Saturday, April 29, 2023

“The Human Glory of Christ in History”

Somewhere in the Dialogues of Saint Catherine of Siena (if I remember correctly) there are words attributed to God that seem to require some sort of ontological “caveat,” but in fact only need to be placed within their proper context. They are human words that struggle to carry the “weight” of supernatural mystical experience—where affectivity bursts the boundaries of human language and is expressed paradoxically. Thus, when we read the Lord saying to Catherine, “I am He Who Is, and you are she-who-is-not this is not intended as a philosophical proposition denying the reality of created being. Rather, it represents a mystical experience of the radical and total dependence of a created human being on the Absolute Being of God—the transcendent Being whom we cannot contain, but who loves us, who is our Father.

This reminds me of the text we have been working on in our School of Community, which is taken from the annual Spiritual Exercises given 25 years ago by Father Luigi Giussani to the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation. I’m not sure of my memory of this retreat in particular (from 1998) but I do recall participating “remotely” (through recordings) in the retreats Giussani gave in his final years, as he grew weaker with illness and old age. These texts are particularly rich, and also difficult, but they are worth the effort of our attention and prayer as we revisit them in the present day. Guissani’s witness as he grew closer to his death was increasingly “condensed” and experientially synthetic, and therefore perhaps less accessible to those seeking fluid discourse free of paradox. Guissani’s whole life was a continual witness to the miracle of God the Word made flesh, who reveals His love by making possible for us a life beyond the boundaries of what we think we can do “by ourselves,” who empowers us precisely through our surrendering of ourselves to Him, our letting-go of our egocentric claims and pretenses to be the source of our own power.

In the remarkable excerpt below, I have attempted to layer clauses and reordered certain words, so as—I hope—to convey something of how these words remain with me and have been shedding light on my own life right now. The glory of the Lord would seem to overwhelm us, even “annihilate” us, so that we experience the truth that we are “nothing-in-ourselves.” Yet it is this same glory—the glory of Infinite Love—that makes us to exist and to act “in His image,” and is expressed in His coming to dwell with us, live for us, die for us, rise for us. Nothing in human experience and human history is meaningless because nothing is outside the glory of Christ. At the heart of every moment, Jesus asks for our self-surrender, our “yes” to Him, and our loving adherence to He who is Love, who has loved us.

The text below is from Luigi Giussani, To Give One’s Life for the Work of Another, p. 73:

“[We cannot live] without the positivity, 
the indomitable, unsleeping, irreducible creativity 
that in every moment, before any difficulty whatsoever, 
finds its origin, its source in the reality of Christ present in his Church…
Let's ask this inexhaustible mercy who is Christ, 
to be able to renew our awareness of the gratitude we owe to Christ, 
of the gratitude we owe to the Church, our mother, 
but most of all of the complete surrender to God, 
of that complete surrender… in Him as God, in Christ as God, 
in God a complete surrender. 
It is man's last possible breath…
Paradoxically, [in this surrender] man finds the image of his existing, 
the awareness of his existing for the human glory of Christ in history. 
May we live this surrender to the Mystery, to Christ in our activities, 
to the Mystery that revealed Itself in that man, 
and may we be filled with wonder 
so as to feel Saint Peter's ‘Yes’ (Yes, Lord, I love you
emerging from the bottom of our hearts. 
This attitude is the marvelous novelty 
that a Christian must give proof of everywhere he goes, 
for the human glory of Christ in history. 
The more this change is seen, the more glory will be given to Christ, 
the glory of Christ in history will be discovered, wanted, 
consciously loved above everything else.”