The encounter as Grace
As editorial of this issue we publish an excerpt from Don Luigi Giussani. The excerpt is taken from Appunti di metodo cristiano [Notes on the Christian Method], published in Milan by Student Youth in September 1964, with the nihil obstat of Monsignor Carlo Figini and the imprimatur of the Ambrosian Curia, and dedicated to Paul VI with these words: “To the Pope of Ecclesiam Suam as expression of the meditated and faithful attempt of his students in Milan”
An excerpt from Don Luigi Giussani
Jesus and Zaccheus, Basilica of Sant’Angelo in Formis, Capua (Caserta) [© Bruno Brunelli]
“What is mortal man, why do you remember him, the son of Adam, that you should care for him?” (Psalms 8, 5).
“Moses said to God: ‘But who am I?’” (Exodus 3, 11).
“And I said: Oh Lord Yahweh, look, I am not even capable of speaking; I am but a child! “ (Jeremiah 1, 6).
“Lord, I am not worthy to have you under my roof . . .” (Luke 7, 6).
The purest and most objective value of Christian life is the awareness of the absolute gratuitousness of God’s interventions in history, because there is no greater, sweeter, and more exalting truth. The encounters, which He created to make men and women – us! – part of His kingdom, are a pure gift that our nature would not have been able even to imagine or foresee. They are a deeply pure gift above and beyond any capacity of our life. They are “Grace.”
In His Mystical Body, Jesus Christ takes up again this entire Kingdom of “Grace,” of the supernatural goodness of God’s power. Just as Jesus of Nazareth’s existence among the Jews and the possibility of encountering Him on the street were grace for them two thousand years ago, so are the Church’s existence in the world and the encounter with her in society grace for us today.
Not only the encounter but also the capacity to understand that calling is a gift of Grace.
“Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! Because it was not flesh or blood that revealed it to you but my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 16, 17).
At that time, Jesus exclaimed, “I bless you Father, Lord of heaven and of earth, for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to mere children. Yes, Father, for that is what it pleased you to do. Everything has been entrusted to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, just as no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him…” (Matthew 11, 25-7) . “Because”, he replied, “the mysteries of the Kingdom of heaven are revealed to you, but they are not revealed to them” (Matthew 13, 11).
And the same capacity to verify this call, to recognize its value, is a gift of Grace. “I shall ask the Father and He will give you another Advocate to be with you forever, that Spirit of truth whom the world can never receive since it neither sees nor knows Him; but you shall know Him because He shall be with you and He shall be in you” (John 14, 16-17).
“But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all I have said to you” (John 14, 26).
“I have made your name known to the men you took from the world to give me. They were yours and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now at least they know that all you have given me comes indeed from you” (John 17, 6-7).
“The Spirit himself bears witness to our spirit that we are children of God” (Romans 8, 16).
And the capacity to adhere to and fulfill the Christian proposal is a gift of Grace:
“I am the true vine and my father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that bears no fruit He cuts away, and every branch that does bear fruit He primes to make it bear even more. You are pruned already, by means of the word that I have spoken to you. Make your home in me as I make mine in you. As a branch cannot bear fruit all by itself, but must remain part of the vine, neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in Him bears fruit in plenty; for cut off from me you can do nothing” (John 15, 1-5).
After saying this, Jesus raised his eyes to heaven and said:
“Father, the hour has come: glorify your Son so that your Son may glorify you; and, through the power over all mankind that you have given Him, let Him give eternal life to all those you have entrusted to Him. And eternal life is this: to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17, 1-3).
“I have made your name known to them and will continue to make it known, so that the love with which you loved me may be in them, and so that I may be in them” (John 17, 26).
Because our minds and hearts are never commensurate with the steps that God takes towards us. The same supernatural goodness that makes the mystery of God assume the “form of a servant and the figure of man” (Saint Paul) in Christ and in the Church, also enables our spirit and sensitivity to understand these wonders. Otherwise they would remain like light for the blind or words for the deaf, like ultrasound that remains silent to our ears.
Thus even the encounter with that small part of the Church that is the Christian community in our particular environment is “Grace,” a gift of God’s power. And we need Grace to understand the call of those who belong to that community and guide it, to commit ourselves to verify their call and to hold faithfully to their proposal.
The Last Supper, Basilica of Sant’Angelo in Formis, Capua (Caserta)
An availability before and a commitment to the Christian fact that do not translate into a plea, into “prayer,” are not sufficiently true, because they do not take into account, with conscious faithfulness the meaning of the proposal that we are called to verify: “The hour is coming when anyone who kills you will think that he is doing a holy duty of God. They will do these things because they have never known either the Father or myself” (John 16, 2-3).
Our consciousness begins to participate in the mystery of the One who creates us at the point of pleading and prayer. And our spirit thus feels the awe of this Mystery that makes everything, absolutely everything, when it considers that even this initial activity of pleading and praying is made possible only by a gift of the Creator: “No one can say, Lord Jesus, if not in the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor 12, 13). “The Spirit comes to help us in our weakness, for we know not even what to ask for in prayer, nor how to ask it. But the Spirit Himself expresses our plea in a way that could never be put into words” (Romans 8, 26).
The Liturgy of the Church educates us to look at God’s ineffably profound initiative on our behalf when it makes us say: “Lord, you who inspire our desires by anticipating them, deign to accompany them with your aid”.
Even the encounter with and the commitment to the most humble Christian community in a given setting with everyday people is not free of impurity that alters judgments and relationships, if it is not welcomed with that humble, active, vigilant availability of the heart that is the genuine impetus of prayer, albeit embryonic, vague, and confused.