonstrated her ability to be that which the Son wants of her. And in the instant that she pronounces the yes, she takes on a responsibility that takes into account to the highest degree her autonomy.

Something similar happens in all those whom the Lord supports, that he moulds in himself and that one day or another he will encounter. In this act of supporting, two parts are included: one is completely in eternity, in the plan of the divine Son to redeem the world through love for the Father and to include in this decision individual men, whose mission he anticipates before hand; the other is in the temporal life of Jesus, here there are the authentically human, face to face, encounters like when Peter for the first time is placed before the Lord, or in a hidden and mysterious way, when Jesus sees Nathanael under the fig tree and the welcomes him, while the one who has been seen and welcomed does not yet know any of this.




St. Peter’s Square

Oct. 15, 2019