Blog di FORMAZIONE PERMANENTE MISSIONARIA – Uno sguardo missionario sulla Vita, il Mondo e la Chiesa MISSIONARY ONGOING FORMATION – A missionary look on the life of the world and the church
In the Spanish language (in the sweet idiom of Castile), the word amable, preceded by the reinforcing “muy” (=much), is normally used as an expression of gratitude. We could translate with our “thank you”, but it is and says something more. The person, who hears this appreciation addressed to him/her, in fact, especially if he/she is used to a simpler conventional expression, receives something like a message of esteem, which extends to the whole person. It leaves in the heart a very pleasant sensation, not only for the act of grateful courtesy, but also for her personal dignity and need of love, as well as for her capacity of deserving love. It is the same as if he/she heard the words “you are good … you are beautiful … you deserve to be loved …, it is right and dutiful, but also easy and natural to love you”.
To hear these expressions, addressed to him/her, means to answer an exigency deeply rooted in the human heart, often confined to the obscure recesses of the unconscious. Yet it is always present, as a wait, a question to which it is indispensable to give an answer. It would be beautiful if the human relations were always bearers of this message, even in our communities!
What does amiability mean? Is it something as putting together one’s own amiability with that of the other?
The amiability is our own affective dignity. It is a perceiving ourselves as deserving love. We may say that, at the affective level, it is the equivalent of the concept of self-esteem. If self-esteem means to have a substantial and stable perception of the I, to have the sense of our own amiability means to catch our own person as worthy of being loved, and actually to love it rejoicing at its beauty and mystery. Just as the self-esteem reaches the end of a journey when the person identifies its own essential positive being, (that which constitutes it in its very essence), similarly the awareness of its amiability is the result of a process not taken for granted. It should be an object of formative attention in the period of initial formation, as well as successively until death, until the moment of the Lord’s embrace and kiss. This will seal a lasting amiability and will make our person lovable forever.
Let us see some of its phases.
According to an elementary psychological law, the human being receives the primitive sense of its own amiability (the so-called trust-of-basis) from the parents. In this sense, we can say that all of us, more or less, have been loved by our parents. They were good and willing, but surely limited, not perfect, along an existential course in which, good or bad, generosity and egoism …. have constantly been mixing up among them and of whose fruit we are, somehow. Nothing looks strange. There exists no right to perfect life, to perfect parents, to infancy without problems, to ideal educators and friends, to optimal contexts and experiences. Our amiability also seems to be bound to this personal historical entwining of positive and negative realities. With the result that we shall feel more or less amiable, according to the prevailing of one or the other, with the eventuality that one may be less lucky than the others.
Said like this, it seems that they have already written everything in our destiny, with just a tiny margin for our freedom, besides the possibility of accepting what has already happened or of resigning ourselves before what we cannot change.
In reality, the past does not limit itself to the events of our infancy experiences. There is a primordial datum, which we must consider as an extraordinary richness of sense and that anticipates all this. In fact it becomes as a reading key without which we risk really to misrepresent the sense of life and of our own history. It is the datus that comes from faith and in which our radical amiability is inscribed once for all: we are the children of God, come to existence because of his sovereign act of love. He has preferred us to non-existence, therefore lovable, considered to be objects of predilection (=loved first). Guardini says, “I … have received myself. There is no decision of existing, taken by me, at the beginning of my existence. I am here without needing any decision of being … Rather, at the beginning of my existence there is an initiative, somebody who has given me to myself. In every case, I have been given, and have been given in this determined individual”.
Von Balthazar echoes him, “only one thing is excluded: to consider my existence as an obvious, due, necessary thing. What matters now is only that my intimacy is in the awareness that nothing of my being, which I constantly receive as a gift, is due to me. The sight of light, the smile of another man, the capacity of loving situations, things and friends are not due to me. In all this there is a moment of gift, which demands and arouses a spontaneous thanksgiving.”.
Gratitude for all this is one with the sense of our own amiability. This comes from afar, from the time before our existence. This is where our amiability, our self-esteem is rooted and is born, before facing the eventual lucks of earthly life.
This, of course, does not diminish the importance of the earthly experiences and their incisiveness on our psychic balance and general maturity. The datus of faith is simply something that can never be denied by any of them. It continues the lifelong time stronger than any misfortune, indestructible. Von Balthazar continues, “The act that gives me to me did not happen once at the beginning to abandon me later to myself. It goes on happening. The origin essentially accompanies me. This carries me in such a way as I can always turn to it at any moment”.
In this datum of the origin, we do not find only the psychogenesis of our amiability. A very important consequence derives from it at psychodynamic level, namely the affective freedom. This consists in two certainties: the certainty of being loved from ever, and the certainty of being able to love forever. The believing datum of the origin gives me both certainties. It gives it to me just as no other mundane reality can give it to me. God alone loves me from ever and forever! At the same time, to be children of God demands that God creates us his image and similitude, namely capable of loving in a divine manner, with his heart and his freedom, creating equally free and freeing relations, as we are going to see.
Another precious consequence of the believing datus is the integration of our history. To put God at the very beginning of our life means to assume a precise criterion of reading life, namely the divine love itself. Then an extremely important fact takes place at psychical integrity level: we are able to read our history, to recognise in it the love we have received through the limited mediations of earthly events, of our parents, etc. because only love can read love.
It is just as if the certainty of divine love became the hermeneutic criterion of life, which consents to recognise beyond and within our frailty, the earthly contradictions and wounds, the presence of a greater love, which reaches us with these limits. A wonderful mystery! Perfect love forbears the imperfect mediation! This discovery fills the heart with gratitude because of the received love, a love always bigger than the deserved one. It consents us to reconcile ourselves deeply with painful situations of our history and with those who might have caused them. It makes us feel in our heart the exigency of responding to the received love with our own offered love.
Our amiability, therefore, comes from God, not any God, but God the Trinity: God the Father who generates the Son in the Spirit, the God-relation. He enables us to open our life to the other, to open loving relations, where the amiability of one extends to the other. This is to the image and similitude with the Trinitarian dynamics.
The Trinity alone, in fact, creates space for the other, because the Trinity is this space: it is the habitable space of the other. Only a non-monolithic God, who is not pure self-sufficient omnipotence (and therefore close to him). He is relation, exodus from self, the advent of an eternal relation of dialogue, of gift, of received and returned love. He gives to the other also the space and the possibility of existing in him. We exist because God is Trinity, a welcoming abode, a maternal womb, relational space. Only because God is this space (“the original otherness in relation”), we, too, exist. We exist so that, grace may insert us in this circle of love and we can establish “loving relations”, fully welcoming the other.
What does this mean in concrete?
First of all, it means absence of conditions or restrictions in the relation with the other. It means freedom of loving, because attracted uniquely by its dignity and truth of being, because the other deserves it. In this sense, love is the “unconditional welcoming of the other”, and the good is the hosting the other into our own spaces. Thus, the other is free to enter, catching its positive way and realising it, just as the single person, who has experienced the welcome on behalf of God Trinity.
The intuition of Florenskji about the nature of evil is extraordinary. He defines it with a concise and happy synthesis like “the inhospitable self-affirmation”, which means self-sufficiency. Therefore, it is not good presuming to establish a relation only under determined conditions, to impose a way of being to the other, almost to homologate him to self or to our own criteria and tastes. It would be a violation of the You and of the I, which leads to the crushing of both.
Welcoming the other unconditionally means welcoming him in the totality of his being, in his mystery. It is just by reaching the person in his mystery that we can catch its radical amiability, like a pure and hard wainscot which cannot be scratched by anything, destined to last for ever, beyond sin and every contradiction. It is the amiability, which derives to the human being from the fact that God created him to His image. Because of this, man is lovable for what he is, not necessarily for what he does; vice versa, he can be refutable for what he does, never for what he is. As Jesus shows us with the episode of the adulterer, whom he recognises and welcomes in her intact objective amiability, and freed from the negative perceptive-interpretative schemes, which she had been until then the object of.
In the same way, knowing how to intercept in a man his objective amiability, means offering him esteem as a limpid positive judgement on his person. This takes place not as an effort of the mind, which closes the eyes on the weaknesses of others; perhaps it means to make the person to discover for the first time its radical positive aspects and, therefore, causing him to be re-born to a new life. It means to infuse trust in him, provoking him to become what he, somehow, is already or carries in his heart: the seed of similitude to God. His truth hides in him and is the condition of his happiness. It means loving him “in God”, more than “for the love of God”.
There can be neither love, nor loving relation where there is no esteem.
An unavoidable consequence: I am responsible for you. I take your life to heart, your person, your growth, the realisation of the positive seed in you … I do this not for an act of charity, or because of an effort (again) or for a benevolent concession, but because “the epiphany of the other is ipso facto my responsibility towards the other. We do it because the vision of the “you” is already an obligation towards him, the urgency of a journey, which leads to the other, rather than the eternal return on self”.
To live in the community and to build amiable relations means, therefore, shouldering the life of the other, in good and evil times, without taking for granted to be on the correct side. With this regard, the vision of Berdyaev is disquieting and enlightening. He imagines that God, at the end of times, will address to Abel the same question he addressed to Cain at the beginning of times, “What have you done of your brother Cain?”. This is almost to ask what is good, or the one who feels to be good, how much responsible he feels for the evil of others, how much he has shouldered it, or what he has done (or omitted to do) to prevent that fall, or to understand it. This is to ask if he is satisfied with praying for him and forgiving him … to cover what we call “the subtle violence of the just men”. Whoever wants truly to be responsible must have the courage of letting throw on him a similar question … at point.
There is somebody, who calls it “the complex of Atlanta”. This is the syndrome of the one, who thinks of having to carry on his shoulder the weight of the whole world, or the weight of the community or that of the sins of others. No, this would be dangerous, besides being impossible; it would risk not only a bad arthritis (spiritual), and above all, the self-narcissistic sense, which is very much different from authentic amiability. It would not consent to establish loving relations for a precise motive. Narcissus does not communicate esteem to the other, keeps it for himself … entirely for himself, only for himself. He alone is good and even heroic and does not need anyone.
We clearly affirm, instead, that if on one side it is necessary to be responsible of the other, it is equally fundamental to feel the need of the other. In fact, the other, he who comes near me, is the secure way -just because we have not chosen each other- along which God has decided to come to me and I can reach Him. The brother or sister, with his/her limits and problems, is the normal mediation, though mysterious, of the presence and will of God. Therefore, I need his/her person, or his/her word and presence … to meet the face of God in my life and beyond my objective fantasies. Then the symmetry comes to be created, within which the reciprocity of exchange runs, as well as the reciprocity of affection and esteem, thus we grow all together and the relations become stable.
There is a beautiful Gospel icon, which says all this in antithesis: It is the scene which projects some people carrying a paralytic man on a small bed, dismantling the roof and lowering the bed down before Jesus (see Luke 7:17-26). We know nothing about the paralytic man, not even whether and how much he believed in Jesus. We see that “seen their faith”, the faith of those who carried the paralytic, intervenes with his power. It is a religious community (beyond a somehow clinic image), a community of brothers, or sisters, who shoulder the weak brother or sister in spirit and body and carry it to Jesus that he may heal him. They do it without feeling to be heroes; without forgetting that others they have carried them on their shoulders many other times, though they have not been aware of it and have not thanked anyone.
Living as brothers and sisters loving relations means to live two things together: to carry and to let ourselves be carried.