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Retreat Conference, Openness





We can rejoice today because it is the end, even if there is a future in gender and Christianity. Whoever may be interested, there is a copy of the Meditations here, so if somebody has copies of it. We heard just some moments ago the Gospel speaking of birth, of pain, suffering, and joy. So, our last meeting is dedicated to this generation of Christianity, and I want to offer some further suggestions in the area of the transformation in which we are involved. Being, as I said yesterday, participants in an incessant process of generation, whereas


the divine mystery continually evokes in human consciousness new inventions of itself, transfiguring the shape of Christianity and revealing new potentialities. So are we available? Are we welcoming what God is doing of new in and among us? I saw a new heaven and a new earth, the old order has passed away, I make all things new. And this making all things new is not the end, but it is in the meanwhile. So I will try to name and to share with you some of these emerging transformations that


may be challenging us to respond. And I focus the attention on three pro-creative movements, so crossing barriers, the first barrier overtaking human needs and overstepping biological frames, that is the first point. Then from homologation or homogeneity to personalization or difference. And then from a Western-centered church to an eccentric community, and then a lift taking. So first point, crossing barriers.


And the first thrilling feature I want to point out concerns the crossing of multiple barriers. The first one, the overtaking of human needs. Maybe for the first time in the evolution of our species, some areas of humanity have began to gain access to an affluent style of life whose problem, paradoxically, is no longer the production of the necessities to survive, but the disposal of the excess of waste. And this new production and development trend based on the surplus of supply and of enjoyment


of goods and utilities certainly creates new and unhealthy problems concerning sustainability and the inequality it creates, but at the same time, it drives us to wonder what repercussions all this has on the religions, including Christianity originating in agro-structured societies characterized by sedentariness and the subdivision of territory and marked by want and sacrifice. Under the sullen sky of lack and poverty, human existence was described by fatigue,


limits, and harshness. Christian spirituality correspondingly emphasized the perishable, miserable, and painful condition of existence in relation to God's almightiness. It underscored renunciation and contempt living in this lacrimarum valle, veil of tears, in sight of an afterworld or finishing line, and particular stress was given to the sinful, forbidden, and punitive aspects of experience. So, how can such a mortifying, moralizing, and guilt-ridden system correspond to the


modern view of life, whose perspective consists in the promotion of all the opportunities that life offers, the full affirmation of our bodily experience, and all the conquests of human knowledge, the positive and sometimes exasperated evaluation of the emotional, erotic, desiring dimensions of our human being? Question. So, what happens, another question, to a prohibitory and discrediting religion in a world that seems to offer all that is desirable and imaginable? So, why do the fundamental religious sentiments currently expressed smell of sour resentment


of the human rights proudly exhibited? Why are we not able often to offer more than just disapproval or disavow with regard to the emergence of new situations, such as the case of divorced people, of gays, of civil unions, of terminally ill patients, of procreative technologies, and so on? The second aspect, overstepping biological, being in a constant dialogue with human and non-human beings, animals, and technologies,


we are permanently altered in a process of transformation that displaces the boundaries of every achieved position or aim. And what nowadays causes a particular upheaval concerns the trespassing of the biological framework we have inherited as a species. What science fiction novels or movies had began to foretell staging cyborgs, cybernetic organisms, or human-mechanical hybrids like Frankenstein or Blade Runner, Neuromancer or Matrix, is today becoming a possibility, questioning the same biological


configuration of human being, possibility to undertake projects and models overcoming our biological body, blooming of organs through the incorporation or expansion of electronic prostheses into the human body in a symbiotic conjugation of bits and atoms, that more and more evaporates the distinction between organic and inorganic reality and artificial simulation, biosphere and technosphere. And in this change we discover that our personal


and social bodies, more than a datum, are an interaction between brain, animal, body, machine, environment. Now, what does this transformation mean for a Christian anthropological vision where the absolute regulative reference continues to be the unalterable natural law, whereas God is the guarantor of this order and not, on the contrary, the source of a creative process? What about nature, whereas we realize that the peculiarity


of human body results from the conflict of forces that from time to time constitute it? Human nature, by definition, is always immersed in and contaminated by a story that shapes and modifies it, that is to say, it is a cultural, social and technological product. At the end of that, as a suggestion for us, the monk Benedict, in a similar troubled period of changements, set up a school of divine service under the guide of the gospel. Why don't we also imagine in our time places of grace, trying to attune the contemporary


transition to the reactions and sentiments that were of Jesus? Jesus, who promotes a benedictory, well-said conception of human beings, an appreciation of the gifts that every person expresses, a trusting accompanying of the possible transformations and crises that may occur in the course of existence. We can get on the same wavelength, favouring spaces and practices where we try to welcome, interpret and be involved in the changes we are living, in trying to perceive with care


the contours of what is happening and in recognising the critical and collateral effects of these events. So, in praise of the ongoing formation as a lexio of contemporary transformations and challenges. But above all, we can learn to cultivate an attitude that is able to enjoy and to be surprised by the vicissitudes of life. We can be open to recognise the humanising passages of God, God's immersive and multiple incarnations. So this is the first and now the second. From homologation, homogeneity to personalisation


or difference. And it is a second subversive wave. In certain regions of the earth, we are living an important passage from standardisation to democratic forms of relationship and towards a networking society of interconnected singularities, as Manuel Castells affirms in his book Internet Galaxy. Or they say from Gutenberg Galaxy to Internet Galaxy. So, in the development of the human


forms of organisation, what have prevailed until now are institutional and social organisms of representation that have imposed an authoritative framework of behaviour and thinking, usually coercive and compulsory. And it was almost impossible to imagine oneself outside of this format. And every attempt to alter the predetermined code was punished by exclusion, seclusion or even more murder or extermination of the different or of the anomalous.


The unprecedented opportunities of personal expressions that we are beginning to experience, even if always threatened by the nostalgia of totalitarian or despotic power, unfold in a proliferation and mixing of subjectivities, differences, roles, histories. The new care towards singularity opened to us the possibility of breaking the rigid matrix of our received identity. We can even de-nature, de-form, de-frame the shape of our bodily container that may no more correspond to the desire of our flesh.


I hope all of you have seen the amazing movie Transamerica. That is to say, a modern experience of transfiguration or the suffered liberating genesis of a masculine subject trying to coincide with his desire to become a woman. A desire that triggers a process of metamorphosis of the inherited shape to dress in a new identity beyond the biological and social one. And they are speaking of transgendering faith. It seems to me that we live in a world


where the authoritative and absolute forms of truth have collapsed or are collapsing. A universal destination of history no longer exists, nor any human authority to represent or to voice it. No absolute embodiment of meaning that is the same for everybody. Rather, each one is entrusted to his, her own freedom and responsibility to share with other persons. Each one is here a possible trace, embodiment of the divine mystery in a journey where each day we begin once again in responsible connection, communion with other people


and with our environment. And Jesus manifests a God who upsets all the powers and hierarchies of the world, making space for the freedom of everyone. He expresses a passion for the vulnerability of every existence he encounters along his way. He reaches out to the beaten, wounded, disfigured, restoring their lost dignity and beauty, giving them back the joy and the right to exist. What a strange and always surprising God. What a new discovery of our oneness with God. We are not one with it because of our sameness,


but because of our differences, of whom it is the creative source, each one of us peculiar manifestation of its superabundant richness expressed by the relationship among Father, Son and Spirit. God is committed to or even activates the free receptivity of each one of us, offering itself to our understanding and misunderstandings, to our uses and abuses. A God to whom we offer our flesh without guarantee or institutional cover, in a Eucharistic share of our gifts and limits, enthusiasms and pains, resources and imperfections


and the work or the passion to allow to everybody the possibility to express their self. The third and last issue I suggest concerns the birth of an eccentric community from a Western centered church, whereas eccentric means out of the center, not the center itself, de-centered, that is to say, opened to. Here the church quake is radical indeed.


It demands Peter's bold faith, urging him to go out from the boat, out from the barred room of fear, out of Jerusalem and from the temple's sacred order, to walk onto the unsettled waters of the world, to interact and to contaminate himself with the crowd of the different cultures, languages, religions. Stripped from the magnificent and powerful ostentations of her prestige, the course of events is depriving the church of the monopoly and leadership of the truth of which she was for centuries the holder. Our time, I think, demands her to voluntarily


renounce the conquered advantages of her leadership, to withdraw from the chairs and thrones from where she ruled the world or the souls of people. Renunciation of the temptation to take advantage of the instruments offered by the institutional powers to translate in their state laws the perennial and universal values enunciated by the ecclesiastical hierarchy. It is the dissolution of one, and I underline one, historical form of Christianity, one and not the unique possibility. So the dissolution of one historical form of Christianity


as a regime, born from the self-representation of the church as unique intermediary for the accomplishment in the secular city of the kingdom of God. The modern era, thank God, dissolved this project and pretension, and the situation we are living can become a new opportunity to trust in the unpredictable ways of the evangelical God. Maybe this means a fresh style of presence, one less doctrinal and more existential, less commanding and more


dialogic, less sterile or grim and more affable, less rigid and more flexible, less masculine and with more interaction with the feminine. Connected to this third point, I would like to mention another revolution that concerns the religious pluralistic paradigm, asking for a correspondent soul frame. It is a mutation that shakes the closed and impermeable identities, demolishes the lethal fantasy of considering oneself exclusive and absolute


center of the world. The mutual hospitality of religions offers the opportunity to discover each part as contingent fragment, a peculiar glance of the immense reality of God. The sacred, unbounded mystery is the breath of all the forms, emotions, languages, rights and practices, each one spelling a spark of its splendor, and nevertheless it escapes from every capturing catch. Noli me tantere, don't retain me.


I sense two aspects at the core of Christian faith that may foster the friendship of religions, the heart of a Trinitarian God and the emptying of the Son of God. So some suggestion about that. First, the Christian mystery is not just a depressive monotheism, monotonous, monolithic, monologic, but it is a communicative web of co-existences, of polarities, of possibilities, of freedoms, whereas the one is never without the other. The Father is not without the Son


and the Spirit, different, irreducible subjectivities and relationships. God, Father and Mother, Son and Daughter, Lover and Friend, in between of the Spirit, a field of communion enlivened and celebrated more from the principle of authority than from the one of identity. And then the incarnation of Jesus represents from the point of view of our history the transparency of God's love, not in a gesture of dominion or appropriation, but rather in a gesture of dispossession, of laying aside the garments of Lord to assume


the naked condition of the suffering and abandoned people. He witnesses in his trusting abandonment to a welcoming and mad love. He witnesses to the fact that living in the world we might not be captured completely by the excluding logics of the world, which means an ongoing process of death and resurrection in our own languages for God and in the ways God is revealed. And with joy now a leaf taking, I call it God's vacant, maybe smiling, place.


So, I would like to evoke what escapes even from all that I have tried to suggest, that allows everything that is going to happen, that is to say, an empty space. Our finite human propensity desires to ensure ourselves, to clearly map out our territories, to fill all the gaps of our existence. But I believe that if there is a place of the divine presence, that space is nowhere and everywhere. It is a vacant, void space,


free from management and measurement. And maybe that means a kingdom of grace, the possibility of an unpredictable event. Maybe that means to be illuminated by something that doesn't let itself be seen, to be moved by something that doesn't let itself be grasped, to be filled with love by something that doesn't let itself be seized. Maybe it means to welcome the life source as an unbalancing flow of our yearning


for sureties or satisfied answers. Maybe it means to learn to live in a trusting and inventive way in the conditions of uncertainty, incompleteness, disorder, suspension, ambivalence, disproportion, confusion, where every kind of things co-happens. Maybe it means to let the wellspring spread as astonishment, surplus, gratuitousness, excess, delight, irreducibility, consumption. What about God?


God could be everything that in me overhangs the abyss, staying out of my reach. Everything that doesn't suffice and keeps me open to other, everything that is needy in me, everything that in me weeps and will weep to the end, everything that brings me to depend on, everything that doesn't allow me to shut the other persons in the limits of their faults, but keeps me suspended to the surprise that something more may happen in them.


Everything that opens, being God the wide bottomless openness or the possibility that the world be. Not how the world is, exclaims Ludwig Wittgenstein, but that it is, is the mystic, that the world is. In its gratuitousness invites us to welcome life with openness and love, deeply affected by the world as Darwin was, when he studied with intense care ants and mosquitoes, worms and birds, as if every living organism was a miracle, being able to look at the thickness of life.


By deeply affected by the world as Jesus was, being able to awaken the invisible mystery, invisible bodies, listening to God's breathing in every creature, wandering at the new, entering and opening our heart as the poet Reiner Maria Rilke expresses it in a wonderful way, his words, the new in us, what is yet to be, has entered our heart, penetrated our inmost flesh, and even there it does not remain. It is already in the blood. We cannot say who has entered,


maybe we will never know, but many signs suggest that the future enters in us in this way, to transform itself within us long before it happens. Thank you. So if after a moment of silence we want to share the first resonances or insights of this wonderful adventure of the week. Make any reference to the installation that's on the board, but I think I like it.


The number four sums up beautifully the whole week and it's very good. It's the icon of the meeting. To be at the borders. And to be drawn in, whatever is there. Yeah. I was thinking of the motto of Cardinal Ottaviani, who was head of the Holy Office, always to say, sinter idim. And then, because truth is that, it doesn't change. And then Cardinal Newman said, to live is to change, and to live well is to change often. And there's such a radical, a paradox shift to that. And I think we're in that movement. It seems to me maybe some of the things that the monk can offer is this sense of mystery


and the ineffable. And that gets beyond clear definition. Not to deny the importance of trying to articulate in a tentative way, but to move into the ineffable, the apophatic, etc. That could be a key here. I remember Benedetto said the most important chapter in the rule was the last chapter, the smallest rule, so we have to go beyond it. There's that going beyond. I don't know if now I am able to articulate. But it is not only a radical shift, but a painful for somebody shift. Because, for example, now it is these two different conceptions of truth that are at stake with young Sobrino's cause, because they are preparing something against him.


And it is the everlasting truth, which is usually doctrinal, and the experience with wars, with suffering people, and the gospel of liberation. And that is... I don't think it additions what you're saying to what the monk can offer. There's also that sense of hope in the mystery of what's happening, that I think so often times the response can be darkness and despair, and it can be all that. But I think there's also the hope that something new is happening, and something new will come forth, and it will be. And I think the monk can also be that symbol, along with... I have perhaps got into Sobrino's case. And I think that's sort of what, whereas before,


so the Latin used to react to things of liberation theology, because it's kind of politically sort of bringing socialism to the backbone. Now it seems to focus more on the Christological element, which is what's happened with Sobrino. And sort of the Latin's insistence on this meeting with the person of Christ, the focus of Christology, as a kind of postulant, began to stir a lot of things in me. And one of the things that I find very difficult to reconcile is how everything that's been said, which I agree is the way forward, is transformation, is necessary revolutions that must happen. It would be God himself, how can I reconcile this with a church, with an institutional church that seems to be entrenching itself, more and more identity, that is refusing to sort of budge. And this is something that, I think my discerning,


that I cannot quite sort of... that I find very, very difficult to sort of reconcile. I think we can reconcile with the image at the beginning of our meditations, the image that offered Anish Kapoor of the iceberg. And I think also the church is an iceberg. We see the power of order and the shaping form, but I think there is an immensity, a huge part of it, that is the church, that communities, people's legs are searching, are adventuring in this new world and trying to find new languages and experiences and shapes. So just not to be overwhelmed by it.


Just it. As long as I live in the presence of God, being aware of saying something that we don't know what it is, then the next one will be moving and don't know where it comes from. Like climbing a steep hill. What is that power? It's not easy to receive that. That what's moving is it? And then the second one will be seeing the light and not knowing where it comes from or who has seen the wind, and you needn't hide from you, but from the trees that bow down on their limbs, the wind is passing through. So that's part of the mystery. Thank you. The other thing was,


what is, how does silence come into a candle, a wax candle? It's the source of those who are blessed. It seems like there's some kind of silence there or something. And then going to have a meditation with the candle. It seems to add some peace to it or something. And the image you used on the first day, I think it was, I think you were talking about womb-like, womb-like imagery, perhaps pregnancy, but also birthing. I find it so helpful in terms of this. There's such an agony in birthing. Labor is no joke. It's terrifying. It really resonates with me in terms of where we are as church


and as Christian community. There's a disbelief that what's coming is going to make it out. How can this happen? And there's tremendous pain and tremendous doubt and even violence as pregnant women share their experience of birthing, not knowing where that comes from. And yet it's all part of the package somehow. So it speaks to me in terms of where we are at as Christian community. And as someone at midlife in Nigeria, it speaks to me in terms of my own human development, too. It makes a lot of sense. But the birthing is joyful and wonderful and full of hope and expressiveness. There's an awful lot of pain there, too. Yeah. So it is the same of Jesus, that Jesus is an experiment of giving birth to his Abba before he tried to.


There was not that first glance of Abba. He is the possibility of the birth, giving birth. And so are we in a certain way, in the spirit of Jesus. So it is essential to say in the spirit of Jesus, because it is not a truth already done there, but it is a labor. And we are in the same spirit of labor of Jesus, which is a vivifying, breathing, transforming image. And God is the future that is. So it is, he's not the past. He is the future that is trying to. But those are the two greatest miracles.


There is a God's way of bringing life into the world every day. And the Eucharist, the body of Christ, where does that mystery come from? And we have to do it every day. That's beautiful. That's nice. Yeah, but all symbolic forms that give us, vivify us. For example, Eucharist is circulation, is sharing, is remembering of Christ, who didn't exert a dominion, but a service stripping his robes and washing the feet. So these are the dynamism that help us every day to remember, to vivify, to revive. Bringing out the new heaven, the new earth.


Yeah, so something that is fulfilling is going on. And we can consent or not consent or resist. And nobody can say it is right or not. We have to adventure. So thank you. Yvonne, in the name of all the brothers, I want to express our gratitude to you for these meditations during these days. These meditations, I think, really reflect the profound stirrings of your soul, which then, I think, stir the soul of many others. Also, I want to thank you, too, for the time and the energy that you have expanded in terms of composing this in English and delivering it in English.


Talk about earthbounds, I'm sure. It was a struggle. It was a struggle. So I also want to thank you for your work in this area. I pray that it will continue to be a blessing for you and a blessing for many others as you continue to reflect and meditate and share that with others so that the human soul can continue to be stirred into a greater movement into God. We're delighted always to have you with us and look forward to these next two weeks if you're being with us. And that will be a time of great brotherhood and relaxation. Oh, relaxation, also, yes. Thank you. [...]