"Love desires no recompense other than to be loved in return; and thus God desires nothing in return for his love for us other than our love. . . . To understand this deed of love primarily, not to say exclusively, as something passed on apostolically from man to man, would be to instrumentalize the revelation of absolute love, wholly reducing it to a means or impulse directed to a human end, rather than seeing it as personal and absolute itself. To center Christianity in anthropology and thus turn it into pure ethics would be to eliminate its theo-logical dimension. Israel . . . must remain a warning in this respect: the jealous God, who makes a gift of himself in the covenant, desires in the first place nothing other than his partner's zealously faithful love—for him. Indeed, we must love absolute love and direct our love to the Lover, setting aside all other relative and competing objects of love. To the extent that we do not remain absolutely faithful to absolute love, these objects turn into idols. The bridegroom and the bride in the Song of Songs have no children; they are everything and sufficient for one another, and all their fruitfulness lies enclosed within the circle of their mutual love: hortus conclusus, fons signatus.
"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'. . . . 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). . . . God's love, from which all fruitfulness stems, will be powerful enough to produce all of the fruit pleasing to him in mankind and the world out of this single-hearted nuptial surrender. . . .
"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 loose 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.
"Moreover, the celebration of the Eucharist is itself an anamnesis, which means that it is contemplation in love and the communion of love with love; and it is only from such a celebration that a Christian mission goes out into the world: 'Ite missa-missio est!'"
Hans Urs von Balthasar, Love alone is credible, trans. D. C. Schindler, chap. 8 ("Love as deed") ((San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 109).
He who "Gottes Antlitz nicht aus der Kontemplation kennt, wird es in der Aktion nicht wiedererkennen, selbst dann nicht, wenn es ihm aus dem Antlitz der Erniedrigten und Beleidigten entgegenleuchtet.
"Auch die Feier der Eucharistie is Anamnesis und darin Kontemplation der Liebe mit Liebe; und nur von ihr her ergeht ein christliches Ite Missa-Missio est! in die Welt."
Hans Urs von Balthasar, Glaubhaft ist nur Liebe, 6th ed. (Einsiedeln, 2000), 73, as quoted by Jan-Heiner Tück in "Verborgene Gegenwart und betrachtendes Verweilen: zur poetischen Theologie des Hymnus «Adoro te devote»," Communio: Internationale katholische Zeitschrift 34, no. 4 (2005): 403 and 414n12 (401-418).