by Pat Nogoy SJ
“For me the love of God is, both in a direct and in an inverse sense, incommensurable with the whole of reality.” –Soren Kierkegaard (Fear and Trembling)
The thought of God itself is already a difficult idea to wrestle with. Imagine discussing what is greater than can be thought of, as St. Anselm would describe. Indeed, the idea of God itself escapes every attempt of grasping and eventually will lead one into silence after all the discussions and debates. How can one talk about someone or something which, in the very pronouncing of the word, always pass us by? How can a rational being be content with a trace? It is better for the discussion to be buried given its non-finality and at some point, an absurdity. For God is a name that is as abstract as an idea can get; a concept that is not a concept. Yet is it not this concept that is not a concept a begging of the question? Is it not better to be silent?
Yet, there is something strange about this silence.
For the reality of God persists; its notion knocks hard on the doors of minds and imagination. People seem to not stop in talking about it. Blame it on the culture or the institutional Church, perhaps. However, if one chooses to be open and to simply listen, maybe one can stumble upon some truth of this reality we call God. Not only an abstract concept or a reality proven by logic; not only a reality that exists and in which all other beings participate in their existence; not only a trace of a completely Other; not only something or someone that can be dismissed in silence; not only an idea to be talked about.
For that which was from the beginning let Himself be heard, seen, and touched.
For clearer than the complexity of ideas and imagination is the language of the flesh and the heart. Heidegger speaks of the elevation of possibility over actuality. In such line of thought, the promising future brings the gift of becoming, a deepening horizon of the what can be over what is. Yet, greater than a promise is its fulfillment. What is better than an imagined lover or beloved is the arrival of lover or beloved himself. What is more understandable is what strikingly resembles us. God arrived and dwelt amongst us—a man like us in all aspects except sin.
When somebody or something arrives, it can never be erased.
The life appeared..which we have looked at and our hands have touched…we have seen it and testify to it.
And it is no mystery that the Passion of the Christ, with its gore and violence, definitively strikes where it matters most. It may be brutal interpretation of the Passion itself; however, it drives home the reality of a God that chose to give Himself in total love. The Passion, though in its rough graphic delivery, spoke the language of the flesh and heart of a God who chose to suffer instead of retreat or retaliation, to courageously bore the unjust punishment instead of exercising his might by the flicker of his finger, and to love what can be considered “unlovable.” He can choose to do anything and be justified because He is God. Yet, all the more He is justified because he chose to love—to give absolutely. What is more absurd and disturbing than the tore of flesh from lashes and the piercing of nails in those gentle hands and feet is not the resilience nor courage He showed. Neither is the fortitude of will in his choice of obedience. What is confounding is the forgiveness—to completely give—that he manifested. What is striking is the gentleness and compassion amidst the excess and foolishness of rancor and violence. What speaks most, especially in the heart of hearts, is His unbending love.
What is absurd is His love.
And love is not much understood in the plane of the mind and imagination. One drifts away from love if he remains in the safe haven of philosophies or musings. Love is understood in demonstration; it is possessed in choice. Christ’s passion contains the depth of the wisdom of love; love is its own evidence and reason.
There is no better way to talk about it than to go through it. There is no better way to know God’s love and His reasons than by seeing and touching Him in our hearts. And in this plane, words fail. Silence does reign but not of a kind that comes out of endless reflection, discussion, or debate. It is the kind that opens up the very self to the Other not in a general way but rather in a personal manner. It is the crossing, a true exodus of both, that meets in each other’s hearts. It is not of a feel good or heartwarming kind but rather a surpassing and beyond-words reality of togetherness. It is an arrival that settled and in its settling, left a mark that forever changes the very essence of our being. There is no better way to know God than by simply letting Him in.
One lyricist exclaimed his desire in the line of his composed song: I want to know what love is. How does one know love? It is through its showing. God did not only show Himself through ideas or border concepts. God did not only show Himself through His arrival. He chose to make His present felt; He chose to leave a mark—kharassein (the root word of character)–by a total giving unto death in the midst of absurd violence. Yet greater than death and absurdity is the showing or manifestation of His love—a love that shines in his gazes to his betrayer, frail friends, suffering mother, cruel countrymen, violent punishers, and a weak judge, a love that echoes in his spoken words of forgiveness and prayers for mercy, a love that never gives up despite the thirst and panting from the pangs of suffering and impending death on the cross.
We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us.
And so the power behind the simple narrative of love. It is, in fact, a love story, which finds its strength not in the bricks of mind and imagination, but rather in the courageous deeds of giving, of choosing to love. It is meant to be shared rather than debated; it is meant to be partaken of rather than reflected. The love story’s demand is not so much found in the coercive power of generalized truth but rather in an invitation to leap. And what better invitation than to let Him in—look into His eyes, feel His heart, pitch our tents in His hands.
In the rough, cruel, and violent wood hangs Him who knows love perfectly. Around it are the sorrows of eve, the echoes of unjust hate, the deafening cries of lost and death. Abandoned and wasted, He breathes His last unto silence. It is in this silence where God places Himself in our hands. A difficult and strange silence—the silence of love.