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

Truth - to the marrow of life

The Dawn of Midnight/13 - How God nourishes and changes our existence for ever

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 16/07/2017

170716 Geremia13 ridMy soul always retreats to the Old Testament and Shakespeare. There at least one feels something: there are men who speak there. There is hate there! There is love, there is the killing of the enemy, cursing the other’s posterity for all generations; there are sins committed.

Soren Kierkegaard, quoted in Scipio Slataper, Ibsen

The Book of Jeremiah marks a new stage of human consciousness, a leap in the process of humanization, a true anthropological and spiritual innovation. His entire book and especially his confessions. And if we allow these to enter the intimacy of our conscience and are willing to sustain the great costs it means, that ancient innovation can still be accomplished here and now.

From the first chapter of his book, Jeremiah alternated the contents of his prophetic mission with his intimate confessions, revealing his soul, his hopes and anguish to us. Now, at the height of his inner diary, we come to chapters 19 and 20, when the narrated facts and his poetry reach an absolute summit.

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But God awaits us at the potter’s wheel

The Dawn of Midnight/12 - The lack of prudence and the theology of the hands

by Luigino Bruni

published in  Avvenire on 09/07/2017

Lavorazione ceramica 01 ridPhysical work is a specific contact with the beauty of the world, and can even be, in its best moments, a contact so full that no equivalent can be found elsewhere.

Simone Weil, Waiting on God (English translation by Emma Craufurd)

To understand prophecy and biblical prophets, we would need a kind of laity that we no longer have. In fact, nothing could be as lay as a prophet, because even when he speaks of God he talks only and always of life, history, tears, hopes, daily reality and work. Prophets talked about men and women, and all the listeners could and had to understand it even without being theologians. This is their secularity, should we want to use a term that would have been totally incomprehensible to them, because what we think is secular/lay was simply life, all of life for them. The first and often decisive difficulty in understanding the Bible and the prophets is in the very word: "God". When we see this word, we inevitably encounter a concept that has been covered by millennia of culture, Christianity, theology, philosophy, and then by modernity, its many forms of atheism, by science and psychoanalysis, and that’s how the God of the prophets and their word have become incomprehensible to those who would need the poverty of Sinai, the bricks of Egypt, the essential freedom of the tent of the wandering Aramean – that’s why the best listeners in the Bible have always been and still are the children: we need their freedom and poverty to enter this Kingdom.

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The song of the great blessing

The Dawn of Midnight/11 - The landscape of the land found is not that of the promised land

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 02/07/2017

170702 Geremia 11 ridNo-one who reads the Bible can avoid the impression that Jeremiah's coming is as if a dam had given way at a decisive point. You feel something new, a dimension of pain so far unknown.”

Gerhard Von Rad, Old Testament Theology

“The word of the Lord came to me: »You shall not take a wife, nor shall you have sons or daughters in this place.«” (Jeremiah 16:1) Here is another narrative and spiritual turning point in Jeremiah's song and life, which is gorgeous and tremendous. By vocation Jeremiah will have no wife, and he will have neither sons nor daughters. The double command marks and strengthens Jeremiah’s two radical solitudes: he must live without a wife and without sons and daughters (the joy, the splendour and the pains that girls and daughters give us are not substitutes for those of boys and sons, and vice versa). In this procession - wife, sons and daughters - we can perhaps read a concrete, non-generic look taken at those different though equally concrete joys that he will not know because of a special vocation.

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The living wound that can speak

The Dawn of Midnight/10 - We recognise prophets when they prove to be beggars of light

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 25/06/2017

170625 Geremia 10 ridRabbi Mendel once boasted to his teacher, Rabbi Elimelekh, that evenings he saw the angel who rolls away the light before the darkness, and mornings the angel who rolls away the darkness before the light. ‘Yes,’ said Rabbi Elimelekh, ‘in my youth I saw that, too. Later on you don’t see those things any more.’”

Martin Buber, Tales of the Hasidim (English translation by Olga Marx)

The deepest and most intimate experiences are valuable because they are generated and experienced in the unspeakable secret of the heart. They give us a new depth, they make us see a new interior that we did not think we possessed when we started crossing the desert before the night struggle, when we got up early in the morning to go with the firewood and our son up that tremendous mountain.

But we did cross the desert, we did fight with an angel, we went up Mount Moria, and sometimes we found ourselves with a son given to us as a gift, with a new name, in a promised land, or we saw it from afar as our children were entering it. In our decisive experiences, we hear inarticulate sounds and voices that warm and burn us like the sun, soak and bathe us like water, touching, caressing and wounding us. But they do not speak.

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Only the wounded land brings fruit

The Dawn of Midnight/9 - The seed breaks the earth crust, the petals colour the flower field

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 18/06/2017

170618 Geremia 9 ridAlmost all the ideas introduced by Jeremiah in this time period are related to the law; almost all the images he uses are drawn from the same heritage of biblical prophecy - which by then turned secular. All this is but an exercise, a learning process.

André Neher, Jeremiah

“Thus says the Lord to me, »Go and buy a linen loincloth and put it around your waist, and do not dip it in water.« So I bought a loincloth according to the word of the Lord, and put it around my waist. And the word of the Lord came to me a second time, »Take the loincloth that you have bought (...) go to the Euphrates and hide it there in a cleft of the rock.«” (Jeremiah 13:1-4)

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It takes a different kind of meekness to save us

The Dawn of Midnight/8 - The communities that kill their naïve prophets die

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 11/06/2017

170611 Geremia 8 ridTo the prophet, God does not reveal himself in an abstract absoluteness, but in a specific and unique way--in a personal and intimate revelation to the world.

Abraham Heschel, The Prophets

The good kind of nostalgia, capable of talking to us, is only that of the future, the kind that knows how to direct our gaze to the present and the future. You cannot regenerate a love affair by returning to the words you were saying in the happy times, but by dreaming and saying the love words that you have never said. There is vital and essential reciprocity between past and present. The promise made in the beginning gives sense and truth to hopes in times of exiles and deserts; the fulfilment of yesterday's promise today says that we haven’t been following an illusion.

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No to the banality of nothingness

by Luigino Bruni

published in  Avvenire on 04/06/2017

170604 Geremia 7How then could I unite with this wild idolater in worshipping his piece of wood? But what is worship? thought I. Do you suppose now, Ishmael that the magnanimous God of heaven and earth — pagans and all included — can possibly be jealous of an insignificant bit of black wood? Impossible! But what is worship?

Herman Melville, Moby Dick

Prophecy is a radical critique of religions and cultures. Of every religion and every cult that has an intrinsic tendency to turn into idolatrous practices. Also, and above all, it offers a criticism of biblical revelation, a systematic and tremendous criticism, to prevent the biblical word from becoming a simple religion - a faith that becomes only religion is already idolatrous worship. The Bible is much more than a sacred book of a religion, also because it has welcomed and kept safe in its bosom the books of prophets, which, together with Job and Qoheleth, prevented it from becoming an idolatrous object. The prophets, therefore, by ridding the religious world of idols, try to liberate our landscape from our religious artefacts to create an environment in which we can - perhaps - only hear a bare voice. They are the great liberators from the gods that fill the earth and our souls.

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The temptation to customise God

The Dawn of Midnight/6 - The lies of the scribes are a trap for good faith as well

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 28/05/2017

170528 geremia 6 ridJeremiah understands that the precious power of dialogue that has been given him is actually a power of prayer.

André Neher, Jeremiah

At the beginning of every love story there is a wonderful encounter between the "internal" and the "external". In both personal and collective stories. One day we meet a person and feel that he or she has already been present in our soul without us knowing it. We only realise it as we get to know this person. If this were not the case, we would not join anybody in a pact that includes the word "forever". Something like this happens in those love stories, too, where the other we meet is not a man or a woman, but a spiritual or ideal reality. The voice that calls us is external and intimate at the same time; we recognize it because it has already been inside us.

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The honest tenacity of the bellows

The Dawn of Midnight/5 – Staying strong not to manipulate reality and not to use God

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 21/05/2017

170514 Geremia 05 ridAnd all the people exulted and smacked their lips. Zarathustra, however, turned sad, and said to his heart: They understand me not: I am not the mouth for these ears. (...) And now they look at me and laugh: and while they laugh they hate me too.  There is ice in their laughter.”

Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra (English translation by Thomas Common)

The biblical God does not speak in the first person singular on the earth, his words reach us only as words of men and women. The one who descends from Mount Sinai with the tablets of law is Moses, a man. YHWH speaks to him in the tent of the meeting, dialoguing only with him, "mouth to mouth", and telling him words that the people may know. If we want to hear the word of God in the world all we have to do is simply learn to listen to men and women like us. It is a word that is communicated by looking into a pair of eyes at the same height as ours. We do not find it either higher or lower: it's only there in front of us. Man is the place where God knows how to speak to mankind. Only men and women can resurrect the Bible and the Gospel every day, saying the words: "come outside". Without people calling them by name, here and now, even the biblical words remain dead in their graves.

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Like the mothers of the word

The Dawn of Midnight/4 – The truth makes you suffer but it also generates real freedom

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 14/05/2017

170514 Geremia 04 bis rid"I hope with all my heart that you will absolve me, I do not enjoy the idea of ​​going to prison like a hero, but I cannot help but explicitly declare that I will teach my boys what I have taught them until now... If we cannot save humanity, we will at least save the soul."

Don Lorenzo Milani, Letter to the military chaplains, letter to the judges

The illusory ideologies that develop and grow during the great and long crises are, perhaps, the most dangerous and devastating ones because their specificity is in negating the crisis. The present is lived as a time of waiting for some miraculous event, a new secret revelation that will save everyone, and the community is doped with a spiritual opium that deepens and exacerbates the crisis. It is a manipulation that lasts until the evidence reaches the point beyond which negation becomes impossible. But the "point of no return" sometimes becomes almost unreachable, because the strongest and most powerful ideologies can push the elaboration of the ideology of the crisis far ahead, and even the catastrophes and total collapses tend to be interpreted ideologically. There are entire communities destroyed by ideology, with some surviving members who continue to deny what's evident and search for the confirmation of their previous ideological predictions among the rubble.

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The hand holding the rope

The Dawn of Midnight/3 - Having people more faithful than us by our side is a great gift

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 07/05/2017

170507 Geremia 03 rid"...he went forth into the mountain, where Moses climbed up, and saw the heritage of God. And when Jeremiah came thither, he found an hollow cave, wherein he laid the tabernacle, and the ark, and the altar of incense, and so stopped the door. And some of those that followed him came to mark the way, but they could not find it."

Second Book of the Maccabees

Faithfulness is one of those words that are capable of saying all that there is to say about life. An existence is made up of many words and a lot of things, but if we were to choose only one, faithfulness would be a very strong candidate. Faithfulness is almost everything; faithfulness, perhaps, is everything. Faithfulness to the foundation pacts of our existence, to marriage, our profession, to friendships, to the voice that called us one day by making us start on the greatest journey. It is faithfulness that warms our heart during the winters, that consoles the soul when everything else passes and makes us pronounce our name without shame. It is the most beautiful legacy we leave to our children.

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The Prophets of the Second Nothing

The Dawn of Midnight/2 - Beyond the sea of slavery, where the idols die

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on  30/04/2017

170430 geremia02"When he brought the ready drink to Jeremiah's bedside, he was breathing quietly in his sleep. "Since I cannot hide it from the world, how can I hide it from you?" ..."Hide what?" (...). "The Lord was with me... And his voice spoke to me. And his voice is sending me away from here." Abi's eyes filled with tears. She did not cry because the Lord had come to him. Shouldn't she be proud of all the women of Jacob? And yet Abi's heart broke with sorrow for the election of her son."

Franz Werfel, Hearken Unto the Voice

There is a conflict, a radical tension, between the prophets and power. For many reasons, but above all because the prophet, by his task and vocation, can see the natural tendency of every power - above all the one dressed in a sacred mantle - getting distorted and turning into tyranny.

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Time for Singing without Fear

The Dawn of Midnight/1 - Destiny and freedom in the encounter with the absolute

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on  23/04/2017

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Hear, you that love, 
You that yearn, 
You bereaved:
In your eyes’ desire our life begins, 
In your hands our breakthrough, to the blue air – 
We’re there in the smell of the dawn.
Already you’re breathing us in, 
We enter your sleep, 
Strike root in the dream-soil. 
Funereal night 
Then nurtures our growth, till 
Our eyes open to yours. 
And we cry

Nelly Sachs In the Dwellings of Death (Chorus of the Unborn - English translation by Andrew Shanks)

Prophecy is one of the capital goods at all times and everywhere - for every society, for all communities, for every person. Therefore, when the big crises strike, prophecy becomes a primary necessity, precious and essential, just like water or respect.

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