Thursday, October 21, 2010

What it means to remember Christ, to resist a world after Him and without Him

In her truly remarkable witness, given at the La Thuile Assembly of Responsibles of Communion and Liberation back in August, "Living Is The Memory of Me," Prof. Marta Cartabia discussed her experience of living in New York City for a year. What she experienced there in terms of faith and religion she described as "an invisible and ineffectual religiosity," or, "the clear separation between public and professional life...and the religious dimension" of life for people of faith, especially her fellow Catholics. She notes that the student Masses were well-attended, but there was no discernible Catholic student presence at the university outside of Mass.

She went on to point to a very important insight she ran across while reading an essay by Ernest Fortin, in which he observed that Nietzsche's declaration that God is dead "is perfectly compatible with 'bourgeois religiosity'." Prof. Cartabia states "that a society without Christ is essentially a society that, without us realizing it, atrophies our relationship with Christ. It makes it mute and ineffective to personal and social lives," which, she devastatingly observes, "reduces Christ to moments of emotional or sentimental religiosity or, even worse, to a set behaviors," to a kind of moralism. This is all very compatible with the pragmatic thrust of life in the U.S.

Last night, before going to bed, I finished reading P.D. James novel, The Children of Men, which is set in the England of AD 2021. The state has become so much more than a nanny state without becoming too totalitarian, just very efficient and practical, carefully seeing to the needs of a dying and dwindling population. Two members of the small and largely ineffective resistance group, "The Five Fishes," are Christians, who celebrate Eucharist together every morning, that is until Luke, the Anglican priest, is brutally murdered. The Christians are flawed and engaged in adultery together, which led to the other of them, Julian, conceiving a child, the first human child known to be conceived in the world in some twenty-five years. This betrayal causes Julian's husband, who understandably believes himself to be the father of the child until it is revealed he is not upon Luke's murder, to betray them.

Re-reading Prof. Cartabia's witness at the same time I read James' novel created an interesting and informative juxtaposition. In James novel we have both the result of a "world after Christ, without Christ" and we also have what can rightly be characterized as a truly faithful remnant, two people, Luke and Julian, two fallible and flawed people, the latter of whom lays down his life for his friends, who show us that when we can no longer even dream of it and when we no longer expect it, "the One re-enters man's life in order to save it." Christ, Fr. Giussani told us, "gives Himself again by dying for man. He gives all of Himself, a total gift of self up until: 'No one loves his as much as one who gives his life for his friends.'"

Don Gius tells us that "there's one, final nuance: what Christ gives us by dying for us - dying because we betrayed Him - in order to purify us of the betrayal, what He gives us is greater than what we expected." To understand the greatness of what Christ gives us (i.e., His whole self, body, blood, soul, and divinity) we have to understand our betrayal, "we have to think about our distraction, because it's a betrayal to spend days, weeks, months... what about last night: when did we think about Him? When did we think about Him seriously, with our heart, in this last month, in the last three months"?

All true martyrs, even literary ones, show us how to "aim for a victory without power!" After all, even at the end of James' novel, it is Theo the "good" but unbelieving man who places the symbol of power on his own hand, thus showing us that victory is not complete until He comes again in glory, a coming we await in joyful hope, a hope that shapes how we live now. He is the victory without power! This brings into clearer focus the truth of Archbishop Javier Martínez axiom that "the Eucharist is the only place of resistance to annihilation of the human subject."

Veni Sancte Spiritus, Veni per Mariam

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