Traces N.7, July/August 2007

The Insertion of the Eternal into Time

Man has always sought something that could fulfill the positive tension within him and counter the nothingness in which everything seems to end. From his earliest rock paintings to his evolved compositions in verse and music, he has striven to invent gestures, rites, and works that would call life back to life, as it were; that would be a moment and space in which something would oppose the petrification of existence; that would call back the impetus of life that exists in the heart of every man, even when unfavorable seasons succeed flourishing and rich ones. Man in every time has invented everything, in order to obey the urgency that marks him and wounds him in the depths of his being, in order to propose actions for himself and his people that would keep alive their hope in a good destiny. The wondrous spectacle of these continuous attempts is vast, dramatic, and moving.
Man has always done his most important work in search of the road to sustain this hope. Alongside the work to procure food, protect his loved ones, and develop his abilities, he couldn’t fail to do what we can call “the work of hope,” without which, suddenly or in the long run, all the other efforts appear vain. Not a day passes that each of us doesn’t identify something or someone as the point of renewal of the positivity of life, be it merely the fleeting presence of a friend, success at work, or a sign on the road.
Christianity took all this seriously. As Charles Péguy put it, Jesus Christ didn’t come to tell strange little stories. He came to respond to man’s eternal, anxious, and vast search. He took seriously our desire for life, our need to see life prevail. And, as it often says in the Gospel, He had compassion on this nothing that we are, to the point of becoming our Friend. He knew well, as we all do, that no reality of this world–no success, no friend, no ability–can spare life from the desperation of loss, of non-sense. No invention of this limited being that is the “I” can grant man the secret of life, the always-yearned-for Infinite. The Eternal had to be inserted into time, so that in our days we might experience the joy of living. The event of God making Himself available, available to the point of self-sacrifice, had to happen, so that man might find the point of continual renewal that is never depleted, never eliminated by any limit, defect, or ugliness. The heart is made for finding this point of victory. This is why the Pope never tires of speaking of faith as a simple thing. Everyone can know the content and method through an encounter, an experience: “Listening to him preaching, seeing him heal the sick, evangelize the lowly and the poor and reconcile sinners, little by little the disciples came to realize that he was the Messiah in the most exalted sense of the word, that is, not only a man sent by God, but God himself made man.” Homily for the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul, June 29, 2007).
Today, as 2,000 years ago, the method doesn’t change. A high school student, one of many who has discovered faith in the encounter with Student Youth (GS), gives in this sentence the meaning of what has happened to him, and the meaning of every human adventure: “These three years made me understand how GS doesn’t exist to apply some concepts to life or to ‘regulate’ day-to-day life, but to remind us of the needs that constitute us and that make us human. There is only one method for witnessing to Christ at school: being committed to our humanity, taking it seriously.”