Monday, January 26, 2009

Conscious of self

Right after I last posted on this subject, I had further thoughts, but only now am I able to snatch a couple of minutes to type them out.

Awareness is such a big word for Fr. Giussani. So much hinges on whether we are aware that Another is making us right now, that we are all one by virtue of our Baptism, that our desires point us to the Infinite, that Christ's resurrection from the dead has infused all reality with his presence... Once we become aware of reality, aware of the truth of reality, aware of the facts, life in Christ --this new life that is noticeably different, noticeably more alive -- is born as a fruit of our awareness.

What are we aware of in any given moment? What rivets our attention? What is the premise that forms our opinions in an situation? What is our starting point? As Fr. Giussani points out, what we hold most dear surfaces in the way that we interact with reality. Here is a beautiful passage from the first Spiritual Exercises that Fr. Giussani gave:

For some years now, I have used a comparison that re-proposes this awareness as an image. I believe that we really have to take literally what Christ said: “If you do not become like little children, you will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” When does a child wholly express himself, when is he truly and wholly himself, if not in the instant in which, in a situation of calm, in a moment of joy, in adverse or painful circumstances, he looks at his mother and there is a fraction of time in which he seems to forget everything, in which what fills his face, what fills his person–in other words, his consistency–is the presence of that woman or that man, his father? What characterizes a child is that his consistency is the presence of another, an adult, a woman or a man–all his consistency is there.
[...] Everything boils down to having a childlike heart. And having a childlike heart means lifting your eyes up from your own problems, from your own plans, from your defects, from other people’s defects, to look at the risen Christ. “Lift up your eyes from yourself to that Presence.” It is as if we need a wind to come and take away everything we are, so that our heart become free again or, rather, become free–keep living in the flesh, going wrong like before (“Our sins are on the increase day by day”, as St. Ephraem said). But it is as if something else has come into the world. A new man has come into the world, and with Him a new road. “See, a road has opened in the desert, don’t you see it?” In the desert of the world a road opens up, the possibility of works, but first of one work. “Works” are the expression of humanity; work is a new humanity, a new human companionship.
Without this simplicity, without this poverty, if we are unable to raise our eyes up from ourselves to that Presence, then a companionship that can rid itself of that ultimate embarrassment, that makes it a true journey, is impossible. In other words, if for the people in a companionship destiny is not all, then a companionship that be truly useful for the journey to destiny is impossible. But destiny has become one, a man like me, who died and rose, and the event of that Resurrection goes on in the world and vibrates in me. I have to lift my eyes up from myself to that Presence, to the Presence of the risen Christ (Familiarity with Christ, Notes from a lesson by Fr. Luigi Giussani during the Spiritual Exercises of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, May 8, 1982 in Traces, n. 2, 01-02-2007 ).

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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."