Monday, 15 June 2015

Chiaretto: truth, freedom, unity

Chiara e Don Foresi

This morning, Don Pasquale Foresi, one of Chiara Lubich’s first companions and a co-founder of the Work of Mary, has completed his earthly journey. Don Foresi, known to his friends as Chiaretto, was a man who has given his life to God unreservedly and I am sure that there will be much written about him in the years to come. Instead of attempting to share an outline of his life here, I will focus on his thought, which shone with brilliance and where he displayed not only a love of the truth, but also great care for and familiarity with the world and the Church. Chiaretto was an extraordinary theologian and philosopher, but before all else, he was a follower of Jesus worthy of the apostles.

Chiaretto’s thoughts on prayer are something I shared here already, but since they are such a great example of his characteristic focus on the essential, let’s re-read them again:
Prayer does not consist in dedicating time during the day to meditation, or to reading some passages from Scripture or from the writings of the saints, or in thinking of God or our ourselves with the aim of some internal reform. This isn’t prayer in its essence.

Reciting the rosary or morning or evening prayers is just the same. One can do these things all day without ever having prayed even for a minute.

Prayer, to be truly such, requires above all a relationship with Jesus: to go with the spirit beyond our human condition, our worries, our prayers - no matter how nice and necessary they may be, and establishing this intimate, personal relationship with him.
In an early article in Nuova Umanità from 1979, Chiaretto embarks on an profound analysis of the first three chapters of Genesis, with the aim of examining the way woman is presented there and arriving at a conclusion of fundamental equality between her and man. Just to get a sense of his clarity of thought, take a look at the following excerpt:
“Verse 23 [of Genesis 2], which says that: “the man said: “This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; This one shall be called ‘woman,’ for out of man this one has been taken.”” is a hymn of joy of the man who has found his partner. He discovers the same flesh, the same bones. In Hebrew “flesh” had a far vaster meaning than in our languages, because there was no word for “body”. Von Rad sees in this verse the key to explaining the creation account of Eve; this is in fact about understanding one fact: the primordial attraction between the sexes - whence comes a love as strong as death?

It seems to me that the Yahwist writer certainly explains the origin of the sexes, but his story is far more extensive and elevated than that. It is not just about a differentiation internal to the first couple, but it is the story of how all of humanity is meant to be that is being presented to us.

The deep love, (made tangible by the account of the birth of woman from a rib) between the first man and the first woman, foreshadows the love between all beings that are to be born; hatred ought not to exist, because it is against one’s own flesh; that which later will be said spiritually, “then” was true also physically.”
Many years later, in a seminal paper from 2001 entitled “Doing philosophy,” Chiaretto presents a startling picture of what is at stake when true philosophy is sought:
“[P]hilosophy implies a risk: the risk of one’s own peace of mind. Doing philosophy, in the sense I intend, is to say: I prefer to take risks, not be calm; I want to know, I want clear things up, I want to go further beyond. And this is a terrifying step, because no one helps us, because the answers that all give us the feel prefabricated, something that is meaningless because we must look for the real answer within ourselves. Only in these moments do we know what the real problem is, we feel it, even if we can not express it yet, to clarify it, to say it. It is the choice of a non-peace in the face of the appearance of peace offered by the world around us. It is a choice that involves changing all relationships with others. Because of this I would say that one aspect of this tragic situation is that almost no one will understand us. The surprise implies a break with the world around us: that surprise which is the wonder of being in the world without being in the world. One is cut off from everyone else, one is alone, naked. You say one thing and the others will understand another; they say one thing and you maybe understand the contrary. Basically, you do not receive any solution from the others, and even though you know that you have to find the solution with others, one feels alone, not in the sense of not having company but in the sense of a radical, metaphysical impossibility of “feeling oneself with someone.” It is as if one lived in another world. It’s like entering a cave, with the risk of never coming out of it again. But none of this is of interest in those moments: “what will be will be,” I can not have peace until I accept to face myself, to face the problem of my existence and of my knowing myself. We realize that we are at sea, in an abyss, in a dark universe. We have only just started to walk and we can not turn back. There is nothing left but to press ahead. This is the drama of doing authentic philosophy.”
In a follow-up paper Chiaretto then argues for knowledge being intrinsically social, even though the journey towards it starts in that dark universe of the self that artists like Antony Gormley have explored with such beauty:
“Knowledge is always born in dialogue. All knowledge is a talking with others while addressing myself. Or, more precisely, it is a dialogue with myself which others are present intrinsically and profoundly. They will perhaps be present in a confused, imperfect way, but they are there. I never know solipsistically, even when when I know “by myself.”

What happens then when I give some of my knowledge to others? The words that I formulate to express and transmit that being that I perceived, are not only mine, but come simultaneously from me and from others: this means that when I offer what I have known, those who are listening to me are already inserted in the expressions that become formulated from before.

In telling others those words-knowledge of mine, they are completely, even if unknowingly, inserted in what I am saying, precisely because they have contributed to my knowing, they have given it to me and constructed it for me at least to some extent. Those insights are already the result of some communion with them.”
And finally, let me share with you Chiaretto’s synthesis of how Mary completes God making us in His own image, which is highly consonant also with how Pope Benedict XVI spoke about the Trinity in his “Introduction to Christianity”:
“God is the Father who gives himself wholly in the Son, who in turn wholly re-gives himself to Him. And their reciprocal love for each other - the relationship that unites them among themselves - is the Holy Spirit.

Being like God means therefore to live with Him in this same Trinitarian dynamic.

We, like all creatures, are called to being by God, just like the Son by the Father, and, precisely because we are his creatures, we tend to return to him in a relationship of love. Yet, this re-giving of oneself, even when total, of the creature to God, does not yet fully expresses its capacity to be like Him. Such a way of being does not in fact reach a “re-giving” of God to God, as it is in the Trinity. There, the Father is Father because he begets the Son. In other words, being Father is determined by the relation of sonship, that is, the Son being makes the Father be the Father.

To us too, then, created “in the likeness” of God, must be given the opportunity to give God to God, that is, to return to Him as creatures truly able to be his likes.

This possibility has taken on complete form on earth, at a given moment in history, in Mary.”
There would be so much more to talk about in terms of Chiaretto’s thought, but I believe that the above give a sense of his genius, even in the crude translations provided here.

Dearest Chiaretto, thank you!