I am a man in his seventies. I cannot look back on my life dispassionately and with arid objectivity. I undoubtedly share with the rest of the world a common denominator of existence, which is my lifespan. My life is not like the static existence of a rock. It was a happening of myself, the disclosure of what I am. As I look back to the event of me, it has none of the antecedents which make my life my personal property. The event of me was simply like a bolt from heaven; it was simply a gift. This awareness is best expressed by Archbishop Franço is Fenelon (1651-1715):
“There is nothing in me that preceded all his gifts, nothing able to receive them. The first of his gifts on which all the others rest, is what I call myself; he gave me that self: I owe him not only all that I have, but also all that I am. O incomprehensible gift, which our poor language expresses in a moment, but which the human mind will never arrive at understanding in all its depth! This God who made me has given me myself to myself; the self I love so much is simply a present of His goodness… Without Him I would not be myself; without Him I should have neither the self to love, nor the love where with I love that self, nor the will that loves it, nor the mind that knows it. All is a gift: he who receives the gift is himself the first gift he receives.”
De Lubac wrote this beautiful passage: “The first gift God gave us by giving us being. For there… is a genuine parallelism between that first of creation and the second, wholly distinct, wholly super-eminent gift – the ontological call to deification which will make of him, if he responds to it, a ‘new creature’”…“If creation itself can in a real sense be called a ‘grace,’ then the call to see God is another one.”
As a Jewish aphorism says, “memory is the pillar of redemption.” The great act of memory is the realisation that a creature’s very existence is a gift. At bottom, created things are God in some sense and God is in some sense created. This creates a poetic culture of the reciprocity of gift. God is the single influence, the single unilateral and total cause of Everything; on the other, since God causes by sharing His own nature, by giving His gifts to be, the lower levels exert within their own sphere their own secondary and equally total causality. Creation is therefore not a finished product in space—whose finished character would render creatures passive with regard to it—but is continuously generated ex nihilo in time.
Poesis is a mode of human understanding. Aristotle clarifies “poetry has in some sense a referential function— that is mimesis—and that it inaugurates a world—setting up an ethos through the employment of a mythos.” Poetic wisdom, the first wisdom of the gentile world, must have begun with a metaphysics that is not rational and abstract like that of learned men, but felt and imagined as that of these first men must have been, who, without power of ratiocination, were all robust sense and vigorous imagination. This metaphysics was their poetry, a faculty born with them for they were furnished by nature with these senses and imaginations.
By turning to nature, we cannot really find the key to ‘value.’ Its beauties we always ‘complete’ and so produce in language, symbol and artifact as much as discover. And alongside beauty, we encounter also in nature the ambiguous terror of sublimity: overwhelming, unpredictable power, continuous destruction.
A story cannot be made by one isolated person. A narrative is formed within a community. Therefore, without a community in which the narrative is told, we cannot know who we are. For the narrative, this insight is extended to the Church. This specific community can subsist by its past memory and future anticipation in the vast history of salvation. The beautiful and the true are considered to be different aspects of Being. A beautiful object incites in us a desire to transcend this object for the satisfaction of this desire. To experience the beautiful is not only to be satisfied, but also to be frustrated satisfyingly; a desire to see more of what arrive, is always involved.