Friday, August 22, 2008

What use do you make of the light?

George De la Tour, Education of the Virgin

With Jesus you cannot not be middle-of-the-road. Either he is what he claims to be, or he is not a great man, but rather a great lunatic lifted up by history. There are no half-measures. There are buildings and structures made of steel -- I believe that the Eiffel Tower in Paris is one -- made in such a way that if you touch a certain point or remove a certain element, everything will come down. The edifice of the Christian faith is like this, and this neuralgic point is the divinity of Jesus Christ.

But let us leave aside the responses of the people and consider the nonbelievers. Believing in the divinity of Christ is not enough; you must also bear witness to it. Whoever knows him and does not bear witness to this faith, indeed even hides it, is more responsible before God that those who do not have this faith.

In a scene in Paul Claudel’s play “The Humiliated Father,” a Jewish girl, beautiful but blind, alluding to the double meaning of light, asks her Christian friend: “You who see, what use have you made of the light?” It is a question that is asked of all of us who claim to be believers (from a meditation by Father Raniero Cantalamessa, the Pontifical Household preacher. The readings for this Sunday are Isaiah 22:19-23; Romans 11:33-36; Matthew 16:13-20).

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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."