Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Adherence and authority (another exercise)

Let the work on Father Giussani's texts continue...

The Journey to Truth Is an Experience:


  • "When God turns to man to ask something of him, the Bible describes the dialogue with sublime simplicity. God calls by name, which is the sign of the person as a unique and free individual; and the person's adherence is free and unique: 'here I am!' In Christianity, the only thing that matters is the value of the person, because everything else depends on this; and the value of the person is measured by that free adherence... Perhaps the most understandable and clearest moment for us is the figure of the Blessed Virgin. 'Ave Maria -- Fiat': In the impenetrable free intimacy of this gesture of offering and acceptance lies the cornerstone of God's mysterious encounter with the human person." (15)
  • "Adherence to Christianity, inasmuch as it is purely mechanical, has no value. Thus, we must question any purely traditional attachment or sudden enthusiasm. Freedom's proper setting is enlightened and conscious conviction. If we wish to solicit another's freedom genuinely then we must act freely. Only one's own commitment can reach another person. The Christian proposal can only be offered to another seriously. The communication of Christianity is thus the encounter of two freedoms, the reference of one person to another. Thus, it is love: 'He has elected us in Him ... for love.' Any generic attitude is useless: it is either negligence or presumption." (15)
  • "Let us now look at the factors of community: personal adherence, functionality (to be part of a whole), authority, and visible unity." (25)
  • "Personal Adherence: Our duty is to make ours all those things with which God lavishes His generous and deep love upon us. This is precisely how our personality develops, and this is called 'work.' This is all the more so when we are dealing with live and spiritual beings. We are called to discover their presence, to accept their person, to make their reality a part of ours; in a word, we are called to 'share' in their existence and ours, to 'share our life' (convivere) with them. This is the 'work' through which our personality becomes completely mature. It is called love." (25)
  • "Free adherence, at all times, is the only condition for participation: there is no enrollment and there are no statutory obligations. It is a movement, not an association." (48)
  • "We can have ideas and opinions that originate in Christian truth, but they are still not the redeeming Christian life. We are called to adhere to and participate in a reality that comes from outside ourselves: the community in which Christ places us."
  • "...The call [within the encounter] implies the proposal of a truth so existential, of something so pertinent to our nature and life, that we feel compelled to try to understand where it is taking us: we feel motivated to adhere it it...Peter's expression in the Synagogue of Capernaum is the simplest yet most powerful example of the call and proposal immanent in the encounter with Christ, and of its force, which compels adherence to Him: 'Lord, to whom shall we go? Only you have the message of eternal life,' the words that give meaning and value to our lives. It should be noted that only those who continuously followed and sincerely committed themselves to Jesus felt the strength of that proposal in all its intensity." (97)
  • "We must live this Reality [the mystery of the visible Church], commit ourselves wholly to it; that is enter it and compare all its movements, motives, and directives with the ultimate needs of our humanity. And insofar as we discover that those suggestions, those directives, those initiatives respond to our authentic human needs and help us to understand them, our adherence and conviction will be deep and definitive. So it is not a matter of studying theology or forming a group, it involves everything, all of life, because the proposal comes to us and meets us as a new life. To be 'convinced' means that the totality of our 'I' is bound to something: thus shall we all be bound to that Reality. That Reality will become us and we shall sense that we are that Reality...Whoever does not undergo this verification process will remain a Christian, but have nothing new to say, or else will simply leave." (98)
  • "A mechanical attachment to a certain position, as if it were almost a party line, is not the verification of a calling; a merely curious attitude is even less so; and yet less so is a spirit bent on accusing and judging possible faults; nor can we call frequent, material, external, passive participation a verification. To verify we must commit ourselves completely, with a clear and renewed concentration...Only if we neglect our most basic human needs will we not take the Christian proposal seriously. There is no getting away from that calling: either adherence, which establishes its own drama, that of commitment and holiness; or the search, just as loaded with consequences. The true, genuine human attitude of those who know that they do not make themselves is to search for their own origins and destiny." (99-100)
  • "Once our adherence is no longer vital, our appeal becomes automatic, as if we were expounding a formula or ideology. Such an appeal is usually propaganda, which only generates arguments, making us feel estranged from others." (100)
  • "Even Christ's proposal in the beginning was simple and essential: in fact He proposed that only specific truths (dogmas), sacramental gestures, and authority in the community were compulsory, thus making it clear that the Church is extremely careful about the elements it considers to be compulsory." (14)
  • "Among the various tasks carried out by the members of a community, the most meaningful is giving consistency to the community and expressing it in its totality, that is, in its inspiring principle and in its reality: the unifying function of the community. That is the task of authority. Authority is thus the expressive sign of unity, but above all it is the founding and responsible function of all the life of the community. This is a triple function: • to solicit people's initiative to form a community (the function of calling others); • to preserve the features of the community, defining it clearly within its limits (the function of the ultimate point of reference); • to develop the community, establishing it ever more firmly in reality (the function of education)...Thus authority, rather than being a right, should be a fact, the fact of an exceptional communital spirit." (28)
  • "We abandon ourselves to authority, that is, we love others as ourselves above all, in obedience...To advance towards the fullness of our personality is only truly possible in the concrete gesture of leaving behind our own limits to adhere passionately to the hypothesis of total meaning that authority implies. Education without authority is impossible by nature, in that it leaves the person to be educated alone in the struggle to overcome his or her limitations... [and] it is impossible that our humanity be attracted by nothing else but itself. The Christian community values and takes to the limit the natural rule of education, of following an authority." (29)
  • "Yet even this acceptance can reveal the profoundly different commitment that the individual lives in the community. One might be aware of authority and consider it a factor external to oneself, often only to be judged and criticized. This is a passive, uncommitted attitude. Instead, one must make oneself present to authority: that is, offer oneself actively to it, in an untiring dialogue of collaboration, like Christ's dialogue with the Father. If the community is my person in its greater reality and thus more alive and free, authority must be loved as the most expressive part of myself. To accept authority so readily is the richest way to share, the truest charity." (29)
  • Fr. Giussani sums up a passage on authority (56-57) as follows: "Thus authority is born as a wealth of experience that imposes itself on others. It generates freshness, wonder, and respect. Inevitably, it is attractive; it is evocative. Not to value the presence of this effective authority that His Being places in every setting is to cling pettily to our own limits...The encounter with this natural authority develops our sensitivity and our conscience; it helps us to discover better our nature and what we aspire to from the depths of our present poverty." (57)
  • "The supreme authority is the one in which we find the meaning of all our experience. Jesus Christ is this supreme authority, and it is His Spirit who makes us understand this, opens us up to faith in Him and His person...The apostles and their successors (the Pope and the bishops) constitute, in history, the living continuation of the authority who is Christ." (73)
  • "What genius is to the cry of human need, what prophecy is to our cry of expectancy, so the apostles and their successors are to announcing the response." (74)
  • "[The authority of the apostles and their successors] not only constitutes the sure criterion for that vision of the universe and history that alone explains their (i.e., the universe's and history's) meaning; it is also vital -- it steadfastly stimulates a true culture and persistently points to a total vision. It inexorably condemns any exaltation of the particular and idealization of the contingent; that is, it condemns all error and idolatry. The authority of the Pope and bishops, therefore, is the ultimate guide on the pilgrimage towards a genuine sharing of our lives [convivenza], towards a true civilization. Where that authority is not vital and vigilant, or where it is under attack, the human pathway becomes complicated, ambiguous, and unstable; it veers towards disaster, even when on the exterior it seems powerful, flourishing, and astute, as is the case today." (74)
  • "Still today it is the gift of the Spirit that allows us to discover the profound meaning of Ecclesiastical Authority as a supreme directive on the human path. Here is the origin of that ultimate abandonment and of that conscious obedience to it -- this is why it is not the locus of the Law but of Love." (74)
  • "The link to authority [which is the second of two conditions necessary for making the Church present; the first is unity expressed visibly], that is, to the bishop...This is the 'form' of every true Christian community, the factor that ensures its authenticity, its integration into the mystery of the Mystical Body, and thus also its participation in that redeeming power...Everything must be profoundly subordinated from its very origin to that point of reference [the bishop's authority] and, if needs be, sacrificed. It is through authority that the energy of the mystery emerges. That energy is not born of the shrewdness of our psychological and pedagogical conceptions nor of our social experiments...Without an immanent and expressed reference to the community and authority, a testimony can easily be reduced in the heart of an observer to an example of gentlemanly conduct, modernity of spirit, or social sensitivity; that is, to an idea or a way of life and not to a reality outside ourselves; to the 'glory' of man and not God, to another form of man's kingdom, not the Kingdom of God." (89)
  • "The spirit of intelligent, faithful obedience to authority marks the depth and stability of 'communion' in a Christian community." (113)
  • "So the more the environmental community tries to be loyal to its bishop, the more will it be an instrument that educates us in the sense of the Church...A Christianity filtered by our wisdom, reduced to ourselves, leads to ambiguity and not to witness." (119)
The commentary will come later. To supplement these excerpts, I am offering additional ones from Fr. Giussani's percorso trilogy at Cahiers Péguy,

1 comment:

kabloona said...

You overwhelm me with sheer volume of words! I am going to concatenate the three "Adherence" quotes and send them to my friends.

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."