Wednesday, January 9, 2008

True Religiosity

From the Communion and Liberation Responsibles' International Assembly, La Thuile, 2007:

Question: It is true that the reminder of religiosity seems little to us. Usually, for us in the U.S., religiosity is understood as being spiritual, or sentimental, or pietistic, etc, taking us out of reality. So help us to understand better what religiosity is and how it takes us into reality.

Carron: The first thing to understand is what religiosity is, because if religiosity is being "spiritual," sentimental, or pietistic, then it has nothing to do with reality. But if religiosity is the need the "I" has for totality, if it is the awareness of one's own constitutional needs, in experience we can begin to discover what reawakens these demands, that need for totality we have in us. Then we begin to understand that what reawakens religiosity is precisely reality. This is Fr. Giussani's great genius, and we have been educated to it in Chapter 10 of The Religious Sense (which we still find hard to understand as the key to our way of thinking). He says there that, in order to be religious, we have to live reality intensely, for it is reality that astounds us, fills us with wonder and therefore, through all its attractiveness it reawakens the ultimate questions, it reawakens that need for totality.

And reality can be beautiful or ugly. It is not that when you are ill those questions are not reawakened. They are not reawakened only by the beauty of the mountains. A sickness, mine or someone else's, can bring them out, and dramatically. It is reality that brings to the surface all the need for meaning we have in our relationship with everything. So we can say that, without reality, without a relationship with reality, there is no religiosity. There is not on one side religiosity and on the other side relationship with reality -- without reality there is no religiosity, there is no "I."

However, letting oneself be reawakened by reality does not mean stopping short at appearances. If we stop short at appearances, sooner or later reality will no longer interest us. We have all experienced how many times things that have aroused our interest in time lose their fascination, their capacity to interest us. Reality awakens religiosity in so far as I let myself be led to the very depths of it. So, in that chapter, Fr. Giussani does not stop short at the initial wonder, which does not last with time (whether it is Dante or something else). We have to be careful -- if we don't cover the whole way to the point where reality springs up, up to the "You," then reality sooner or later interests us no more, and this happens with the things that most draw us, even where the attraction is strongest, as in love -- if we don't reach that point, in time even your wife will not last. What a Mystery! It is a question then of going to the core of reality, to its very depth, right to the "You" that makes it spring up. If we don't get to that point, sooner or later our interest fades.

Instead when I reach the point of recognizing this "You" that fascinates the "I," that reawakens it constantly, the whole of reality, right to the finest detail or the most apparently insignificant things, takes on an interest for me: "In the experience of a great love, everything becomes an event in its sphere," everything! If we don't come to recognize the "You," nothing in the end remains attractive. In other words, without religiosity, without going to the core of reality, everything is stifling, everything is disappointing, even the finest things, because what attracts me is the depth, the Mystery which is at the depth of things. If we eliminate the Mystery from reality, sooner or later reality interests us no more. It is an inexorable dynamic, but we want to understand this dynamic from within another dynamic, so as to restart constantly from there. Otherwise, everything becomes moralism, and so, sooner or later we will go home disappointed and tired. For it cannot be a moralism that reawakens my "I," it cannot be an energy of mine -- I don't have it. It has to be constantly reawakned by a Presence that is before me. This is why Christ came.

So to live religiosity brings us into reality, into its core. Going to the depth of reality is what true religiosity is, that openness to totality that defines man. So we can understand the importance of Jesus' insistence on the question of religiosity: without it the "I" cannot breathe, it suffocates, and sooner or later it no longer interests us, its interest fades. Jesus does not come to make us a bit more pious, a bit more "religious" in the sense you said before (spiritual, sentimental, pietistic). No! It is reality, life that is at stake. This is the way of perceiving religiosity that the grace of the charism brought to us. So if we don't want to lose it, we have to become more and more His children. Otherwise, not even these things will interest us in time.

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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."