Wednesday, March 4, 2009


"'The real drama of the Church that likes to call itself modern [the real drama of Christians who want to be modern] is the attempt to correct the wonder of the event of Christ by means of rules.' This was an admirable comment of John Paul I (his month-long pontificate would have been providential because of this observation alone; nothing like it can be found elsewhere). Christ is a happening, an event, a fact that before all else fills us with wonder. The breaking in of something unpredictable and unforeseen-an event, a "happening"-gives rise first to wonder. And wonder is the beginning of a reverentia, of a respect, of humble attention. Like a child before a new situation: he feels instinctively a sense of wonder and humble, slightly timorous respect. He who withdraws himself from the wonder of the event and from the attention, the veneration, the respectful, humble curiosity the event instinctively arouses, becomes a slave to rules. Those who try to withdraw themselves from the event inevitably become slaves to rules.
"This explains well the characteristic of the human subject that modern attitudes have created: clotted as we have said with segments, particles, and pieces. Each one of these pieces subsists and lives on, because it follows particular rules: office rules, family rules, even the rules of going to Church or to the parish. When we withdraw ourselves from the wonder-from the light and warmth the event of Christ sparks, and in which alone the face or the unity of the "I" in all its various aspects emerges (so that they enrich unity instead of depressing it into a temporarily reconciled division)-we will inevitably subject our lives, segmented as they are, to slavery to rules.
"This observation calls us to Christ who gave His life to save man from the rules of the Pharisees, from pharisaism. Since Christ came, no epoch in the two Christian millennia has been more pharisaical than ours; there has never been a pharisaism that determined all of society as much as this one. It is into this pharisaism that puritanism, puritan Calvinism always decays; and since today it is 'in government' in the most economically powerful State, it also has cultural influence on the whole world" (From On the Way, by Fr. Giussani).

Psalm 139
O Lord, you have searched me and known me.
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from far away.
You search out my path and my lying down,
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
O Lord, you know it completely.
You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is so high that I cannot attain it.

Where can I go from you spirit?
Or where can I flee from you presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there;
if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
If I take the wings of the morning
and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
even there you hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light around me become night,”
Even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is as bright as the day,
for darkness is as light to you.

For it was you who formed my inward parts;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
that I know very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
When I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes beheld my unformed substance.
In your book were written all the days that were formed for me,
when none of them as yet existed.
Ho weighty to me are you thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them?
I try to count them – they are more than the sand;
I come to the end – I am still with you…

“The nature of wonder is not a force that pushes us passively from behind; it is situated ahead of us and attracts us with irresistible force toward the object of our astonishment; it makes us advance toward it, filled with enchantment.”

– Sofia Cavallett RPOC page 138

• “When wonder becomes a fundamental attitude of our spirit it will confer a religious character to our whole life, because it makes us live with the consciousness of being plunged into an unfathomable and incommensurable reality.” (Cavalletti)

• Wonder “can only arise from an attentive observation of reality.” (Cavalletti)

• “If we skim over things, we will never be surprised by them.” (Cavalletti)

• “Attention, taken to its highest degree, is the same thing as prayer.” (Simone Weil)

• “Awe is an intuition for the dignity of all things, a realization that things not only are what they are but also stand, however remotely, for something supreme. Awe is a sense for the transcendence, for the reference everywhere to mystery beyond all things. It enables us to perceive in the world intimations of the divine,… to sense the ultimate in the common and the simple; to feel in the rush of passing the stillness of the eternal. What we cannot comprehend by analysis, we become aware of in awe.” (Abraham Heschel)

• “God’s beauty is his love, all the greater because it was prior. The more [the soul] understands that she was loved before being a lover, the more and amply she cries out in her heart’s core and with the voice of her deepest affections that she must love him. Thus, the Word’s speaking is the giving of the gift; the soul’s response is wonder and thanksgiving. The more she grasps that she is overcome in loving, the more she loves. The more she admits that he has gone before her, the more awestruck she is.” (in Sermons on the Song of Songs, by Bernard of Clairvaux)

• “The horizon of knowledge is lost in the mist produced by fads and phrases. We refuse to take notice of what is beyond our sight, content with converting realities into opinions, mysteries into dogmas and ideas into a multitude of words. What is extraordinary appears to us as habit, the dawn a daily routine of nature…In the confinement of our study rooms our knowledge seems to us a pillar of light. But when we stand at the door which opens out to the infinite, we realize that all concepts are but glittering motes that populate a sunbeam.” (Abraham Heschel)

Faith Is a Blush by Abraham Heschel

is unwilling to be alone,
and man cannot forever remain impervious
to what He longs to show.
Those of us who cannot keep their striving back
find themselves at times
within the sight of the unseen
and become aglow with its rays.
Some of us blush,
others wear a mask.
Faith is a blush
in the presence of God.

• “Truth fills all things; it encircles all things. Therefore, our minds can never be expanded to comprehend the unbounded encircling, because it is hemmed in by the imperfection of its own bounded existence.” (in Moralia, by St. Gregory the Great)

• God “creates our minds to participate in him” (St. Bernard of Clairvaux)

• “I entered into my inmost parts with You leading me on. I was able to do this because You had become my helper. I entered and saw with my soul’s eye (such as it was) an unchanging light above that same soul’s eye, above my mind…He who knows truth knows that light. Love knows it. O Eternal Truth and True Love and Beloved Eternity.” (in Confessions, by St. Augustine of Hippo)

• “We, indeed, still like little children, are being formed into the divine likeness within us by symbols and holy images, so that we may now be deified by this likeness through faith…” (from Commentary on Celestial Hierarchy, by John the Scot)

• “To the pious, God is as real as life, and as nobody would be satisfied with mere knowing or reading about life, so he is not content to suppose or to prove logically that there is a God; he wants to feel and to give himself to Him; not only to obey but to approach Him. His desire is to taste the whole wheat of spirit before it is ground by the millstone of reason. He would rather be overwhelmed by the symbols of the inconceivable than wield the definitions of the superficial.” (Abraham Heschel)


Pokankuni said...

Wow! This is a rich post!

Enough for at least six months of deep and fruitful reflections... :o)

Thank you.

Suzanne said...

Thank you for visiting!

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."