Tuesday, January 20, 2009

More thoughts on Parousia and unity


Marie has some really great posts on unity, over on her blog, Naru Hodo:

Which Way to Unity?

Unity -- Why Bother?

Catechism of the Catholic Church on Christian Unity

Because Marie is also my friend and neighbor, we have had the great gift of being able to have conversations on the subject of unity -- many conversations before either of us posted on this subject. I am really moved to see what she has written on her blog about unity because these writings represent, for me, both a beautiful fruit and also a synthesis of all we've spoken about.

For me (and this is also something that Marie discusses in her posts), the most important fact that emerged from all our conversations is that unity can neither be made nor broken by us (even when we sin!). Sin does not harm unity -- it only reveals a lack of awareness or a forgetfulness about the truth of who we are already. By virtue of our Baptism, we are made one in Christ. In fact, even with those who are unbaptized, there exists a kind of primordial unity because we are all made in the image and likeness of God.

Baptism is the foretaste of Parousia -- our birth and our beginning in Paradise -- in the here and now. And Baptism is given before, not as a reward for our good efforts or keen insights, but as recognition of who we are -- we belong to Another, who makes us in every moment -- before ever a word is on our lips. This is why infant Baptism is what will conquer any moralism we may harbor in our hearts, if we only let ourselves be amazed by the gift it represents to those of us (adults) who witness and participate in this practice.

The theme of the National Diakonia I just attended was "Something that Comes Before." We were asked to reflect on the Page One article that appeared in November's Traces:
november 2008

[ November ]











What is the initial, original phenomenon by which some people are struck and attracted and coalesce together? Is it a catechesis–what we call “School of Community”? No, every catechesis comes later; it’s the instrument of development of something that comes before.
The modality with which the movement–the Christian event–becomes present is the running up against a human diversity, a different human reality, that strikes us and attracts us because deep inside us, confusedly, or clearly, it corresponds to an expectant awaiting that is constitutive of our being, to the original needs of the human heart.
The event of Christ becomes present “now” in a phenomenon of a different humanity: a man runs up against you and discovers in you a new presentiment of life, something that increases his chance of certainty, of positivity, of hope, and of usefulness in living, and moves him to follow.
Jesus Christ, that man of two thousand years ago, is imminent, becomes present, under the veil, under the aspect of a different humanity. The encounter, the impact, is with a different humanity that strikes us because it corresponds to the structural needs of the heart more than any other modality of our thought or imagination–we never expected it, we never would’ve dreamed of it, it was impossible, it cannot be found elsewhere. The human diversity in which Christ becomes present lies precisely in the greater correspondence, in the unthinkable and unthought-of greater correspondence of this humanity we run up against to the needs of the heart, to the needs of reason.
This running into a different humanity is very simple, absolutely elementary, something that comes before everything, before any catechesis, reflection, or development. It’s something that has no need of explanation, but just needs to be seen, intercepted. It is something that evokes wonder, awakens an emotion, constitutes a call, moves a person to follow because it corresponds to the structurally expectant awaiting of the heart, “since,” as Cardinal Ratzinger said, “really we can only recognize that for which a correspondence exists in us” (Il Sabato, January 30, 1993). The criterion for the truth lies in the correspondence.
Running up against the presence of a different humanity comes before, not only at the beginning, but in every moment that follows the beginning–a year or twenty years later. The initial phenomenon–the impact with a different humanity, the wonder born of it–is destined to be the initial and original phenomenon of every moment of development; there is no development if that initial impact is not repeated, that is, if the event does not remain contemporaneous. Either it is renewed, or nothing proceeds, and right away you theorize about the event that has happened, and you fumble about seeking substitute supports for What is truly at the origin of the diversity. The originating factor is, permanently, the impact with a different human reality. Therefore, if what happened at the beginning doesn’t happen over again and isn’t renewed, then true continuity doesn’t occur; if you don’t experience now the impact with a new human reality, you don’t understand what happened to you back then. Only if the event happens again now can the initial event be illuminated and deepened, thus establishing continuity and development.... (from Something That Comes First, Notes by Luigi Giussani from the Assembly of CL Responsibles [January 1993] )

One thing I have discovered in the conversations with Marie is that misunderstandings and lack of agreement are not sin -- that is, they need be neither the fruit nor the cause of division. Sin involves rejecting or otherwise harming the other because of a disagreement or misunderstanding. If, as we disagree, we recognize that this "something that comes before" is still operating, still exists in all its fullness -- and if we celebrate and hold fast to it as more important than any disagreement, then a miracle occurs: this human diversity takes shape before our eyes.

But there is something even more miraculous. When we do sin (something that happens always!), if the other continues to hold fast to his or her awareness of the "something that comes before," the unity that we can neither make nor break, this beautiful human diversity begins to take on the face of the living God, whose approach to us is always that of a miraculous mercy.

1 comment:

Fred said...

Karen and I did School of Community with this article over the weekend...

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."