Traces N.1, January 2006

Faith and Mystery. Ratzinger’s Christianity: Beautiful and Joyous

We offer here Fr. Carrón’s article published in the Italian daily Corriere della Sera on December 24, 2005, and in the Spanish daily El Mundo on December 26th

“Each one apprehends confusedly a good/ in which the soul may rest and desires it,/ so each one strives to achieve it.” Dante’s genius expressed better than any other the expectation that constitutes the heart of each of us. We all secretly await, at times ashamed to admit it to ourselves, this good in which our soul finds rest. It’s as if we had to do it furtively, hidden from ourselves and others, to defend ourselves–it’s so unpopular, so “politically incorrect”–to admit to ourselves our own human need. Why?
Because “everything conspires to be silent about ourselves/ a bit the way one is silent / about disgrace, perhaps, a bit the way one is silent about/ an ineffable hope” (Rilke). The attempt of any power is to expropriate from man his own experience, the experience that is most ours, that coincides with our deepest, most gut-felt life. Its claim is so powerful that it will accept nothing less than all of us: it wants our soul. And the pity is that often it finds in us an occult ally. So much so that for us, too, sometimes the reality of our being seems like a dream. In order to look at one’s own heart, one needs an “I” like that of the Spanish poet Antonio Machado: “Is my heart sleeping? / No. My heart isn’t sleeping. / It is awake, awake./ It neither sleeps nor dreams, it looks, / with clear open eyes/ at far off signs and listens/ at the shore of the great silence.”
Hardly a dream, this! My heart is awake, awake, if I say “I” with all the loyalty of which I am capable, with all my capacity for sincerity, with that tenderness with which I was embraced as a little one by my mother. It is only this tenderness toward ourselves that allows us to embrace all of our humanity. And then one realizes that the heart “neither sleeps nor dreams, it looks, / with clear open eyes/ at far off signs and listens/ at the shore of the great silence.” This is the height of reason: arriving at the great silence, that is, Mystery. Before it, we can only look with our eyes wide open, and await a sign from the other shore.
Christmas is the sign that all of us, more or less confusedly, expected from the great silence of the Mystery. It is the unforeseen realization of this desire. “The Word became flesh.” The Mystery became one of us. He arrived on our shore. He was, and is, a surprise, as He was for Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, and the Magi.
With Christmas, a Presence entered history forever, bearer of a newness that no power can eliminate. “Someone happened to us,” said Mounier. He so corresponds to the expectation of the heart that He can never be vanquished. His fascination is so captivating that only the furiously obstinate in not recognizing Him can remain unaffected by His attraction.
In the face of this fact, all the attempts to confine Christmas to spiritualistic or virtual phenomena of man’s religious imagination, with nothing to do with the reality of everyday life, are pathetic. It is the attempt to send Christmas to the world of dreams.
Why isn’t it a dream? Why wasn’t it a dream two thousand years ago? Because His Presence is at work among us. “The Christian faith is the subversive and surprising way of living ordinary things,” said Fr. Giussani. We verify that Christ is real, present, because He changes precisely the things that are most resistant to any change: the ordinary things. This intensity of living, the ineffable and total vibration in front of things and people, the density of the moment, in times when everything is flat, convinces us that Péguy was right when he wrote: “He is here. /He is here as on the first day. / He is in the midst of us as on the day of His death/ Eternally every day./ He is here among us all the days of His eternity.”
Christianity is easy, within the grasp of everyone. Just yield to His winning attraction, like the shepherds, who will be known throughout history as the model of how easy Christianity is. All that’s needed is the simplicity to acknowledge it.
He is here. Pope Benedict XVI documents it radiantly, continuing to challenge everyone, testifying to the beauty of being Christian and the joy of living it, that there is no need of evil to be happy, that boredom is overcome only if we let Him into our lives. What a responsibility we have–we Christians–to support his challenge, witnessing in our lives to the truth of his words!
Julián Carrón