Saturday, January 12, 2008

Response to Marie

While trying to comment on one of Marie's posts, Perceiving the Imperceptible, I found myself on the fourth paragraph in that tiny comment window and realized that this is just too big for a fast couple of sentences. So, here's what I was trying to write on her blog:

You remind me of something that Father Giussani talks about in The Risk of Education. Without the companionship of others, who also walk this path, it is almost impossible to take the risk of "verifying" Christ's claim, worded variously, that he is the meaning of everything, that he makes all things new, that nothing is impossible with him.

What I want to push myself to do is to get to the bottom of HOW these changes are wrought in us. For me, this is the most terrifying question to examine because when I do start to examine it, I begin to recognize that yes, it is through the grace of God, but specifically, it is through the grace of God working in human particulars. For me, it is the companionship of our School of Community that has given me new wings in these past couple of years. Why is it so terrifying to say this? Because our School of Community, being a human reality, feels ephemeral, something made out of flesh and blood and human quirks, something that seems subject to all the vicissitudes of other human interactions and exchanges. What if you were to suddenly become so annoyed with the group that you decided to stop coming? What if all these wonderful pregnancies our members are experiencing make life too difficult or complicated to continue with School of Community? What if people take jobs or move away or, or, or...I don't want to feel dependent on School of Community, or any particular human reality that might dry up or change or leave me by the side of the road. Father Giussani says, "This is man's choice: either he conceives of himself as free from the whole universe and dependent only on God, or free from God and therefore the slave of every circumstance."

But I can't be dependent on God as an abstraction -- dependent on God only in my heart, in my head, in the heavens...I want to see his face, I want to touch his hands, put my nose in the folds of his garment. How can I do that if I do not entrust myself to the human reality where he manifests himself? Even if that human reality sometimes scandalizes me or disappoints me or even hurts me?

My commitment to School of Community, and to the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, feels like a huge gamble, a giant risk, for these reasons. My commitment to relationships outside of CL also feels like a huge risk, too, something that will certainly lead to hurt. What gives me the strength to face these risks? Why can I face people and situations that feel foreign and unpredictable and outside my frame of reference?

Because it is only in the Church, and only where I am with others who are passionately committed to making the Church present, making Christ present in human reality, that I can best be reminded that I am dependent only on God, on Emmanuel, God-with-us, Christ. What is it that happens in School of Community that doesn't happen anywhere else? What makes it that without School of Community, I would find my life as a Christian more arduous, a slower trek? It seems to me that when I am with others, who are actively looking for examples from their own experience, suddenly my attempts to "lift my gaze" are helped. It is not that I "make myself" part of the Body of Christ and thus gain something -- it's that suddenly I am no longer a finger trying to do without eyes and ears -- suddenly I am not a finger searching in the silent dark for the right key to press. Suddenly I know not only where to put my finger, but there are nine others that are also playing on the "instrument" that is life -- and what music!!

This is from the Spiritual Exercises: "This is why we have to stop saying, 'I can't.' What kind of circumstance can prevent a person from lifting his gaze, as Father Giussani said in one of the latest Traces inserts, and saying 'You' to the Mystery? No power of this world can prevent it, but none can force it. This is the greatness; this is the unique value of our person" (Carron, pp 18-19).

It's the music that gives me the courage to remain -- and the fact that when I am with my friends I can actually hear it.


Marie said...

Ah!! Suzanne!!!

My first reaction is a comment which comes blasting out of my heart like water from a... geyser, that's the word.

Yes, I can say that School of Community is the wind beneath my wings, or a grace-pump into my life. You, in particular, are that for me, it is true! But (here's the geyser comment to which words do no justice) SoC, and you, and that fact that I have met both -- this is pure gift from God to me! As such, SoC and our friendship seem no riskier to me than any gift of God in my life.

And how risky is that? I know my husband and both of my children as unique gifts from God. And I hope this doesn't sound too creepy, but I do fairly regularly contemplate that any one of them could die at any time. I could die. That is part of the reality of the gift; we hold this treasure in earthen vessels.

But we HOLD the treasure!

Here's another freaky statement: Until after I left home for college, I had a fear that one day my mother would disappear out of my life the way I experienced my father moving out of my life. That whole fear of abandonment has been an abyss I've stared into for a long time. I think it is *because* of CL that I finally realize why it is even a fear: because I need human companionship. Somehow knowing that, and knowing that God meets my needs, frees me from the fear.

So much more to say and ponder... there always is...

Love to you, my friend!

Suzanne said...

This is what I love about you, Marie! You're so courageous! None of what you say seems freaky in the least. How does anyone avoid the knowledge that the ones we love and hold dearest could die? It's a knowledge that keeps me honest. Still, it also makes me tremble.

Thank you for you.

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."