"Christ in His Beauty Draws me to Him" - Julián Carrón

"Christ in His Beauty Draws me to Him"

Julián Carrón

5/5/2007 - The lesson of Father Julián Carrón at the exercises of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation in 2007. Rimini

“Unless you become like children, you will never enter.” It’s impossible to hear that everything in life, absolutely every- thing, depends on this position of the child, and not be moved to the marrow. This is how we can understand what kind of emotion Jesus felt as He looked at those He had in front of Him, with that capacity He had for penetrating, for perceiving man’s drama, the drama of those He had in front of Him. You understand what life is, that it would be enough to be children to let Him enter. You understand what fullness life could have if He were allowed to enter. If only we were to understand that He ends up crying, not out of sentimentalism, but from this passion for those whom He had in front of Him; in fact the Gospel repeats, almost as a refrain, “And He had compassion.” Compassion. What tenderness man was able to stir in the depths of Jesus, to the point of Him being so moved! And what did Jesus see, to be so moved? He saw need, our need. Man is this need, this hunger and this thirst that he can’t fulfill by himself, that none of us can fulfill by ourselves. This is why it is no sur- prise that when one finds someone like this he can’t help but immedi- ately feel that He was what he was waiting for, that it was He; He was the very thing that he was waiting for.
What surprises us when we look at Jesus? “Where they had been un- aware and confused, they were enlightened, for Christ was the only one in whose words they felt their whole human experience understood and their need taken seriously, clarified.” What surprises us in Jesus is this gaze, full of compassion for humanity, for the happiness of the in- dividual, for each one, for every one who has a first and last name.
What a difference there is between this gaze and the one we often have for ourselves, where admitting neediness seems to us to be a weak- ness to hide, to hide even from ourselves, almost being ashamed, so much so that we think of our condition as needy, as beggars, as a kind of hurdle to be overcome. It’s as if the mindset of everyone were hiding behind this understanding, this way of looking at ourselves. It’s the unconfessed dream of not being needy, of not having any need, that the ideal would be autonomy, being self-sufficient (like everyone else— nothing new here). You understand why Christ stays far from our heart. How far we are from the One who generated us!
The true protagonist of history, on the contrary, is the beggar: “Christ begging for the heart of man, and the heart of man begging for Christ.” What change needs to take place for our gaze to be able to look at ourselves like this? What familiarity, what a sharing of our lives with a different gaze, until we can look with the same compassion upon our humanity, as we always felt ourselves looked upon by Father Giussani.
I don’t want to be self-sufficient; I want to feel the urge inside my heart, the need, the need for Christ, to the point of tears, to open myself up to Him, to experience the power of His presence, the fullness life can have when, being needy, we let Him enter. There’s something worse than being needy: it’s being alone with our self-sufficiency. Think for a moment if you prefer needing people you love, needing the compan- ionship of your children and friends, or if you prefer being alone.
All of us in some moment of our life have experienced this gaze, which is what attracted us. But what does Jesus see in us that we are not able to see? What does He perceive in us that moves Him to the marrow with tenderness toward us? Here’s where we can go back to that chapter
I mentioned yesterday, ”Christ’s Conception of Life,” to help us un- derstand, to look, to identify ourselves with that gaze, to discover who we are and to discover who Christ is. In this gaze He most reveals who He is, at the same time that He reveals to us who we are.
“Who is Jesus? The question was asked. And He answered it. He an- swered it by revealing Himself through all of the gestures of His per- sonality.”—His works, His miracles—“But the most enlightening ‘ges- ture,’ and so the most significant ‘sign,’ is a person’s conception of life, his overall, definitive sentiment toward man. Only the divine can ‘save’ man. The true and essential dimensions of humanity and its destiny can only be preserved by Him who is their ultimate meaning—which is to say, recognized, acclaimed, defended.”
His gaze full of tenderness for us is what reveals to us who Jesus is. And how is He revealed? Not as a discourse, not as an explanation. He is revealed with that gaze full of esteem for each one of us. Christ re- veals who He is by reawakening man, bringing out all the factors. This is why, says Giussani, only the divine can save man, can bring out all that we are, can allow us to experience what life can be, what fullness it can attain, such that we can tell when Christ is here, not just because we say His name (which can be said in a formal, empty way). We know He is here, that Christ is here present, because He brings out our entire I, because He brings out in us a fullness that we cannot attain by our- selves. This is why we experience the foretaste of the divine in such a gaze.
As Tarkovsky says, “You know it well: you can’t manage a thing; you’re tired; you can’t go on. And all at once you meet the gaze of someone in the crowd—a human gaze—and it’s as if you had drawn near to a hidden god. And everything suddenly becomes simpler.”
Only the divine can save all a person’s worth. Finding a man who has this ability to affirm humanity in all its dimensions is a spectacle so unique and imposing, is a sign so meaningful, so enlightening, that one is helped to recognize Him because he suddenly finds correspondence to his human need.
But watch how Christ works: first He lets us perceive Him in our humanity and reveals what we are by making it happen. Not a dis- course, not a philosophy lesson: He makes it happen inside us, in us. This is how we can understand what newness there is in the conception of life that Jesus then tells us, because, “It is in the conception of life which Christ proclaims, the image He gives of the human being’s true stature, the realistic way He looks at human existence, it is here where the heart, in search of its destiny, perceives the truth in the voice of Christ as He speaks.”
Thus it is no surprise that William of Saint Thierry should ask, “Speak therefore and say to her and to her heart, ‘I am your salvation.’ Speak that she may hear. Inspire her that she may feel. Give that she may possess, that all that is within her may bless you.”
Or as Saint Augustine said, as Saint Augustine asked, “[I]n your mercy, O Lord my God, tell me what you are to me. ‘Say to my soul: I am your salvation.’ Say this, so that I may hear you. Behold, my heart’s ears are turned to you, O Lord: open them, and ‘say to my soul: I am your salvation.’ I will run after that voice, and I will catch hold of you.”
In one sentence Father Giussani gathers all the factors: “The ‘moral’ heart discerns the sign of the Presence of his Lord.” This, which we struggle to understand, happens: the relationship between the heart, my human need, my disproportion, and His presence. Here is where we see what the attitude of our heart is, because the only heart able to grasp, to recognize its Lord is the moral heart, that is, the heart loyal to itself, poor, simple, not detached from itself, loyal to its own humanity, to its own human need (which is not weakness!). Thank heavens that we are needy; otherwise, how could we recognize? Our needy heart is the principal instrument that has been given to us to recognize Him. It is because of this that we can understand.

1. The value of the person

What does Jesus see, to the point of bringing it out with His gaze, of letting the value of our person be experienced, perceived, within us?
“The fundamental factor of Jesus’ outlook is the existence in man of a reality superior to any other reality subject to time and space. The whole world is not as worthy as the most insignificant human person. Nothing in the entire universe can compare with the human person, from the first instant of his conception to the last step of his decrepit old age. Every man possesses within himself a principle for which he de- pends on no one, a foundation of inalienable rights, a fount of values.”
Jesus sees a superior reality, an original and irreducible principle, in us, in you, in me. Our need, our desire, our disproportion is its first echo. And so our need, our desire, which we think of as our weakness, is precisely what makes us irreducible. Precisely because we are an ir- repressible desire for the infinite, we are irreducible to any reaction, and so our worth cannot be confused with the reactions we are misled to adopt.
How often we reduce the person to reactions! Indeed, we justify do- ing it: “This is how I’m made.” No! I react this way because I want to react this way. I am not a cog in a machine. I am not stuck in a machine of circumstances, in my reactions. I am this unique relationship which makes me irreducible. And we have to affirm this and we have to be- come aware of what we are saying, because the first influence that the mindset that surrounds us has on us is precisely this reduction in the way we conceive of ourselves, reducing ourselves, like everyone else does, to preceding factors, to our reactions, to our mechanisms. No! We can reduce ourselves as much as we want, but this is not what we are! We are that irreducible reality which is relationship with the Mystery.
This is why Ernesto Sábato says, “The first tragedy that urgently needs to be faced is the loss that man feels of his own worth.” And this reduction to an automaton is the first thing to free ourselves from, be- cause “[e]verything that is personal in man is set in opposition to ... au- tomatism both psychical and social,” as Berdyayev says.
How can we overcome this automatism? Only if we find someone who doesn’t let us go, who doesn’t reduce us. This is why we have to read and try to understand the whole meaning of these affirmations. For Jesus, “the problem of the world’s existence is the happiness of each single person.”
And how do we discover that Jesus holds the happiness of the indi- vidual in His heart? How does He prevent reduction? In a very simple way: by asking us this question, “For what will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world, and forfeits life? Or what shall a man give in re- turn for his soul?”
Why does someone who asks us this question truly love us? Be- cause someone who asks this question does not let us reduce our I, our need; He recognizes the stuff of which we are made, as if He were say- ing, “But look who you are! Look at what your heart desires! Tell me if you can be content with less than this! Tell me if the whole world would be enough for you!”
This is why Father Giussani saw a tenderness out of this world in this question: “No force of energy and no paternal or maternal loving tenderness has ever impacted the heart of man more than these words of Christ, impassioned as He is about the life of man,” ever. We are sur- prised by a man who has passion for our nothingness, because He looks at us without reducing us, with our whole need for happiness at heart.
Someone who feels looked at like this immediately experiences the re- coil that makes him grasp how it corresponds: “This is what I was wait- ing for, someone who looked at me like this, who truly had my I at heart, who affirmed me like this, so that I could experience living like never before!”
This is why Father Giussani continues, “To listen to these radical questions Jesus poses, represents the first obedience to our own na- tures.” Someone who asks you this question is the Only One able to de- scribe our nature. “If we are deaf to them we close ourselves off from the most significant of human experiences, for we would be unable not only to love ourselves, but also others. Indeed the ultimate motive push- ing us to love ourselves and others is the mystery of the “I”; any other reason is only an introduction to this one.”
How far we are from this mindset! When we have relationship prob- lems (spouses, friends, companions in the Fraternity), the last thing that comes to our minds is anything to do with this lack of obedience to these questions which define our nature. Deaf to these radical ques- tions, we close ourselves off from the most significant human experi- ences. Are you aware what kind of challenge this is, and how far off we are?

2. Original dependence

What is the value of the I? Where is it rooted?
“What is most evident, immediately following the fact that we exist, is that before we lived we had no life. Therefore, we depend.” I beg you not to bypass these sentences like things you already know. It’s enough simply to help us to become aware of when the last time was that we really felt our dependence, the truth about ourselves, to the point of recognizing that we depend, to the point of feeling the shiver of this dependence.
Because “Christ pinpoints a reality in man that does not derive from his phenomenological provenance, a reality which is a direct, exclu- sive relationship with God.” The value of the I, the value of each one of us, is that it is a direct, exclusive relationship with God, which has its echo, as I said earlier, in need, in our begging.
Yet, the fact that this is what we are, that Jesus sees in us what we are, this dependence, the fact that we are direct relationship with God, is called into question today by our culture. Look at what Rorty says: “[T]here is nothing deep down inside us except what we have put there
ourselves, no criterion that we have not created in the course of creating a practice, no standard of rationality that is not an appeal to such a cri- terion, no rigorous argumentation that is not obedience to our own con- ventions.”
Nothing “given.” All “convention.” The battle is against this, be- cause we have the same struggle as everyone else in recognizing what is given, and we think they are conventions, that we can throw them in the wastebasket, that nothing happens. This opens the door to all the kinds of manipulation, as we see in every discussion, even to the point of eu- genics (as you can see in the text accompanying Traces, in some of the comments on the family and pseudo-families). What is at issue today is humanity, as John Paul II said in a wonderful expression: it is a “debate on the humanum”; what is at stake is the human being’s very nature, ex- istence and identity.
And so, affirming that we are this direct relationship with the Mys- tery is the only possible way to defend man, as we have been made, with that desire for fullness, for happiness that we find ourselves with. This was something Father Giussani always fiercely defended, “Man has something that does not depend on what came before him, not giv- en by his father or his mother, [...] which therefore is not just about what came before him. Rather, his reality has something that depends on nothing but God. In him there is something that is direct relationship with the infinite, direct relationship with the Mystery.” Father Gius- sani said on another occasion, “Ever since I was young this is one of the feelings I have tried to nurture and renew very often: In this moment, I do not create myself.”
If we do not want to give in to this mindset, we either start identify- ing with Father Giussani, overcoming this presumption of ours, and start like poor creatures to nurture and renew very often the feeling that we do not create ourselves, or we end up having the mindset every- one else has. Scratch the surface, and behind all our affirmations, we are like everyone else. Why? Because, as I was saying yesterday, quot- ing Father Giussani, we can even be with one another, among ourselves, in this place that has fascinated us, without taking it seriously. We can be here without taking our need seriously, with this passivity, doing nothing, because everything around us encourages this inertia.
Octavio Paz writes, “The only thing uniting Europe is its passivity in front of destiny,” a passivity which cannot help but have consequences. As an American journalist said about the massacre at Virginia Tech, “The default position”—the normal and almost automatic attitude—
“is a terribly unnerving passivity. Lone misfits with homicidal manias are fortunately quite rare. But this hateful and corrosive passivity is widespread and, unlike the psychopathic killer, is an existing threat to society.”
At the beginning of this journey, Father Giussani had already rightly identified the beginning of this process, centuries ago in “an option permanently open to the human soul ... [of a] lack of committed inter- est and an absence of curiosity towards all reality.” The lack of com- mitment to what we are isn’t something that doesn’t concern us. We can see it many times, even taking part in our gestures. We do everything, but the center of the I is at a standstill.
Someone was telling me about his friend who took the bus to go to Rome’s Saint Peter’s Square Friday evening, spent all night on the bus, got to Rome, all the details, until, after many hassles, she found her spot. It seemed that she’d done everything. And, to her surprise, when I started talking about the beggar, she realized she hadn’t done the most important thing.
We can take the bus, go a ton of miles, [endure] huge hassles, spend money, and be at a standstill, stuck in the center of the I, motionless. This is passivity. And we can be here in our companionship and be alone, reduced to the factors of what came before, to our reactions, without becoming aware that I am relationship with the Mystery, that as long as I don’t move this, as long as I don’t put the center of my I, that which is more I than I myself, in play, my I is at a standstill, and this can’t but have consequences. If you want to see all of them, all you have to do is go back to chapter eight in The Religious Sense, where Father Giussani describes the consequences of this lack of commitment to our own questions: the annihilation of the personality, the suppression of the personality. We can even take part in many of our gestures, and see how our personality gets numb, and then even say, “I didn’t do any- thing.” This is the problem. It’s like someone who doesn’t use his arm for two weeks: he didn’t do anything against it, but we all know what consequences that passivity has.
On the other hand, the affirmation that Jesus makes of the person depends precisely on this activity, because “this irreducible relation- ship has a value that is inaccessible and unassailable by any type of in- fluence.”45 We have to reread these things, one after another: our I is ir- reducible, unassailable. This is why we have to stop saying, “I can’t.” What kind of circumstance can prevent a person from lifting his gaze, as Father Giussani said in one of the latest Traces inserts, and saying
“You” to the Mystery? No power of this world can prevent it, but none can force it. This is the greatness; this is the unique value of our person. This is why “this unique relationship with God, insofar as it is rec- ognized and lived, is religiosity.” It’s not enough to be like this(because we are, despite ourselves; even in our forgetfulness this is what we are: we are made by Another with this unique relationship with Him). Each of us must recognize it. “This unique relationship with God, insofar as it is recognized and lived, is religiosity.” This is why Father Giussani speaks of this dogged insistence of Jesus in recalling this religiosity, this way of living one’s own I as relationship with the Mystery, because, in this relationship with the Mystery, with the Father, Jesus saw the only possibility of safeguarding the value of the individual. Jesus saw this possibility in the relationship with the Father. This is why Father Gius- sani said, “Christian religiosity arises as the only condition for being hu- man,” not for becoming a bit more pious, not for becoming a bit more spiritual, not for being a bit more CL, but as the condition for being human. This dogged insistence of Jesus is not only an affirmation, but a constant taking initiative toward us, making Himself a living presence in front of us to continue to do what He did during His earthly life: reawakening us from this passivity, waking us up by allowing us to experience, allowing us to desire, removing everything in us that is at a standstill and passive, in order to reawaken our whole I, to save our hu- manity. As Maria Zambrano says, “The complete actualization of what we are is only possible in view of another presence, of another being which has the strength to put us in motion, in act. And how would it be possible to get out of oneself, except by falling irresistibly in love?”— that is, attracted, fascinated. This presence triggers loving knowledge, the only kind that can conquer passivity. “One form of reason,” she said, “in which passivity, total passivity, is redeemed regarding knowl- edge, and regarding the thing that moves and generates knowledge: love.” We need a method for knowing that “reawakens all the regions of life and bears all of them.”
This is why we have chosen this title for our Exercises, as the con- tent of the method: “Christ in His Beauty Draws Me to Him!” Without His beauty which attracts all of me, all my human wholeness, I cannot be myself, I shrink, I become passive, I suppress my personality.
Christ is here, but we have to recognize Him. We saw it in Rome. You can see it again in the DVD sent with Traces, “Drawn by the Beau- ty of Christ.” It’s necessary to see, not only the surface of what we lived: it was not just the CL organization. It was the power of His pres- ence. Because if we don’t reach the point of recognizing His presence, we go back home and nothing’s changed. That is, as many of you have already begun to perceive, reality is then the same and the disappoint- ment is even bigger.
This is why it is providential that we have in front of us the text of the School of Community on the power of the Spirit,53 because we have to continue to ask for the power of the Spirit, so that we can be like the disciples, who had encountered an exceptional Personality, but had not understood; and it is possible for us to have participated in an excep- tional gesture and not understood.
We have to keep on asking for this event of the Spirit, so that we can identify more and more with what happened, which can change our gaze. “The new awareness is born in adherence to an event, in the af- fectus [affection] for an event to which we are attached” (“in love,” as Zambrano said). Our reason does not conquer if it is a “measure,” [but] if it broadens, if it is determined by an event, by an affectus, by the liv- ing presence of Christ, by His beauty. His beauty is what keeps us from seeing the measure conquer, seeing passivity conquer, seeing how our humanity keeps on shrinking, to the point of being depressed.
What keeps us from reducing ourselves is a gaze, a tender, fixed, at- tached, gaze. How can we keep up this position? Only if that event stays contemporary. “The new awareness,” says Father Giussani, “im- plies being contemporary with the event which generates and continues to sustain it.” If the presence of Christ is not constantly present, reawakening our I, we can’t go on. Thus the Pope’s precious reminder: a deep, personalized faith can only be rooted in the living Body of Christ, the Church, which guarantees Jesus’ contemporaneity with us.
By staying in this companionship, we have been able to look at real- ity and ourselves without reduction. But watch out: staying in this com- panionship where this contemporaneity happens again doesn’t mean staying passively, doesn’t mean being presumptuous by staying pas- sively. Years ago Father Giussani said, “Following the Movement with- out this conversion of self-awareness, without Christ, the memory of Christ becoming the content of the awareness of myself, that is, without memory, following the Movement becomes following a club,” and a club that doesn’t much matter.
This is why Christian religiosity, Father Giussani insists—in other words, a religiosity, an openness constantly reawakened by the presence of Christ, by this contemporaneity of Christ—is the only condition for being human. In this love for Christ present among us, we put our hu- manity into play, we put our life into play! Thus, we can live religiosity, as Jesus reminds us, in all its truth, precisely through the encounter with Christ and staying in His Church, which keeps on reawakening us and pushing us more and more to relate to reality with all of the open- ness of reason, and keeps us from definitively giving in to passivity or to rationalism, pushing us to keep on broadening reason. This is why, Jesus says, this definitive relationship with God is worth our while if we are to save ourselves.
So, friends, we stand before a choice. “This is man’s choice: either he conceives of himself as free from the whole universe and dependent only on God, or free from God and therefore the slave of every circum- stance.” So when we feel like slaves, let’s not blame the circumstances, the entire universe, or anyone on whom we unload all our responsibili- ties. Let’s start thinking that being slaves in a circumstance, feeling stuck, feeling suffocated, depends on this lack of dependence on the Mystery.
How much, yes, how much unease, how much wasted time, how many complaints, how much violence we would spare ourselves if we understood these things! It’s enough to do School of Community. “[T]he superiority of the ‘I’ is based on its direct dependence upon God—the principle which originates and gives everything its begin- nings. Man’s greatness and his freedom derive from a direct depen- dence on God, a condition by which man realizes and affirms himself. Dependence on God is the primary condition for what truly interests man. Lived dependence on God, or religiosity, is the most impassioned directive Jesus gives in His Gospel.”

3. Human existence

And thus, says Father Giussani, “insistence on religiosity is the first and absolute duty of the educator, that is to say, the friend.” This is a friend; all others are so-called friends. Friend: someone is a friend if he opens up this religiosity, if he reawakens it, not if he turns it off, not if he blocks it, not if he organizes it: this is not a friend; this is a manipu- lator. Let’s ask ourselves how many true friends we have, that is, some- one who keeps on reawakening this for me, who reawakens my wound, the drama of life, who reawakens for me the question, “What profit is it to gain the whole world, if you lose yourself?” Whoever says this to us is a friend.

4. An awareness that expresses itself in asking

This awareness is expressed in asking. “The expression of religiosi- ty, inasmuch as it is aware of its dependence on God, is called prayer.” I’ll underline three points on this topic:
a) “Prayer is the ultimate awareness of self, an awareness of [this] structural dependence. Prayer represented the very substance of Christ’s perception of Himself.”59 Thus prayer is becoming aware of what I am. “I have loved you with an eternal love and had pity on your nothing- ness” (Cf. Jer 31:3). Awareness of self, not praying thoughtlessly, not praying so-to-speak. See when the last time was that someone prayed and had such an awareness of self that he was moved. Not a mere pious gesture at all! It is this awareness, chock-full to its origin that moves you.
b) “In prayer, human existence is revived and finds consistency.” It is impossible for someone to do this and not revive, not find his own consistency. “Devout wonder, respect, loving subjection are all con- tained in this act of awareness: this is the soul of prayer.” Certainly not getting bored! Devout wonder, loving subjection, being radically moved: this is prayer.
,So, when someone becomes aware of this, “solitude is eliminated. Existence is realized, in substance, as dialogue with the Great Presence which constitutes it—it is an inseparable companion.” And, look here: “The company is in our I. There is nothing that we do by ourselves. Every human friendship is the reverberation of the original structure of being, and if this is denied, its truth is in jeopardy. In Jesus, the Em- manuel, the ‘God with us,’ the familiarity and dialogue with Him who creates us in every instant become not only a clarifying perception, but real, historical company.” This historical companionship is given to us so that this might become more transparent, not to take our place.
This is why we need prayer, not only as a dimension, but the act of prayer as a necessary exercise toward this awareness, to the point that it becomes familiar. Here’s the promise: “The height of prayer is not ec- stasy, that is, such a profound awareness of the depths that one loses the sense of the everyday. Rather, it is seeing the depths as if they were everyday things.”
Most definitely not being visionaries! This is Christian mysticism: seeing the depths, seeing the origin, not staying at the apparent such that the depths of everything, of me and of reality, may become as transparent as everyday things.
What a broadening of reason it takes to see the depths the way you see everyday things! What training it takes to use reason according to the true nature of reason, to the point of being familiar with the Mystery who sees the depths as everyday things.
c) “The complete expression of prayer is asking.”
“Everything seems so complicated,” Camus said in his Caligula. “Yet, really, it’s quite simple. If I’d had the moon, if love were enough, all might have been different. But where could I quench this thirst? What human heart, what god, would have for me the depth of a great lake? There’s nothing in this world, or in the other, made to my stature. And yet I know, and you, too, know that all I need is for the impossible to be. The impossible! I’ve searched for it at the confines of the world, in the secret places of my heart. I’ve stretched out my hands.” Everything is right here: I stretched out my hands. We want the impos- sible. This is why, since we can’t give it to ourselves, all our hope lies in having outstretched hands.

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