I’ve been working my way through The Religious Sense by Luigi Giussani and writing about some of it over at Collecting Thoughts Press. I just pulled Giussani’s book out of my basket because of a couple of things I read in Magnificat this morning. It all leads back to the reality that man is born with a religious sense, and no matter how hard we try to pretend that we have no longing for God, we do.
The experience of the “I” carries with it the consciousness of good and evil, an awareness that certain things must be either approved or rejected. No matter what, this ability to judge, to distinguish between good and evil cannot be eradicated because it responds to an ultimate destination, our nexus with destiny. It is something which imposes itself upon me, obliges me to judge and recognize something as either good or evil. It is the path used by the Creator to draw to itself all of our existence. It is a path of something good, of something right to which is attached the meaning of life itself, of one’s own existence, of the real; which is good and right because it is so, not at the mercy of anything, of infinite value. That a mother loves her child, this is good because it is good; that someone’s self-sacrifice helps a stranger is good, because it is good. St. Paul said in his letter to the Romans: “When the Gentiles who do not have the law keep it as by instinct, these men although without the law serve as a law for themselves. They show that the demands of the law are written in their hearts. Their conscience bears witness together with that law, and their thoughts will accuse or defend them …” (Rom. 2:14–15).
Even a pagan, the great poet Sophocles, in Antigone, spoke of the sacred limits of the law:
All your strength is weakness itself against
The immortal unrecorded laws of God.
They are not merely now: they were, and shall be,
Operative for ever, beyond man utterly.
In Magnificat’s January editorial, Father Peter John Cameron, O.P., writes:
Pope Benedict XVI referred to the Magi as “men with a restless heart” who were “driven by a restless quest for God … filled with expectation. … They were looking for something greater. … They wanted to know how we succeed in being human.” They were people inwardly seized by God.
Maybe the Magi prayed like Saint Thérèse of Lisieux: “Is this pure love truly in my heart? Is my infinite longing not a dream and an illusion? Oh, if it is, then enlighten me! You know that I am seeking the truth.” And God answered! He sent the star.
Our own distressing restlessness is in fact a grace goading us to follow the Magi’s lead. Instead of succumbing to the darkness, we are to search it.
Saint Thomas Aquinas encourages us: “We must bear in mind that a fervent desire of divine love will not permit the faithful soul to rest until it finds its Beloved, because a true desire, when fulfilled, delights the soul.”
Then, there’s Caryll Houselander:
Many people think that in order to be contemplative we must be unnatural. … Those who think in this way have not yet pondered the showing forth of God in all that is closest at hand in everything that is around us, above all in human nature.
Human nature is made in God’s image. That image burns in its dark heart as the distant star burns in a deep well far below it.
In so far as human beings retain or recover the primitive purity of their human nature they learn the secrets of God from their own hearts.