Traces N.2, February 2006

The Beginning of Being Christian, an Event

“Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a Person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.” In the first lines of his recent encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, Benedict XVI wrote these words. With them he sets out to examine a great and much discussed subject: the love of God and the love among men.
A new horizon, a decisive direction: for many this is the meaning of the encounter with the Christian faith announced and testified to by a passionate and patient priest. A year after Fr. Giussani’s death, we hear this description of being Christian as a powerful call to the experience of faith that so many people have encountered because of his witness.
This sentence from the Pope concerns the present. The beginning of being Christian is not just that moment in our life when something happened and started a change in us. It also is the condition of every day: it is the beginning, in the sense of the first move of the self-consciousness of the “I.” How many of us had this beginning through the encounter with Fr. Giussani, with him and with the Movement of people begun by him! This is the motive for a deeply moved gratitude that does not lessen with time; rather, it grows with the passing of the days, as life is enriched with trials and discoveries. Truth does not fear time. The truth of Christianity, as the opening lines of the encyclical highlight, is not an idea, albeit a good one.
The truth is that One happened to us. Nothing so humanly attractive has happened to us like the surprise of discovering what the Pope has just reminded us of so authoritatively: the Divine that makes Himself flesh and blood, the event of men and women, the experience of a people. No idea, no matter how brilliant, and no aspiration, no matter how sincere, could have imagined such an involvement of God with men, such a love for us.
Just as Christianity began in history with the appearance on the scene of a man, Jesus of Nazareth, so it begins every day with a concrete and personal encounter and with the attraction that it generates in life.
A year after Fr. Giussani’s death, many words crowd together to give voice to a deeply moved memory. But in the opening of the first great encyclical of Benedict XVI, we have found the right words to express it, and to have a greater consciousness of the sureness of the road that Fr. Giussani indicated. “If I weren’t yours, my Christ, I would be a finished creature.” In commemorating a death, we savor a life.