I've been re-visiting Fr. Romana Guardini's The Lord (copyright 1954, with an intro by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger). I bought my copy around 1994, devoured it, and dipping in at random now my thought is: No wonder I converted.
Really, life has something impossible about it! It is forced to desire what it can never have. It is as though from the very start some fundamental mistake had been made, as evinced by everything we do. And then the dreadful transitoriness of it all. Is it possible that things exist only through self-destruction? Doesn’t to live mean to pass over? The more intensively we live, the swifter the passing? Doesn’t death begin already in life? With desperate truth a modern biologist has defined life as the movement towards death. Yet what a monstrosity to define life only as part of death! Is death then better ordered? Must we surrender our deepest instinct to Biology?[p. 272]
Mary’s anointing of Christ’s head with the precious spikenard is the perfect symbol of his readiness for sacrifice. The gesture is one of holy beauty, and he thanks her for it accordingly: “Amen, I say to you, wherever in the whole world this gospel is preached, this also that she has done shall be told in memory of her” (Matt. 26:10-13).
The words suggest melancholy, but in Jesus there is no such thing; only, a plumbless sense of destiny, unspeakable pain that it should come as it did, and with the pain, a love that is neither tired nor embittered, but remains purest devotion to the end. Perfect knowledge and perfect love in one, and a freedom of heart quick to sense the fleeting delicacy of the woman’s act, and to transform it into a lasting symbol. As Jesus and his apostles seat themselves at the final pasch, this readiness for sacrifice assumes holy proportions: “And when the hour had come, he reclined at table, and the twelve apostles with him. And he said to them, ‘I have greatly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer;…’” (Luke 22:14-15). It shouldn’t be necessary to point out that there is not a trace of Dionysian urge to self-obliteration in Christ, but unfortunately for us heirs of modernity who live among sullied words and blurred thoughts, it is imperative that we clarify our thinking and speaking again and again. The desire of which Jesus speaks is part of the same determination to obey the paternal will that runs through his entire life: love that is truth, knowledge and obedient devotion (that state of heart which finds its purest expression in the prayer of Gethsemane. [p. 266]
Does God know that it will end with the death of the Messiah? Certainly, from all eternity. And still it should not happen. Does he desire Jesus’s death? Certainly, from all eternity. If the people close their hearts his love must take this road. Still, they should not close their hearts. It is obvious that with our human intelligence we shall never comprehend. God’s eternal omniscience and our freedom of choice; that which should not be, but is; form which the act of salvation is supposed to take, and that which it actually does;—all this remains for us a hopelessly entangled mystery. What happens is simultaneously freedom and necessity: God's gift laid in human hands. To ponder these things makes sense only when we are able without disregarding truth to lift them to the plane of adoration. To be a Christian means to stand on that level. Indeed, one is Christian in the degree that that one is open to these mysteries, that one accepts them in faith through the word of God, thus 'understanding,' willing, living them.
We have often spoken of the 'must' which led the Lord to his death; however, something is still lacking. When Jesus says: "...and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the Scribes; and they will condemn him to death" he does not look as he speaks at mankind in general, but at me. Everyone who hears Jesus speak of the 'necessity' of the road to Jerusalem, should substitute himself for the Scribes and the Pharisees. That necessity is woven of the eternal Father, of Jesus and his mission, and of me--all that I am and do; not a distant nation a long, long time ago. It is I, with all my indifference, refusals and failings, who strap the cross of Calvary to Christ's shoulders.
Or as Fr. Peter Cameron observed at the recent Magnificat Day of Faith, the place to start the "new evangelization" is the Confessional.
|FR. GUARDINI (1885-1968)|
HOW CAN YOU NOT LOVE THAT FACE?...