That Foretaste of Heaven on Earth

“Reality is the first provocation through which the religious sense is awakened in us.” In Fr Giussani’s words taken from his books, the mountains as a prophecy of the human journey and the Christian promise of fulfillment

It is like taking the last step, climbing a mountain, and suddenly seeing spread out in front of you the entire view once you reach the top: just as the view is sudden in the mountains, so is grace sudden.
(From Litterae Communionis, no 4, April 1990, p III)

The world that awakens to life” is in our awareness. This awareness can be awakened only by something other. At the same time, it is the world that awakens our awareness. It is by looking at the mountains that our awareness is awakened, even if the mountains take on consistency and meaning in our awareness.
(From Beata tu che hai creduto. Spunti di meditazione sull’Angelus [Blessed are you who believed. Cues to meditation on the Angelus], Coop Edit Nuovo Mondo 1992, p 30)

What He said made people breathe and lift their heads, made them hope, opened up–opened wide in front of their eyes–the reason for living, made them understand that even in contradiction, toil, and pain, man has a goal–like when he climbs a mountain and scrapes his hands, trudges, sweats, thirsts, is kept in constant tension, but he has a goal toward which to go.
(From 30 Giorni [30 Days], no 2, February 1996, p 38)

If you want to get to the top of a mountain but at a certain point you would like to stop because you hit a scree, it is the idea of getting to see the dawn, at the top, that keeps you going… Analogously, we must become persons in whom the ideal becomes an ever more permanent presence, so that the heart may be urged on more and more. This is called memory. Memory works in such a way that, as time passes, the ideal becomes more familiar, like a continuing reminder and companionship, and it makes you start to enjoy it.
(From Realtà e giovinezza. La sfida [Reality and Youth. The challenge], SEI 1995, p 72)

The choice of the mountains for our vacations was not a casual one (we did not start with the seaside, because the seaside is more distracting). The healthy human environment and the impressive beauty of nature each time foster the renewal of the question about being, order, the goodness of reality–reality is the first provocation through which the religious sense is awakened in us. With the necessary discipline, which has always been very carefully controlled (discipline is like a riverbed: the water runs purer, clearer, faster; discipline is necessary in as much as a meaning to everything is acknowledged), the mountain vacation was proposed to the person’s experience as a prophecy, albeit fleeting, of the Christian promise of fulfillment, as a little foretaste of heaven, and every detail had to be a bearer of that promise and achieve that anticipation.
(From L’avvenimento cristiano [The Christian Event], BUR 1993, pp 45-46)

We go into the mountains. It is a climb we’ve never done before. The guide says to us, “Now stay close to the wall and don’t look back. Cling to the wall, and be careful when you have to take longer steps. There is no danger. Then go on…” You do this, you adhere to what the guide tells you–this is obedience. In the mountains, if it is a new climb, you get on well if you obey the guide. The guide is someone who has already made this climb or someone who knows about these things. How many things in life…
(From Si può (veramente?!) vivere così? [Can one (really?!) live like this?], BUR 1996, p 214)

So then, let us help each other to understand, because you can have an anticipation about it, intuit it, or even understand it summarily, and it not be clear yet. Conversely, the clearer it is, the more permanent it will be as memory and as a possibility for faithfulness on our part, and as sequela: if something is clear, it stays in mind and we know better what to follow. Let us help each other, then, to clarify what in some way is already understood, or pre-felt, intuited, because the truth, too, is like a beautiful view that you can see from a high mountain. You approach it, walking faster or slower, more or less with difficulty, but you approach it. The difference is… (but it’s like this for the mountain too) you never finish approaching! Something, if it is true, is infinite.
(From Si può (veramente?!) vivere così?, p 352)

And how could a mountain–the Monviso was higher and the other peaks were lower, and then the profile of the mountains became bigger and bigger and bigger and after the Jungfrau in Switzerland you saw Monte Rosa–how could a mountain happen like this? These are obscurities. If this too were clear, it would be like taking things with your hands. These are obscurities, and it is the obscurity of being that is called Mystery.
It is the horror that lies at the beginning of history and the same horror is repeated at the origins of modern culture: man as the measure of all things. If there is a lie, a falsehood, it is this: man as the measure of things takes away the obscure, takes away, that is to say, the mysterious bottom from which the peak of Monviso arises; seeing it from afar you understand that below, it is all foggy, obscure. The rocky, stony roots of the mountain are below, they are broken up and made uniform in the darkness and the fog, and this fantastic peak comes out of it, which you can identify from 200 miles away–when you are in an airplane coming to Italy from Spain, for example, or looking from the seminary in Venegono. Right when someone understands that he does not possess the person or the thing he has in front of him, or the event that happens–because he did not make it; he cannot hope to possess it, because his life is short, but even shorter is the measure of his strength–then he can yield himself up to what makes that thing, to the One who makes the Monviso, to the Mystery out of which the chain of the Alps arises, to the Mystery out of which you arose. One can yield in certainty, absolute certainty, if the thing is not his.
(From Si può (veramente?!) vivere così?, p 408-410)

Going up to Mount Pana from Selva di Val Gardena, looking at the mountains or looking on the ground for fossils are the same gesture of positivity in searching, of admiration for nature, of wonder at beauty. Reality is a road, but it starts to become a companionship. If then you are there with two or three friends with whom you get along well, it becomes a companionship in which everything participates: when two or three get along, affectionately get along, then nature too participates in it…
If you do not have a sense of the goal, if you deny the goal, you are negative: nature is frozen and unmoved, just as if you climbed from Selva to Mount Pana with anguish inside you because they told you that your mother, who was up there in a hotel, had had a stroke. You go up with your heart beating so fast that you are not even aware of the beautiful mountains, of the Val Longa or the Sassolungo.
(From Vivendo nella carne [Living in the Flesh], BUR 1998, pp 86-87)