The Dearest Thing We Have
Witness during the Loreto Pilgrimage, October 16th
by Julián Carrón
Why are we here at Loreto? What brought each one of us here? Look at your life: what brought you? Why have you come? It is a love. It is an attachment that we can no longer do without.
Love for what? Where has this history we have belonged to for fifty years brought us? What fascinated us, and goes on fascinating us, even now? What has drawn us, to the point of adhering, has a name: Christ. If we were not to say His name today, we would have to erase our whole life, our whole history.
Yes, today we can cry out before everyone, full of gratitude, “What is most dear to us in our life is Christ Himself, because in Him dwells the fullness of the Divinity in the flesh.”
The dearest thing we have is precisely Jesus. All our evil, our pettiness, our mortal weakness cannot prevent us saying that all our love, all our human sympathy is for You, Christ. There is nothing more interesting. Nothing has struck us as much as Him, Jesus, not only as the object of thought, but as a real experience, as real as the change He has brought about in you.
But in saying His name, we cannot avoid thinking of the one who made us know Him in this way, Fr Giussani. Yes, it was and is through him, his person, his yes to Christ that we have been able to know who Jesus is. This is the gratitude that today we all feel for him, who introduced us to the reality of Christ, who enabled us to have an experience of life that none of us could ever have dreamed of.
Thank you, Fr Giussani, for your life, for your witness, for your love for our destiny! Hear today the cry of your children’s gratitude!
It was you who made us recognize Christianity as an event, with that urge you always felt to communicate Christianity in its “elementary aspects, that is to say passion of the Christian fact as such in its original elements, and nothing more,” as you wrote to the Pope. Yes, we all know it well. It is precisely the continuous happening of Christianity over again as an event that has changed our life, every time we came into relationship with it, with that which convinced us. How many times in these years, after taking part in any gesture, whatever circumstances we were in, did we come back astonished at what happened: changed by a Presence, a Presence that so completely took hold of our “I” that we could not wake up in the morning, go to work or rest, watch the stars or the sunset, pray or suffer without all this being determined by His Presence?
So much so that our life has become memory, a moved acknowledgment of His Presence, a Presence that, more and more each time, has become a familiar, friendly presence. “Though living in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who gave Himself for me.” Everything is born from Him and begins again from Him. As Fr Giussani reminded us yesterday, “The beginning of faith is not an abstract culture but something that precedes this: an event. Faith is taking note of something that has happened and continues to happen, of something new from which everything begins, really.”
This is Christianity in its original elements: a humanity, ours, just as it is–that is, looked at, embraced, preferred, exalted by Jesus: the boundless desire of our “I” that finds in Jesus that “impossible correspondence” that our heart so longs for; our “humanity prostrate in its mortal weakness” that finds itself restored to life every time it comes into contact with His Presence. Our sorrow for our evil finds itself looked on by eyes full of mercy that move it to the core. “Thus, to the brutal loneliness to which man calls himself, as if to save himself from an earthquake, Christianity is offered as an answer. The Christian finds a positive answer in the fact that God has become man: this is the event that takes by surprise and comforts what would otherwise be a misfortune.”
This is why our history has educated us to pray the Angelus, not only as a remembrance of the past, but as a paradigm of the very nature of Christianity, an event that happens here and now. Where can we recall this if not here at Loreto, near the Holy House where it happened for the first time?
An announcement: “The angel of the Lord declared to Mary”
This announcement is addressed to my needy humanity. Every time, this announcement is unique, new. It might not have happened. The awareness that it might not be communicated to me today is what makes the difference between a pious devotion in which nothing happens and an event in which the announcement happens again every time, perceived as the bursting in of the novelty that Christ has brought into history. If it changes, it is an event. If it changes, it is.
The thought of it makes you shudder! This is why we can glimpse Our Lady’s consternation. Our Lady is moved by the Infinite, because the Lord looked on her nothingness.
If the thought of Our Lady makes us shudder, what about us? The same announcement is made to me and to you, miserable, sinners, needy and ungrateful as we are.
Being has concerned Himself with my destiny! Being has looked at my nothingness with infinite tenderness. “Does a woman forget her child, so as not to be moved by the child of her womb? Even if there were a woman who forgets, I would never forget you” (Is 49:15).
How lacking in affection you must be, not to be moved! You must be a stone.
Freedom: “I am the handmaid of the Lord.” Here I am
There can be no greater challenge to man’s reason and freedom than to see this tenderness of Being toward me. “It’s inconceivable for God to act toward man unless as a ‘generous challenge’ to his freedom.” I would have to close my eyes, my ears, everything, not to feel challenged by this unique gesture of Being toward me. But it is not enough to close eyes, ears, and the rest. He comes into history, He comes into our fortress through our heart. The attack is on the heart, and the heart has never experienced something so long desired, the discovery that the Father has chosen you: “I have loved you with an everlasting love” (Jer 31:3). This is why we are fascinated by Jesus who has made it known to us. We have never seen anything like it. This is what awakens the desire to accept it: here I am. But this is not a passive acceptance; it cannot be passive, the heart is crying out for it.
“ Be it done to me according to Your word.”
Before this announcement, this unique predilection, freedom comes out and expresses itself as entreaty. No longer lost, freedom knows all too well what to ask for: “Be it done to me according to Your word.” Yes, Fiat, let it happen, the answer is urgent inside Our Lady, it’s an urge that becomes entreaty to Being, because once we have known it we can no longer do without it. Before this tremor of Being, Our Lady becomes a daughter. “Maiden yet a Mother, daughter of thy Son, high beyond all other.” Since she was humble to the point of becoming daughter of her Son, she became “high beyond all other creature”–in other words, her humanity reached a fullness beyond compare.
A fact, an overwhelming fact
“ And the Word was made flesh.” Our Lady’s yes makes it possible for the Mystery to take flesh. And the unforeseen happens. “Caro cardo salutis.” The flesh, the Word made flesh, is the pivot of salvation. An affectively attractive presence in the flesh is the only one capable of overcoming our resistance. A winning attraction is the only hope for us, who are so tempted by the allure of autonomy, of that almost suicidal affirmation of ourselves that leads us to nothingness. Only the attraction of Being that shines on the face of Christ, present here and now in the Church, only this can overcome the allure of evil.
“And dwells among us”
How can the Mystery go on living amongst us? It can if there is someone, like Our Lady, who waelcomes Him and offers Him a place to stay. Who is so much his own enemy as not to let himself be touched by that look full of passion for his destiny that brings him to birth again, that enables him to experience an intensity of life never seen before! It is through people changed in this way that witness a unique intensity of life that Christ goes on being present amongst us. “It is not being circumcised or uncircumcised that matters; what matters is a new creation” (Gal 6:15).
A Presence that changes your life
“ For fifty years, we have wagered everything on this evidence!”
Mission. This is what most interests us. We don’t think that others, men in need like us, are interested in anything else. Like us, they need someone to look at them like this, someone who is concerned like this for their destiny. This is our responsibility. What we have been given, we have been given for everyone. We have to present it before everyone, we have to witness what we have encountered before everyone.
Today, this requires a freedom out of this world: freedom in our work environment, amongst our friends, before everyone. This freedom is not a capacity of ours, but rather affection for Jesus. Every one of us must be unable to do without Jesus in order to live and to breathe–like the sinful woman who came into the room where Jesus was, invited to eat by a Pharisee, and challenged all those who thought badly of her, washing Christ’s feet and drying them with her hair. She is free before everyone. She was so grateful for the forgiveness she had received that she had no shame in showing all her affection for Jesus before everyone.
This is the challenge that we Christians are faced with today. “Has the Church failed mankind, or has mankind failed the Church?”
Fr Giussani said, “The Church began to fail mankind, as I see it, as we see it, because she forgot who Christ was, she did not rely on… She was ashamed of Christ, of saying who Christ is.” We need an affection great enough as not to be ashamed of Christ.
Let’s ask Our Lady of Loreto, “living fountain of hope,” for this grace: that as well as supporting each other in life’s struggles, we might love Jesus so much as not to be ashamed of Him before the people we meet, so that, through us, they too might find what we have encountered, that evil might not triumph in us, and that His Victory in time might shine out in us, “that impassioned love, that impassioned warmth for the mystery of man,” of every man.