Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Freedom and choice


Much more deeply than a capacity for choosing, freedom is the humble, passionate, faithful, and total dedication to God in daily life. -- Father Giussani, The Religious Sense, page 92
I want to return to this insight by Father Giussani, because once we recognize that freedom is the capacity for the infinite -- that is, humble and passionate dedication to God in daily life, then we are still left with the banal fact that our daily lives are filled with choices.

It follows that if we are humbly and passionately dedicated to God in every moment, then when we stand in front of any given choice, we will follow the sound of his voice -- we will recognize and follow him. Suddenly even the most "secular" and insignificant choices become freighted with meaning, when we face each one with this knowledge in our hearts. I think this is why Father Giussani always insisted on the religious sense -- that is, an awareness that I do not make myself but in every moment I am made by another -- that in the most radical way, I depend on Another, who breathes me into existence. If I live with this awareness, then I recognize that I do not belong to myself but to this Other. My choices are made on behalf of another. How true it is that immorality is based in forgetfulness of what and who we are!

Christ, with exactitude and beautifully, reveals to us Who this "Other" is -- he is God, who is at the foundation, the origin of everything. And we are to call him our Abba, Father, because his Law (which includes the marvelous order and complexity of the cosmos) is one of Love. The particular way that he loves us is enacted in Christ, who ate with sinners, had compassion on all our weakness, healed those who were suffering, reversed the frightful destructive power of nature, was fearless and truthful in front of hypocrites, saw through to our great human needs and never told us to deny them, and gave himself in a way that still fills us with wonder and trembling gratitude. In his actions and words, we can see the Father himself. Because of Christ, we know Whom we are dedicated to, we can understand and recognize the voice that calls us in all the small and large choices of our lives, so that we won't be led astray.

And now we come to one of the more mysterious things that Father Giussani teaches -- that we must learn to use our freedom well because our freedom is the most dramatic expression of who we are. Many who decry moralism don't seem to recognize that Father Giussani was himself a tremendously moral man, who accepted the challenge of freedom. The way to defeat moralism is not to have contempt for rules of any kind. Instead, we must get to know the Father intimately and live our religious sense, our radical dependence, in each and every moment that presents itself to our freedom. It was this passion for getting to know the Father, through his self-revelation in Christ, that informed and shaped the way that Father Giussani read the Gospel -- so that those who have heard his meditations (particularly those who were able to be present with him as he meditated aloud on the Gospel) are always struck, always say that they feel they are there, present with the apostles, as if these events were happening to them.

These events do happen to us. They are present in our own flesh and blood, as long as we're not forgetful. It would be a good thing for Christians to read the Gospel as Fr. Giussani does, to really live the Gospel, as a life that is the reality of our lives.

1 comment:

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."