Monday, June 16, 2014

An Entirely Original, Irreducible Presence

Giotto, The Raising of Lazarus, Scrovegni Chapel
"...For the Lord comforts His people and shows mercy to His afflicted.”Despite this preference, we challenge the Lord with our murmuring. “But Zion said, ‘The Lord has forsaken me; my Lord has forgotten me.’”  How often we think this! He could react to this provocation like us, with our usual reactivity, getting angry, but He surprises us with an entirely original, irreducible presence. Instead of letting Himself be determined by our murmuring, by what we say or think about Him, He takes the opportunity to show once again how different He is, challenging our reason in an astounding way: “Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you.”What would our life be if we could not hear these words over and over?...  Spiritual Exercises of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, Fr. Julián Carrón  
What is the meaning of freedom? Of obedience? The questions came up yesterday, during a day that was filled with extraordinary beauty: Mass at which, for the second week in a row, we were so blessed to have Monsignor Cornelius preach, this time on the mystery of the Trinity; lunch at a Taiwanese noodle place in Pittsburgh where we happened to be seated at the bench where we could watch the chef, through a large window, making the dumplings and noodles by hand:   video  then a visit to the Phipps conservatory where we saw strange and gorgeous orchids and butterflies, then a concert dedicated to the life and poetry of St. Francis, where we heard some of the most lush, ravishing, and sublime music, including this beautiful setting of St. Francis' Canticle of Brother Sun. The entire day was an exploration of freedom's dimensions. Freedom is the capacity to say "yes" to Life, to Beauty, to Love. To the extent that we are willing to be obedient (to pay attention with our whole being and then give ourselves over in service to Life, to Beauty, to Love as they present themselves in the concrete faces and events of each day), that is the extent to which we can say we are free. Nothing can stop me from being faithful to the ones I love. Nothing can prevent me from loving the others, even if their love for me is imperfect or absent. Freedom is obedience to this Love. Because nothing can prevent me from hating - but if I hate, I am enslaved. So freedom is not in the choice of whether to love or hate. Freedom flows from one choice and is stifled and suffocated if I make the other choice.

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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."