“Come!” Being is Holiness

Notes from a talk of Luigi Giussani to a group of Memores Domini. Milan, April 21, 2002.

Luigi Giussani

Reading the Breviary in these days, my eye was caught by the importance of something that, in and of itself, might not say anything new: it is the word “Come” (I am pleased that some of you underlined it).1 The angels who dominate the development of the Ascension, the angels who represent the ultimate judgment on everything, face to face with humanity, use their task to say the word “Come;” the sum of what they say, the urgency that they make impelling is the word “Come.”
The word “Come” is of capital importance; it means that man is incomplete. And the perception of our incompleteness lies at the base of everything. It is the incompleteness of a child because of a need he senses, in the face of which he is unable to do anything–for a child, this need to fulfill what cannot be fulfilled is the confession of a lack and the statement of his expectation of a response to this lack, of a fulfillment of this lack.
“Come, Come, Come,” the four angels say at the beginning of the account of paradise. But–I asked myself while I listened to your citation of it this morning, through your remarks that were so interesting and so psychologically and intellectually rich–what then does “Come” mean, if all the awareness of our life and of the life of the world has import only if it makes us cry “Come”? “Come” arises from the reality of our incompetence, of our limitation, of our contradiction with what makes us be and makes things be. Our incompetence is like making a wrong move in the establishment of a relation between our origin and our realization; it is a profound affront toward our own origin.
Before drawing the consequences of this observation, before drawing the dramatic, but rich, consequences of this observation, let me say that there is an enormous injustice, there is an injustice that lies in bringing a piece of bread to our mouth or in bringing an appeal for affection to our heart and projecting into the future the hope that our own greatness may be affirmed, that the world may recover and renew it, recognize it (in a word), without admitting our own incompleteness.
“Come.” What does this mean? There is a word that, by itself, exhausts the origin and the realization of “Come,” and this word is “holy.”
“Come”: the God of the Ascension must become the object of “Come,” that’s all. Everything we can say, that you have said and that could still be said, all of this is nothing compared with this position that the verb used in Revelation announces: “Come.” “Come” means that in me there is an incapacity, an impossibility for realization, for understanding and realizing the relationships which the hours of our life are made up of.
“Holiness” is the only word that saves the Mystery in its reality as originator, in its reality as the origin of everything and in its truth as this origin’s capacity for life. “Come” is the desire for holiness, it is the expectation and the entreaty for holiness–for holiness, because holiness is God. But holiness is God as Mystery, it is the connection that the mystery of God establishes most perceptibly, most visibly, in the face of everything, every instant that opens up for us.
Holiness: “Come, because I lack it.” I lack it; I lack You and I lack it. Holiness is such precisely because it is Mystery. It is the mysteriousness of God that is enunciated, defined in the word “holiness;” at any moment, it can be pondered.
“Holiness” means yielding to a Presence that surpasses us in every sense and is not even tied to the possibility that the Mystery gives us to respond to those urgings toward which it bends us.
I beg you to underline the unification of all our points of view under this word: “Come,” in this cry: “Come!,” in the face of this supreme proposal of Being: “Come,” where Being is holiness, it is called holiness.
If there is one thing that we do not understand, morally speaking, it is the word “holiness.” But a kiss given to one’s child without holiness is foul, it is mendacious, or desperate!
We have two cues for letting this word–holiness–show us for what we were made, to what we have been called.
First of all, the awareness of our incompetence in the face of the totality (not the “whole”–the whole is the most mendacious form of this, because the whole is the sum of many particulars without the position of the subject being affected); incompetence as lack of perfection, lack of fulfillment of what everything pushes us toward, lack of perfection in the act, i.e., in the face of a presence.
In the second place, holiness is affirmation of man’s impossibility, in reality, of accomplishing even one sole perfect gesture; as Ibsen said, man’s inability to look at even one instant in his life as perfect.
Thus, on one hand we have holiness as completeness, and on the other, holiness as truthfulness, as not falsehood, as condemnation of falsehood.
All the rest, on which we have touched also this morning, goes into a cauldron that is made to boil only by this holiness. Only the word holiness fulfills and contradicts the position of negation, of lie, of falsehood: holiness as fulfillment and holiness as elimination of falsehood from our lives.
What the Lord makes me feel in these times and that found its explanation in that cue from Revelation, the reduction that I have made of the whole “matter” to a few words, is the only explanation, in itself, that we can give and that, like a wind, can drive our little boat at a speed unequalled on all the seas of the world.
But, to conclude my thought, I say, “Fine, so what one has to do is say his answer to ‘Come’: ‘Yes, come,’ or ‘No.’” That’s all.
I hope you will help me to understand better, to understand well, to understand perfectly what the Lord is saying to me, following the line of these cues. Other things came to my mind to say, but let’s hope to say them another time. Ciao.