Saturday, December 29, 2007

Freedom Notes from an address by Julian Carron at the CL Opening Day for Adults in Lombady, Italy, September 30, 2006

"What educates us is an event. It is fundamental to help each other to understand this. So our meetings are gestures, not simply words. What broadens the mind is not an abstract argument, but taking part in an event.... It is not a matter of ability or cleverness. We are poor wretches. it is only by letting ourselves be involved in a gesture as beggars, going to Communion as poor wretches, to receive strength from an Other, that we can breathe, for Christ came for this, to facilitate this use of reason, to broaden it.

"'Soon afterward he journeyed to a city called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd accompanied him. As he drew near to the gate of the city, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. A large crowd from the city was with her. When the Lord saw her, he was moved with pity for her and said to her, "Do not weep." He stepped forward and touched the coffin; at this the bearers halted, and he said, "Young man, I tell you, arise!" The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, exclaiming, "A great prophet has arisen in our midst," and "God has visited his people."'

"Why do they think of God? Why can they not stop at what they see? The event before them will not let them get bogged down in their own measure. This is what facilitates the broadening of reason, to the point of recognizing God, of glorifying God.

"Now this is the definitive method. In all circumstances we can verify the Christian faith, because the Christian faith is not the prolongation of Christ's words -- if there is faith, it is because the event of His presence goes on happening amongst us. Either Christianity is an event in action, or it has changed its nature -- in other words, it is no longer Christianity. It's not just a matter of using the expression, "Christianity is an event." It is not an event because I say so, it is an event if it happens. We cannot get out of it by using formulas or labels -- it is a present event.

"As I have said on a number of occasions in various settings, I am really astounded at how many events have happened amongst us over the past year. But I need to acknowledge them, I need that 'human genius' Fr. Giussani spoke of, aand that we recalled at La Thuile, that poverty of spirit that makes us let ourselves be struck by what happens. We are often concerned with other things, and not open to accept what happens; our thoughts or our opinions seem more useful, more intelligent than what happens. But reality is stubborn and, as Pavese said, 'the most resolute thought is nothing compared with what happens.'

"Here is what happens when a person is willing to be struck: 'I would like to thank you because these days have been a privileged occasion for me to grasp better to whom I belong.' The writer is a university man. 'When we are with you, this comes out more and more clearly. Some weeks ago, I began to study again At the Origin of the Christian Claim and I was struck by what Fr. Giussani said in the Foreward: "What makes us grow and broadens our mind is not abstract reasoning, but finding in humanity a moment when the truth is attained and uttered." This happened to me. I have grown, I went away more expert in life, in myself, not because I learned something new in the argument, but because I met someone who introduced me to this absolute novelty. Now I am more certain that the only road is the sequela, curious to discover, to know and to fall more in love with Christ, through those who, in reality, make me meet Him as a living reality. Thank you for the education you offer me -- it is the only way not to succumb to nothingness.' [...]

"Another person, who...attended our visit to South America, wrote to me: 'Before you arrived, I asked myself many times what I was expecting, and the only answer I was able to give that really satisfied me was what Fr. Giussani had said , "It seems to me they are not looking for Christ." What I wanted was this [to look for Christ]. Fr. Giussani affirms, "If you could carry with you the content of the awareness of all the past days, of the years spent in the Memoris Domini [group of vowed lay religious with CL] or in the 'verification' or in the Movement, I don't know if you wouldn't feel covered with shame...if we were to realize in that moment that we have never said 'You.' [We can ask ourselves this -- when was the last time we said, 'You,' with all the awareness and emotion we are capable of?] Lord, You are the One I love [St. Augustine said]: 'What does man desire more than the truth?' What is the truth? A man who is present, a man who is present: he cannot be squandered or washed away by the pretty and jolly appearance of the companionship of faces that should be a sign of Him! This happens when you really say 'You' with all the awareness of your 'I' -- the more you are aware of yourself, the stronger, greater, truer, simpler and purer is your devotion to Him." Your simplicity, your clarity, your affection, your way of constantly challenging reality, seeking a verification in it, have truly won me over and made me understand once again the preference and the fullness of the life of Jesus, the life Jesus has us experience every day, and now there is all the desire that this beauty accompany my life and that of all my friends who have seen it.'

"In this way, each one of us can become a companion for others. It is not a question of being good (and we will not be), but of letting ourselves be drawn along by His presence. This is what enables us to look at everything, even what doesn't look nice..."

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Dumbstruck by the Mystery

...our temptation is always to impose our prejudices or our measure on reality -- except when we are faced with a fact that leaves us dumbstruck, and instead of dominating the fact ourselves, we are dominated, overcome by it. If there were no moments of this kind, the Mystery could do anything, but in the end, we would reduce everything to the usual explanation. But not even a Nobel Prize winner can stop himself from being dumbstruck before an absolutely gratuitous gesture. If there were not these moments, we would find answers, explanations, and interpretations to avoid being struck by anything. It is good that some things happen that we cannot dominate, then we have to take them seriously, and this is the great question of philosophy. If the conditions for the possibility of knowledge (see Kant) impose themselves on reality or if there is something that is so powerfully disproportionate that it does not let itself be "grasped" by the conditions of possibility, then the horizon opens. If this were not the case, then we could dominate everything and be in peace, or at least without drama. Instead, not even the intelligence of a Nobel Prize winner could prevent him from coming face-to-face with a fact that made him dumbstruck -- instead of dominating, it was he who was dominated. Here begins the drama, because I am called to answer. It is the drama that unfolds between us and the Mystery, through certain facts, certain moments, in which the Mystery imposes itself with this evidence. These are facts that we cannot put in our pocket, which we cannot reduce to antecedent factors.
-- Julian Carron in "Friends, that is, Witnesses."