From Utopia to Presence - Luigi Giussani

From Utopia to Presence

Luigi Giussani

6/30/2006 - Notes from a talk by Luigi Giussani to a group of university students, Riccione, October 1976, in L. Giussani, Dall’utopia alla presenza (1975-1978) [From Utopia to Presence (1975-1978)], BUR, Milan 2006, pp. 52-56

A presence is original when it springs forth from the consciousness of one’s own identity and one’s affection for it, and finds its consistence in this.
II – Identity is knowing who we are and why we exist, with a dignity that gives us the right to hope for “something better” for our life and the life of the world because of our presence. But who are we to have the right to this hope, without which our life falls into a sinister bourgeois-ness–whose supreme criterion is insurance against risk–or into the colorlessness of a dissatisfaction that soon turns into complaint or accusation of others?
“For in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:26-28). I have never quoted a passage from the Bible as much as this one (except for this: “And everyone who follows Me will receive eternal life, and the hundredfold here below” (cf. Mt 19:29).
“You have been seized and made one with Christ;” “You did not choose me, but I chose you” (Jn 15:16). This is an objective choice that we can never rid ourselves of again; it is a penetration of our being that does not depend on us and that we can no longer erase. “As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ;” therefore, there no longer exists any difference among you. “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus”: this is our identity. The Letter to the Ephesians says, literally, “We are members of one another” (Eph 4:25).
There is nothing culturally more revolutionary than this conception of the person, whose meaning, whose substance is unity with Christ, with an Other, and through this, a unity with all those whom He seizes, with all those whom the Father puts into His hands.
Our identity is to be one with Christ. Being one with Christ is the constitutive dimension of our person. If Christ defines my personality, you, who have been seized by Him, necessarily enter into the dimension of my personality. This is the “new creation” of the very beautiful conclusion to the Letter to the Galatians (Gal 6:15), or the beginning of the “first fruits of his creatures” of which St James speaks (Jam 1:18).
“This is the victory that conquers the world, our faith,” says John (1 Jn 5:4). Faith conquers the world, that is, it demonstrates its truth over all ideologies and conceptions, over all the ways of perceiving the human, because it is the structural truth for which the world was made. It is the truth that will manifest itself and be completely established at the end, but it is the factor that urges history on now and catalyzes good in the world, enabling the world to be more human.
Whether I am alone in my room, or three of us are together studying at the university, or twenty of us eating together in the cafeteria, everywhere and in any case, this is our identity. The problem is, therefore, our self-awareness, the content of the consciousness of ourselves: “It is no longer I who live, but it is You who live in me” (cf. Gal 2:20). This is the true new man in the world–the new man who was Che Guevara’s dream and the lying pretext for cultural revolutions by which people in power have tried and still try to take the people into their hands, in order to subjugate it according to their ideology; and this new man is born above all not out of being consistent, but as a new consciousness of self.
III – Our identity manifests itself in a new experience within us and among us: the experience of affection for Christ and the Mystery of the Church, which finds its closest concreteness in our unity. The identity is the living experience of affection for Christ and for our unity.
The word “affection” is the greatest and most comprehensive of all our ways of expressing ourselves. It indicates much more an “attachment” that is born out of a value judgment–the acknowledgment of what there is in us and among us–than a sentimental, ephemeral facility as fleeting as a leaf at the mercy of the wind. And in faithfulness to the judgment, i.e., in faithfulness to the faith, as one grows older this attachment increases and becomes more sturdy, vibrant, and powerful. “Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith” (Phil 3:7-9).
This living experience of Christ and our unity is the locus of hope, therefore of the welling forth of the gusto of life and the possible blossoming of joy–which does not have to leave out or deny anything in order to affirm itself; and it is the locus of the recovery of a thirst to change one’s life, the desire that one’s life be consistent, that it change by virtue of what it is at bottom, that it may be worthier of the Reality it carries.

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