Traces N.9, October 2003

The True Revolutionary of Our Time

He dominates everything, drawing existence out of nothingness, And not only in the beginning, but constantly.

John Paul II wrote these lines in Roman Triptych, his recent book of “meditations.” And we dedicate them to him, on the twenty-fifth anniversary of his pontificate. The Mystery “dominates everything, drawing existence out of nothingness.”
In the history of the world, and in the brief, dramatic history of the individual, newness is given only by the action of the Mystery, who “constantly” generates life. In his “Letter to the Fraternity” last June, Fr Giussani wrote that “the ‘I’ must be continually exalted by a rebirth of reality, by a re-creation which in the figure of Our Lady is moved by the Infinite.” Generation is not only in order to give life to men and plants, to beasts and the entire cosmos. The Mystery draws existence out of nothingness, entering it discreetly, “almost like a whisper,” said Clemente Rebora; keeping it company, communicating to it the sense of an infinite goodness greater than death.
In these years, in a convulsed and violent world, in front of confused men and the dark perils of desperation, the Pope has been the advent of this difference. His presence has not been a matter of words. His proposal has not been a wise exhortation, an exercise in dialectics, or a strategy. No, he, in the physical vigor of his early trips and now in the strength of his patience and his offering, has been, and above all is, a presence, the sign of the Presence that, just as it drew back to life the dead son of the widow of Nain, draws life out, tearing it out of nothingness, every day.
The figure of John Paul II has been a striking one throughout these twenty-five years, by his testimony of a positive affirmation of the infinite value of every existence.
His humanity, even his very character, have let themselves be grasped so freely and profoundly by the humanity of Christ that they have become a powerful clarion call to Him. This is why his presence is viewed sympathetically by millions of people, with a favor that makes the heart simple, even in the midst of the many hardships of life.
The culture in which we live, the French philosopher, Finkielkraut, recalled in Traces a few months ago, throws contemporary man into a terrible situation. For we are prey to an ideology that denies the value of the present and life as “given.” In the proposals made by the dominant mentality, every possibility for fulfillment seems consigned to a fleeting future. Thus, the present becomes only the locus of resentment, something that has to be escaped, for an existence that thus becomes the reign of disguise and pretense. Unfortunately, even Christian faith itself is too often understood and proposed as a variation of certain ideologies or as a vague consolation.
In this situation, John Paul II did not set himself to making analyses or projects. He lives and communicates his personal emotion at the Christian event, his personal familiarity with Mary, the first portal through which the Mystery that dominates everything was made flesh. And in this way, he continues to sustain man’s hope. In the midst of so many intellectuals who claim to be avant-garde and of so many prophets–even violent ones–of a better world, he emerges as the true revolutionary of our time.