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Retreat Conference. Openess





about this nailing and nailing, so we put all nails under the big cross, so each one
that gave a gesture of adoration then took within one or with one nail, just to say that
the crucified has not to stay there crucified, but if we are able to unnail that would be good.
So we have considered different expressions of openness
and today I would like to focus on behavioral issues of nailing and unnailing of openness.
So my starting point will be today a recent Italian movie and then we move towards some
questions about contemporary Christianity and at last we meditate on nailing,
unnailing images of God or from necessity to freedom of believing.
So let us consider first the initial striking scene of the movie 100 Nails, Cento Chiodi in Italian,
a sort of spiritual testament of Ermanno Olmi, a Christian Catholic director.
So some words about that. As usual in an early hot summer morning the porter of the ancient
and prestigious University of Bologna is opening and inspecting the classrooms
but approaching the gate of the library which contains ancient texts of religious literature,
we see him horrified by a vision we don't see. He begins to cry for help,
goes outside yelling for help, telephone to the chancellor, to the police,
public authorities arrive expressing astonished and very colorful exclamation
at the vision of the room that we can also now access. So disseminated all over the floor,
above the desks, lie opened precious volumes or illuminated manuscripts
transfixed by big nails. So one could think at the new original installation of Anish Kapoor
but it is presumably an act of madness. But art and madness on the other hand may share
a same conspiracy against the established orders. So over the course of the movie
we slowly discover the author of the misdeed, a young well-off and attractive teacher of
philosophy of religion, researcher at the same University of Bologna who revolts
at his meaningless life experiencing the lack of warm humanity in his academic milieu,
rebels against the prescribed power of written religious codes that nail our life to insensitive
laws. The nailing of sacred books turns out to be a symbolic sacramental gesture
to express the arrogance of doctrines that inscribe on our flesh an order that subjugates
and mortifies life, a symbolic sign to affirm the right to live freely.
The teacher will say discussing with one of his students in the library,
there is more truth in a caress than in all the pages of these books.
So getting free from roles, skills, house, car, documents, the protagonist
deserts civilization and settles in an abandoned hut by a river, slowly entering in contact with
the resident community that offers him shelter and hospitality. The people who touch his heart
and mind are the ones that welcome him as a foreigner in a disinterested way. They often
gather in a wide table full, sharing bread, wine, wisdom. He doesn't do miracles,
but they call him already Jesus Christ. May my heart always be open to little birds
who are the secrets of living. Whatever they sing is better than to know.
And if men should not hear them, men are old. It is not Ivan, but Edward Cummings.
So the movie expresses a protest against every kind of religious, ideological or cultural factors
that are detrimental to the expansion of human existence. Religions, says the director,
have never saved the world, they have rather directed humanity into dreadful chasms.
Religions can only be suggestions to regulate our ideas, but never to impose them.
I am for freedom, not for subjection. So, a manifesto against culture and reading, therefore?
Absolutely not, says the director, but against those masks of God created by certain groups
of human beings to justify their not so noble aims and deeds. I believe in God,
says the director, who turns because into why. The one who challenges us in standing
instead of commanding us. So the sacred dimension is for only two important and three
to be closed into the human limits and measures. He evokes in the actions of the protagonist
the subversive, innovative human spirit of Jesus, who knocked down the temple of stones,
laws and decrees, was considered mad by his relatives and possessed by religious leaders,
hurled himself against the God of purity and human sacrifice, being nailed to a cross
by the crucifying powers that dwell in human hearts, minds and institutions.
The movie expresses a contemporary embodiment of how the world makes foolish the wisdom of God
and how God makes foolish the wisdom of the world.
So now move to the second. The movie raises questions about Christianity.
Is Christianity today a nailing or unnailing expression of life?
We perceive from history that the Christian galaxy is complex and multifaceted.
It gathers around the spring event of Jesus of Nazareth, called Christ, and adapts itself to
Hebrew, Hellenistic, Roman and so many other cultural contexts. Christianity has slowly become
a form, an architecture, a temple, a system, a discourse that continues to enter into conflict
with all the relevant changes that occur at least from the dawn of the modern era.
Friction with the shifts that nowadays overflow the walls, the skin, the view, the authority
of the Christian body as it has been shaped till now. Just to mention, think to the debate
concerning evolution and democracy, the area of ethics and biotechnologies,
the participation in the sacred ministry by women or inter-religious dialogue.
Is Christianity called through these tensions to follow the Easter parable of its Lord and
servant, called to consent to decompositions of his body and to have faith in the possibility
of an unpredictable resurrection? It is a question.
Are we called to be at the same time tomb and womb of a creative and loving generation
of the as yet unawakened intentions of God?
Could it be that in the course of the human adventure Christianity has released all its
best energies, gifts, and potentialities, losing itself in the process like a drop of water in the
sea? We don't know, but it may be a possibility. The possibility of having dissolved herself
in the world, becoming the good news she announced, the incarnation of God.
If there is still a future for Christianity, are there challenging and perhaps radical
transformations required of her in the contemporary situation?
An Italian schooler involved in the area of social communications maintains that human nature
is today nothing more than a light ruffling on the long and unrestrainable wave of living.
These words plunge us immediately into a vast evolutionary process which has caused us to become
what we are at present, individually and in our coexistence with everything,
while we continue to be transformed into something other that luckily we don't know yet.
In the long wave of living that precedes us and goes beyond us, we come to the awareness that we
are not a stable, fixed, or final being. We are instead under construction. We are a work
in progress, involved in a creative unbalance, unfolding in an infinite becoming,
and what we are now is a temporary, mutable outcome.
Participating in this creative dynamism of life, we are aware of the contingency of all beings,
the permanent change of forms through which life expresses herself.
We also become aware of the daily resistance to the changes we encounter,
or even the opposition that we ourselves present, crystallizing us into acquired behaviors and
languages that we regard as solid and untouchable realities, whether they are psychosomatic,
political, economical, or religious expressions.
Being involved in this mysterious cosmic gestation also allows us to consider with
a sense of proportion the historical phenomenon of Christianity and its relevant, irrelevant
age of 2,000 years related to this long and boundless wave of living.
As participants in an incessant process of generation, the divine mystery continually
evokes in human consciousness new inventions of itself, transfiguring the shape of Christianity
and disclosing always new potentialities. So, are we expected by the Source to become
humans and believers differently from what we have experienced until now?
What are the images of God we witness to?
So, we move to the third.
I would like to express some insights about a transformation we are called to respond to
from necessity to freedom of believing, or about nailing, unnailing images of God.
And what I am suggesting now and tomorrow is not a doctrine, but a meditation in the making.
So, I am revolving around there.
At the core of our being, we are a potential basin
inhabited by an imaginative surplus by overstepping our biological frames,
inducing them to ecstatic simulations and metaphors. We foster, enhance our worlds
with musical, economical, political, mathematical, ritual, philosophical,
mythical, technological visions and devices, including the inventions of our gods.
Concerning our images of God, Meister Eckhart expresses a striking intuition saying,
I pray God to be free from God, what I also pray every morning at Lotz.
So, I believe that Eckhart considers the risk of clinging to these representations of the divine.
They were made, maybe, they were maybe born from a fresh and touching experience,
but have slowly become precious stones that we easily subordinate to our goals, needs, or purposes.
I think that our Western culture to which we belong has inscribed these images in our
psychosomatic structure, and for this reason it is important to acknowledge and to discern
the human motivation that has given rise to these inventions, and to see what kind of spin-off
they have on the actual behaviors of our being in the world. What is the quality of these images?
Are they enhancing or mortifying images, dominating or liberating images?
It makes a difference, for example, if our God is a pitiless judge or a loving, forgiving mother and father.
If God is an enthroned curious lord, king, or a diakons, a compassionate healer.
If God is an intolerant landlord or a welcoming host of a banquet open to everybody.
It means to me that belief in God often originates from the very human need to find a reassuring order
in the midst of the chaotic, threatening, and unforeseeable flux of events.
We are mortal and vulnerable, easily wounded by what surrounds us.
How can we blame this desire to control the risk of destabilization that characterizes so many
representations of God, theological or philosophical, political or moral?
We can imagine God as a causative principle of cosmic and social order,
or as the architect of an intelligent drawing, leading history towards a preordained happy end,
or as the big watchmaker of the mechanisms of the world, or the guarantor of moral values and virtues
of the unalterable natural laws. We can brandish God's name to obtain a favorable
result for ourselves, the victory of our non-negotiable cause against that of our
opponent, the success of our true God against the false God of our rival.
It is the God of theocracy and of binary logic that clearly separate time from eternity,
good from evil, sacred from profane, and such a concept of God produces holy wars,
crusades, absolutisms, and fundamentalisms.
A controlling God is useful to impose an order and eradicate any person who dares challenge
the uniformity with his or her difference. The stranger, the enemy, the faithless, the sinner,
the irregular, the alien. And we know that there is no greater power than that derived from the
identification with strengths regarded as divine, pledging us their support and protection.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer calls all this misuse of God the stopgap, the substitutes of all
our human inabilities, the fillers of our ignorance. Maybe for the first time in our history,
thanks to the autonomy acquired by the human consciousness and knowledge, we are free and
released from the necessity to appeal to God as authority, ground, cause, assurance, principle,
remunerator, almighty. I interpret this new birth as the turbulent passage experienced by Paul
from the law, religion, to the faith, grace. The gospel causes a qualitative leap at the core
of our sensitivity and understanding, urging us to go beyond law in order to open to grace
and we are singing in these days, we are no longer slaves of the law for we are children of God.
The good news initiates a movement of dissolving the religious universe as a protective case,
as assurance or a controlling device in favor of relying on a creative, responsible,
loving, and longing response. I feel that the spirit of Jesus undermines the foundations of
such religious building or framework based on retribution, observances, fears, and culpability.
He reveals God as unconditional love for everybody who is searching or longing for it,
for those drawn by a desire for the beyond, and the Son of Man frees people from all kinds of
prisons produced by the religious or social establishment. He makes God present in the
spaces of human consciousness where God was absent, widening the scope of our feeling
and of our capacity for love, trust, forgiveness, and hope.
In the present time, we can discover and irradiate the spirit as a source of possibility,
as a deconstruction of every fixation, as an invitation to venture
into the vicissitudes of human knowledge, to promote more rich and promising dynamics of life
in comparison with the historical ones that presently persist.
A discovery of God as creative energy who has not yet been able to expound the human heart
to all the spiritual richness and gratuitous spaces of which he is the inexhaustible,
unfathomable source.
We end with a poem, a poem by Emily Dickens.
We grow accustomed to the dark when light is passed away as when a neighbor holds a lamp.
To witness her goodbye, a moment we uncertain step for newness of the night,
then fit our vision to the dark and meet the road erect.
And some for larger darknesses, those evenings of the brave,
where not a moon discloses sign or star come out within.
The bravest grub a little and sometimes hit a tree directly in the forehead.
But as they learn to see, either the darkness alters or something in the sight
adjusts itself to midnight, and life steps almost straight.
It's a nice description of a monk. Thank you.