Traces N.1, January 2007

Faith and Nihilism. Let’s Not Close Our Eyes

We publish here an article by Fr. Carrón printed in the Italian daily Il Corriere della Sera (December 28, 2006) and in the Spanish edition El Mundo (December 26, 2006)

Dear Sir, The human and cultural context in which we live can be identified with one word: confusion. We realize this through the urgent need we have for a certainty. For all the confusion in which we are immersed cannot prevent the emergence of the desire for truth, justice, and happiness that constitutes us. “I looked for myself. One only looks for this” (Pavese). Dissatisfaction, restlessness and sadness tell us that the desire of the heart is ineradicable–like a datum that no nihilism can overcome–. Not even our deceit, our attempts to pretend it doesn’t exist, can uproot it. So much so that the only way out we see is to hate it: “When the heart is clouded over, it weighs like an unbearable load. And it is difficult to bear this weight without having hatred within oneself, without regretting having been born” (Maria Zambrano).
This hatred is understandable because, when the desire for happiness does not find the presence that fulfills it, it is like a crazed impetus that no longer knows where to go. But it cannot self-destruct because it is constitutive, and the one who has constituted us is an other, Destiny. This is why, even in the abyss of forgetfulness, the desire to return home can rekindle. It was this way for the prodigal son, and it is so for anyone who still has a shred of tenderness for himself, “because life needs only the space of a crack to be reborn” (Ernesto Sábato).
The heart remains like a bulwark against nihilism. Heeding the heart, the desire to return home, is the beginning of recovery. It seems like nothing, but it is what we need for recognizing the truth, if by chance it comes our way. For the heart is the criterion for judgment: “Hell,” writes Italo Calvino, “is already here. There are two ways not to suffer it. The first is easy for many: accept hell and become part of it to the point that you no longer see it. The second is risky and demands constant attention and learning: seek and be able to recognize who and what, in the midst of hell, is not hell, and make it last, and give it room.”
Give room to what, if every thing, every face, even our dearest relationships, seem to lack the strength and substance to conquer hell? Something exceptional is needed to breathe and live. Christ’s Birth is the annunciation of just this exceptionality, one that breaks through the closed confines of human experience: the Word became flesh, God became one of us.
And yet today we are accustomed to speaking about Christmas as feelings, folklore, a worn-out rite, rather than as an exceptional fact, to the point that faith hardly interests anybody anymore, not even many who attend Church. Life’s interests are elsewhere. “But how is it possible,” asks Benedict XVI, “that a man can say ‘no’ to what is greatest for him, that he doesn’t have time for what is most important; that he closes in himself his own existence?” And he answers, “Actually, they have never experienced God; they have never experienced how delightful it is to be ‘touched’ by God!”. How can we be “touched” by God? Only through the changed humanity of witnesses, not because they are better people, but because they are taken, grasped by a Fact that moves their whole life, as happened suddenly for the shepherds, “Come see! A child is born for you!”.
So Christmas is a hope for everyone. Just look and let yourself be “wounded” by its beauty, as the Christmas night liturgy describes it: “In the mystery of the Incarnate Word, to the eyes of our mind appeared the new light of your splendor.” This wonder echoes in the words of Pasolini: “The eye looks... only that the eye can perceive beauty... you see beauty because it is alive, and thus real. Let’s say, better, that you may happen to see it. It depends on where it is revealed. The problem is having eyes and not being able to see, not looking at things that happen. Closed eyes. Eyes that don’t see any more. That are no longer curious. That are not waiting for anything to happen. But in the desert of our roads, She passes, breaking the finite limit and filling our eyes with infinite desire.” Today, as two thousand years ago. This is the infinite desire that from that time makes the Church cry, “Come, Lord Jesus!” Thank you.
Julián Carrón