Wednesday, February 27, 2008

At home

We moved into this house two and a half years ago, but only in the past day or two have I started to feel at home in it. With each move, it seems to take me longer to feel as though I belong in a house. I began to feel at home in this community, with my new neighbors and friends, much more quickly. But this house, which I loved the moment I first saw a picture of it, has felt like a place of exile all this time.

In one of last month's posts, I took a little moment to ponder the meaning of the word "house":

And then the Don Giussani's talk concludes with the introduction of a new term, "house":

And this vocational company has the house as its first way of documenting itself - not only in a chronological sense, but also as the force which shakes us as the angel "shook" Mary, shook her heart. So this word ... carries the total meaning of our lives: either we learn through that company or else we don't learn at all. This is why the Bible would make us talk about the house as the place - according to all the analogies the term has - where God communicates himself in his humanity, i.e. he communicates himself as Man-God.
When we begin to ponder what he could mean by "house," we have to turn to all the ways the word is used in the Bible -- "House" of David, meaning the unbroken line of descendants who are connected by the bonds of blood; "House" of the Lord -- the habitation, the place where God's glory dwells, the place where we go up with joy; "House" of God, where Jesus was outraged at the money-changers; "House" of his own body, which he would rebuild in three days; "House" that we build on the Rock and not on sandy soil; "House" or temple of the Holy Spirit, that is, our bodies; "House" built of living stones, of which Christ is the cornerstone and the apostles are the foundation; "House" of the new Jerusalem, bedecked with jewels, in which a room will be prepared for us...

On the wall of every Memoris Domini house, those who make up its companionship place a sign, which says, "The house is the place of memory." Those in Memoris Domini are the living "memory of God," present in the world: "Memory is the consciousness of a presence that has begun and lasts: memory is the consciousness of His presence.... Memory has become the most important word of our community: the community is the place where one lives memory. I would like to detail some aspects of this reality of the community, a word that indicates a companionship that is not born of the flesh or blood but from Christ, whose life is memory. As St. Catherine of Siena said: 'Memory has been filled with blood.' Our memory is filled with the blood of the cross and of the glory of the resurrection, because the Cross of Christ cannot be conceived without the resurrection" (Don Giuss).

The house is the place of memory. I've lived in 23 houses (including apartments) in 42 years of life, and these houses have been more the subject of memory, rather than the place of memory. In fact, many of these houses have felt like places of exile. I am also reminded of my insightful friend who once commented that I am like a homeless person who wears her whole wardrobe at all times, winter coats even in the blazing heat, because I have no place to put things away. She was struck by the way I lived the memories I had accumulated, like layers of clothing, that interfered with my ability to live with my current "weather." But what of the memory of God? It was buried deep beneath the layers: muffled, obscured.

I still struggle with a literal and figurative inability to put things away.
St. Joseph Catholic Church in Hong Kong, where I received First Communion and Confirmation

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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."