Saturday, January 2, 2010

fragile and ambiguous


The total fulfillment of our desire for the Infinite -- the One who gives us each breath and even our desire to breathe, the Lord who is the consistency of everything, the secret principle of the world, the meaning of every detail -- became flesh and dwells among us.

This man, who began his life as a man in the same way we all do -- as a baby -- was born in history. As we all do, he has a name: Jesus of Nazareth. During the brief span of thirty-three years he accompanied a small number of ordinary and fallible persons. He ate with them, walked with them, questioned them, shook them up, shared their work, faced their fears, addressed himself to their need.

Then, through a mysterious series of events (as one of the girls in the atrium described it, the "Crucerection," followed by the Ascension) that we continue to dwell upon, he returned to the right hand of the Father. Is he gone, now? Have we now returned to the time before he came, when communion with the invisible God happens in privacy and interiority, marked by ambiguity?

Christianity says no; the time of Christ, in the flesh, on this earth, continues now and into the future.

This continuing presence of Christ in this world does not rest on our ability to perceive it, our emotional states, our moral consistency, our intelligence, creativity, talents, aspirations, projects, thoughts or deeds. But it does rest on something exceedingly fragile and ambiguous: our humanity.

What is our humanity, if it isn't our ability to perceive, our emotional states, moral consistency, intelligence, creativity, talents, aspirations, projects, thoughts or deeds?

Our humanity is the truth of who we are: our need. Our humanity is a fact -- the fact that we do not give ourselves life or happiness, the fact that we don't make ourselves grow or change or move. Those other things I listed are a result of our humanity, of how we use our humanity. Because along with this desire, as an integral part of our need, is another element: freedom. Freedom, as Fr. Giussani shows us, is the capacity for the Infinite. Our humanity, then, is vital need married to great capacity.

Our need and our freedom are made of the same substance and they cannot be separated without a mortal wound to our humanity. Just as the mind cannot live without the heart, and the heart would be a useless lump of flesh without the brain's signals and actions, freedom without awareness of need becomes a slave master who cannot rest without subjugating, dominating, and destroying; and need, without freedom, becomes a slave and addict, intent on swallowing or being swallowed.

Christ chose this humanity of ours to be the method through which he continues in the flesh.

How does this happen? It happens in each person according to particular circumstances, when in a courageous acknowledgment of facts, need and freedom are recognized and left open. One cannot live this way for long without discovering an answer which is found only when we meet someone who eats with us, walks with us, questions us, shakes us up, shares our work, faces our fears alongside of us, addresses himself to our need. This someone can engage reality, embrace everything, be glad in everything -- particularly in things that seem empty and meaningless. And this someone invites us to share the path.

This is what each of us awaits. In our fragile and ambiguous humanity, we carry this truth of things, this secret of the world. He is here, in the flesh. Would you like to walk with him? Allons!

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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."