Man Filled With Pain and Certainty

By Luigi Giussani The Pilgrim's Journal, No. 1, December 24, 1999 (Bimonthly newspaper of the Central Committee of the Great Jubilee of the year 2000).
Luigi Giussani

"During my childhood I, too, believed in Christ's divinity: I went to mass, to confession, to communion. The last time I went to confession and communion was when I was twenty; then I stopped believing in his divinity, only to begin to believe in his humanity. I feel that Christ has not lost importance, within me, from the time I stopped believing in his divinity, but has rather gained importance. He has become more important for me, as culture, than what he was before for myself, as the way to the other life." These are the words of Elio Vittorini, who had certainly not known the Christianity of Tradition as I encountered it, through my parents and the seminary. For him Christ was a guide to the other life and nothing more, as if the way to the other life were not my historical "I;" as if this time that I must pass through and this society in which I have been placed by the one who generated me were not the way.
How different from the man of Vittorini is the homo viator, the "man on a journey" as he is conceived by the Christian mentality and as John Paul II speaks of him in Incarnationis mysterium, when he describes existence "as a journey. From birth to death, the condition of everyone is that peculiar to the homo viator." Man on a journey, the Christian is full of pain and certainty; in other words, he is humble. He is full of pain because he is well aware of the inconsistency and of the betrayals that are immersed in what the Church calls "original sin;" he is full of certainty because he knows that precisely through a humanity full of limits there passes-in triumph-the evidence of the presence of the Lord, of His will, so that life is a witness to the Great Presence even through the evil of each one.
The sign of the Holy Door opened by the Pope cries out the announcement of salvation to the world, the event of the passage from sin to grace, that even today is brought about by the power of the Jew, Jesus of Nazareth, died and risen, for two thousand years God's companionship to man. For the Jubilee re-proposes with unheard-of freshness the method that God chose for communicating Himself to the world: He became a man, and human nature is the way through which salvation (the great mystery of mercy)-in other words the fulfilment of truth, of beauty, of justice, of happiness-becomes an experience possible for all men and women. To celebrate the birth of Christ is to acknowledge His presence in the world today, "audible, visible, touchable" through His mysterious Body that is the Church.
The Jubilee makes memory of this, the Jubilee welcomed by the Church so that we turn our eyes (cum-vertere) to fix them on the person of Jesus and on His unheard-of claim to be the exhaustive answer to our "fever" of life. "The Holy Year is by its very nature a moment of call to conversion. This is the first word of Jesus' preaching, that is significantly linked to readiness to believe: 'Be converted and believe in the Gospel' (Mc 1:15) This, moreover, is in the first place a fruit of grace." (John Paul II)
Life is played out wholly in the great alternative that that Man set out for all times, up to the end: "What does it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose himself? Or what will a man give in exchange for himself?" For those who met Jesus along the dusty roads of Palestine, just as for us who hear the announcement two thousand years later, the alternative has the form of the attitude described in the two poetic works of Karol Wojtyla: "I invoke You and seek You, Man - in whom /human history can find its Body. /I move to meet You, I don't say, 'Come' /I just say, 'Be.'" (Stone of Light) The other passage describes the figure opposed to Christ, to the poor in spirit; this is the image of the revolutionary or, if you like, the Pharisee of the Gospel: "The worst thing is that they want to convince you that all you have is not yours by right, but is given you by grace. Don't wait for charity! Charity humiliates you. You don't need it. You must understand that everything belongs to you absolutely. Nothing by grace. I wanted to prove to you that you are being thought of. Your rights are being fought for. All that is needed is your anger." (Brother of Our God)
What the Pope points out is truly the radical cultural alternative that the thin blade of freedom passes through. This freedom, at the moment it dawns, expresses an attitude toward reality-of either original openness or preconceived closure-that permits it to perceive the accent of the Truth in the presence and in the announcement of Christ or to remain deaf and rebellious toward the echoes of His words.
From this point of view some words of Kafka are striking for me: "I am not alone because I received a love-letter, and yet I am alone because I did not answer with love." This is the description of the situation of modern man as regards God, that is to say as regards Christ. In order to answer with love one needs poverty of spirit. The most emblematic page from this point of view is in the Gospel: "And having said this He cried out in a loud voice, 'Lazarus, come out!' The dead man came out, with his hands and feet tied up in bands, and his face covered with a napkin. Jesus said to them, 'Untie him and let him go.' Many of the Jews who had come with Mary, when they saw what He had done, believed in Him. But some went to the Pharisees and reported to them what Jesus had done. Then the Pharisees said, 'What shall we do? If we let Him do these things everyone will believe in Him….' From that day, therefore, they decided to kill Him." (Jn 11:43) Here lies the drama of freedom. We too cannot avoid the alternative, just as it was for them, because the sign and the accent of His truth reach our heart and our conscience, here and now, through the living witness of men who acknowledge Him in their flesh.
For us, passing through the Holy Door with the Pope means "yielding" with simplicity to the attraction of the unforeseen event that marks the beginning of history as we have counted it for the past two thousand years, just as it happened to Zacchaeus, on that day when Jesus stopped under the tree that he had climbed in order to see Him pass by, and said, "Come down, I am coming to your house." It was as if Zacchaeus had heard Him say, "I value you and I love you." The attraction aroused by that young man was such that Zacchaeus ran home and crossed the threshold as he had never done in his life.