Wisdom is acquired through suffering

2013-02-21 L’Osservatore Romano

Evil, pain, and culpability are expressions of the limitation of human creatures. Yet the great means of communication teach us all about the ways and means of living but disregard every question and answer on the meaning of existence. It got to the heart of the second part of the Spiritual Exercises for the Roman Curia in the presence of Benedict XVI, given by Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, President of the Pontifical Council for Culture. On Wednesday morning, 20 February, the Cardinal began to outline the features of the “Face of man”, starting with the “man who believes” and “man as a frail creature”.

He did so beginning with the last of the seven letters of the Book of Revelation, the letter addressed to the Church of Laodicea in Asia Minor. “It seems”, the Cardinal said, “the portrait of many Christian communities today, but also of the society itself in which we are immersed”. Laodicea's lukewarm, superficial, mediocre and trivial aspects are highlighted. “It is not immoral but amoral”, the Cardinal said. At the end of the letter, “nausea” at this condition subsides and Christ appears, travelling on the roads of the world,  who “stands at the door and knocks” The reference is to the “loving symbology of the lover who stands at the door of his beloved, who shows her reluctance to open it”. This scene demonstrates “the primacy of grace, the cháris that becomes caritas”. If Christ were not to pass, “were not to stand and knock, we should remain enclosed in our solitary, autonomous history”. A new element enters this scene, the Cardinal said. “ It is up to us to listen to that knocking and to that voice which calls”. Some stay closed in and choose not to be disturbed  and pay no attention to that voice. “This is the moment”, he said, “of human freedom, of pistis, faith that welcomes cháris, the call, the gift, the theophany”.

In the morning's second meditation, the Cardinal explained another face, that of “man as a frail creature”. The experience of suffering has “given rise to all the theologies and has become the substance of infinite prayers in all religions”. In this regard the Cardinal pointed out that almost a third of the Psalter “consists of personal entreaties or community lamentations”. Why? wonders man, torn apart by pain. The praying person in the Psalms gives “a voice to all of us when we experience what in Hebrew is called sar, that is, “anguish”, a word that evokes narrowness, an asphyxiating state.