Traces N.11, December 2004

A Human Encounter in Which God Is Present

We are living in a time that many call a time of crisis. In the analyses of the social changes, both anthropological and economic, we often get the feeling of an age that is drawing to a close. And the new one that looms over the horizon has often the disquieting traits of conflict, of unrestrained chaotic changes, and of the possible and ever-more sophisticated dominion of man over man. The various fields of scientific research offer us contradictory and uncertain signals.

To speak of Christmas in this situation might seem empty and distant. At most, it is proposed to us as the periodic celebration of goodwill to exorcise our fear: a wall of dreams set up for one day before the crude reality of life.

Yet, for centuries, the memory of the Christian event–Christ’s birth–has been the starting point, the rallying point for understanding the absolute value of the person and therefore of human history. Jesus’ birth was the starting point of every recovery, even in times of trial and defeat.

For if God has been so moved as to become a child among us, it means that here there is something of value; it means that man is not an accident, a mistake in the chaos of the universe.

On the birth of that Child depends the awareness man has of himself, and hence the meaning of his actions.
A civilization that has forgotten the powerful meaning of the Christmas Event, the integral, reasonable and affectionate emotion it brings, has lost the meaning of its beginning. This is why, when in crisis, it is vulnerable and at a loss.

The beginning of life is in life itself, not in a discourse about it. Neither rhetoric nor scruples have ever given rise to a positive experience, but have rather created tyrannies and sacrificed the real life of so many in exchange for an idea that was claimed to be just.

At the beginning of Christianity there is not “a discourse,” as Fr Giussani recalled in his recent interview with Corriere della Sera, but “an act of life;” there is a child, the undefended flesh of a God who asks to enter into relationship with our bodies and our minds, with our reason and our affection. At the beginning there is no imperious command; there is God’s freedom that meets man’s freedom: a generous challenge. From this spectacle, of which our Christmas cribs are an elementary and touching interpretation, the human adventure of history can always begin–the great history of the centuries, and the great history of each person, every day.

The Church led by the Pope is made up of people for whom the Lord is never something of the past, but a present experience that changes life.

Margherita Coletta, the widow of the brigadier murdered in Nassiriya a year ago, was interviewed for a television news program after her audience with John Paul II, on November 17th. She said, “To have been able to see him was like meeting Jesus. He gave me such a lot of strength.” A human encounter in which God is present: this is Christianity.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to everyone.