Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Lord: Chapter 85, “Promise”

My dear old friend,

I know I can’t fool you, or shouldn’t try, now that this long roll of letters about The Lord by Romano Guardini is coming to an end. (Just two more installments after this one!) So let me just say it:

I struggle with faith. There are many times while writing these personal, amateur reflections when I have realized how often my head outruns my heart. And vice versa.

I sometimes think I get what Guardini is writing about, but my heart doesn’t feel it. It’s as though I have solved a problem in plane geometry, but without the eureka. At other times, my heart feels a surge of faith, but my head shakes dubiously: Nope, doesn’t make rational sense to me.

What’s the old prayer from St. Mark, something like—“Lord, I believe. Help me in my unbelief”—? I’m right there most of the time—despite my seeming self-assurance in these letters.

The beauty of Revelation, according to Guardini, is that it knows this. With the bishops of the seven churches of Asia Minor (the seven “lampstands” of the book’s opening), I deserve judgment, praise, and threats. But also promise. “Again and again,” Romano writes of Revelation, “those struggling for their faith are encouraged: Hold fast to the end! Be loyal! Conquer, and fulfillment beyond measure will be yours!”

To repeat Guardini’s main theme, Revelation is a book of consolation for the faithful. Maybe especially for the trying-to-be-faithful.

A further beauty of Revelation, which RG brings out in this chapter, is that the consolation is not for us alone. Throughout the book, we are shown images of “apocalyptical masses: armies, choruses, powerful vital ensembles,” numbering “thousands of thousands,” “a continuous roaring, storming, thundering.

“And yet,” Guardini writes, “the promises in the epistles are addressed to individuals. . . . This is apocalyptical intimacy. In the heavenly masses, each member remains an individual, each carries his white stone; yet he is also an organic part of the whole, of one single tide-like movement, one voice of praise.”

This is sweet consolation indeed: the promise of a direct personal vision of God—what Thomas More in A Man for All Seasons refers to as “seeing God in the face”—while being part of a universal and eternal community, one soldier in an army of Christians. We all have both needs: to be cherished as individuals but not alone.

“And everything is oriented toward Christ,” RG concludes the chapter. “He dictates the epistles. He sends fulfillment. . . . Choruses gather about him. Legions follow at his heels.”

Faithful to the end,

This series of posts on Romano Guardini’s book The Lord continues here with chapter 86.

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