I just finished reading a book, At the Origin
of the Christian Claim, by the recently deceased
Fr. Luigi Giussani, who is also the founder of the
Catholic fraternity, Communion and Liberation.
I'm not able to write a comprehensive
review of the book, but I will make a few comments.
It is a historical fact that there once lived a
man named Jesus, who gradually revealed
to those who saw, heard, and interacted
with him, that he was the Son of God and the
Messiah that was long awaited by the Jews.
Those closest to him became convinced
that this was the case, to the point of
willing to suffer persecution and death
for their belief. It is up to us to decide
what to make of this series of events.
This is Fr. Giussani's proposition. The
dramatic issue, the pressing question of
the characters in the gospels, and the issue
for us, is the question of, who is this man
Most readers of the book, I'm sure,
are believing Christians. So I quote
from the back cover of the book:
"In this inquiry into Christ's Incarnation,
Luigi Giussani examines Christ's "claim"
to identify himeself with the mystery that
is the ultimate answer to our search for
the meaning of existence. Giussani
argues that if we accept the hypothesis
that the mystery entered the realm of
human existence and spoke in human terms,
the relationship between the individual and
God is no longer based on a moral, imaginative,
or aesthetic human effort, but instead on
coming upon an event in one's life."
The book is the second in a trilogy, the others
being The Religious Sense, and Why the Church?
In, At the Origin of the Christian Claim, Fr. Giusanni
follows a three step pattern that is roughly analogous
to the pattern of the trilogy. First he discusses man's
need and want to understand the ultimate reality
and meaning of life. The central part of the
text is based on the historical event of the man
named Jesus and how those who knew him came
to understand who he was. He finishes with a
discussion of what the man Jesus' Divinity means
and ends with a discussion of the meaning of the
mystery/meaning of the Incarnation (always a great
I personally greatly appreciated chapters 6 and 7
where Fr. Giusssani gives a very clear and precise
analysis of how and why Christ chose to reveal his
Divinity, Messiahship, and mission to his followers
in a gradual fashion. I am not sure if I had read
anything like that before. The implication for me
is that there is a similar pattern that should and
will occur for those discover Christ and start a
relationship with him, even in the year 2005.
Fr. Giussanni is very erudite and articulate. He
freely references various thinkers and artists, some of
whom we general readers in America may not
have been familiar with. Apart from the topic
and the theological language, Giussani's style
is complex. And I have been told that it is not an
issue of translation. They say that in Italian he is
just as difficult. My statement that he can be
difficult/complex is not a negative criticism.
On this score, he is at least on a level with Thomas
Merton. With the cost of this complexity however,
Giussani has managed to communicate some very
complex ideas in a more succinct style than would
otherwise be possible (if that doesn't seem like a
contradiction!). I personally enjoyed discovering
and reading this different and complex style.