Friday, February 27, 2015

The Lord by Romano Guardini — "But love does such things!"

Speaking of the Incarnation, Guardini says:
However, this journey of God from the everlasting into the transitory, this stride across the border into history, is something no human intellect can altogether grasp. The mind might even oppose the apparently fortuitous, human aspect of this interpretation with its own "purer" idea of godliness, yet precisely here lies hidden the kernel of Christianity. Before such an unheard of thought the intellect bogs down. Once at this point a friend gave me a clue that helped my understanding more than any measure of bare reason. He said: "But love does such things!" Again and again these words have come to the rescue when the mind has stopped short at some intellectual impasse. Not that they explain anything to the intelligence; they arouse the heart, enabling it to feel its way into the secrecy of God. The mystery is not understood, but it does move nearer, and the danger of "scandal: disappears.

None of the great things in human life springs from the intellect; every one of them issues from the heart and its love. If even human love has its own reasoning, comprehensible only to the heart that is open to it, how much truer must this be of God's love! When it is the depth and power of God that stirs, is there anything of which love is incapable? The glory of it is so overwhelming that to all who do not accept love as an absolute point of departure, its manifestations must seem the most senseless folly.
This book is my Lenten reading this year. However, it is rich enough, requiring slow absorption, and big enough that it will likely last past that time. I'm reading a library book but realize that it is a book for owning as I would benefit from many rereadings.

Interestingly, it is somewhat like reading G.K. Chesterton's nonfiction. Chesterton always does you the compliment of assuming you know all the basic facts about a subject. It is like entering a conversation between friends who have left mere facts behind long ago and are now delving deeper into underlying themes.

In that way The Lord is a great relief. I don't have to hear yet again, line by line, what Jesus "really meant" by each line of the beatitudes. Instead Guardini brings Jesus' words to life by diving straight into the heart of what lay behind the bigger picture. This may sound odd but consider the above passage, excerpted from his discussion of Christ's incarnation. It dives right to the heart of why believers and nonbelievers alike may struggle with the concept of God becoming man.

The italics are my emphasis of the lines that struck straight to my own heart. It is the basis for so much of Christianity, of learning to answer Jesus' question, "Who do you say that I am?" Certainly it is a wonderful expansion upon that maddening word "mystery" which often is my only fallback when trying to answer questioning non-Christians about something which just "doesn't make sense."

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