Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Adhering (an exercise)

There are three references to "adhering" in The Religious Sense, all of which occur later in the book; and all three are related to the process of adhering to the truth or to reality. The drama, as Fr. Giussani relates it in The Religious Sense, is in the sense of risk we experience when faced with the distance between what we feel and what we know to be the truth. He says, "...Coherence [...] initiates the human being's unity. Coherence is the energy with which man takes hold of himself and adheres, 'fastens on' to what reason lets him see" (page 129). To illustrate this point, he gives an example of when he was a teen, hiking in the mountains. At a certain point, there was a chasm he had to leap across. His reason told him that the leap was safe, that his grown companions would catch him, but his fear (affectivity) would not let him move. It is analogous to the situation of the man who says, "Yes you are right, but I am not persuaded." Before we can even begin to consider following an authority, we must aim to be consistent -- we must make an effort of will to adhere to the truth. Fr. Giussani sums up this point as follows:

The real drama of the relation between the human being and God, through that sign which is the cosmos, through that sign which is experience, does not lie in the fragility of the reasons, because the entire world is one great reason and there does not exist one human outlook upon reality which does not feel the provocation of this perspective which supercedes it. The real drama lies in the will which must adhere to this overwhelming evidence, and the dramatic quality is defined by what I call risk. The human being undergoes the experience of risk in the following manner: despite reasons encouraging him to act, an individual is unable to do so. It is as if he were paralyzed, needed an extra dose of energy and will, of the energy of freedom, because freedom is the capacity to adhere to being. (131)
The word "adhere" also appears in At the Origin of the Christian Claim:
It is truly a dizzying condition to have to adhere to something whose presence I sense but cannot see, measure, or possess...And although devoid of the possibility of measuring and possessing that unknown, the reasonable man is still called to action, primarily to take account of his condition and, secondly, to adhere realistically, circumstance after circumstance, to existence as it presents itself. At the same time he is unable to see the all-supporting framework, the design through which the meaning takes shape...Man feels like he is traveling toward the unknown, adhering to every determinant and every step according to circumstances that present themselves as unavoidable solicitations; since he recognizes them as such, he should say a forceful "yes" with all the resources of his heart and mind, without "understanding." This is an absolutely precarious, dizzying condition. (page 7)
It is well that Fr. Giussani acknowledges this fact! The above quote comes from the introduction to the book, in which Fr. Giussani is setting the stage for an exploration of Christ's claim. In Chapter 6, "The Pedagogy of Christ's Self-Revelation," Giussani traces the movement from Christ's initial invitation, "Come with me," to the point where he "asked [his followers] to live 'For him' in the face of society...The Lord insists on this process: that he be followed to the extent of abandoning everything, and adherence to him cannot be truly complete, even if one is detached from all things, until one stands with him before everyone...The ultimate proof of the truth of any human sentiment is its presentation to 'the eyes of the world'..." (page 63). If it is dizzying to follow a great unknown, and unknowable and ungraspable Mystery, how much more so to follow this same Mystery, embodied in a man. It is one thing to acknowledge a "force" or an abstract Something that generates everything, including myself in every moment. It is another to recognize that Something standing before my eyes, looking like an ordinary person, and speaking to me with a human voice. And yet, if Jesus is who he says he is -- the Way, the Truth, and the Life -- then his demands are reasonable and as compelling as the "unknown" to which I must say my forceful "yes" with all the resources of my heart and mind. It is just interesting to note that this word, "adhering" carries with it the imperative to public acknowledgment. To adhere thus means to be a witness.

As we might expect, the incidence of the words "adhere," "adherence," and "adhering" multiplies in Why the Church? There are 27 separate entries in the index. The following list is not exhaustive but rather illustrative (italics all mine):
  • "The characteristic proper to the religious sense is that of being the ultimate, inevitable dimension of every gesture, of every action, of every type of relationship. It is a level of asking or an ultimate adherence that is an irremovable part of every instant of life because the depth of its need for meaning is echoed in every passion, initiative, and gesture...The proof that the religious sense is not adequately educated, as I mentioned earlier, can be found in this precise point: there exists a repugnance in us, a repugnance which has become instinctive, towards the idea that the religious sense might dominate, might consciously determine our every action...It is that widespread burdensome difficulty, that sense of extraneousness we feel when we hear it said that "god" is all-determining, the factor we cannot escape, the criterion by which we make choices, study, produce in our working lives, join a political party, carry out scientific research, look for a wife or husband, govern a nation. On one hand, education of the religious sense should foster the awareness of the fact that an inevitable and total dependence exists between man and what gives meaning to man's life..." (page 7)
  • "Although the first premise has already been formulated in our introductory reflections, it needs to be re-examined in detail in order to find a suitable answer to the question: 'How is it possible today to arrive at an objective evaluation of Christ, that is equal to the importance of the adherence he claims from us?'" (page 10)
  • "It is by encountering the unity of believers that we quite literally meet up with Christ, by encountering the Church as it emerges in the way it has been fixed by the Spirit. To encounter the Church, I must meet men and women in given surroundings. It is impossible to encounter the universal Church in its entirety, for this is an abstract image: we meet the Church as it emerges locally, in each environment. And in one's encounters with it, one has the chance to be serious in a critical way, so that any possible adherence to it -- and this is, indeed, serious, because the whole meaning of life depends upon it -- may be totally reasonable." (22)
  • "In the Introduction, I mentioned the difficulties experienced by contemporary man in approaching a reality of the religious type. These difficulties pertain, first of all, to understanding and then only adhering." (27)
  • "The Church feels itself to be the community of Jesus, the Messiah; this, not just because the disciples adhered to the ideals he preached (which they certainly did not grasp fully at the time), but because they abandoned themselves to him, alive and present among them, as he had promised to be: 'And know that, I am with you always; yes, to the end of time' (Matthew 28:20). In this they were truly adhering to all he had taught -- that his work was not a doctrine, not an inspiration of some kind for a more just life, but that he in person was sent by the Father to be a companion to man along his pathway." (70)
  • "This new people, in fact, is formed of those that God united in the name of their acceptance of his Son's coming: they could well be of different races, even each other's traditional enemies (as Jesus and the Samaritan women were); they may have vastly different ideas and backgrounds; they even may have been strangers in the world prior to this time. But as they are a people united by God through faith in Jesus Christ, any type of native or "carnal" qualification liable to keep human beings apart is radically overcome. Immediately then, the Christian phenomenon picks up on the "chosen by God" idea that Israel formulated, and, in its turn, it is molded by this idea, without any carnal limits, because God's choice coincides with adherence to faith in Christ." (78)
  • "In contrast to seeing with our own eyes, which engages only a part of our person, the figure of authentic testimony engages the adherence of our whole person. The witness is an entire personality at play, and for this reason, the entire personality of the listener is summoned to an engagement with it -- the light shed by a piece of evidence represents only one aspect of the personality. The testimony is a living oneness, an existential whole." (80-81)
  • "The first Christians were well aware that everything happening in them and among them -- the new and exceptional compared with the lives they had led before, the revolutionary compared with the lives so many others around them were leading -- was not the fruit of their adherence, of their intelligence, or of their will, but a gift of the Spirit, a gift from on high, a mysterious energy with which they were invested." (89)
  • "...The Christian is expected to experience and manifest...the dawn of a new world. This is reminiscent of one of Jesus' own expressions, promising that whoever devoted his whole life to following him would receive 'manifold more in this time and, in the age to come, eternal life' (Luke 18:30). An adult Christian, reasonable in his adherence to Christianity, is called to sense the whole existential weight of this phrase, to experience the stirring of its importance." (90-91)
  • "A prophet is one who announces the significance of the world and the value of life...The power of prophecy is the power to know what is real. Prophecy is not of man. It comes from on high...This capacity to adhere to and confess a new, unfolding reality begins to form among the early Christians on the day of Pentecost." (92)
  • "Today, only one great prodigy has taken the place of the original routine miracles and signs. Nevertheless, it is a miracle which, in order to be recognized, requires the same open soul, the same impetus of freedom that existed then. It is the miracle of our adherence as men to the reality of that Man of 2000 years ago, recognized as truly present in the face of the Church. It is the miracle by which Christ's Spirit conquers history. It is that fascinating event conveying the power of the Spirit to every corner of human affairs, the event by which Christ makes himself present, in the weakness, fear, timidity, and confusion of our persons in unity." (94)
  • "This is the opposite of moralism, of the sacrifice conceived and made in the name of a formal sense of duty. This is the gift of self to God, the gift as the true fruit of a person's adherence to the great fact based on the recognized state of communion: sharing the same reason for living." (101)
  • "But what is it that this particular category of Jesus' interlocutors [in Matthew 15-12-14] do not see? They do not see what they do not seek; in fact, what they seek is not the truth, as it presents itself, to which they closed their eyes, making themselves blind. Even today, if we are intent on finding fault with those who proclaim Christianity, or if we are waiting to be shocked, this is only an excuse for never adhering, for never having the need to change. For, in any case, there will always be faults, and to opt to fix one's gaze on them only means to make the fatal choice not to scan our horizons searching for what is worthwhile." (137)
  • "This is what the Church's appeal means as far as the multitude of human problems is concerned: it is a reminder of the fact of a Relationship which constitutes, right from our origins, the fundamental capacity of our person and of the entire history of humanity. The respect, adherence, seriousness, and love, which are the features of this relationship, also constitute the stability and foundation of all man's attempts to build, to find solutions to his problems." (154)
  • "Thus the tension to affirm reality, as did Christ's gaze, is the foundation of peace. This peace cannot last if it does not rest on the ultimate substance of reality, on the Mystery, which makes all things, on God, the Father. Without this final context, peace will be fragile and brittle. It will crumble into anxiety. The effort of faithfulness in following the truth is very different. It is a struggle, which is not the opposite to peace. And although it might be painful or weigh heavily upon us, it is not anxiety. Anxiety is a lie which continuously reemerges and nests in us to impede our adherence to all that in our conscience has emerged as truth. Peace is a war, but it is with ourselves." (162)
  • "...It was particularly significant to affirm this [the doctrine of the Assumption, in 1950] in a society where the value of life was being increasingly made to consist in success in the here and now. It was also a challenge to announce that the Christian event proclaims the value of the body's existence in eternity and that the value of life -- even of a totally unnoteworthy life -- lies, as the figure of Mary suggests, in living the moment as an aspect and in function of the love for everything. This is to say that the value of the moment does not lie in its immediate success but in the love for all things with which it is lived. In this way, then, nothing, not even a hair of our heads, will be lost. This is the affirmation of man's true dimension, which pressures his materialistic narrow-mindedness and, spurred on by his spirit, opens him up to the infinite...We are invited to look, that is, to a woman whose life can be summed up in own phrase -- fiat voluntas tua -- in accepting her mission. Thus...the fragility of man who becomes great only in adhering to God was reasserted..." (173)
  • "The idea of the saint in our religious tradition indicates a person who adheres, who corresponds to God. This is why, in Jewish ritual, God is described as thrice holy: obviously, as the supreme paradigm of adherence to his most intimate reality." (181)
  • "The term, sanctifying grace, then, confirms that those who adhere to this gratuitous initiative of God shall enter into a more profound relationship with Being to the extent that they become, as Paul says, part of Christ, members of his body..."(182)
  • "Man's need for salvation is such that the easiest way would be to find some kind of 'saving' mechanism that would touch him, involve him, but not depend on him. It is a need for a certainty that is easy to come by. And so we see pagan man, who eve in his most moving experiences, since he imagines himself to be dependent on a mysterious force, strives to divine its secrets so that he might use them to ensure an automatically guaranteed salvation for himself. But notwithstanding all the deviations of form possible, this is not the Church's position. In the Church, a person is wholly engaged, body and soul. His actions are free and his will is committed to transforming his entire person and entering the definitive ideal. Christianity, of course, can be reduced to a mechanism. But in asserting the constant, articulated presence in the life of man of Another who created and recreated him, the Christian message requires that man freely adhere to this presence. And it ensures the type of certainty that does not depend on any special effort of any automatism. It depends, rather, on the Other's Love." (195)
  • "And since freedom is the power of adhering to the object of our aspiration, man who is made for happiness, steers his free dynamism in pursuit of what Saint Augustine referred to as the 'greater fascination.' And this means an ever greater fullness of life, ever more total possession of being." (207)
  • "How can a life lived in pain become so rich and attractive? The energy deriving from adherence to the ultimate reality of things means that even what the world around sees as useless has its use: evil, pain, the fatigue of living, physical and mental handicap, boredom, and even resistance to God. Nothing cannot be transformed and admirably show the effects of that transformation if all life is being lived in relation to true reality -- if it is 'offered to God,' as Christian tradition puts it." (221)
  • "The reflections we have just concluded have been called in the Italian edition a percorso (parcours) in order to call to mind the idea of a journey and to affirm that these lessons of ours are simply meant to indicate milestones, signposts of the steps we should take if we wish to be reasonable. The value of traveling this particular road -- and this is the demand it makes on us -- lies in applying our critical awareness of free will, elements without which any adherence or refusal would be stripped of all that makes them effectively human. And since man is...a wayfarer striving to reach his destination, a traveler, it is better if he knows and loves the road at least enough to save him from wasting time and effort." (233)
The word "adhere," has such depth and far-ranging meaning in Why the Church?, that to contemplate all these passages is itself a dizzying task! Following this exercise, though, a few points come spontaneously to mind: adherence is not the fruit of our intelligence or will, it is a gift of the Spirit. Our adherence to Christ, present in the unity of the living Christian community, is the sign that we are members of God's chosen people. To adhere requires simplicity of heart. Adherence to God is adherence to reality, the circumstances he gives us as a series of constant, discreet invitations or solicitations. To adhere to God is also to correspond to God, and it is the primary quality that a saint possesses -- God himself possesses this quality in "triplicate" because he corresponds most perfectly to himself. Though adherence is not the fruit of the will, free will is an essential requirement for safeguarding that adherence is truly human; therefore, there is no mechanism that can guarantee it. Scandal is the greatest enemy of adherence; anxiety undermines adherence and destroys peace. Adherence to the unity of the Body of Christ is the natural consequence of recognizing the divinity of Christ. Christ's command to adhere requires total commitment, in every instant of life.


clairity said...

Wow, Suzanne! I'm still with you (thus a real friend). A lot to ponder.

Suzanne said...

I'm afraid to say that I'm only getting warmed up...

Freder1ck said...

I confess: I can't bring myself to read so many dense quotes on a blog post. But I've been reading the chapter on Freedom lately, and I really loved the common sense discussion of adherence by Fr. Giussani on p 105-107 of Is it Possible?

Suzanne said...

I was only making a stupid joke about being a "real friend"! Now I know I should have deleted that sentence! O, Fred!

Freder1ck said...

heh. all is forgiven. I was never offended because I have enough to do in tackling my own personal work without digging into yours as well!

Freder1ck said...


Suzanne said...


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."