Being Displays ItselfArts, Essays — By Maria Fee on October 19, 2012 at 4:56 am
We are people of the Word but our beloved text points to gathered sounds that ultimately utter God’s actions. From burning bush to a son nailed onto a tree—we hear activity. The whole biblical narrative from creation, fall, alienation to reconciliation exhibits, as von Balthasar relates in Glory of the Lord God’s “genuine unfolding of himself in the worldly stuff of nature, man and history.” The bible is a divine-human drama that begs for a theology that is just as robust and dynamic.
Following God-patterns employs imagination, and theologian von Balthasar explores the Christian drama like a theatre critic finding the meaning of a play. For Christ has radically changed the stage of history. The pagan dramas between human and divine entities so central to the ancient world have shifted. Von Balthasar relates in Theo-Drama how through Christ “the dialectic of immanence and transcendence, nature and super-nature” can now find hope for reconciliation. Christ has invited all actors to take the stage and enflesh the Word through their lives.
Just as the torn temple curtain reconciles us to the Holy, the incarnated Jesus also removed the actor’s mask—for God has drawn near. Therefore, the Christian actor has the choice to follow Jesus into the tragedies of life. The passage into the dark abyss of the human psyche can only happen because of Christ’s own journey in and out of hell. As von Balthasar relates, “Christianity, with its inner dramatic tension… can take all theatrical aspects into itself in even the darkest moments” only because we know Jesus came out on the other side.
Observable transformation and authentic hope erodes the meaninglessness we find in much contemporary drama. With Jesus our stories become interwoven with the Christian story, and some of these narratives need the stage to fully express their theological import. Theater allows us to publicly incarnate our stories with the potential of ushering in his presence. Imagine a God who would write us into his drama.