“In Despair, Despair Not”

…”God’s distance” does not require one to abandon belief. In fact, [Rahner] regarded “the declared atheism of many people, theoretical as well as practical,” a hasty response to the experience of God’s distance.3 We need, he proposes, to allow ourselves to “mature expiatingly in the purgatory of this distance from God” by facing the “God-distance of a choked-up heart.”4 Rather than fleeing from despair, he enjoins submission to it. In undergoing the throes of despair, our idolatrous concepts of God collapse and crumble. Albeit paradoxical, the truth of his counsel – “in despair, despair not”5 – shine forth. “In despair” the choked-up heart’s idols are dislodged and purged. But then, in the emptiness, we “despair not” as we find the heart’s “deadly void”6 resounding with God’s presence. The darkness of God’s distance becomes, for duly purged senses, the luminous brightness of “God’s incomprehensibility, to whom no road is needed, because he is already there.”7 The despair of God’s insuperable distance gives way, in a transformative moment, as we are roused to experience anew God’s intimate presence.

Ryan Duns, SJ, “”In Despair, Despair Not”: Ways to God for a Secular Age”, Theological Studies 2020, Vol 81(2), 349.

All footnotes are as in the original, and come from Karl Rahner, The Great Church Year, ed. Albert Raffelt (New York: Crossroad, 1993). Pages are as follows 3 115 4 115 5 116 6 117 7 117.