As we move into chapter eleven of The Lord, Guardini spends several pages reflecting on “blessings.” At its most simple level, a blessing is a thing given by God which enables us, empowers us, to grow. And not merely like a power boost, where it might speed up our growth in particular spiritual or physical or intellectual matters, where we end up at a place we could have been anyway, only more quickly. Rather it provides the seed and fertilizer for growth to something beyond what is ever naturally achievable.
Think of the very first blessing: life itself (Genesis 1:20-28). On the fifth day of Creation, God creates the creatures of the sea and the skies. “God blessed them, saying, ‘Be fruitful and multiply.’” He says the same to Adam and Eve. God blesses the world with life. Not merely “animation,” but the capacity to grow and develop and bring forth new life. This is the heart of what a blessing is: the divine creative force that spurs everything into being. Without it, everything apart from God would be static and lifeless, unable to move or grow. But because of it, “God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good.”
And what is the font of all blessing? Christ himself, the Son of God. He is the divine creative force personified. “He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being” (John 1:2-3). The blessing of life, from the beginning, comes through Christ. We shrugged off that blessing, preferring to consider ourselves the blessers rather than the blessed. And yet despite our attempts to depose God, He still comes with an even greater blessing than the first: life eternal. The Son’s entrance into the world is the greatest blessing of them all. To get at the truth of that statement, we need to delve into the “why” of Christ’s arrival.
“Why did Jesus come? To add a new, higher value to those already existent? To reveal a new truth over and above existing truth, or a nobler nobility, or a new and juster order of human society? No, he came to bring home the terrible fact that everything, great and small, noble and mean, the whole with all its parts—from the corporal to the spiritual, from the sexual to the highest creative urge of genius—is intrinsically corrupt. Jesus does not uncover hidden creative powers in man; he refers him to God, center and source of all power.”
-Romano Guardini ("The Lord")
The fact of our corrupted state is one not easily accepted. But it is the thing that prevents us from becoming anything at all. Indeed, it destroys us, little by little, with every intrusive thought and every passing glance. We were created and blessed with the purpose and capacity to grow, to constantly improve, to live in a perpetual state of becoming more. This is the core of what we are. But we have steered off course. We are still trying to grow, as it is our nature. But we are like a ship barreling toward the shoals, with nobody at the helm. If left to our own devices, we will all be destroyed.
This is the blessing Christ offers. To right the ship, to take the helm and steer it toward its proper destination. While we stand quibbling about whether to move the deck chairs around, or which light bulbs on board need replacing, or fight amongst each other about who was supposed to scrub the cabin floors, ignorant of our impending doom, Christ steps on board and offers help we didn’t even realize we needed. We were so blinded to our present condition, so caught up in the affairs of the ship, we forgot about our destination.
But it’s more than this as well. Christ doesn’t merely offer to steer us in the right course. A philosopher could do that, or even a wise grandmother. No, the path to our destination is not navigable. We don’t have a way to get there, no matter how hard we try, no matter how many cartographers or navigators or seasoned ship captains we throw at the problem. It’s unreachable. Christ offers us safe passage. He can guide us through the dangers, along that narrow path. “Follow me” he says. It was through him that we were blessed with life in the beginning, and it is through him that we are blessed with a final destiny: life eternal.
Every day of Lent, I am writing a reflection piece on two chapters of "The Lord" by Romano Guardini. If you'd like to read or follow along, you can find the full calendar of where we're at below, or Click Here for the main landing page.