Friday, August 26, 2011

Guardini and the Christian Encounter with the Modern World

Totally technical events and unleashed forces can be mastered only by a new human attitude that is a match for them. We must put mind, spirit, and freedom to work afresh. . . .

We must take our place, each at the right point. We must not oppose what is new and try to preserve a beautiful world that is inevitably perishing. Nor should we try to build a new world of the creative imagination that will show none of the damage of what is actually evolving. Rather, we must transform what is coming to be. We can do this only if we honestly say yes to it and yet with incorruptible hearts remain aware of all that is destructive and nonhuman in it. Our age has been given to us as the soil on which to stand and the task to master. At bottom we would not wish it otherwise. Our age is our own blood, our own soil. We relate to it as ourselves. We love it and hate it at one and the same time. As we are, so we relate to it. If we are thoughtless, we relate to it thoughtlessly. If we say yes to it in the form of a decision, then it is because we have had to come to a decision vis-à-vis ourselves.

We love the tremendous power of the age and its readiness for responsibility. We love the resoluteness with which it hazards itself and pushes things to extremes. Our soul is touched by something great that might well emerge. We love it, and our soul is touched, even though we see clearly its questionability relative to the value of the past age. We must be able to see very plainly what is at issue if with fixed heart we are ready to sacrifice the inexpressible nobility of the past.

Nor is it true that what is taking place is not Christian. The minds at work in it may often be non-Christian,but the events as such are not. It is Christianity that is made possible science and technology and all that results from them. Only those who have been influenced by the immediacy of the redeemed soul to God and the dignity of the regenerate, so that they were aware of being different from the world around them, could have broken free from the tight nature in the way that this has been done in the age of technology.…

But the forces, of course, have broken free from the hands of living personalities. Or should we say that the latter could not hold them and let them go free? These forces have thus fallen victim to the demonism of number, machine, and the will for domination. . . .

The new science may be monstrous, the economic and political organization gigantic, the technology powerful when measured by the standards of living science, economy, politics, and technology, but they are only raw material. What we need is not less technology but more. Or, more accurately, we need stronger, more considered, more human technology. We need more science, but it must be more intellectual and designed; we need more economic and political energy, but it must be more mature and responsible, able to see the details in the whole contexts to which it belongs. . . .

Our age is so uncertain, skeptical, seeking, and homeless that there are not a few today, I believe, who stand directly before God. Those who stand in the world have need of this stance in themselves and in something deeper than themselves from which to come to grips with the world again. And indeed a wave is moving out from God and reaching our innermost limit beyond which is the other. It is possible that people may talk together and act and spin out their destinies without a single mention of God, and yet be full of him. In this context the question that faces us will be decided. Will we come to God from the depths of our being, lead ourselves to him, and in his freedom and power master chaos in this coming age? Will there be people who placed themselves totally at God’s disposal and alone with and before him make the true decisions?

I detect all of these forces at work. A powerful upsurging, and inner self–opening, and emergence of form on every hand.

Dear friend, what I have written this letter is weak compared to the question in the others. At bottom I do not know what else to say except that from my heart’s core I believe that God is at work. History is going forward in the depths, and we must be ready to play our part, trusting in what God is doing and in the forces that he has made to stir within us.

--Monseigneur Romano Guardini, Autumn 1925.

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