Guardini on Jesus’ Death

Rouault “Christ on Cross”1938

Dear Friend:
Have you even felt the presence and persistence of sin in your life as if it were a hardened stone in your heart that would not disappear? Or have you, like Pascal, come to an awareness of your own wretchedness and come to grief over the large fractures and tears you have caused in the fabric of life and your inability to mend them? But have you also come before the cross with thanksgiving and now call this day “Good Friday”? This passage may assist you in deepening your gratitude and your resolve. It is from Romano Guardini, The Lord (Regnery, 1954) 466-68:

Mere man . . . is so much smaller than his sin against God, that he can neither contain it nor cope with it. He can commit it, but he is incapable of fully realizing what he has done. He cannot measure his act; he cannot receive it into his life and suffer it through to the end. Though he has committed it he is incapable of expiating it.  It confuses him, troubles him, leaves him desperate but helpless. God alone can ‘handle’ sin. Only he sees through it, weighs it, judges it with a judgment that condemns the sin but loves the sinner. A man attempting the same would break. This then the love, reestablisher of justice and willer of man’s rescue known as “grace.”. . .

The plunge from God towards the void which man in his revolt had begun (chute in which the creature can only despair or break) Christ undertook in love. Knowingly, voluntarily, he experienced it with all of the sensitiveness of his divinely human heart.  . . .

Jesus was really destroyed. Cut off in the flower of his age; his work stifled just when it should have taken root; his friends scattered, his honor broken. He no longer had anything, was anything: “a worm and not a man.” . . . he had to touch the nadir of a personally experienced agony such as no man has ever dreamed. There the endlessly Beloved One of the Eternal Father brushed the bottom of the pit. . . . from such depths omnipotent love calls new creation into being.

Taking man and his world together, what impenetrable deception, what labyrinthian confusion, all permeating estrangement from God, granitic hardness of heart! This is the terrible load Christ on the cross was to dissolve in God and divinely assimilate into his own thought, heart, life, and agony. Ardent with suffering he was to plunge to that ultimate depth, distance, center where the sacred power which formed the world from nothing could break into a new creation!

Since the Lord’s death, this has become reality, in which all things have changed. It is from here that we live —  as far as we are really alive in the sight of God.

If anyone should ask: what is certain in life and death . . . the answer is: The love of Christ. . . . Not people — not even the best and dearest; not science, or philosophy, or art or any other product of human genius. Also not nature, which is so full of profound deception; neither time nor fate. Not even simply “God”: for his wrath has been roused by sin, and how without Christ would we know what to expect from him.

Only Christ’s love is certain. . . .Only through Christ do we know that God’s love is forgiving. Certain is only that which manifested itself on the cross. What has been said so often and so inadequately is true: The heart of Jesus Christ is the beginning and end of all things..

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