Saturday, October 02, 2004 +

Romano Guardini

Guardini's The Humanity of Christ: Contributions to a Psychology of Jesus could help one learn to read Gospel Scenes.

If we could work our way back to the picture of Christ as it existed before it had been turned over in the apostles' minds or elaborated in their preaching, before it had been assimilated by the corporate life of the faithful, we could find a figure of Christ even more colossal and incomprehensible than any conveyed by even the most daring statements of St Paul or St John.

Jesus never made the slightest gesture of detaching himself from a hostile, degrading, senseless world; of repelling what he could not avoid, as having no part in him, or of retreating within himself. What he had to contend with was wrong in every way, but he accepted it and, indeed, took it to heart, we might even say.

Aware that he had been sent by the Father, and filled with a desire to obey the Father's will in all things, he accepted everything that happened to him.... In the final analysis, it would not be of great importance what actually did happen, so long as it was the proper thing required by the situation at that moment.

Only because he lives, acts and speaks, does what he is speaking about exist.

[His thought] is clear, concise, utterly responsible, with no trace of self or superfluity.

A continual solitude enveloped Jesus. There were always men about him, but among them he was alone. His solitude arises because no one understands him. His enemies do not understand him, the multitude does not, but neither do his disciples.

Scarcely a single act of genuine communal existence is recorded in the Gospels; scarcely one true "we" in the strict sense of the term. Not even in prayer is it ever expressed. The résumé of his message from the Father, and the basis of the proper relationship to him, were given by Jesus in the prayer, Our Father. The subject of the Our Father is the "we" of the Christian: but Jesus never repeated this prayer with his disciples, never included himself with this "we". There is no place, as far as I can see, where he took the lead in joining together with his disciples in prayer. Where he himself is seen to pray, as for example at the end of the Last Supper, and still more strikingly, in the Garden of Olives, he speaks and adopts an attitude which no other man can imitate.

The story of his temptation [does] not relate to any real temptation at all: the incident is a revelation of the absolute unity of the will of Jesus with that of God.

He is always himself. There is no split discernible in his character. Indeed, we always get the impression from his behaviour that Jesus possessed great untapped reserves of strength, that he was actually much more than he appeared to be on the surface, and that he was capable of doing much more than he actually did.

Compared with the works of the great mystics or one of the great sermons of Buddha, the Sermon on the Mount appears almost a commonplace thing. The works of the mystics appear to be more profound, more powerful, more moving, more sublime - whatever term you prefer to use to describe that unusualness that is the hallmark of genius - until we realize that a judgement of this kind is not applicable to Jesus.

Jesus' place is not on the side whence the act of religion comes; his place is on the side whither it tends as to its object; he must be ranged, not among the pious and devout, but with the end to which the devout address their piety.

Jesus teaches us to use the Christian "we" when we address the Father. He unites all the faithful in one fellowship, enabling them to say, appropriately, "Our Father". But he himself does not use this "we".

He is not pious, but engenders piety.

To give his disciples his own Body and Blood as food, and to say that this was being sacrificed for them in atonement for sin, is, humanly speaking, the most appalling nonsense and an example of morbid hubris, apart from being disgusting.

Jesus says: To show love is to love me. To fail to love is to fail me.

We do not say: This language is good because it announces the truth; we say: It is good because it affirms him - Jesus.

In St John's Gospel we are told how Jesus was disputing with his enemies, and said to them: "I am he". These words are language which only God could use.

Jesus is truly seen only by the man who believes in him, or who - and this is the real antithesis of faith - finds him a stumbling-block.... Faith or scandal: these are the only real attitudes caused in man by Christ.