One of my favorite things to do is to visit the ND bookstore prior to a new semester and browse the theology section filled with books for upcoming classes. Yes, I'm the reason the bookstore only has 24 books for a class of 25, I admit it.
One selection this past January was Love Alone is Credible by Hans Urs von Balthasar and it made for good semester-break reading these past days. I wish I would have remembered for which class it was assigned.
A few highlights for me.
On the need for a subjective relationship/approach to the objective event of the historical Christ/passion the author quotes Angelus Silesius, "If Christ were born a thousand times in Bethlehem, but not in you, you would remain lost forever. . . . The Cross on Golgotha cannot redeem you from evil if it is not raised up also in you" (pg 42). This reminds me of Pope Benedict's continued insistence in his writings that Christianity is primarily an encounter with Christ, an encounter that leaves the person never the same again.
"In the same way, every Christian 'apostolate' strays from love and becomes a rationalized siphoning of love (cf. Judas' pseudo-charitable objection to Mary's utterly 'wasteful' squandering in Jn 12:3-8) to the extent that absolute love does not receive a response that is likewise absolute and not directed to any ulterior end. We call this response 'worship' (Jn 4:24; 9:38; Rev 14:7), the pure 'thanks-giving' that gives glory (Mat 15:36 and parallels, Rom 1:8, etc; 1 Thess 5:18; Rev 4:9); it is a response that must be fashioned into a form that gathers up and confers meaning upon one's entire existence (1 Cor 10:31; Col 3:17). Unconditional priority must be accorded to the placing of oneself entirely at the disposal of divine love. Since it serves no ulterior purpose, this attitude of readiness cannot but appear useless in the eyes of the world, which is caught up in so many urgent and reasonable occupations(Lk 10:42)" pg 108.
Prayer, both ecclesial and personal prayer, thus ranks higher than all action, not in the first place as a source of psychological energy ("refueling", as they say today), but as the act of worship and glorification that befits love, the act in which one makes the most fundamental attempt to answer with selflessness and thereby shows that one has understood the divine proclamation. It is as tragic as it is ridiculous to see Christians today giving up this fundamental priority - which is witnessed to by the entire Old and New Testament, by Jesus' life as much as by Paul's and John's theology - and seeking instead an immediate encounter with Christ in their neighbor, or even in purely worldly work and technological activity. Engaged in such work, they soon lose the capacity to see any distinction between worldly responsibility and Christian mission. Whoever does not come to know the face of God in contemplation will not recognize it in action, even when it reveals itself to him in the face of the oppressed and humiliated" pg 109.