Sunday, July 3

Loneliness and Christmas

Man lives among things and walks the path of life with his fellow men, turned to the outside, allowing himself to be carried away by events. At a given moment that continuity is broken and the abyss of his interiority opens up for him. In this walk he finds himself alone. Loneliness that can become a source of peace or chasm of shadow and anguish. Then the questions assail him. What to do with my loneliness and what or who accompanies me in it so that it does not become unbearable and I succumb under its weight?

In Spanish we have three words to designate that area of ​​life: loneliness, loneliness and loneliness, or physical loneliness, personal loneliness, metaphysical loneliness. To them corresponds the

triple company that we need so as not to be overwhelmed among things, without our personal reality, open to the world and at the same time to God.

In 1812 the German Protestant theologian Schleiermacher published a dialogue of three participants, each of whom proposes his interpretation of Christmas. The first understanding is the historical one. She is the necessary starting point: recounting the events that in time and place determined the concrete existence of Jesus. The Gospels give us the fundamental data of geography and chronology, with dates, places, and personal names.

The second reading includes Christmas in a mythical key, that is, as the feast of childhood, of the miracle of life, which is always reborn as the rising sun and conquers death. It appears as the sign of the joy of man when he is made like a child. In that childhood Nietzsche placed the culmination of humanity, which goes from the ox (humiliating submission) to the lion (Promethean rebellion) and from this to the child (sovereignty in dominating naivety). He makes this reading of Jesus, which reduces him to a mere mythical symbol of joyful and carefree innocence, innocent as well as demanding.

The third reading starts from historical facts, which he tries to clarify and understand better and better; He thinks of them in light of the entire life, doctrine and destiny of Jesus, with all that it has meant for humanity. The first witnesses and believers until today have recognized in him the incarnative presence of God, his will to live together and share his existence with mortals to make them partakers of his divinity. The journey of Jesus, from the manger to the cross, from Bethlehem to Jerusalem has fascinated humans generation after generation. He is probably one of the men who suffered the most loneliness but he is certainly one of those who has given more company to mortals. It has not been a mere idea (myth), nor just a moral proposal (doctrine), but a person in whom God tells us and gives himself to men.

This is the Christian understanding of Christmas. The Church reads in the liturgy the accounts of the birth of Jesus in the Gospels of Saint Matthew and Saint Luke, but they are accompanied by the prologue of Saint John. This has its culminating point in the supreme possible affirmation of God: that he has shown his divinity by sharing our flesh: “The Word became incarnate … and pitched his tent among us … full of grace and truth.” His death attesting to his message and his resurrection carried out by God are the hallmarks of his theological identity. He makes God the companion of our destiny with his life and death at stake, realizing them as forgiveness, offering, supplication for us. In him we have the manifestation that God: is not the enemy, the opponent, or only the limit of man’s freedom and autonomy. These are his great gift and his great task for us to share his creative capacity. At Christmas we confess that God is not against us but with us and for us.

Christmas answers and corresponds to the question of loneliness that, like a black shadow, is growing in Europe in a surprising way. Two concrete facts along with many others: the fall in the birth rate, on the one hand, and the fact that there is a large part of the households made up of a single person on our European continent. Why is it not spawned? Don’t you have the confidence in life necessary to share it and thus thank those who have given it to us? Life is not a sentence with a final destination for death. Are not affirmations such as Sartre’s: “Hell is others”, or Heidegger’s: “Being is being for death” behind this denialist stance on life?

Doesn’t this have something to do with the loss of faith in God? It would be terrible if Nietzsche were right when, after announcing the death of God, he affirmed: “Faith in the Christian God has become incredible … Is it already beginning to cast its first shadows on Europe?” We are facing a challenge to the very root of the meaning of existence and of faith in man, not only of faith in God. What to think of the project that, after the first leap from matter to the ‘homo intelligens’, would now make the innumerable data and technique possible for man. It would be the second great and final leap in his history: that of ‘Homo Deus’ (Man becomes God).

The German author Jean Paul Richter wrote a ‘Dream’ thinking of those intellectuals of the Enlightenment who did not have the courage to believe or disbelieve in God. It is proposed to show live in a dramatic piece the resulting situation for man if God really did not exist. Terrible scenes of darkness, death, anguish, collapse of everything. In the prologue and epilogue he explains the true meaning of the text: to make man feel on the one hand the situation of man without God and on the other hand what the company of God positively implies. The text is a cataract of denials of God put into the mouth of Christ: ‘Speech of the dead Christ from the top of the world saying that there is no God’. Then follow the questions of the dead shouting: “Christ, is there no God?” And he would reply: “There isn’t.” Then a group of dead children who had stood up in the cemetery cry out sobbing: “Jesus, is there a Father?” And crying his heart out, Jesus replied: “We are all orphans, neither I nor you have a Father.” The text closes by proclaiming the abysmal joy that man experiences when he recognizes that there is God and that he is not an orphan.

Translated into French by M. de Staël, amputating the prologue and epilogue, this ‘Dream’ thus inverting the author’s intention, became the radical manifesto of atheism. It was glossed above all by the poets: Nerval, de Vigny, de Musset, Victor Hugo. So that our joy and celebration of Christmas are not naive or blind, these questions are inexorable in the midst of joy or loneliness. Are we really alone in the world? No one accompanies us in the gorge of death? The Christian celebration of Christmas responds to these questions. The God of Jesus in Bethlehem is Emmanuel, sharing our birth and existence, living and dying. That is why joy and hope are possible and joyful.


Olegario González de Cardedal he is theologian

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