10 december 2016

#440. Karl Barths dödsdag…

Natten mellan den nionde och tionde december 1968 avled Karl Barth.

”On Monday 9 December he spent the day working on his lecture again. He was still at work in the evening when he was interrupted by two telephone calls, about nine o’clock. One was from his godson Ulrich Barth, to whom he quoted a verse from a hymn which spoke comfortingly about the Christian hope. The other person who wanted to speak to him so late at night was his friend Eduard Thurneysen, who had remained faithful to him over sixty years. They talked about the gloomy world situation. Then Barth said, ’But keep your chin up! Never mind! ”He will reign!”’ When the telephone rang he had been writing a few sentences of the draft for his lecture in which he was saying that in the Church it is always important to listen to the Fathers who have gone before in the faith. For ’"God is not a God of the dead but of the living.” in him they all live’ – from the Apostles down to the Fathers of the day before yesterday and of yesterday.

Barth did not go back to his draft which he had left in the middle of a sentence, but put it aside until the next day. However, he did not live that long. He died peacefully some time in the middle of the night. He lay there as though asleep, with his hands gently folded from his evening prayers. So his wife found him the next morning, while in the background a record was playing the Mozart with which she had wanted to wake him.

A little earlier he had written in a letter: ’Looking back, I have no serious complaints about anyone or anything: except my own failures today, yesterday, the day before yesterday and the day before that – I mean my failures in real gratitude. Perhaps I have bitter days ahead, and certainly my death will come sooner or later. One thing remains, for me to remember and impress upon myself, in respect of yesterday and all the days which have gone before, and again in respect of all those which may follow, and of that last day which is certainly coming: ”Do not forget the good that he has done!”’

Barth had also put in his note some sentences which did not find their way into the letter: ’How do I know whether I shall die easily or with difficulty? I only know that my dying, too, is part of my life… And then – this is the destination, the limit and the goal for all of us – I shall no longer ”be”, but I shall me made manifest before the judgement seat of Christ, in and with my whole ”being”, with all the real good and real evil that I have thought, said and done, with all the bitterness that I have suffered and all the beauty that I have enjoyed. There I shall only be able to stand as the failure that I doubtless was in all things, but… by virtue of his promise, as a peccator justus. And as that I shall be able to stand. Then… in the light of grace, all that is now dark will become very clear.’

On 13 December Karl Barth was buried in the Hörnli cemetery in Basle. Only his family and closest friends attended the funeral, at which his last parish minister from the Bruderholz and his last assistant gave addresses; his sons Markus and Christoph spoke some words from the Bible at the graveside. On 14 December there was a memorial service in Basle Cathedral, which was packed to overflowing.”

  • #391. Karl Barths födelsedag…
  • Busch, Eberhard, 1976: Karl Barth, His life from letters and autobiographical texts. Eugene, Wipf and Stock Publishers. (Utg. på tyska av Theologischer Verlag Zürich 1975.) S 497-499.

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