Wednesday, May 15, 2013

German Theology and May-blue Sky

If you are an art history enthusiast, you know this stained glass window from the cathedral in Chartres. You recognize Notre-Dame de la Belle Verriere. You recognize the Blue Virgin Window.

You may know that that this is one of the oldest windows in the cathedral, having survived a devastating fire in the twelfth century. You do not need to be Catholic or Christian to acknowledge that you are dealing here with what has become a cultural commonplace. There is no end of scholarly writing about this window, and even an untrained viewer will find things to say about it.

Note now the use made of Notre-Dame de la Belle Verriere in a dust jacket. Its distinctive colors reduced to monochrome, the image was chosen for a book of scholarly reflections on Mary by German theologian Karl Rahner. From the time this English translation appeared in 1963, it became a staple in seminary and divinity school and convent and retreat house libraries.

This is the third time I am reading through what started as conferences delivered in the University Church in Innsbruck. Drawn originally by the compactness of the volume, I have only twice before taken on the task of making my way through all eight theological meditations from beginning to end. I am not always sure I can explain the insights to which Rahner's text leads me. I will only say that while I am reading, I sometimes glimpse the reality of a God whose sovereign determination to love this world reveals the stinginess of my thoughts about Him.

German theology and a May-blue sky. Some writers can make those two sound companionable. Whether or not I have, they are linked for me this year.

No comments: