Friday 1 July 2016

Salesian loving kindness

C 15 is entitled "Amorevolezza salesiana."

It begins: "Mandato ai giovani da Dio che è «tutto carita»." The «tutto carità» is in fact, and very interestingly, a reference to Don Bosco's "Esercizio di devozione alla misericordia di Dio" (Torino 1847, p. 81 = OE II,151)

"Amorevolezza," or loving kindness is one of the standard translations of "hesed." And right next to it, in Ex 34,6, we find the MAKROTHYMIA that Bishop Morfino has been talking about in these days of the retreat - and that is usually translated as "patient," but also as "long-suffering," or, more familiar to me, "slow to anger." The beautiful thing is that MAKROTHYMIA is the first word used in the description of AGAPE in Paul's "hymn to love" in 1 Cor 13,4a: HE AGAPE MAKROTHYMEI. Morfino was talking about MAKROTHYMIA as the large-heartedness of God, and as the gift that God makes to us of his love in the Spirit.

So compassion - misericordia - mercy - ELEOS - HESED - MAKROTHYMIA: what a wonderful set of words clustering around loving kindness. C 15 goes on: "il salesiano è aperto e cordiale, pronto a fare il primo passo e ad accogliere sempre con bontà, rispetto e pazienza." I had not noticed the "pazienza"! And Don Bosco is more than familiar with 1 Cor 13.

HE AGAPE ... CHRESTEUETAI. Translated usually as "kind," but, according to Morfino, better "constructive" and "inductive," because true love takes off not from my needs but from the reality of the other, the truth of the other.

The most intimate connection between myself and the other, as Paul Ricoeur and Emmanuel Levinas have been pointing out. The Targum on Leviticus 19 seems to read: "Love your neighbour who is yourself." The other: she is myself, without her I cannot be myself. I grow in a process of constant mutual self-mediation through the Other. Being is communion. I am a face of faces, volto dei volti - the faces of my father and mother, but also of hundreds of other people, because the We precedes the I, and the I comes to birth within the We, in a complex process of mutual self-mediation with social and historical dimensions.

"La sua castità e il suo equilibrio gli aprono il cuore alla paternità spirituale e lasciano trasparire in lui l'amore preveniente di Dio." Chastity: the purity of heart of one who sees God, like the Pure of heart and eye that is Christ, in whose presence people felt safe, men, women, children.

Spiritual fatherliness: "Operando per la salvezza della gioventù, il salesiano fa esperienza della paternità di Dio..." (C 12, union with God). The salesian "makes experience" of the fatherhood of God. He experiences the fatherhood of God in his work for the young. He participates, is privileged to participate, in this fatherhood from which all fatherhood on earth takes its name. And "makes experience" is repeated once again in the chapter on formation: it is the basic dynamism of formation: "[il salesiano] fa esperienza dei valori della vocazione salesiana..." (C 98, the formative experience). And, as C 95 points out, "he learns to meet God" – in a mirabile commercium, Morfino would add – "through those to whom he is sent." Showing God, participating in God's fatherhood, he sees God in the burning bush and holy ground of the young.

And the "amore preveniente di Dio": the prevenient love of God, the love of God that precedes us - which the English text calls "God's anticipating love," losing all the theological depth of the word "prevenient." The love with which he has first loved us. Gratia operans. The deepest root of the Preventive System. Which is why it would be quite horrible to lose the name to the "Expressive System." We would lose - the music, the many layers of meaning contained in the original name, which is not "just a name" but so profoundly "symbol" - it belongs not to the univocal language of science and treatise, but to the intensely charged language of poetry and religion and art. 

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