Traces N.2, February 2012

A Moment in Time

There are 2,000 people in the theater, almost all of them under the age of 25. Another 50,000 are linked by video in the rest of Italy and here and there in the world. Ninety tense, dense minutes pass, from Mozart’s Et incarnatus est, sung live by a famous soprano, to the final Angelus. It was an impressive evening at the Arcimboldi Theater in Milan a few weeks ago–one that we would define an “event,” if the word weren’t so overused. Something big. At first glance, it was too big to be explained by the reason for the occasion alone: to present At the Origin of the Christian Claim once more, a text by Fr. Giussani that came out years ago and that had already been read and reread by many of those present. Where was the novelty? And, frankly, where is the novelty in the content of that book, which essentially talks about Christ and the Gospel? Two thousand years later, what can Christianity still claim?

The text of that encounter, led by Julián Carrón, is the Page One section of this issue of Traces. If you go through it attentively, you will see the novelty come to the surface. Just like it did in that hall, or in the others that were linked, or wherever there was–there is–a heart striving to ask. The novelty happens right there, in that heart, in the man who encounters Christ. Everything is decided in that “blossoming of humanity” that happens unexpectedly when faith becomes a real experience. And humanity is not abstract: it’s me, it’s you. Now. There is nothing more novel than this, nothing more “subversive and surprising.” The novelty, in fact, is that “Christ is something that is happening to me now.” This is the content of the announcement. And this is the great claim, which each one of us can verify in his or her own life. It is only because of this that one can answer “yes” to the great, disturbing, and very relevant question posed by Dostoyevsky in Demons: “Can a cultured man, a European of our day, really believe in the divinity of the Son of God, Jesus Christ?”

A Fact. You follow it, and you find that you are revealed to yourself. You skip it, you put it off, and you find yourself strangely weakened in dealing with reality. This decision is played out in everyday life, as demonstrated by the many personal stories about the crisis that we have been publishing in recent months. And it is played out in facing big problems, like the so-called “scenarios.”
For example, we have a hard time understanding Europe if, consciously or not, we eliminate the root of a certain way of living, of thinking, of using reason and conceiving of reality, humanity, rights, the economy. And the root, like it or not, is that Fact. If you censor it, sooner or later you will have to deal with the consequences. Be careful: it’s not just that certain values are dismissed. It’s that reason itself is constricted, as the Pope continually reminds us. Everything becomes complicated. We have a hard time finding motives to stay together, beyond the numbers. Seeing things in perspective. Looking for a common good. Is this too far-fetched? Try reading this issue’s “Close-Up” in light of this question: Can we return to growing and creating wealth together without looking for a common good? Without rekindling desire – the heart of man? Or will budget adjustments and legal measures be enough? And what rekindles the heart like nothing else?
A Fact. “A moment in time and of time,” wrote T.S. Eliot, cited by Giussani, “but time was made through that moment: for without the meaning there is no time, and that moment of time gave the meaning.” It still gives the meaning now. This is the novelty.