“But did you see the streets? Just the streets… There were thousands of them! And how do you do it down there? How do you choose just one? One woman, one house, one piece of land to call your own, one landscape to look at, one way to die.” Novecento, the pianist who acts as the protagonist of the theatrical monologue with the name same by Alessando Baricco, decides not to go down the stairs, which would make him finally leave behind the ship on which he was born. Instead he turns around, terrorized by the necessity to choose “one road, one woman, one land…” With his tragic decision, he refuses to choose and adhere to one specific path, which paradoxically would have allowed him to love everything.
Ultimately, Novecento refuses to accept the method that God has always chosen: the method of the Incarnation. The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. From the beginning God chose a specific time, place, and young woman to enter into the lives of men and women who would live at all moments of history. And it was not by accident that He decided to do so inside a home, within a family. God’s action in history and the reality of the family are very closely tied.
God created man, male and female, and gives them the task of giving life to and educating the children born from their union, thus participating in the work of creation. Their refusal to depend on Him created a distance between God and them, a distance that only He can fill. All of salvation history is like a long courtship, described well by the metaphors referring to spousal love used by the prophets and described in the Song of Songs. With His Incarnation, death, and Resurrection, Christ saves them from sin, and returns to man and woman their dignity, giving them again the original and exciting task that the hardness of their hearts had rendered arduous. Fortified by the sacrament, marriage acquires a new, sanctifying strength. Now it is more possible than ever to love the world through loving one’s husband or wife and children. Thanks to Christ, human love is embraced, exalted, and elevated, restoring the vocation to its origins, and freeing it from snares that may have emptied that deep longing for totality and for eternity that ultimately describes its nature. In effect, the family is called in a new way to build the Kingdom of God.
Who would desire to turn and go the other way? Who would want to be like Novecento and turn his back to that which the world, reality, and his heart calls him to because he doesn’t feel worthy of such a great vocation? Today, instead, any trace of meaning derived from the family has been reduced. This reduction contains the same doubt the disciples raised to Jesus (with these conditions, it is better not to marry…). One attempts to justify his personal difficulty at being faithful, and expects that mercy does not imply his personal conversion and the reparation for his sins. One even reaches the point of visualizing a version of the family that holds no semblance to that which it was made to be. Therefore the task of Christian families today is to announce courageously and bear witness that God’s original project is possible. That is, the desire of husband and wife to give of themselves completely and reciprocally to one another, with the construction of the Kingdom of God as its horizon, is a real experience, available to all. Indeed this is the only true and profound experience of family the respects their dignity.
The Christian family is a spark of hope for the whole world. Thanks to the meetings with many families, I have learned better what it means to give of oneself and forgive. I have understood more deeply what it means to educate and to be a missionary. Every family is called to be on the front line and rediscover every day their personal responsibility in front of the world, sharing the missionary impetus of the whole Church. Fr. Giussani once told us, “The missionary family rests its gaze on the horizon: it looks at the whole horizon, opened by Christ, with the desire that He may pass through everything. With the daily embrace of patience, it intelligently builds up the Church in itself and in everything around it.”
(Foto Vincent Albanese.)