Thursday, July 24, 2008

My response and preconceptions

To adhere means to give my support or to maintain loyalty. Perhaps more concretely, it means to stick to, to bind myself to in observance. This requires that I both acknowledge and affirm, which is nothing less than expressing my dedication to, the encounter. This takes the form of testifying to it, becoming a witness of the encounter, the One who my I encounters. This is the only reasonable response that fulfills my responsibility, which is freely chosen.

"Reasonableness," Giussani tells us, "means to affirm the correspondence between" the Other I encounter in an exceptional way and my heart (Is It Possible to Live This Way? pg 59). In order to deny this correspondence, which arises from the event, you "need to be attached to something you want to defend" (ibid). Giussani calls this "a preconception" (ibid). We might more accessibly call it an ideology. Giussani uses the example of the resistance, which took the form of denying the truth that microbes exist, put up by the scientific community to Pasteur's discovery, put up by the very people who should have and affirmed and adhered to the truth of this discovery by testing it through peer review and replication, instead of opposing it on non-scientific grounds and by unscientific means.

At the time, it was a truth that changed everything in biology and, more practically, medicine. So exceptional was this revelation, that is, the unveiling of the existence of microbes, that it not only necessitated a response, but a humble response, which was seen by many scientists as personal humiliation. Returning to Giussani's account, the humiliation consisted of going into the classroom and saying, "What I've told you up to now is bull" (pg 60). In order avoid humility, seen as humiliation, which required facing the truth, "those scientists were the last to give in" to the truth because of their attachment to a preconception, their adherence to an ideology.

Indeed, the truth is a scandal, that is, an obstacle, when looked at through the lens of my preconception, which tells me "it can't be this way" (1 Cor. 1,23). The real scandal, however, "is the objection that comes from an interest that is not professed in the name of truth, in search of the truth" (ibid). So, it seems that the stumbling block, the scandalon, is not the truth, but our pride, our preconception, our deep-seated belief that it can't possibly be this way, even in the face of evidence that this is the way (Jn 14,6). Looked at from a different standpoint, the truth is the scandalon, the rock, against which my preconceptions, my ideological way of viewing reality, precisely because it does not correspond to my heart, my desire, which is bigger than the world, is shattered. The humility necessary to affirm my encounter arises from the encounter itself because it produces wonder by catching me off guard, while my defenses, my preconceptions, are down, like the experience described by Giussani of the student at the wedding in Bologna, who observed that "truth is discovered, by surprise, in one moment, in a determined moment" (pg 57).

I want to draw your attention to Deep Furrows, specifically Fred's post, the title of which is a quote from Fr. Carron, "The saints . . . block us from reducing Christ to our measure". For my money, that quote alone is worth a week of meditatio. Still basking in the glow of the Feast of St. Mary Magdalene, I am reminded of the words of Fr. Tonino Lasconi, a parish priest and author of numerous volumes on the renewal of catechesis in Italy, who observes, "Without the saints, the faith vanishes". Why is this so? Because they keep us from reducing Christ to our measure by affirming with their whole lives, witnessing to, being martyrs for, the correspondence between the event and the human heart, that is, their own hearts. Christian witness, then, is a matter of cor ad cor loquitur, heart speaking to heart, beginning with Jesus' Sacred Heart, the "king and center of all hearts".

1 comment:

  1. and the saints are here with us still: you and me, yes, but especially those we meet who become authorities for us, helping us to live a deeper, richer life: Cleuza and Vicky and many others.

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