Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Charism and belonging

... and dwells among us
...the free conscience of the individual who believes in required not to envelop itself in automatic gestures, in repetitive suffocating cycles but to discover a reality. Moreover, we would add, this conscience's calling is to enter, with all the resources of its humanity, into profound contact with this reality (Luigi Giussani, Why the Church? page 193).
I've been wondering a lot about this "profound contact" with a discovered reality. For a while now, I have chosen to include a quote as part of my email signature. The purpose of the quote is to serve as a reminder to me; whenever I go to write an email, I reread it, and it informs how I approach my correspondence, not just in the particular email but with reality as a whole. I would regularly change this quote, depending on my own need for deeper conversion, but recently I've found one that has remained longer than the rest:
May it become [...] habitual to perceive in all things -- in everything, from the boughs of the tree to the hairs of the person you like -- the presence of the Mystery that became a man in flesh and blood... Getting used to seeing this in everything is a history that God allowed you to begin.
It's from Fr. Giussani, but now I've forgotten where I found it. It was the part about perceiving the presence of the Mystery of Christ incarnate that fueled the choice. I wanted it to become a habit for me to see Him in flesh and blood and to see him everywhere, in each smallest detail. For me, the problem of faith has become one of perception. He is present. I've had no doubt about it.

But even in this knowledge and certainty, I have spent days and months of my life facing reality as if he were not the constitutive factor of everything, as if the reality that presents itself to me were a lie or a mistake: if only I were somewhere else; if only I were with other people; if only I were different; if only I had the right music to listen to; if only person X would see the truth; if only, if only... Or I would understand facts according to the way a common mentality understood them: certain acts or people are good; certain outcomes are necessary; certain events mean I should work harder, turn my back, keep a distance, make an effort, have an answer, or make a contribution; etc. And all this despite the fact that I seem to have been given knowledge of the truth along with the gift of wonder and awe!

For me it has not been enough to know, with utter certainty, that he is present in boughs and hairs, and it has not been enough to have the capacity to wonder at this fact.

So, I've been begging and pleading with Christ to show me his face in everything, while holding in my thoughts those aspects of my life in which I have particular difficulty seeing him. I'd like to say that I've made progress, but if I have, then this progress has only served to make me acutely aware of countless more instances in which he is present and I fall short of habitually recognizing him, with the end result that I feel even more inadequate and wanting than before.

But there is something new, something very difficult to describe.

The best I can do is to call it a pause. Sometimes it is no longer than an intake of breath, during which I simply apprehend what is in front of me. It is a moment in time that is rich and overflowing and intensely alive, and it acts as a lens of sorts. Within this pause is the fullness of peace. It embraces what it beholds, without interpreting or categorizing, though it constitutes a kind of judgment: that what is in front of me has infinite value, a value that I don't give to it. It is not so much an experience of wonder as it is a moment of compassion. This pause is the charism of Communion and Liberation, manifested in my life. It has no other source.

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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."