Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Lord: Chapter 56, “The Final Reunion”

Dear friend,

Our class will have its 50th reunion in seven years. I wonder whether I will even go. Our 25th was OK, but our 30th was a disappointment—guys sitting around talking about drug use after graduation—and our 40th? I didn’t recognize half of my classmates.

There was such an intensity to our friendships, especially in senior year, and for some of us these carried over to college. But soon enough for most friendship turned into networking, and teenage ties attenuated. Admittedly, I cut my ties abruptly to chase a spiritual teacher over the Eastern rim of the world. The memoir I’m writing is much concerned with that.

Romano Guardini calls the Last Supper “The Final Reunion”! How poignant! We won’t know which Exeter ’69 reunion will be our last, but Christ knew. “To understand the situation better,” RG writes, “let us recall the close connection that existed in those days between a teacher and his students, a master and his disciples; whether the leader was a philosopher, a religious personality, or anyone who gathered hearers and imitators about him. The master lived entirely with his followers, often for years at a time.”

Just like boarding school. Or maybe not. First, I’m not sure we had many masters like That One. Marriott came closest for me, The Rev for you, I guess. But the central point of this beautiful and touching chapter—as the “beloved” John leans on the chest of Jesus and “Jesus is alone with those who really are his”—is the differences between this final reunion and any other in the history of the world. Guardini returns again to Socrates and Buddha, whom you know he reveres:

“Two similar events have graven their image deep in human memory; in each a great master bids goodbye to his disciples. One of them anticipates this hour by four hundred years: the death of Socrates, as described by his pupil Plato in the dialogue ‘Phaedo’; the other, another two centuries back: the death of Buddha, as recorded in the ‘Collection’ of Buddhistic texts from southern India. At first glance these two farewells seem to have much in common with the one just dicussed . . . ”

At first glance. Take it, Romano:

“Jesus, who was Truth, never sought it [like Socrates]. Nor was a he ‘Perfect One’ in the sense of one perfected [like Buddha]. Humanly speaking, his life was not perfected but destroyed in the plumbless mystery of his sacrificial destiny. Also intrinsically or religiously speaking, the term [perfected] and all that goes with it does not fit him. There is nothing in his life that suggest it, and his last word, ‘It is consummated,’ means not that his life is fulfilled, but the will of his Father (John 19:30).

“It is important to see these differences clearly . . . ”

RG concludes: “Now we understand Jesus’s position as he sits at table with his disciples one last time: it is not only that of the all-knowing one among the unknowing; also not merely that of the loving one among his friends. It is the Son of God breaking bread with fallen man—with a few whom he has selected from many—not wise and great, but expressly ‘little’ and ‘humble.’ To the end he is completely alone.”

Well, it’s off to Mass in a couple of hours for me. Yet another reunion and hopefully not the last one for—

Your devoted friend and classmate,

* This series of posts on Romano Guardini’s The Lord continues here with chapter 57.

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