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To Communicate God; To Communicate Like God: The “Lesson” of the Trinity

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To Communicate God; To Communicate Like God: The “Lesson” of the Trinity

Summary of the Talk: 

 Aware of the fact that Fr. Alberione focused special attention on the “Way of the Trinity” and on the mystery of the Incarnation as keys to interpreting the Pauline charism and mission, my talk will be a theological reflection on communication from the Christological and Trinitarian perspectives. It is divided into two parts: a theological analysis of communication, followed by a pastoral application. We will also reflect briefly on the ecclesiological aspect of the Pauline charism and some topics of assessment in view of a lucid operative revision.

First Stage:

Analysis of Communication from the Trinitarian Perspective

(Theological Aspects)

“Our Father in heaven”:

The Father, Communicator of God’s Totally New and Fruitful Presence

          In “communicating himself” to human beings, the God of the Bible emerges as a personal God, beyond our reach yet always tenderly “bending over” the world. From all eternity and by his very nature he is the God of communication: everything is summed up in his attitude of availability to his creatures. Although wrapped in indescribable and untouchable mystery, silently present in the cloud that guides his people (Ex. 13:21-22) or in the breeze that follows in the wake of a storm (1 K 19:9-13), this God is benevolent toward human beings, speaks to them as friends (Ex. 33:11; Jn. 15:14-15), and moves among them (cf. Bar. 3:38; Dei Verbum, 2). Even more, the God revealed to us by Jesus, while continuing to dwell in inaccessible light (1 Tm. 6:16), establishes a unique relationship with humanity: he calls us his children and gives us life.

          In this sense, the God who is our Father does not limit himself to simply “being” (a God who is present, visible and alive). Instead, he continually “brings other things into being” by creating, guarding, giving and promoting. This exercise of divine power in creating and then guarding his creation is not an expression of tyrannical domination but the premise and promise of the growth of his creatures. Thus the Father’s communication consists first of all in the pro-motion of his children in the caring providence, in the movement of constant self-beginning (always original) of an inedited  love.

“Hallowed be your name”:

Christ, the holy name of God,  communication of his salvation

          A word that issues from the mouth of the Father, Christ is the name of God himself. In Christ, God’s fatherhood embraces the mystery of human flesh, giving a face to the divine name. The divine communication now has an expression even more qualifying than its being first of all a relationship: the face of a God-man. God is not just a Being who tenderly “bends over” the world but a God who has drawn so close to human beings that he assumed their humanity unconditionally.

          Christ is the name of God, the revelation of his Being-for-us, among us and with us. The name of Jesus is the salvific, divine-human translation of the name of the Exodus (Ex. 3:14). It is the name of the God who is present, the God who intervenes in human events. Christ is the story of God-with-us: in his mystery, God speaks the words of human beings and the words of human beings become the Word of God.

          Consequently, in Christ, the mystery of the human word and of the Word of God meet and become a mutual law: God hands himself over to human words, allowing himself to be wounded and compromised in and through them. And human beings find in the eternal, inexhaustible and fecund Word of God the “grammar” needed to express themselves. Basically, this is what salvation is: an act of communication in which God and human beings draw near to one another to the point that they are bound by a mutual presence in which the life of each becomes that of the other. This is not a forced bond but one that liberates and that communicates dignity, freedom, hope and vigor.

          To be genuine, to take on its complete dignity and effectiveness, every human language from Christ onward must echo the name of God. God the Father offers us his gift in Christ the living Word–the divine Word that echoes in the words of human beings. In this way, the Living Word gives words to humanity, allowing them to fully explain the mystery dwelling within them. Participating in the divine Word, human beings find and formulate human words. Thus it is God himself who gives human beings both the divine Word and the human words that echo it. As Gaudium et Spes says, God reveals human beings to themselves (cf. n. 22).

          With the Incarnation, the Word of God assumed the gift he created (Jn. 1:11: “he came to his own”) so as to complete it. Thus he transformed the language of human beings–and consequently the world itself–into the indispensable instrument (context) that allows them to express and reflect on the Presence of God at the side of human beings. Even more, he transformed this space into a “sacred zone” in which the mystery of his name is acknowledged and celebrated (sanctificetur). The only thing is that now, with Christ, this name is understood not only as a Being who tenderly bends over humanity but as a saving Presence with a human face. As we said, Christ gives a face to the name of God, revealing his Presence as personal and human, and he makes the human being “the way to God” in the full sense of the term.

“Your kingdom come”: the Spirit, Guest of God’s Abode in the Midst of Human Beings; the power and communication of the Kingdom to come

          Presence and Salvation are possible because the Word that issues from the mouth of the Father is nourished by the breath of the Spirit, the breath of God’s voice itself. To experience the Spirit is our channel of access to God’s communication and is the “set” itself of this communication since God expresses God only “in God” and his Word can be heard only if it is prolonged in time and space by the very divine power, that is, the Spirit. Thus life in the Spirit is the hospitable context of divine-human communication. In it, Presence and Salvation blended together in the welcoming embrace of God’s dwelling-place because the Spirit creates, purifies and nourishes the affective climate characteristic of a family that transforms the world into the God’s abode–the place where he dwells with us.

          It is an Abode to be enjoyed; a dwelling place in which to rest and stay; a space in which to live. But it is impossible here to “imprison” the Presence, for it would immediately cease to be such — being always Presence of the One who freely gives himself, and never of somebody compelled to grant — and would even cease to be Salvation. To know, communicate and “dwell” in God in the Spirit and in truth means to receive the beneficial effect of his being-with-us without seeking to halt the life-giving flow of his love, which is free as the wind and blows where it chooses (Jn. 3:8). Even more, it means allowing this indwelling: the Spirit “conquers” those who want to “conquer” God, providing them with the only key of access to the mystery he guards and invokes with groans that cannot be put into words (cf. Rm. 8:26).

Interlude

“On earth as it is in heaven”:

the ecclesiological depth of the Pauline charism

          In keeping with the model of the Trinity and the triple rhythm of God’s communication of himself as Presence, Salvation and Abode of the divine Word in the midst of humanity, the Church looks to the heavenly Jerusalem, where God dwells with human beings and lays the foundations of this dwelling-place in time. It does this by reproposing communication between God and humanity, indeed, by living its three fundamental dimensions: the fecund presence of the Father, the fruits of salvation accomplished by the Son, and the place where the Spirit dwells and where we dwell in him. What is life in God becomes mission in the Church: a structure of communication. God’s Church is brought together and in its turn brings together all people to stand before the salvific presence of the-God-who-dwells-among-us. In this sense, it is clear that the whole Church is communication and carries out communication. It cannot be otherwise if we want to be grafted onto the mystery of God who, in revealing his face and name to us, chose human history as his dwelling place.

          The wealth of the Pauline charism lies precisely in being a reflection, in the midst of a constantly-changing history, of this communicative aspect of the Church. A great merit has to be accredited to a spirituality that, by its very structure and nature, engages in articulating the most essential mediation of the Church — i.e. the divine/human communication itself — and thus might track in a close manner (better still, from within) its heart and mission.

Second stage:

Stimuli, Provocations, Proposals

(Implications on the Operative/Pastoral Levels)

          To be communicators in the Church always requires that one be deeply anchored in the spiritual life and, even more, in the life of the Trinity. In this part of my talk, we will rethink what was sketched out theoretically up to now, approaching it from the doxological (and therefore Trinitarian) perspective:

“Through Christ”: Communicating Christ the Communicator

          No Christian communicator can absolve him/herself of the responsibility to communicate Christ and, even more, to communicate like him. Those who carry out the work of communication in the Church must learn to communicate Christ, who gave a face and a name to God’s communication: the face of a personal relationship, the name of salvation. Christian communicators must learn to see the act of communicating not as just another job or service but as a concrete apostolate, namely, the exercise of the ministry of salvation. Let us not forget that salvation is realized first of all through an act of communication. But this communication requires the “wealth” of participation (feelings, passion); it must accept the human situation and strive to construct an abode on earth hospitable to the Word of God. In the “school” of God’s self-communication and also in the “school” of Alberione, we learn that our efforts to communicate must meet human beings on the ground of their languages, in a climate of empathy and in a family spirit.

          Let us ask ourselves: How do we communicate and what type of communication do we propose? Are we perhaps accustomed to a religious communication “deprived of flesh and blood,” that is, made up of data, information and knowledge to be passed on to others? Are we too slaves of that pathology of impersonality that consents to a business management policy or technological meditation to replace the personal dimensions of human contact, of experience and charism? Do we actually communicate in a truly complete way? Does our concept of multimediality constitute a goal or a point of departure in this sense?

“In the Spirit”: Communicating (in) the Spirit of the risen Christ

          Our living experience of the Spirit suggests to us that communication must be understood first of all as a “place” and a “process,” or, as we said earlier, as an “abode” of God. The Spirit, the eternal presence of God in the life of human beings, teaches us to communicate with others in a friendly, discreet, personal and solicitous way. To communicate in the Spirit and in truth means to infinitely replicate the risen Christ’s gift of the Spirit and thus to offer ourselves as a gift to others: a gift that does not invade but that affirms a greater Presence; a gift that comforts and heals. The Spirit witnesses to how important it is that we be a vibrant, active and effective presence.

          Let us ask ourselves: How are we present to others through our communications? What type of spirituality are we communicating? What role does the Spirit play in our communications apostolate? What roles do the interior life, contemplation and mystery play in it? Is the Spirit the true “law” and the true protagonist of the interior rebirth that we presuppose or propose?

“To the Father”: Communicating the Father, the Source and Principle

          The Father, the inexhaustible principle, introduces us to communication as a perennial beginning, an always-new reality. He teaches us to communicate creation and to communicate with and in creation. He teaches us the value of communication as a creative act and–inasmuch as it is salvation, as we have already seen–as a new creation that safeguards, nurtures and renews everything that exists. Mutirão Brasileiro de Comunicação”,

          Let us ask ourselves: How do our communications reflect the inexhaustible divine creativity? Are our communications spaces/times of originality or merely of repetition? Are they places/times of revivifying grace or are they dedicated to simply maintaining traditions? Do our communications foster human promotion? Do they launch us into the mystery of relationships and life, or are they limited to explaining, commenting and/or defending? Are we able to communicate the right, joy and daring of “creating” spaces and times for God?

Concluding Reflection:

To speak and give the whole God; to speak to and give to the whole person

 

          The “Way of the Trinity” reminds us of our most important duty, confirmed by Fr. Alberione: to speak and give the whole God; to speak to and give to the whole person; to be faithful to the whole God and to be faithful to the whole person. It is urgent that we evaluate the limitations, the blocks and the concrete potentials of our communication. To do this, we must listen to situations, embracing them with the spirit of availability characteristic of religious who are courageous enough to believe they can interpret and change them. This brings us face to face with the challenge to “sanctify” the secular (by seeking to understand what it really is) or with the painful (but often necessary) need to “secularize” the sacred (the habitual, domestic, ordinary virtues). The goal is always to blaze a trail for the incarnation of grace in human history, uniting responsibility and compassion, making the grace of ministry (vocation) the ultimate and most profound resource for a fruitful ministry of grace (mission).

First stage: Analysis of Communication from the Trinitarian Perspective

       (Theological Aspects)

The Father who is in heaven

  • The Father: the eternal, personal Principle, the Communicator par excellence
  • The Father: a totally new and creative love
  • Not a dominating but rather a life-giving and nurturing communication

Christ, the consecrated name of God

  • The Incarnation: the “grammar” of divine and human language
  • Christ: God’s name with a human face: a communication beyond the relationship itself
  • Christ communicates salvation by bestowing his word

The Spirit: power of the Kingdom to come

  • Experiencing the Spirit as the “embrace” and “environment” of God’s communication
  • Communication as a space in which to “live”
  • The breath of God’s voice: when speaking does not mean possessing

Interlude: Ecclesiological Depth of the Pauline Charism

  • To communicate as Church; to communicate because one is Church
  • Ecclesiological dimension of the Pauline charism

Second stage: Stimuli, Provocations, Proposals

(Implications on the Operative/Pastoral Levels)

“Through Christ”: Communicating Christ the Communicator

  • To communicate beginning with salvation: communication as salvation
  • To communicate so as to build the “house of God” in human situations
  • To meet people on the ground of their languages

“In the Spirit”: Communicating (in) the Spirit of the risen Christ

  • To communicate in Spirit and in truth: a non-invasive Presence
  • To communicate an active Presence: the importance to be there
  • The Spirit: protagonist of interior rebirth

“To the Father”: Communicating the Father, Source and Principle

  • To communicate creation; to communicate in creation
  • Communication as a creative act
  • To communicate the right, joy and daring of creating spaces and times for God

Concluding Reflections: To speak and give the whole God;

       to speak to and give to the whole person

Fidelity to God and fidelity to human beings…but how?

  • Evaluating the limitations, blocks and potentials of our communication
  • Don’t try to avoid reality–listen to it!
  • To sanctify the secular (or secularize the sacred?)
  • Blazing a trail for the incarnation of grace in human history
  • To unite responsibility and compassion: the grace of ministry (vocation) as the secret for a fruitful ministry of grace (mission)

 

Presented to the Daughters of St. Paul in their Communications Seminar: Communication: a Passion for the Gospel (2007). All rights reserved.

Professor Giuseppe Mazza

 

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