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Scepticism, uncertainty--the position to which reason, by practicing its analysis upon itself, upon its own validity, at last arrives--is the foundation upon which the heart's despair must build up its hope.
-Miguel de Unamuno

Amidst all the kerfuffle over Mel Gibson's recent film, The Passion, nothing was more revealing that the consternation at the idea of his showing a Christ who suffered terribly, a Christ in agony. But it seems fair to ask how else we could hope to comprehend the terrifying fact that Christ Himself despaired on the Cross. This moment of despair is, after all, the center and pivot point of the story of Man and God, at least as far as Christians are concerned. Yet it is such a queer moment. We are asked to believe that God could actually doubt Himself, could despair that He exists, or that He cares about even Himself (in the form of His Son). What a curious notion upon which to rest a theology. At the very least we can require of the moment that Christ must have been experiencing unimaginable agony, no?

The great Christian Existentialist Miguel de Unamuno based this book on that moment and what it means for we mere mortals. Herein he raises the quandary that too many happy-talking Christians would just as soon avoid and those who would dismiss Christianity as nothing more than a comforting crutch for the weak-minded would as soon ignore:
Terribly tragic are our crucifixes, our Spanish Christs. They are indicative of a Christ not dead, but in agony. A Christ already dead, already returned to the earth, already at peace, a Christ dead and buried by others who are themselves dead, that is the Christ of the Holy Sepulchre, Christ lying in His tomb; but a Christ Whom one adores on the Cross is a Christ in agony, a Christ Who cries out: Consummatum est! And it is to this Christ--the Christ Who exclaims: "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken me?" (Matth. 27:46)--to Whom believers in agony pay homage. And among these are many who believe that they have complete faith, who have faith in faith.

To live, to struggle, to fight for life and to live by struggle, by faith, that means to doubt. [...] A faith which knows of no doubt is a dead faith. [...]

To believe what we do not see equals faith. So we have been taught in the catechism. To believe that which we do see--as well as that which we don't see--that is reason and science; and to believe that which we shall see--or shall not see--that is hope. And all this goes by the name of faith. I affirm, I believe, as a poet, as a creator, looking at the present; and I doubt, I struggle, I am in agony, as a human being, as a Christian, contemplating the unrealizable future, contemplating eternity.
If the agony of being human traces to the inescapable knowledge that while God has Created us He has given us lives in which we suffer and die, then the reconciliation of Man to God comes when He willingly chooses to experience this agony Himself and we are reconciled to Him. And that is why, to the continuing bewilderment of many, the Cross is such a compelling symbol and "We preach Christ crucified."


Grade: (A)


See also:

Miguel de Unamuno Links:

    -ETEXT: Tragic Sense Of Life by Miguel de Unamuno (Project Gutenberg)
    -POEM: The Snowfall Is So Silent by Miguel de Unamuno: Translated by Robert Bly
    -POEM: It is Night, in My Study by Miguel de Unamuno: Translated by Lillian Jean Stafford and William Stafford
    -Miguel de Unamuno y Jugo (1864-1936) (kirjasto)
    -Miguel de Unamuno (Wikipedia)
    -Miguel de Unamuno (Academy of American Poets)
    -ESSAY: GOD, IMMORTALITY, AND LIVED EXPERIENCE IN UNAMUNO (Leslie A Muray, Autumn 2003, Encounter)
    -ESSAY: Miguel de Unamuno Y Jugo (Philosophy Professor)
    -ESSAY: Homo sum (Josip Ferrater Mora, The Expository Philosopher)
    -ESSAY: On Miguel De Unamuno's Idea Of Reality (Ferrater Mora, June 1961, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research)
    -ESSAY: “The Language Of Religious Experienceâ€� (Josip Ferrater Mora)
    -ESSAY: “God is dreaming youâ€�: Narrative as Imitatio Dei in Miguel de Unamuno (Costica Bradatan)
    -ESSAY: Miguel de Unamuno (Rich Geib)
    -ESSAY: Discovering Miguel de Unamuno (María L. Trigos-Gilbert, October 27, 1998)
    -ESSAY: Miguel de Unamuno on the future of culture (UNESCO Courier, Nov, 1993, Edgardo Canton)
    -ARCHIVES: "miguel de unamuno" (Find Articles)

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