Saturday, December 29, 2007

Hope Answered

Unfinished Russian Icon

If you strip away all the cynicism, stoicism, addictions, and posturing that we learn in order to "grow up" in a world that seems to want to eat us up and spit us out, what is left of us?

What I have seen in small children and in adults who seem allergic to the expedient measures that so many adopt in order to survive -- or to do what they call surviving -- is an openness, an asking, a wondering and a waiting for something.

When something new appears on the horizon -- a move or a new school or new neighbors or an approaching holiday, something observable happens to the children. There is a tension in the air -- we could all see it, all during Advent: Will the wonderful really happen? The wonderful is going to happen?! But will it really happen?

And then, after the new thing has passed, the inevitable feeling of deflation, disappointment, sadness, emptiness -- again, we can see it in the children; it is observable: It was sort of wonderful, but it wasn't the wonderful thing, the truly wonderful thing...

It seems to me that the presents, the traditions, the candy, the lights and decorations are all really there to show us that they are not enough. As parents, we can buy our children everything their hearts desire -- except the one thing that will make them truly happy.

So then the Christmas season becomes a time of explaining, teaching, consoling...

This seems to be the true value of this season -- to show that what we think we want, what we think will make us happy, will never make us happy! It is really a horrible and cruel process unless we have something to give that is greater than what is promised by the wrapping paper and bows and ribbons.

Father Giussani (and now Father Carron) have been stressing that what we need is a conversion of desire. Without this conversion of desire -- without an understanding that even the warm feeling within our families, even the best love that a mother can give to her child, will never ever be enough, we are left with a series of betrayals. Parents betrayed because all they spent on gifts will never be appreciated and children betrayed because their parents will never love them enough.

What can satisfy our souls? What can give us what we need? What will fill that huge longing we feel that we must learn, somehow, to make friends with and carry with us through life? Because it doesn't go away. We can turn cynical, we can adopt attitudes and we can pretend not to need -- but we can't get rid of the need.

Christmas, even more than Easter, is proof that we are made for the Infinite, and only the Infinite will satisfy us. Unless we find a way to possess the Infinite, we will be forever sad and forever hungry. So, my friends, how will be find it? Where will we look? It is essential that we look! It is the most pressing need we have. Otherwise, we will indeed by eaten up and spat out by every circumstance. We will live our lives betrayed and lonely, feeling like our hearts have been carved out.

Only the Infinite. We must ask ourselves, where will we find the Infinite???

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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."