Monday, February 23, 2009

Sharing my work

Here is my summary of pages 28-40 of the 2008 Spiritual Exercises of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation ("This is the Victory that Conquers the World, Our Faith"). These pages will be the focus of the Fraternity Lent retreat this year.

1. Those who believe have eternal life:

  • We first receive this life, which derives from faith, at Baptism: "The only thing that makes faith reasonable is its promise to bring us life. This is why God intervened in history, to bring us this life, and this life reaches us in Baptism" (p. 28).
  • "Baptism is the sacrament of faith, which, however needs the community of believers" -- "Baptism encorporates us into the community of believers through the fact of becoming one person in Christ" (29).
  • But if we're not careful, we can reduce our companionship to its external appearance: "If there's not a personal 'I' that says 'You' to Christ, as you say it to a man who is present, Christ is 'bleached or faded away from the beautiful and glad appearance of the companionship of faces that should have been a sign pointed to Him!' but we stop there; we stay there with the sign.
  • "It's as if one of us had received a stupendous bouquet of flowers, and never tired of talking about the bouquet of flowers, but felt no urgency to say the name, to speak about the person who had given the flowers."
  • Two temptations to avoid: "first, conceiving a Christ without Church, that is, excluding Christ from reality, to a far-away supernatural world, and reducing Him to our interpretation or our measure, or, second, having a Church without Christ, where the Church is perceived not as the body of Christ, that makes Him present, but as the substitution of Christ.
  • "Jesus Christ isn't a presence isolated in far-off history, so as to seem the fruit of imagination. He is a Presence ten years after His death, a thousand years after His death, two thousand years after His death, up to today, through this different humanity of the saints, a human presence impossible to think up" (33).
  • "Anything but Christ in the abstract! He is something so real that through His historical presence in the Church and His witnesses, He becomes a reality that can't be reduced by any attempt of ours, challenging man's heart, reason, freedom, and affection. Anything but abstract!"
  • "Our companionship isn't here to spare us the drama of freedom, but to continually provoke our responsibility.... 'Our companionship means not to let time pass without our life asking, seeking, wanting the relationship with God present and without our life wanting or accepting that companionship, without which not even the image of His presence would be true'" (34).
  • "Christ reaches us through our communion to introduce us to a relationship with Him, so the Mystery may become familiar" (34).
  • "The test of faith, of the true relationship, not virtual, not with someone abstract, is satisfaction. Only if we experience faith as satisfaction, the greatest satisfaction one can imagine, because of the hope that He has brought forth in me, do we have an experience so powerful that it sustains all of life, because life consists in the affection that sustains us most, not outside reality, that sustains in satisfaction, in the unique correspondence that Christ is for life" (36).
2. New Knowledge and affection:
  • "The new knowledge is born of the adhesion to an event, born of the affectus for an event to which one is attached, to which one says yes. [ You have to say yes. Faith is a free gesture: you need to say yes to this event, so that this newness can begin to happen.]" (37).
  • "To think, starting from an event, means first of all accepting that I don't define that event, but rather, that I'm defined by it" (37).
  • "the new judgment is possible only in a continual relationship with reality, in other words, with the human companionship that prolongs in time the initial Event: it proposes the authentic Christian point of view. The Christian Event persists in history, and with it persists the origin of the new judgment" (38).
  • "Remaining in the position of origin in which the Event brings forth the new knowledge is the only chance for relating to reality without preconceptions" (38).
  • "In order to acquire this, a work is necessary. 'For the mentality to be truly new, it's necessary that out of its consciousness of "belonging," it continually engage in comparison with present events. Since this new mentality is born of a present place, it judges the present. Otherwise it doesn't exist: if it doesn't enter into the experience of the present, the new knowledge doesn't exist, is only an abstraction. In this sense, not to make judgments on events is to mortify faith'" (39).
  • "Faith grows in this way, risking it in reality and challenging everything with Him in our eyes. This is why it's not a matter of learning a discourse by heart and repeating it, but learning a gaze, says Fr. Giussani" (39).
  • "How can we learn this gaze? 'It's a matter of staying before the event encountered': it's the precedence given to the event, to what happens, to what He does" (39).
3. Witness, the task of life:
  • "Mission can be nothing other than a more acute awareness of what Christ means for life, because only to the degree that we live this newness will we feel the urgency of mission" (40).


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."