Friday, May 05, 2006

In the Dawn of Our New Lives: The Christian Event

Last night at SoC, we discussed a few pages from Msgr. Giussani's Why the Church?, a book wherein (according to the back cover) "Giussani explores the Church's definition of itself as both human and divine, arguing that a different type of existence is born in those who try to live the life of the Church." The closing lines of our reading express and offer an image to understand with greater clarity (we hope) just what precisely an event is or feels like, which is something that will definitely help one of my ongoing "projects." Msgr. Giussani writes:

In the Christian, the newness is called to awaken and, no matter how dimly, to manifest itself like the dawn of a new day. The comparison I like to make is, in fact, the dawn. Imagine a person who has always lived in darkness. If he were to see, for the first time, the first half-light of day, he would realize that what was unfolding before his eyes was something new. It was no longer darkness. And, even though he could never imagine the sight of the midday sun, he would certainly be attracted by this phenomenon, which for him would be so unexpected and indefinable--that the dawning would have dispelled the darkness, introducing him to something different from the obscurity to which he was accustomed. This person would gaze in fascination at that prelude of light, waiting for an even greater newness, even though he could not imagine its form.

This is Christianity in history, the Church in the society of the times, a Christian community in its environment, a Christian man in the circumstances of his day-to-day living; the dawning of a different humanity, of a different human community, a community that is, new, truer. [pp. 182-183]

This is the happening of an event, the Christian event, which is:

an encounter with a human reality that channels the evidence of a correspondence between the divine that has stooped to enter our lives and what we are. This encounter opens my eyes to myself, spurs on an unveiling of me, shows that it corresponds to what I am: it makes me aware of what I am, of what I want, because it makes me understand that what it brings is just what I want, that it corresponds to what I am. [...] In a sequence of his film Andrei Rubliev, Tarkovski has one of his characters say, "You know very well: you fail at something, you are tired and you can take no more. And suddenly in the crowd you meet a person's gaze-a human gaze-and it is as if a hidden divine presence had approached you. And suddenly everything becomes simpler." The Christian event shows itself, reveals itself in the encounter with the superficiality, the shallowness and the apparent inconsistency of a face in the crowd, a face like all the others yet so different from the others that, when you meet it, it is as if everything becomes simple. You see it for an instant and as you walk away you carry the impact of that gaze within you, as if to say, "I would like to see that face again!" [...] We are here because of an encounter that happened [...]. From the instant the encounter happens, Christianity takes on a different meaning: Something Other has revealed itself to be important for the core of life.

Thus we have the words of the Roman rhetorician Gaius Marius Victorinus upon his conversion to Christianity: "When I encountered Christ I discovered that I was a man."

And the words of Pope Benedict XVI in Deus Caritas Est:

Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a Person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.

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