Fr. Giussani

Fr. Giussani’s lesson: God has created us for joy

From Corriere della Sera, an excerpt from the preface to the fourth volume of the series Cristianesimo alla prova [Christianity put to the test], a collection of lessons and dialogues by Fr. Giussani at the Fraternity Exercises of CL.
Julián Carrón

This article has been translated from the original Italian, published in Corriere della Sera on May 27, 2020.

Today, nihilism dominates everywhere, almost without us noticing. That emptiness of meaning, which constantly looms over us and that blurs and wears everything out - not even our dearest things seem to resist the impact of time - cannot be challenged with words. A dialectical battle cannot defeat it; it is not by force of reasoning or discourse that we will defeat it. It takes more than that.

Nothingness can only be challenged by being, by something real. We all experience it every morning. Just look at what prevails when you wake up. If we have any resource to face nothingness, we recognize it by the fact that something real imposes itself upon us the moment we open our eyes, when we are still unarmed in front of the day that awaits us.

It is surprising to see once again how Giussani has understood the drama of our era ahead of its time. His ability to intercept the point at which we all get stuck, allowed him to face the challenge himself. In this way, he testifies to us the outcome of his verification. What prevails in him is what he communicates to all of us.

In 1992, he stated that there is an antecedent from which we should start every morning, before we throw ourselves into the fray of the daily toil of living. "This great premise (...) of which we are reminded during Mass and every time the Church gathers us together (...): «In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit», which for us means affirming first and last the mystery of Being, the Mystery from which we come.”

This approach, which should be familiar to us Christians, if only for the many times we have repeated it, is not taken for granted. Benedict XVI reminds us of it: “God is often taken for granted as a matter of course, but concretely one does not deal with Him. The theme of God seems so unreal, so far removed from the things that concern us. And yet everything becomes different if one does not presuppose but present God. Not somehow leaving Him in the background, but recognizing Him as the center of our thoughts, words and actions.”

Obviousness is our real drama. Everything is taken for granted: then people and facts no longer tell us anything, they are dumb before us. The profound reason for this obviousness is that we consider God "unreal", "so far removed from the things that concern us."

To see how much life changes, we should have the courage to verify what happens when we live, as Benedict XVI points out, following H.U. von Balthasar's invitation: “God (...): do not presuppose Him but prepend Him!”

But only those who truly care about themselves, about self-fulfillment, about the fullness of their lives, can take this suggestion into consideration. Only for those who do not conform to the nothingness that spreads in daily life, those who do not surrender to the consequent confusion, and those who are willing not to succumb to the temptation of scepticism, does reality loses its obvious face - to the point of boredom and self-loathing - and reveals itself as a continuous, promising novelty.

We have come to the knowledge of this antecedent through a story. "Destiny reveals itself, destiny - that is, the mysterious God, the mystery we call God - speaks for itself, that is, it makes itself known in its definitiveness through the choice of a people. (...) God chooses a people born of Abraham et semini eius, and his seed, his descendants; he chooses a people, because through it and through its history He makes us better understand what He wants".

This is the design that destiny, God, intends to realize: "I want the positivity of everything." And it does so "through a human history."

The people born of Abraham live immersed in this experience of positivity. Its existence is good for all, because, through Israel, the Mystery makes its design present in history, which is destined to reach every man: "God did not make death, and he does not delight in the death of the living. For he created all things so that they might exist; the generative forces of the world are wholesome, and there is no destructive poison in them, and the dominion of Hades is not on earth.” Giussani comments upon these words from the book of Wisdom: the fact that life is positive, that reality is positive, that destiny wants everyone to experience positivity, means that "we are made for joy. The heart cannot hear, as correspondent to itself, anything other than this word. There may be, first, an army of discouragement, of «buts», «ifs» and «no», of denials, but no one can completely deny this word which expresses the nature of the heart: joy, happiness." Whoever preserves a minimum of affection for themselves must admit it: "I have felt more and more the desire to be loved. A minimum of reflection naturally convinced me each time of the absurdity of such a dream: life is limited and forgiveness impossible. But reflection could do nothing about it, the desire persisted and I must confess that it still persists." All our reasoning, all our wounds cannot completely erase the desire of the heart.

But how can this experience of joy, of positivity become ours? What is asked of us? "A total availability before Destiny, before the Mystery, before God." What does this consist of? First of all, "it is my loving affirmation of being and of reality that happens, if it is life or death, if it is joy or pain, if it is successful or unsuccessful. Love is the affirmation of a presence that is revealed through the instant, in the instant."