Traces N.11, December 2013

From Peter to Peter

Two thousand years, burned away in a few minutes... This was the impression of many when, on November 24th, before a packed Saint Peter’s Square at the Mass for the close of the Year of Faith, Pope Francis held in his arms the reliquary containing the bones of Peter for several minutes and looked upon them in meditative wonder. Two thousand years have passed since then, with an uninterrupted chain of events, faces, and witnesses that have ensured that we, too, would be touched by the Event we are preparing to celebrate: the presence of God in the world. Two thousand years full of a Presence that, deep down, has only one goal: our happiness, the fullness of my life, of your life.
Shortly after that gesture, the Pope gave the people of God a document that, as he himself says, has a “programmatic significance,” or, in other words, expresses what is most important to him. It is a very rich text, as you will see now, thumbing through these pages, and, in the coming days, as you read it more carefully. The title says it all: Evangelii Gaudium, “the joy of the Gospel,” which “fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus.”

These words echo on the poster with which Communion and Liberation traditionally greets the decisive moments of the year. The “bond that Christ establishes with you, not that you establish with Christ,” as Fr. Giussani writes, is the heart of this joy: a Fact, He who gives Himself. It is not an idea, a project to achieve, or an objective to reach, but God who, as the Pope continually reminds us, “primerea,” comes first and takes the initiative.
He becomes an “accompanying Presence,” so much so that “letting yourself be caught up in and guided by His love, enlarges the horizons of existence, gives it a firm hope which will not disappoint.” In short, he continues, faith is “something which enhances our lives.”
This is the promise of Christmas, to enhance our lives, broadening them, giving them breathing room and depth, fullness. It is a decisive promise. What greater thing could we desire? But it is also a promise that is simple to verify. It is not a matter of interpretations or hypotheses. There is only one test for seeing whether life is enhanced: life itself, experience. We can know whether a thing truly fills the heart only when we unexpectedly and surprisingly find that our hearts are full. We cannot cheat on this, we cannot pretend, not even with ourselves. When it happens, it is unmistakeable.

This issue of Traces is like a small journey to places where Christmas happens and life is enhanced–very different places, like a hospital in Bologna, Italy, or a petroleum extraction site in the desert of Dubai. On this journey, you will encounter normal, ordinary lives that testify the experience of Christmas to everyone because “the bond that Christ establishes with us” is concrete. From that night of Christmas, the Presence of God in the world passes through lives and faces, from Peter to Peter, two thousand years burned away in an instant. It fills history in order to fill our lives, now.