Monday, January 12, 2009

drawn bumpily along

I've been making my way, very slowly, through Is It Possible to Live This Way? Volume 2 Hope, by Father Giussani.

Isn't it strange the way something that is given to us at a particular moment is often more valuable than anything we could choose to give ourselves? Maybe no one else has had this experience -- or perhaps it is so universal that everyone else thinks, "duh," when I enthuse about it, but after I rediscovered my Catholic faith (a particular, dramatic moment, while in college), the readings at Mass would always surprise me as particularly and uniquely applicable to me in that moment. This struck me as divine and miraculous, and I always found it surprising. How could these readings, which were certainly not chosen with me in mind, be the precise things I needed to read and hear? This was the first moment when I began to value obedience to Another. If the Church can give me Scripture passages that answer my life better than anything I could have researched myself, better to follow the Church than to keep researching.

Later my sense of following seemed to grow deeper and more mature when, rather than viewing the Mass readings as my own personal property, I began to want to follow them because they were chosen by Another -- that is, I wanted to read and study them so that I could get to know this other Person better -- and I wanted this more than I cared to find answers about/for myself.

Now that I am in Communion and Liberation, I am always amazed that the books we are all reading together seem to be precisely what I need in order to grow and deepen in my conversion to Christ. I seem to be "back" to where I was in college -- needing that sense of my own value in God's great scheme of things. So, perhaps it wasn't a "development" to move from being centered on my own spiritual needs to giving myself to the One who gives... Maybe this movement is my own life is more cyclic? Because I don't feel I've gone backwards!

So, hope. I'm looking at pages 55-56:

...with hope, you can more easily make a mistake, demand, make a claim, establish in advance when something has to happen...
Faith founds, makes know, what man is made for, and therefore reveals to man what he desires, and this is hope. Faith feels drawn bumpily along by hope. But the seriousness, the degree of seriousness, isn't given by hope, but by faith. The degree of seriousness is given by the truth, while the degree of zest and fascination is given by hope...
...Hope is like a child who stamps his feet, quivering. Slowly, as one grows up, quivering enlivens even curiosity regarding faith.
This passage strikes me as written, given to me, personally!

So, my self diagnosis is: too much hope and not enough faith. I have been like the child stamping her foot, waiting to see the train. And yes, I have to admit with sadness that I have made mistakes, demands, and claims and have also established in advance when something has to happen. It is nicer to be told that my problem is too much hope, though, than it is to hear that I lack faith!

The wonderful thing would be if I could say that having read Is It Possible to Live This Way? Volume 1: Faith, my faith has increased, and along with it, my seriousness. But: Have I grown up in the past year?

I will need to think more before I can answer honestly.

[Update added after this was posted:]

You know, I was thinking wouldn't it be great to be able to ask Fr. Giussani how to bring faith and hope into balance, so that hope is not always drawing faith bumpily along. Here is the answer I give myself:

To keep reminding myself, with greater attention, that I am not making myself now, and that I am not making the circumstances in my life, either. Than Another is generating me and also giving me these precise circumstances for my good, to bring me to him.

But what answer would any of you give to me? It occurs to me that though I can't ask Fr. Giussani, I can ask you!


Fred said...

Have you read Peguy's Portal of the Mystery of Hope? If not, now is the time to do so! Hope is a little girl who runs ahead, she makes the trip 20 times.

Suzanne said...

Yes, I've read it, Fred! Isn't it annoying (at least, I'm annoyed) that even in this, I'm wanting to manage and make claims and demands? Ugh!

clairity said...

Hmmm... your question has me thinking. I want to say yes and yes to what you say, and yes again, instead of either/or. Yes, this is for me personally, yes this is objectively for everybody. Yes faith grows my hope. So much is Christ for me (corresponds to me now, concretely, because this is Providence), that when I miss Him, his signs, I miss a gift. Like a present lost under the tree that you forget to open. Like when I'm not listening at Mass or when I don't see the beauty in front of me. Yes this beauty is part of a universal design, but beauty also knew that I would be walking by at that precise moment to see it. I think what Giussani is saying is that faith is what makes hope possible, hope grows from faith. If we believe it, faith the size of a mustard seed, then we begin to live it, quite concretely and personally. Our life begins to thrill with hope.

Marie said...

This is not a precise analogy, but the image that came to mind when I first read this post about hope drawing faith bumpily along is that of a dance. Faith takes in and responds to the movements of the One leading the dance, and hope reminds me of a type of swing that seems to separate the dancer from the Dancer, but it doesn't really, it's just a step in the dance.

The analogy isn't perfect for many reasons, among which are: The dance is both personal and corporate, so it is partly like an orchestra instead of a dance. Dances usually include steps all worked out in advance instead of discovered/discerned along the way. Faith and hope are not really separate moments, as if one day we just have faith and the next we just have hope.

But somehow, the analogy helps me focus on both faith and hope being taken up in the greater relationship of love with the Lord, which He has originated. "These three abide, faith, hope and love, but the greatest of these is love."

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."