The Dawn of Midnight

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This section contains all of Luigino Bruni's editorials of the series entitled "The Dawn of Midnight" dedicated to the Book of Jeremiah and published in Avvenire from 23rd April 2017
 

Simply Life

The Dawn of Midnight/29 - Generated for ever: the world will not be abandoned

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 05/11/2017

171105 Geremia 29 ridThe Bible is not my sacred text, even though I also feel its sacredness, which I derive from its capacity to absorb the screams of the world. Jeremiah's cry of pain is almost fully let out as a scream. Job screams. Isaiah, too. So it is a strange sacred text composed of despair, failure and an implacable faith in a God who does not answer".

Guido Ceronetti, from a 2013 interview

“The word that Jeremiah the prophet spoke to Baruch the son of Neriah, when he wrote these words in a book at the dictation of Jeremiah, in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah: »Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, to you, O Baruch: You said, ‘Woe is me! For the Lord has added sorrow to my pain. I am weary with my groaning, and I find no rest.’ (...) Thus says the Lord: (...) And do you seek great things for yourself? Seek them not, for behold, I am bringing disaster upon all flesh, declares the Lord. But I will give you your life as a prize of war in all places to which you may go«”. (Jeremiah 45:1-5).

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God’s Legacy is Liberty

The Dawn of Midnight/28 - Man and woman: the most beautiful "image" under the sun

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire le 29/10/2017

171029 Geremia 28 ridThe longer we are uprooted from professional activities and our private lives, the more it brings home to us how fragmentary our lives are compared with those of our parents. Our spiritual existence remains incomplete.”

Dietrich BonhoefferLetter to Eberhard Bethge, 1944 (English translation by Reginald H. Fuller)

Ideology is anti-hope. Hope is born within the imperfect reality of today and feeds on a better tomorrow that it does not know yet but awaits. It is the gift-virtue of the crossings of deserts, when we walk in the scorching heat knowing that a promised land awaits us in the end, which is real even if nobody has ever seen it.

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Not with the convenient idol

The Dawn of Midnight/27 - Beyond the seduction of useful faith and mutual consumption

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire Avvenire on 22/10/2017

171022 Geremia 27 ridA nation that still believes in itself holds fast to its own god. (...) it projects its joy in itself, its feeling of power, into a being to whom one may offer thanks. He who is rich will give of his riches; a proud people need a god to whom they can make sacrifices... (...) Wherever the will to power begins to decline, in whatever form, there is always an accompanying decline physiologically, a decadence. The divinity of this decadence ... is converted perforce into a god of the physiologically degraded, of the weak.

Friedrich Nietzsche, The Antichrist (English translation by: H. L. Mencken)

In certain decisive moments, faith and hope become the same thing in fact. This happens when the question ‘Do you believe?’ seems too small and incapable of grasping the richness of the mystery of our heart. When we lose faith simply because we wanted to become adults and our first, child's faith failed to grow together with our love and with our own and others' pain, faith can still return home, taken by the hand by hope. Hope is more resilient than faith, because even under a sky that has become uninhabited we can always hope that the good words that they had told us about there being a greater love in the world were true - that some of them were true, or at least one of them was true. Even when we can no longer believe in God we can always continue to hope in him, we can hope that although on the day we stopped praying we made the greatest mistake, that day we could not know it. And this humble and gentle hope already becomes a true new prayer, and fills the utterly human and restless waiting for the not-yet.

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The needle’s eye of the awaited word

The Dawn of Midnight/26 - The haste of easy answers establishes the roots of fear

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 15/10/2017

171015 Geremia 26 ridIf God exists, today, more than ever before, he needs someone who, if he does not know who he is, can say at least who he is not. We need to change God in order to preserve Him, and so that he may preserve us ".

 Paolo de Benedetti, Quale Dio? (Which God?)

When and if one day the moment of encounter with the Bible arrives, if it is a chaste encounter (because it does not use the Bible for one's own happiness), free (because we are ready to discover new realities and to really change any belief in religion) and gratuitous (because we don't want to convert anyone other than our own heart), friendship with the biblical word becomes a wonderful education in the intimacy of the word and words. We finally begin to love poets, to understand them more and differently, we begin to thank them in the soul. We discover the depth of wisdom, we learn to distinguish it from natural intelligence and talents, to then find it, in abundance, among the poor - and then listen to them to learn. If we then have the courage and resilience to reach to the prophets, the discoveries become more and more shocking and great. For example, we can sense something about the relationship between the different words present in the Bible. It is understood that when the word of YHWH arrives, in various ways and times, in the soul of the prophets it is only a word of God, but as soon as it reaches the mouth from the soul and is then said, it also becomes a word of Jeremiah, Isaiah or Amos.

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The Magnificent Art of the “Stabat”

The Dawn of Midnight/25 - The risk of the encounter and the moral climb of the world

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 08/10/2017

171008 Geremia 25 ridGreet the banks of the Jordan
and Zion's toppled towers.
Oh, my country so lovely and lost!
Oh, remembrance so dear and so fraught with despair! 

T. Solera e G.Verdi, Nabucco/Nabucodonosor (English translation by Norman Tucker and Tom Hammond

We can imagine the ending of a story a thousand times and have a certain idea of it because the end was already inscribed in the many signs that we have found and interpreted. But when that ending really arrives it's always different. We knew that little Marco would grow up to be a man, and when one day we realized that that beautiful "child" of ours was no longer there, our emotions and tears were all different, and beautiful. We have predicted and said endless times that our bad actions would lead us to the end, but the day we really took the books to court, it was all different, with pain and real tears that we had not been able to foresee. We had prepared our last day in community until the last small detail, but when we really closed the door of the room behind us for the last time and crossed the doorway forever, what happened in the depths of our hearts was totally new; we could not know either the taste of the last bread eaten with our companions, or the nostalgia for heaven that accompanied us throughout our life. We didn't know, we couldn't know, we didn't have to know it in order to try to make that impossible flight. We can and must prepare for it, we can and must accept the idea of the certain arrival of the angel of death with gentleness, but when it really happens the angel of death will not be as we have dreamt, and we will be surprised that while living our life we have also learned to die. But we could not know this in advance, otherwise it would not have been the greatest gift.

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The Poor Angels of the Poor

The Dawn of Midnight/24 - Mutilation weighs more heavily on the soul than the body

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 01/10/2017

171001 Geremia 24 crop ridThe duty to neighbours is not confined only to those who live next door. (...) The Samaritan is linked to the wounded Israelite through the event itself... (...) Once he finds himself in this situation, he is in a new ‘neighbourhood’. (...) There are few non-neighbours left in the world today.

Amartya Sen, The Idea of Justice

The secularity of the Bible is something very serious but increasingly distant from our lives as believers and "laypeople". Biblical humanism is first and foremost a discourse on life, on the whole of life, especially on human life. The Bible speaks a lot about God, but it does not only speak about God to us, because above all it speaks about us. Because it tells us that there is not only God in life: there is life. The biblical God knows how to retreat, to remain silent, to leave room for us. To our freedom and responsibility. He is not a monopolist of our lives, he does not want a continued and perpetual cult - for that is what the former look for and they only get idols. The Biblical God is a liberator, he does not free us from idols to enslave us to himself - if he did so, he would be the perfect idol. He activates processes, he doesn't occupy any space, not even sacred ones, which he rarely frequents, because he prefers the square, the house and the vineyard to the temple. But above all, he loves to look at what is happening under the sun, to follow us with a look of hope in the full exercise of our humanity. He is astonished when he sees our wickedness, but he is even more astonished at the beauty of our actions, looking at the admirable spectacle of solidarity and fraternity, especially those cases of wonderful solidarity and fraternity that begin in the hearts of the poorest and the rejected.

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The Moving Sands of Illusions

The Dawn of Midnight/23 - Accepting the truth is reconciliation, not resignation

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 24/09/2017

170917 Geremia 23 1 ridCassandra: “Has my arrow hit the mark or has it missed? Or am I a false prophet, a chatterer beggar? Swear an oath that you have not heard these things before and that I know well all the ancient sins of this house. (...) And yet again! Ah! The dreadful pain of prophecy fulfilled spins me around and – there! It begins to shake me!

Aeschylus, Agamennone (English translation by George Theodoridis)

When we cultivate a great illusion in life, the management of disappointment is always very complicated and extremely painful. Furthermore, if the time of illusion has been lived in good faith and for many years, when we can already glimpse the day of disappointment, we almost always prefer to remain deceived. Because calling the illusion its true name means having to say words that are too painful to say out loud: failure, (self-)deception, immaturity, manipulation. Yet, it would be enough to understand that disappointment is the only good flowering of illusion, live it as a blessed passage to bring good fruits, and then conclude our journey under the sun in truth. In the struggle between illusion and disappointment - and we are talking about real agony, especially in case of righteous and honest people - the outcome depends decisively on whom we stand next in the struggle. If we have one or more false prophets as companions, we remain imprisoned in the illusion, we continue to deny reality, even when it is obvious and evident to everyone. Because the false prophets are masters of presenting facts contrary to their ideology as the last test to pass in order to finally be ready for true salvation. If, however, we meet a true prophet in the struggle, the age of illusion can end at last, and the evil and oppressing pain can be transformed into the good labour of liberation. Faced with the total and definitive collapse of what seemed to us for so long to be the most beautiful and true life on earth and in heaven, the only possible salvation is to embrace disappointment. And to invite her to dinner, put the most beautiful tablecloths and cutlery, and open the best bottle of wine from the cellar. And then, together, to celebrate, inviting the few real friends and the very few prophets. Without this dinner of reconciliation we cannot discover one day that that life was really beautiful, perhaps even more beautiful than we had imagined.

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The Gift of the Second Telling

The Dawn of Midnight/22 – The life reborn is not just a copy of the life burnt

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 17/09/2017

170917 Geremia 22 rid“If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire can warm me I know that is poetry".

Emy Dickinson, from a letter of hers

Writing, too, can be a spiritual activity. There are many ways of writing, for many reasons, and very different things are written. But there has always been, and there will always be some who write because they have heard and embraced an inner command. Poets know this very well, who write to respond to a voice speaking and calling, and their poetry becomes the fruit of a 'yes' to an incarnation. They tell us that writing is second, because first there is the gift of a voice, a word, a spirit. There are many words spoken, even great and immense words, which do not become written words. But there are no great and immense scripts that have first not been said in the soul by a whispered word. It is this vocational and spiritual dimension of the written word which ensures that our other words written without vocation can also be mysteriously true, or at least not always and not entirely false.

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The Song of the Wandering Aramean

The Dawn of Midnight/21 - Truth of life and salvation meet on the way

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 10/09/2017

170910 Geremia 21 2 rid“Even if you don’t read it, you are in the Bible .“

E. Canetti, Il cuore segreto dell'orologio (The Secret Heart of the Clock)

When a community is experiencing a deep, long and uncertain crisis, what is really at stake is the past-future link. Because if it is true that the only good future is the one that turns the past into a blessing, redeems it and frees it from the trap of nostalgia, it is equally true that without a good history of yesterday there are no new words today to talk about a good and credible tomorrow. Individual and collective crises are famines of the future and famines of the past, because it is the friendship between the past and the future that makes the present beautiful and fruitful in every stage of life. Even when the sunset is approaching, and the shadow of the past becomes very long, memories feed us and accompany us at all times. The past alone is not enough for the present, no matter how great and wonderful it was. We should wait for a new word, to see the face of a daughter again who will come today, too. We should hope to see, in the end, the face of God that we cherished in our heart’s desire for a whole life. In order to live the time of crisis well, it is therefore essential to have an exciting future that blossoms from a reconciled present with a past lived as a gift and promise, beyond wounds, disappointments and failures. It is in the right reciprocity between roots and gems, between bereshit and eskaton that you really find the opportunity to continue generating life and future in the now.

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The redemption of the promise

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 03/09/2017

170903 Geremia 20 rid“Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.”

Martin Luther

After the great chapters of consolation, blessing and promises, after the announcement of the New Covenant, Jeremiah's book returns to the chronicle of the time of the Babylonian siege and the imminent conquest and destruction of Jerusalem (in the year 587 BC). These terrible days will accompany us to the end of the book, where the prophecy and the life of the prophet will be fulfilled. The next deeds and words are conveyed to us by Baruch, the faithful companion and secretary of Jeremiah, whose name now makes its first appearance in the text. Going back to the story, we find Jeremiah prisoner of King Zedekiah. We already know the main point of the accusation, because it is the very heart of his prophetic mission: “Why do you prophesy and say, »Thus says the Lord: Behold, I am giving this city into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall capture it«” (Jeremiah 32:3). Although denied by the false prophets, the heads of the people and the priests of the temple, the prophecies of Jeremiah are therefore coming true.

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The greatest reciprocity

The Dawn of Midnight/19 - Together, in the pact-communion that can change history

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 27/08/2017

170827 Geremia 19 rid

Later I discovered and am still discovering up to this very moment that it is only by living completely in this world that one learns to believe. One must abandon every attempt to make something of oneself, whether it be a saint, a converted sinner, a churchman (the priestly type, so-called!) a righteous man or an unrighteous one, a sick man or a healthy one. This is what I mean by worldliness (...)”

D. BonhoefferLetter written on 21 July 1944 (English translation by Reginald H. Fuller)

Perhaps there is no greater gift than the gift of hope. It is a primary good. We can be satiated with merchandise and all kinds of comfort goods, but we still die in despair. The promised land seems unattainable at all times, but above all when we cross deserts, then the exile seems endless. Those who give us true and not vain hope first look our despair into the eyes, cross through it, make it their own. They fight false hopes, undergo all the consequences and wounds of the struggle. They resist that dimension of human pietas that brings so many to succumb to the temptation to offer false consolations - to themselves and to others. From the middle of the night the prophets announce to us a true dawn we still cannot see, only through their eyes. Just like when everything around us has been talking only of death and vanitas for a long time, but one day there comes a friend and talks about heaven to us. And, this time, finally, everything seems true, beyond the artificial paradises that kept deceiving us in the age of illusion. And it is, finally, all grace, all charis, all gratuitousness: “For I will restore health to you, / and your wounds I will heal” (Jeremiah 30:17).

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The exile which is also a blessing

The Dawn of Midnight/18 - Humanity and the power of visible (and invisible) empires

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 20/08/2017

170820 Geremia 18 rid“...he is perfect to whom the entire world is as a foreign land. The tender soul has fixed his love on one spot in the world; the strong man has extended his love to all places; the perfect man has extinguished his.”

Hugh of Saint-Victor Didascalicon (12th century; English translation by Jerome Taylor)


“(T)o pluck up and to break down, / to destroy and to overthrow”: this is what Jeremiah heard on the day of his prophetic vocation. But together with these words he also heard two others that are different and complementary: “to build and to plant” (Jeremiah 1:10). It is not enough to announce scary scenarios of misfortune to be non-false prophets, because the earth is full of people who describe, sometimes even in good faith, a desperate present and future only to gather the consent of the many desperate people who feed on despair. Jeremiah does not deceive his fellow citizens by promising imaginary well-being and peace to them; but while prophesying this bitter and uncomfortable truth, he can say words of true and sublime hope.

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Prophecy does not include incentives

The Dawn of Midnight/17 - It is decisive to recognize who uses the past to kill the future

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 13/08/2017

170813 Geremia 17 ridAnswer not a fool according to his folly, / lest you be like him yourself. / Answer a fool according to his folly, / lest he be wise in his own eyes.”

Proverbs 26

Many words are used to describe work, one of them is: travail. Trabalho, travaglio, trabajo all derive from the Latin trepalium, which meant yoke (for animals). It was a shaped wooden bar, with ropes and laces attached to it. It was similar to the horizontal arm of a cross. Over time, the yoke has become a symbol of submission by animals or people and a symbol of slavery. Peoples have fought for and attained freedom and justice by breaking up the yokes of slavery, and have been freed from these travails and tribulations. No one loves being subjugated, being put under a yoke by others. Only the subversive and radical message of Jesus of Nazareth could use the image of the yoke to express the bond between him and his disciples: it is light and gentle, but still a yoke. Perhaps, in using this paradoxical image, the evangelist, here too, had Jeremiah in mind: “this word came to Jeremiah from the Lord. Thus the Lord said to me: »Make yourself straps and yoke-bars, and put them on your neck.«” (Jeremiah 27:1-2).

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Beyond the deserts of betrayed words

The Dawn of Midnight/16 - Recognizing and enriching the prophetic family in the world

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 06/08/2017

170806 Geremia 16 ridOnce Rabbi Mosche of Kobryn said, 'I see that all the words I said did not even find one who had welcomed them in their heart. The words that come from the heart, in fact, go into the heart; but if they find none, then to the man who said them God gives the grace that they do not err without a dwelling, but they all return to the heart from which they came out’ ... Some time after his death a friend said, 'If he had someone to talk to, he would still live.'

Martin BuberTales of the Hasidim (rough translation from the Italian quote)

Even if every prophet has his own unique personality and his own name, prophecy is a collective experience. It forms a community, a tradition, and those who join in continue the same race, fight the same battles, give new words to the same voice. Every true prophet is created by the prophets who preceded him and nourishes the prophets that will come after him. This generative spiritual chain is the root of faithfulness to the word, because every prophet knows that he is writing a chapter of a book that will be completed by others, and if there are some words missing from a chapter, or if it is partial and needs editing, those who continue writing it will find some adulterated material in their hands, they will not have the words they need to write their own chapters and so the final outcome will be poorer and worse.

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The song of different voices

The Dawn of Midnight/15 - God’s highness saves us from talking only about our dreams.

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 30/07/2017

170730 Geremia 15 rid

"From the aimed image / I am keeping watch on the instant / With imminence of wait / And I am not waiting for anybody:
In the lit shade / I am spying upon the bell / Which, imperceptible, is spreading / A pollen of sound – / And I am not waiting for anybody:
Between four walls / Astonished of space / More than a desert / I am not waiting for anybody:
But he must come; / He will come, / if I resist, / To blossom not seen, / He will come all of a sudden, / When I least realize:
He will come almost pardon / Of what he makes die, / He will come to make me certain / Of his and my treasure,
He will come as a relief / Of my and his pains, / His whisper / Will come, perhaps it is already coming.”

Clemente Rebora, Dall’immagine tesa  (From the Aimed Image, English translation by Roberto Filippetti)

False prophecy in good faith is perhaps the most abundant thing under the sun, and it’s among the most dangerous phenomena in the world. There have always been and there are still false prophets in bad faith, who do not give voice to any voice and they know it well. But there are also false prophets in good faith, who don’t give voice to any voice and do not know it, and confuse the "voice of God" with their own fantasies, emotions and thoughts. False prophets are not all scoundrels and swindlers, some of them are convinced to be prophets even though they aren’t.

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The Dawn of Midnight

Logo Geremia Crop 150The series of comments by Luigino Bruni on Jeremiah's book comes out every Sunday on Avvenire

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