“In the Simplicity of My Heart I Have Gladly Given You Everything”

Fr. Luigi Giussani’s testimony during the meeting of the Holy Father John Paul II with the ecclesial movements and the new communities.
St Peter’s Square, Rome, May 30, 1998.
Luigi Giussani

I shall try to say how an attitude was born in me–an attitude that God was to bless, as He wished–and that I could not have foreseen nor even wished for.

1) “What is man that you should keep him in mind, mortal man that you care for him?” (Ps 8:5). No question in life has ever struck me like this one. There has been only one Man in the world who could answer me, by asking another question, “What would it profit a man if he gain the whole world, and then lose himself? Or what could a man give in exchange for himself?” (Mt 16:26; see Mk 8:36ff; Lk 9:25f). I was never asked a question that took my breath away so much as this question of Christ’s! No woman ever heard another voice speak of her son with such an original tenderness and unquestionable valuing of the fruit of her womb, with such a wholly positive affirmation of its destiny; only the voice of the Jew Jesus of Nazareth. And more than that, no man can feel his own dignity and absolute value affirmed far beyond all his achievements. No one in the world has ever been able to speak like this!
Only Christ takes my humanity so completely to heart. This is the wonder expressed by Dionysius the Areopagite (5th century): “Who could ever speak to us of the love that Christ has for man, overflowing with peace?” (Dionysius the Areopagite, De divinis Nominibus 953 A 10). I’ve been repeating these words to myself for more than fifty years!
This is why Redemptor Hominis appeared on our horizon like a beam of light in the thick darkness covering the earth of present-day man, with all his confused questions.
Thank you, Your Holiness.
It was a simplicity of heart that made me feel and recognize Christ as exceptional, with that certain promptness that marks the unassailable and indestructible evidence of factors and moments of reality, which, on entering the horizon of our person, pierce us to the heart.
So the acknowledgment of who Christ is in our lives invades the whole of our awareness of living: “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life” (Jn 14:6).
“Domine Deus, in simplicitate cordis mei laetus obtuli universa” (“Lord God, in the simplicity of my heart I have gladly given You everything;” says the Offertory Prayer of the ancient Ambrosian Liturgy, for the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus–Messale Ambrosiano, vol. II, Milano, 1942, p. 225; cf also 1 Chr 29:17-18). What shows that this acknowledgement is true is the fact that life has an ultimate, tenacious capacity for gladness.

2) How can this gladness, which is the human glory of Christ, and which fills my heart and my voice in some moments, be found to be true and reasonable to today’s man?
Because that Man, the Jew Jesus of Nazareth, died for us and rose again. That Risen Man is the Reality on which all the positivity of every man’s existence depends.
Every earthly experience lived in the Spirit of Jesus, Risen from the dead, blossoms in Eternity. This blossoming will not bloom only at the end of time; it has already begun on the dawn of Easter. Easter is the beginning of this journey to the eternal Truth of everything, a journey that is therefore already within man’s history.
For Christ, as the Word of God made flesh, makes Himself present as the Risen one in every period of time, throughout the whole of history, in order to reach from Easter morning to the end of this time, the end of this world. The Spirit of Jesus, that is to say of the Word made flesh, becomes an experience possible for ordinary man, in His power to redeem the whole existence of each person and human history, in the radical change that He produces in the one who encounters Him, and, like John and Andrew, follows Him.
Thus for me the grace of Jesus, in so far as I have been able to adhere to the encounter with Him and communicate Him to the brothers in God’s Church, has become the experience of a faith that in the Holy Church, that is to say the Christian People, revealed itself as a call and a desire to feed a
new Israel of God: “Populum Tuum vidi, cum ingenti gaudio, Tibi offerre donaria” (“With great joy, I saw your People, acknowledging existence as an offering to You”), continues the liturgical prayer (ibidem).
So it was that I saw a people taking shape, in the name of Christ. Everything in me became truly more religious, with my awareness striving to discover that “God is all in all” (1 Cor 15:28). In this people gladness was becoming “ingenti gaudio”, that is to say the decisive factor of one’s own history as ultimate positivity and therefore as joy.
What could have seemed at most to be an individual experience was becoming a protagonist in history, and so an instrument of the mission of the one People of God.
This now is the foundation of the search for an expressed unity among us.

3) That precious text of the Ambrosian Liturgy concludes with these words: “Domine Deus, custodi hanc voluntatem cordis eorum” (“Lord God, keep safe this attitude of their heart;” (Offertory Prayer, op. cit.).
Infidelity always arises in our hearts even before the most beautiful and true things; the infidelity in which, before God’s humanity and man’s original simplicity, man can fall short, out of weakness and worldly preconception, like Judas and Peter. Even this personal experience of infidelity that
always happens, revealing the imperfection of every human action, makes the memory of Christ more urgent.
The desperate cry of Pastor Brand in Ibsen’s play of the same name, (“Answer me, O God, in the hour in which death is swallowing me up: is the whole of man’s will not enough to achieve even a part of salvation?;” H. Ibsen, Brand, Penguin Classics, London 1997) is answered by the humble positivity of St Theresa of the Child Jesus who writes, “When I am charitable it is only Jesus who is acting in me.” (St Therese of Lisieux, Storia di un’anima, Ancora, Milano 1997, p. 291 [Story of a Soul: The Autobiography, ICS Publications, Washington, DC 1997])
All this means that man’s freedom, which the Mystery always involves, has prayer as its supreme, unassailable expressive form. This is why freedom, according to the whole of its true nature, posits itself as an entreaty to adhere to Being, therefore to Christ. Even in man’s incapacity, in man’s
great weakness, affection for Christ is destined to last.
In this sense Christ, Light and Strength for every one of his followers, is the adequate reflection of that word with which the Mystery appears in its ultimate relationship with the creature, as mercy: Dives in Misericordia. The mystery of mercy shatters any image of complacency or despair; even
the feeling of forgiveness lies within this mystery of Christ.
This is the ultimate embrace of the Mystery, against which man–even the most distant, the most perverse or the most obscured, the most in the dark–cannot oppose anything, can make no objection. He can abandon it, but in so doing he abandons himself and his own good. The Mystery as mercy remains the last word even on all the awful possibilities of history.
For this reason existence expresses itself, as ultimate ideal, in begging. The real protagonist of history is the beggar: Christ who begs for man’s heart, and man’s heart that begs for Christ.