5 april 2023
Passion for people, Passion of God
Easter week is the time of year when Christians remember the Passover, the great passage of Jesus through an ignominious death to a definitive, full and fulfilled life. This passage is his own, but it is offered to all, open to all. The Passion of Jesus assumes the passion of men. It is, in every sense of the word, a passion of God for man.
The current events in the world, with the war in Ukraine, inflation, all kinds of tensions following the pandemic, exasperated by individual and collective egoism, plunge many innocent human beings into suffering: the suffering of children deported to Russia, the suffering of the sick abandoned, the suffering of the wounded forgotten in the field, the suffering of the migrants that no one wants to receive. The crucified of Golgotha is in solidarity with all the crucified of human history.
The meditation of a poet, Pierre Emmanuel, can help us to better perceive the particular link of the crucified Jesus with the suffering of all time. That of the painter Marc Chagall shows him in solidarity with the Jewish people in the midst of the Exodus (the painting has this title), whether it be that of the Exodus (see the liners at the top left) or that of Moses (who holds the tablets of the Law at the bottom right). It is the way of the cross of human history.
Michel Van Aerde
The heart of Christ
That old story of Golgotha, the holy face, the holy women, the soldier who with the end of his lance stretches out the world soaked with gall, the same one who with the same iron makes the water gush out of the bosom of the Just One... So many centuries of prayer and asceticism and ecstasy and so many knees polished on the Calvaries and so many yellowed suns on the paintings and the patina of so many tears and so many last breaths on the crucified ivory...
By the cross and the wheel, by the fire and the palm, by the axe and the rope, in the common grave of history so many tortured fell! And yet the memory of men is obsessed only with the sufferings of one. The others suffer and die: death has mercy on them, and the moment of their last breath brings eternity to their foreheads. As if their torments had never been: as if they had only taken a side road, in view of the cross, to reach the common threshold. That is why the remorse of the executioners does not last, a child's smile dissipates it, or this cherry branch that brushes them as they return home, their work done. Once again they are men among men, and that is good. No more than the shadow of a small cloud weighs on a lake, no more than the wing of a seagull lifts the deep waves, the memory of the dead does not disturb the living, and that is good. If the sobs of the tortured remained in our throats, the whole earth since Cain would have died of suffocation. In truth we could not live anymore, if we were not creatures born of oblivion, soon promised to oblivion. And yet nothing is forgotten, each cry poured in the desert filters at last to the eternal tablecloth, face of all faces, Presence whose every ephemeral presence occupies the whole expanse: each cry of each moment here it falls, from near to near, awakening the great circles of history, the great cycles of our species, the great orders of the night sky. Everything holds together: and this very moment that we are living comes back to us infinitely, already diffused up to the extreme curve of the height, and by it echoed up to the center where we stand, which is in us more deeply than ourselves. In truth, we could no longer live if our acts came back to hit us in the forehead, after this infinite, instantaneous trajectory that they cover in all the directions of duration: they come back, however, but it is an Other under them that staggers, that has taken on for us all the sins of the world that each of us has committed. And that is why the old story of Golgotha continues to haunt men. Not because one man suffered the cross: so many others have suffered worse, who perhaps wished to be nailed to the doors, to end their torments! But because a man at the zenith of the world is eternally in agony, because in this eternal hour two thousand years ago which is the only one that has not fled like all the others, the only one that each of us ephemeral lives in this man eternally He suffers eternally in his flesh, which is ours, and his spirit, which we suffocate deep inside us, suffers each of our sufferings and weaknesses as men, each of our injustices and the injustices we endure, and the pain of the victim and the delight of the executioner and their ineffable common misery and the unbearable absurdity of it all.
Those who strangle themselves at the end of their tether and those who impale themselves for fear of the stake, those who believe themselves to be narrowed by life and those for whom the instinct to live is a luxury, those whose hearts no longer have time to love and those whose love without purpose turns to hate, those who live knowing that they are dead and those who die without being born, those who are passionate about the death of God and those who are dogged by daily death, those who kill in the name of Man and those who kill for bread, those whose despair is the pride and those whose daze is the asylum, the hydrocephalic Big Heads and the poor atrophied souls, the squanderers of commonplaces and the placeless parked in mirages, yes, the vermin of the placeless clinging to their own heap, the intolerable itch of a conscience that serves only to see itself suffer, what reason of being has all this that immunizes it against its own scandal? And this man who has nothing left to him, not even the space of his body, this enumerator of invisible stars who doesn't know where to put his heel, this strong spirit whose strange glory is to indulge in nothingness, this poor among the poorest of beings, because he is the only one not closed in his end like the stone, the blade of grass or the ant, why is this man the Only One? What proof does he have of himself that denies his eternal inanity?
An old story in which we no longer believe, and yet something in us in spite of ourselves, in this silence on the borders of our being where we are still alive from a life where ours is damaged, in this blindness by excess of light, this deafness by collapse of thunders, something in us eternally continues to live this story, to believe in man because of this man, to preserve without knowing it from the absurd river with the edges of blood and ashes the hour, the place, the permanence of this miracle.
I believe: come to the aid of my incredulity. You have withdrawn from the priests and teachers, from all those who have made your cross the scepter of their power, and enthroned you in the clouds to reign here below in your place. You have withdrawn from all your images and tabernacles with golden keys and custodians and reliquaries and pieces of the true cross and linens of the tomb, but not Lord of us who no longer believe in You, who desperately believe only in You.
For Your Word is a word of men, not addressed to us from outside, but which must be born at the end, spring up, explode at the end, from our silence and our indifference and our expectation which is not known and from our thirst which is too absolute to torment us anymore and from the abyss of our hunger which we have given up to fathom. You are in us, Lord, and in this moment when absurdity seems so total that we no longer expect anything from anything, even from death, when we are beyond the last moan of the beast, living from a glassy non-existence indefinitely docile to anything, behold, on the surface of this sludge we are forming, bubbles of words are already bursting, all iridescent with the colors of heaven...
Pierre Emmanuel, Babel, Desclée de Brouwer, 1951, p. 243 et suivantes