A Verse of Matthias Claudius

Urs von Balthasar, Hans trans. John Riches

Ignatius, 1975

pp. 11 - 13

To receive a gift, say “’Thank you! It makes me very happy! I am so pleased to have it! It will remind me of you!’” Keep it simple. Don’t complicate matters. Don’t “divide the indivisible.” Don’t (1)pretend not to want it. “’Oh, that’s much too good for me. You shouldn’t have. Please take it back and use it yourself.’” (2) Question the motive. What’s behind this? Why does he want to make me feel indebted? Is he trying to humiliate me with so expensive a gift, knowing I can’t reciprocate? (3) Examine it too closely. (Look a gift horse in the mouth). “’Is it an original or mass-produced?’ Has it been cast in one piece or stuck together?’ How much did it cost and what would I find out if I shopped around and compared it with stuff on display?’” (4) Think of and describe a more-needed item. Imagine Jesus saying “she gave me expensive perfume, but what the son of Man really needs is a good room in the inn.” Professors lose their jobs for accepting things “uncritically,” but that’s the only way to take a gift.. “Christianity only comes in view when it is “accepted.” A present is supposed to mediate love to love. If you get critical you short-circuit the love.