Traces N.1, January 2004

Our Indestructible Company

We present here the editorial by Fr Giussani published on the front page of the Italian daily Avvenire , December 24, 2003

Joseph was not amazed by the fact that the woman had a child, but that that child was that woman’s, Mary’s. It was his because he had wanted it to be hers.
Thus something really great is accomplished; without Christ nothing is conceivable. That’s the way it is: without the creation nothing would exist, Being would exist, and nothing else. But with Christ Being is acclaimed—the very nature of Being is to communicate itself. With Him everything exists, even the tiniest poplar leaf, ephemeral but existent. Without the re-creation brought about by that birth creation would not exist.
Without Christ joy is impossible, because it would be irrational. For the desire for joy is of the very nature of man when he looks at reality that is made. This is why Dante is right—and I will never stop quoting him—when he says, “Each one confusedly a good conceives/ Wherein the mind may rest, and longs for it; Therefore to overtake it each one strives.” (Purgatorio, XVII, 127–129). Thus desire describes man’s very nature.
Because of the kind of feast it is and because it is so widespread, Christmas represents the “ultima Thule” (the last frontier), the final step that man’s nature can take: either to acknowledge that the manifestation of Being is there, or to proceed towards total desperation, denying that the Word of God has become man—and thus ending up like the last man and the last woman that Carducci describes, who see the sun going down for the last time in a world of ice.
The re-creation brought about by Christ is the truth of creation. In announcing Jesus, Christmas reveals the incontrovertible dominion of Being, which has the quality of “victory.” The victory is the existence of the fact that triumphs over all man’s disbelief and doubt, it triumphs! This fact is the announcement that God has become man!
Our great Pope wrote in his message for the World Day of Peace. “Let everyone be committed to hastening this victory. For it is the deepest hope of every human heart.” We repeat the same thing along with John Paul II, today, when everything seems to be despised in time or quickly overcome; what we hoped would last turns out not to last, except for a fleeting sound, the page of a book, a glance through the newspaper. Words dissolve in the air in brief instants of emotion—when this is not already consumed in the delusion of the same first instant. They become like the words of a video, since nothingness is the continuous outcome of the ephemeral insurgence. For nothingness can only bring about nothingness.
This is why it needed Christ to make good this end of everything. He, the indestructible, cannot be touched in any way by destruction. Again Dante carries us forward, placing on our lips the words of his Hymn to the Virgin which have no fear of nothingness, not they, because they are dictated by Being: “Here to us you are a noonday torch / of charity, and below there among mortals / You are the living fountain-head of hope (Paradiso, XXXIII, 10–12)
Freud said that salvation cannot come from man, but only from outside man, from something other (This something other is either Being, then it is “undying source,” or absolute non-being, which is nonsense. To say “there is no being” is pure madness because it denies what is evident). A Christmas carol written by Adriana Mascagni, heard in many Churches in Italy and throughout the world, describes the fulfilment of that unconscious prophecy: “There’s snow in the air tonight, and no one has time to open his door or his heart. There’s snow in the air tonight, and someone still stirs, still hasn’t found a place to rest. A man knocks on every door, a man asks at every house is there no room for her who is with me. The woman bends over in pain. She will give warmth to her newborn son. We’ll find something, and you’ll see it will suffice. The child cries on a bed of straw, the woman prays and the man watches over them. He will reign forever, and the world knows not who you are. There’s snow in the air tonight, and no one has time to open his door or his heart. There’s snow in the air tonight, and a star moves across the sky. It will come to rest over the house in the distance.” God has overcome this distance.
Christmas comes to ensure man’s joy: man will reach happiness, which is the aim of his life. The assurance of joy! Man needs this certainty in order to live, and he has this certainty when he is in company (and if he has no company it’s because he doesn’t ask for it. If you ask for it, it’s given). Christ is the supreme company that God gives to man. So, greetings.

Luigi Giussani