The Precious Song
June 29, 2020
Ada Prisco

(This talk was given by Prof. Ada Prisco at the annual Foundation Day celebration of the Missionaries of the Precious Blood at the Niagara Falls Mission House; August 15, 2019) 

 

Song of the Hours of a Precious Life

Life lived in the blood of Christ is precious.It seems simple. Maybe it is. Our life unfolds in time. The ancient Greeks imagined time as a person, Chronos. And, in fact, time has a body, it is not evanescent. Time, made of years, months, hours, minutes, does not always have a body, sometimes it is empty, like a ghost.

I say this because I remember a tale: Lost days recounted by Dino Buzzati. It is said of Ernst who had bought his dream house, a beautiful villa. One of the first days he lived there, on his way home, saw a man coming out of that house, loading huge boxes into a truck and drove off. Then he became alarmed, took the car, he followed him in his car. On the edge of a ravine he joined him and asked him: “I saw you getting off my land with that crate. What was inside it? And what’s with all these crates?”

The man looked at him and smiled, ‘I’ve got more of them on the truck that I’ve got to get rid of. Don’t you know? They’re the days that you lost.”. … Ernst felt lost, looked in there, saw the day he let go of his fiancée without calling her back, the day he was out for work and had not visited his sick brother, he found Duk, his loyal mastiff, who had been waiting for him for two years, and was now reduced to skin and bones. Then he shouted: “Sir, let me take away at least these three days. I beg you. … I’ll give you all you want”. But by now it was too late.  

Next to this figure, another, a woman from the Bible, resurfaced. Scholars have talked about it a lot. What is certain is that she is someone who does not live her days as a dead, but she breathes it all the way like a search, while the situations of her life, like the scenery of a stage change. She is the protagonist of the Song of Songs. It encourages us to follow it, when it says: Take me with you and run away (1:4).

WHAT MAKES US FEEL PRECIOUS?

The research

WHAT AND HOW MANY SITUATIONS DOES OUR LIFE INTRODUCE US TO? The historical Buddha lists them in the first noble truth, life, birth, sickness, death, closeness to others, distance from them, love in its many forms, resentment, and loathing.

In the world before global society, the myth of achievement often coincided with stability. The research was mainly tension aimed at a settling, whose most shared hinges were a good job, a good person to marry, a decent home to buy. In the life of faith the undisputed reference were traditions, received through the teaching of parents, priests and catechists. The parish was a very strong symbolical reference. It was in pair with the house and the residence. 

Then the world took on a different social form, it became more and more like the global village described by Marshall McLuhan. The human extensions represented by the new means of social communication greatly expanded the possibilities of life, they also provided new potential identities to each one, in the cities as in the remote village.

At this point even the life of faith changed suddenly and began to travel, not forgetting that our experience of faith has as its forefather a migrant, Abraham. Nowadays we are all pilgrims a bit, we migrate from one religious experience to another, leaving in the background the reassuring, but also a little yellowed image, of the parish of residence. Pilgrims means on the road, but also in constant search. The believing vision binds inextricably to the quest, that sometimes leads to the desert, others to ecstasy, but is still an exercise in asceticism.

We read in the Song of Songs: Tell me, my love, where will you lead your flock to graze? Where will they rest from the noonday sun? Why should I need to look for you among the flocks of the other shepherds?(1:7)

The Song indicates the ambivalence of research immediately: it is exhilarating, but it makes you feel poor, it causes you to experience the need. The quest is also a form of research. Life is precious, this goal is already found, but also to be discovered again and continuously. WHERE DOES IT MANIFEST ITSELF?  

Moreover, in the biblical book, research is not abstract, it is personal. In fact, whenever we are sought by someone for reasons of affection, free from material interests, we feel important. The other one who seeks us makes us feel important and precious. This style should be precisely not only of the couple, of the family, of friendships, but also of the Church and of its pastoral action. What is the mission but one to set out on the other's trail.

The search for the other is tinged with worries many times, when, for example, you are looking for someone who is in danger or who does not like this level of attention. The woman of the Song continues her investigation. The two beloved belong to each other, yet they suffer so many distances. In this way we can see our relationship with Jesus: we are bound in his blood, yet so often we do not know how to find him.

The first significant indication of the Biblical Song is this fundamental attitude of incessant research, that does not accept to be discouraged, faces dangers and unknowns, and knows no surrender or renunciation. It always stands on the trail of God, it looks at the signs of it, it reads it in history because it knows that it is precious and that it is worth it.

HOW WE LIVE A PRECIOUS LIFE

  Resilience

The more something is worth, the more active is the ability to resist and find strategies.

HAVE WE EVER SOUGHT ANYTHING OR HAVE WE EVER WITHSTOOD DIFFICULTIES WITH THE SAME TENACITY AS THE BELOVED OF THE SONG?

The only valid reason for such resistance is its necessity. Resisting is vital. It represents an important characteristic of spirituality, that makes us more aware of the precious life in the blood of Christ. We are invited to cultivate resilience. Resilience comes into play paradoxically in difficulties. The resilient is not a victim, but a reservoir of resources that can be translated into projects of hope, of change of the future. Resilire in Latin means bouncing, for physics this is the ability of a body to summarize its original form after a trauma. Elasticity, vitality, ingenuity, energy, flexibility are the social skills that crown resilience. Rising up after a crisis, overcoming the injustices of life, tell of this spiritual capacity.

  Give voice

TO WHOM DO WE EASILY EXTEND OUR EAR? WHOM DO WE GIVE A VOICE TO? We always have a ready ear for people important to us. And we would do everything to get the living space for them, indispensable to let them express. Just think of how important even the first simple performances of the little ones are for parents and grandparents. Sometimes someone protests if the little star hasn't enjoyed the same time of expression as his or her friend.

HOW MUCH DO WE LISTEN TO THE VOICE OF GOD PRESENT IN THE BIBLE, FOR EXAMPLE? HOW MUCH DO WE ENTER INTO THE WATERMARKS OF HIS STORY, COMPARING OUR EXISTENCE WITH IT? A lot of the story of the song is a narrative, full of exaltation, descriptions, strongly emphasized as if by the intent to arrive in order to join the beloved. Lovers are full of reciprocal words. Every event with the beloved can be described with great detail.

We all listen to the same narrative, but each of us inserts our own plots into it, weaves his or her own existence into God's gigantic plot. And every part of this plot is a narrative in the narrative, even in the great biblical narrative. And this is what no Bible teacher can teach us, that subtle trait that links the reading and the explanation of the word, also thanks to the teachers and its connection to the single life. It is as vital trait as a capillary that connects arteries and veins. In the absence of this trait even the biblical narrative, any discourse on faith, would be cold, dead, not alive in the life of Christ Jesus.

Living life in the blood of Christ leads us to modernize the Word in our lives. Personally, each of us finds himself included in the great narrative of the history of salvation, that does not remain so a dead letter, but this is written every day, through our gestures, our choices, implementing what the Apostle Paul writes:

You yourselves are the letter we have, written on our hearts for everyone to know and read. It is clear that Christ himself wrote this letter and sent it by us. It is written, not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, and not on stone tablets but on human hearts (2 Cor. 3:2-3).

And in others we always see the reflection of our testimony, we continually generate faith, we bring it to maturity, we multiply it as we share it.

   Pilgrimage

No place is far away, when the goal represents something precious to us. The journey can be declined as exile, as exodus, uprooting, curiosity. The idea of walking is in the marrow of religion, even of the Judeo-Christian one. Christians were called followers of the Way (Acts 9:2); Jesus calls himself the Way (Jn. 14:6). But also Dao means way. Buddhism is the way of liberation from pain. Islam prescribes pilgrimage to Mecca as a pillar of faith. And the important Jewish festivals originally required a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. In the Song we read: How beautiful are your feet in sandals (7:1). After all, the whole history of salvation finds in the path of the exodus an effective metaphor for the whole Bible. It is not a common or random journey, but marked by sanctification, it is covered with religious significance, it is a metaphor for hope. In this sense, pilgrimage is a variant of sacrifice, from sacrum facere, to become saints. It is an outward journey that manifests the inner one. The inner path can also fully absorb the physical path, while, in its own sense, the opposite cannot come true.

The postmodernism sociologists  insist very much on the fact that the believer nowadays tends to be a pilgrim, that is, not to settle for solutions received by tradition, as often happened in the past, preferring to look for solutions and combinations of his own. This mean that believers should be able to meet at least in the goal of their journey. WHEN THE DAY STARTS, WHAT ARE THEY LOOKING FOR? THEN, WHAT IS THE GOAL OF THOSE WHO SHARE LIFE IN THE PRECIOUS BLOOD OF CHRIST? Let us imagine that they are like the beloved woman of the Song, who constantly seeks her beloved, within herself and in the streets, she often says that she does not find him, but never doubts his love. Perhaps many paths of ours are confused, they follow the goal of economic success, of personal affirmation, heedless of the ever-living love of the Song, that  also tells of fidelity, choices, ethics. The beloved woman of Song experiences suffering and violence, but she never gives voice to regret, as: I would have preferred a different beloved, ah if only I had a different husband, a different wife, a different religious community! She always expresses a feeling full of love, irrepressible indeed. This is to give us an indication. But let us ask ourselves, WHAT IS THE MOST APPROPRIATE WORD FOR A PILGRIM WHO BEGINS HIS DAY? The first daily pilgrim step, when he is about to begin a new day, could be thank you, as the psalm says: I thank you, Lord, with all my heart (138:1).

Later, moving the second step contains the awareness that you are still here, but for what? As Mark Twain said, The two most important days in a person's life are the day you were born and the day you find out why. Then we're still here to do something. Compared to this something, the believer converses through the prayer. This is the space in which we let the Creator Spirit intervene, it is a generative space, that has towards something new, every day. In this way it is the constant connection with God that represents the journey. Who knows that he has to do something beautiful and important during the day that begins does not linger under the covers, but also prevents the morning: Wake up my harp and lyre! I will wake up the sun (Ps. 108:2). The same happens when the night was rough. In the day you look for refreshment, improvement.

It may seem obvious, but the pilgrim's journey begins with the pressure of the foot on the ground, to which he leans, getting out of bed and then moving. The first contact with the path takes place through the body. Every gesture of the body refers to God's creation and to the sanctity of which it is permeated. Every part of the body is reached by this holiness. Each part of the body of the other enjoys the same holiness.

  Darkness

As precious as the Blood of Christ gives us eternal life, we continue to cross areas of shadow, inside and outside of us. Maybe we could focus them in our minds. Darkness is fostered by human complexity, that cannot be fully explained. The Apostle Paul describes it this way: I don’t do the good I want to do, instead, I do the evil that I do not want to do (Rom. 7:19). Also in the Song the inadequacy of the beloved appears to explain infidelity: Before I was aware my soul set me [among] the chariots of my princely people (6:12). In both passages, the moral responsibility is emphasized for the lack of vigilance over sin, that involves the loss of lordship over oneself and also in a political sense. At the same time, the will is not clarified, neither the motives of the seduction of evil, that remains partly unknown to the same person who supports it. Exile is not “distance” from God, but it is the time of the desert, of trial, in which the relationship with Him gains greater depth. The real exile is met, instead, in sin, which cleaves communion, puts it at risk. God is never absent, although creatures can perceive him as such. As the beloved man of the Song, at least he looks in through the window, and glances through the lattice (2:9). And his forgiveness is able to generate more life than sin mortified. The suffering experienced by the apparent absence of God becomes an esthetic exercise for the believer, whose existence stands out between an already and not yet, in the tension of hope that constantly aspires to fullness.

Even Abraham, while receiving the promise of God, felt caught in fear, and was enveloped by darkness. Yet God presented him with a future full of positivity, becoming as numerous as the stars of the sky, each shining with its own light.

Darkness is often told as the place of trial, the time of absence, the feeling of distance from God. We could rediscover it as the place where we reappropriate the creaturely, childish dimension, where we are not able to conduct a search for God, but in fact we exist because he is there and supports us.

Darkness inwardly is the feeling that Abraham also feels at the same juncture in which God makes the commitment with him: When the sun was going down, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and fear and terror came over him (Gen. 15:12).

Perhaps, contemplating the future of his people, does he perceive its suffering? Uprooting? The Israel history  is marked by exile. And what are we most distressed about? After all, every spiritual suffering is related to disorientation. Even after an argument with a loved one, bitterness is due to the feeling of distance, as if in the depths you always aspire to rejoin in unity. This desire was already fulfilled in Christ, according to the Apostle Paul: As a result, there is no longer any distinction between Gentiles and Jews, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarians, savages, slaves and free, but Christ is all, Christ is in all (Col. 3:11).

And the uprooting from God, according to this anthropological reading, also leads to the discord of the person with himself, not simply with the other, and to the consequent discomfort that is so widespread in our world, often in search of escape and cheap illusions, to high risk.

Considering together these two sides of a coin, the covenant of God and the anguish, salvation in Christ and the sense of disorientation, shows us our era marked by patchwork sensitivity, close to the complexity of biblical history, moved by a continuous pas de deux of joy and pain, life and death, hope and disappointment, integrity and uprooting.

In the Song every darkness takes place against the backdrop of a love relationship that never stops. This is not to say that there are no problems, setbacks, no opposition. Everything must be read within the framework of a loving relationship that never calls into question itself. Each difficulty induces to stop, to gather in the care of this relationship to reach a greater level of deepening. In that depth the creature meets God, who could seem absent, on a superficial level. Achieving greater depth is a must to keep love alive, which keeps the beloved ones alive. God is in every exile of our lives, but he asks to be sought at greater depth, he asks us to behave like the beloved woman of the Song.

WHY DO WE LIVE A PRECIOUS LIFE?

Trajectory

No matter how dense and dark the clouds may be, the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it (Matt. 16:18), Jesus says. Our lives follow a trajectory. This purpose unites us all, no matter how distant and different we are. We all share this intelligent design, shown by God to Abraham: Look at the sky and try to count the stars; you will have as many descendants as that (Gen. 15:5).

In our DNA of faith it is written that we were conceived as the large family of God, who imprinted in us a spark of eternity, a divine and immortal seed (cf. 1 Pt. 1:23), in a story where his trace is not always so evident. Every single star can feel alone and distant from others. And in fact our modern and postmodern era suffers a great deal from alienation and estrangement. Do you remember the loneliness of the dreamer protagonist of Dostoyevsky's White Nights? The encounter with the love represented by the young Nasten'ka makes him cross with his solitude, the main object of his speech on the streets of St. Petersburg.

As John says, God is love (1 Jn. 4:8). The encounter with the love, that is God, does not lead us to flee from the gloomy aspects of reality, but to face them in the serenity of belonging to the trajectory of God, aimed at building us as a City of Heaven, with permanent foundations, pervaded by the presence of God (cf. Rev. 21:3).

In the great trajectory of God, the concrete and specific path of each of us is inserted. All the roads, real and figurative, that we walk every day, converge in the divine trajectory, which called us to become children in the Son Jesus. How to value the preciousness of this call and this existence is for this reason entrusted to our hands, no master of Holy Scripture, no minister, no other can replace us in this. We have the task of listening, of nourishing the body of Christ, of supporting us with spiritual care and then acquiring mastery in combining faith with life, and no one knows our life better than we do in the world. We should bring the trajectory closer and closer to that of God in order to take on his preciousness better and better.

Nostalgia

The Song exalts love, but it is also inhabited by a deep nostalgia. There is a distance, proven by the continuous and frantic search that the beloved woman performs of the beloved man, because the two are far away. It is no coincidence that the great commentator Rashi of Troyes reads it as an experience of widowhood and exile.

How often do we experience nostalgia, especially when we are far from what is dear to us, full of value, our affections in the first place.

Referring to the life of the spirit, this nostalgia is possible in the presence of a strong sense of God. The gift of the Holy Spirit enables us to savor the presence of God, as if to sniff it out. This sensitivity, however, is subject to the precariousness of our lives and can easily be silenced, dozing, thus alienating itself from the experience of the beloved woman of the Song.

The question that regularly goes through this nostalgia is "WHERE IS  GOD?", "Where is the beloved?". Many times we ourselves ask this same question, implicitly stating that God is not there or that he does not show himself or that he does not give answers in our own way, as we would like them.

The Song is also valuable because it shows us another point of view: if the question below is "Where is God?", the central attitude is tireless research. In this leading woman we can recognize ourselves, the Church, the people of believers, when, driven by the sense of God, by the sense of faith, we continue to seek God, and in doing so, we try to bring our trajectory closer to his. Even that is discernment.

This research causes a continuous movement, nothing is ever acquired forever, as long as our history remains open. Therefore, life becomes all the more precious, the more we can implement the potential lives that tell of our search for God and strive straining to bring our trajectory closer to his. We're on a continuous exodus. After all, it is Easter that has united us with Jesus, on his passage from death to life. Christian life enhances this preciousness the more it rides the wave of the Easter movement.

The Bible is extraordinary, when, to describe the change, it assigns a different name: Abram becomes Abraham, Sarai becomes Sara (Gen. 17:5) , Saul begins to call himself Paul (Acts 13:9) and the people from "Not-my-people" to "My people" and even God for people from "Baal" to "My Husband" (Hos. 2:23).

Every change occurs as a result of the encounter of the divine who becomes close to the human. This event makes the impossible possible, makes the Virgin mother (Lk. 1:37), makes the sterile fertile.

The new man (Eph. 4:22-24), the Apostle Paul speaks about, is distinguished by this figure, the change, the continuous acceptance of the new life in Jesus.  

Places

The Holy Scripture is very concrete and so indicates a wisdom, a method. The beloved woman could cultivate the wait in her room, sooner or later her beloved will come. Instead, she does the opposite. The whole book follows in her footsteps, like a black box of the search for God. Those who seek the beloved tremble, do not know how to wait inert. The most difficult step, however, is the initial one, the one that also Abraham, our father in faith, does, when, before contemplating the starry sky, the Lord took him outside (cf. Gen. 15:5). The beloved of the Song follows in the footsteps of the beloved, where he took the sheep to graze (Cf. Song 1:8).

To begin the journey, to try to frame the trajectory of God, there is a first step to take, to put oneself in the right perspective. To do this you have to get out of your comfort and face the outside. After all, it's the prototype of every mission. It is the model of pastoral action, not to wait for them to come, but to go in search.

The first place of the search is the landing place that you leave. The most difficult landing to question, but also more dangerous if it becomes too self-confident, is our mental habit, our way of conceiving God, of assuming to know how he moves and how he acts.

Going out of oneself is the first step, it brings a little closer to the broad vision of God, it is a condition of contemplation, of what Buddhists call right view.

  Sap for holiness

The Word becomes a man in Jesus, who gave himself, his body and his blood in the form of food of eternal life and drink of salvation, because, as Peter says: For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect (1 Pet. 1:18-19). He pointed out to us that the preciousness of life must be nurtured on a regular basis.

Alongside this fundamental food for Christians joined by Christ from baptism, supplementary foods can be derived from the bible and spiritual practice, confirming the fact that the preciousness of life is reflected in mental attitudes, choices, gestures, actions. 

Many sensitive biblical metaphors suggest from what we can derive nourishment, the attendance of the Bible, the edification in the community gathered in the name of God, good words, good works, the observance of the commandments, the synthesis of all-round love, the resistance to evil, fidelity to God, self-giving, testimony.

The code of holiness that Jesus also had at his disposal is contained in the priestly Torah, in the book of Leviticus especially 19:1-19. The foundation of every indication comes from the very vitality of God, expressed in the words: I, the Lord your God, am holy (Lev. 19:2).

From God's plural vitality comes not a life for every creature, but many possible lives for each creature. The more this multiple potential is implemented in a single life, many more opportunities are received to savor the preciousness of life lived in the blood of Christ. Paradoxically, in our time, these multiple potentials are particularly evident in the polyglot register of fragility. Fears, changes, crises, debts, failures, incommunicability: in these non-places precious life is called to re-program, to re-tune on the code of holiness. In the apostolic exhortation Gaudete et exsultate also Pope Francis connects the weaknesses to the strength of the Risen:

Let the grace of your baptism bear fruit in a path of holiness. … When you feel the temptation to dwell on your own weakness, raise your eyes to Christ crucified and say: “Lord, I am a poor sinner, but you can work the miracle of making me a little bit better”. … This holiness to which the Lord calls you will grow through small gestures (Gaudete et exultate 15-16).

A bit like the woman of the Song we have traveled and we continue to walk roads that have foreclosed on others and that define who we are. Whatever choice we make, we continue to discover our unifying center, our fulcrum, in the union with Christ, which has been vital since the day of our baptism. Every choice, every gesture implemented in the light of this indissoluble union implements holiness and makes us aware of the preciousness of life. And basically Jesus wanted to live by becoming a servant and giving himself, making us accessible the very life of God-Communion. His offering goes all the way to the death of the cross and becomes bread of eternal life and drink of salvation.

  Liturgy of the Hours

The Church, the extraordinary tradition of faith that has come from our fathers to us, accustomed us to scanning the hours through prayer. And this is wonderful, because it makes us pray with one voice, makes us body, and makes us experience in a simple and direct way contact with God. But the Bible and tradition have also taught us that every moment of our lives is prayer when it is offered, when it is a yes to God in the Son's yes (2 Cor. 1:20). After empathizing with some scenes of the life of the beloved woman of the Song,CAN WE THEN THINK OF EVERY HOUR OF OUR DAY LIVED IN THE SPIRIT OF THE LITURGY OF THE HOURS?

When we open our eyes again, we regain consciousness that we are alive, an extra day is before us. We often perspective in our minds what the next few hours will be like, without knowing it, we come into contact with our successful model and answer the question what I want to accomplish.  

Many mornings we are probably tempted not to get up, out of laziness, because we are not excited to resume the routine, summarize the usual responsibilities. What postmodernism is rediscovering and calling mindfulness can be explained as taking on greater depth capable of giving meaning to our time. As believers we have a boundless spiritual heritage, which can help us to reach better contact with ourselves, with every part of our body, with thoughts, with movement in space, through deeper contact with God. The second indication can be summarized in meditation. Its exercise can follow the most disparate patterns, reading, updating, thinking, concentration, prayer or all these things put together.

Following the model of Jesus, the next step can only be the offering, to offer God the best of oneself. In the action, what had begun in meditation continues. The best of oneself is not measurable in the action or production or performance, indices of the market mentality. Only God can evaluate them. Everything is accomplished in the logic of self-offer.

Throughout the day we get in touch with other people, much of the time is shared. The basis of our relationship is condensed in principle you shall love your neighbor as yourself. In the book of Leviticus in the place mentioned earlier this statement follows a long list of concrete actions.

It suggests, for example, eating the victim on the same day, implicitly indicating the goodness of its sharing. During the harvest it recommends not to get to the edge of the field and not to collect the fallen berries of the vineyards: they are, in fact, intended for the poor and strangers, without needing them to ask expressly. In addition to not deceiving, not to say false, not to oppress, the text recommends not to withhold the wage, not to curse the deaf, not to trip up the blind. In other words, it is forbidden to take advantage of the weaknesses of others, which can be infinite. The real friend knows your weaknesses, but he doesn't use them against you. Spreading slander is contrary to God's will, not also because making people feel ashamed is killing someone's soul. Action is measured not only by its obvious dimension, but by intentions, for this reason it is imposed not to harbor hatred. Talking frankly can help.

The Bible so ancient and so new, does not leave us alone and lost even in the 21st century, indeed we could say that even social networks place us in the same situations described by Leviticus 19.

Only after listing so many concrete situations, the Word of God gives us the well-known teaching, you shall love your neighbor as yourself. In life we meet the Word, which embraces totality, or, as we would say today, proposes a holistic vision. Everything is given a just value and wisdom is traced in knowing how to recognize and pay tribute. Every action, every thought can be a piece of holiness.

Many meanings not far from spiritual well-being are associated with food, its preparation, the circumstances in which it is consumed.

We are well aware, for example, of the dietary standards of Jews and Muslims, for whom the consumption or prohibition of food is a form of discipline, but also a way to strengthen one's allegiance to God and to one's group and to progress holiness. The Christian tradition has not suffered from the same need to establish particular standards, because it has welcomed food par excellence in the body and blood of Christ, in the mandate to pass on the memory of the institution of the Supper.

In this ideal liturgy of the hours also appears the phase of the evening, the time of the day when less voice arrives, because the forces decrease due to age, due to physical or psychological problems, or because difficult situations arise filter and seem to hold a lot of light. In these cases, what do we cross so important as to recognize that the life lived in Christ is precious? Often in these moments the concentration on what one lives is greater, the results do not arrive immediately, but require the mediation of a deeper contact with God, with oneself, with others. And they call on a budget, they look back, they consider better what they  received.

 Precious life, happy life

In the liturgy of the hours of life there are many ambivalent situations, sometimes harsh to face. We know that many believers all over the world, Christians, but also Jews, Muslims, of other denominations, have suffered and suffer because of faith. Yet they express their song by offering everything of themselves, sometimes even life itself. Paradoxically through these extreme conditions, religious experience manifests all its strength, reflecting what the Apostle says: ... when I am weak, then I am strong ... (2 Cor. 12:10). In every fragility there is a glimmer of light, just as from the crevice of the Song you can feel the presence of the beloved. From the wounds you can see a light as from the shutters penetrate the rays of the summer sun. Combining these two experiences, fully amalgamated in the spirit of the gospel, may not be so immediate. Then perhaps it is appropriate to dedicate the power of prayer also to happiness, so that this life, as precious in the blood of Christ, is also happy.

At this point we should reach some agreement on what happiness is and how you can get it. The English word happiness does not help much, since it comes from hap and haphazard, which tell of randomness, of dice throwing. According to this philological hypothesis, it would be happy who is lucky enough to be. It is similar to Forrest Gump’s theory, do you remember? Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.

The dominant trends of postmodern culture do not offer us more insights. An inquiry into happiness commissioned by Leger photographs Canadians as a quite happy people, more on the East Coast, less so in Ontario... but probably from tomorrow onwards this trend will change...! (cf. https://leger360.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/Happiness-in-Canada.pdf)

According to this survey, the barriers to happiness are: a poor enjoyment of freedom, the feeling of not living as you would have liked, the perception of not having enough money, unsatisfactory love relationships, health problems, concern about the future and the incivility of the surrounding environment. However, a model of happiness is emerging cut on the autonomous person, capable of a project of personal and emotional realization, in need of a supportive environment around him, in which economic security tends to precede the affective one. In the contemporary world so fast many things tend to wear out quickly, to breathe for a short time, to run out after use. Sometimes even happiness can be made to coincide with this kind of short-term expectations.

Jesus in the gospel claims to have come so that they may have life, and have it to the full (Jn. 10:10): precious life in his blood must be also happy. In the Jewish prayer for happiness, Eilu D’varim in Pe’ah, words of blessing, suggest that the door to happiness opens outward, opens on the relationship with the other (https://www.ccarpress.org/admin/manage_assetlibrary/file.asp?id=05493). The Mishnah's Hebrew words also suggest that we always continue to learn, to pray through intentions. And it offers us some suggestions very close to our discourse about value. It encourages us to support the bride and groom, by extension it entices us to celebrate the sacred moments of our and others’ lives. And it concludes with a commitment to grow, to add life to life. This life of blessings centered on the study of the Torah is defined by the word shalom, something more than peace.

The precious worldview coincides with the religious perspective for us, where each element has its own place because it is part of creation, it is the work of God. Everything is a blessing. Perhaps many factors that are part of our lives do not seem to us to be signs of blessing. Overall, it is this life more life that drives the beloved of the Song to move forward, to remember, to cultivate the relationship with the beloved and to include all the poetry of creation in the love that binds it to him. Not even the city, with its violence, its dangers, is stronger than love. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? (Rom. 8:35)

This precious dimension is also made of constant dialogue and the appreciation of beauty never fails. Indifference is banned. And everything is accomplished in the expectation, to remain vigilant in preparing and waiting for an alternative time for the present, in the certainty that what has not yet come true will happen.

Come away, my beloved, and be like a gazelle or like a young stag on the spice-laden mountains (Song:8:14).

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