“The Beatitudes”, from the album “Biscantorat – The Sound Of The Spirit From Glenstal Abbey” – The Monks of Glenstal Abbey – (2009)
(onward from part two) … This does not mean, however, that suffering in the psychological sense is not marked by “activity”. There are, in fact, multiple and subjectively differentiated “activities” of pain, sadness, disappointment, discouragement or even despair, according to the intensity of the suffering subject and his or her specific sensitivity. In the midst of what constitutes the psychological form of suffering there is always an experience of evil, which causes the individual to suffer.
Thus the reality of suffering prompts the question about the essence of evil: what is evil?
This questions seems, in a certain sense, inseparable from the theme of suffering. The Christian response to it is different, for example, from the one given by certain cultural and religious traditions which hold that existence is an evil from which one needs to be liberated.
Christianity proclaims the essential good of existence and the good of that which exists, acknowledges the goodness of the Creator and proclaims the good of creatures. Man suffers on account of evil, which is a certain lack, limitation or distortion of good.
We could say that man suffers because of a good in which he does not share, from which in a certain sense he is cut off, or of which he has deprived himself. He particularly suffers when he ought”—in the normal order of things—to have a share in this good and does not have it.
Thus, in the Christian view, the reality of suffering is explained through evil, which always, in some way, refers to a good.
In itself human suffering constitutes as it were a specific “world” which exists together with man, which appears in him and passes, and sometimes does not pass, but which consolidates itself and becomes deeply rooted in him. This world of suffering, divided into many, very many subjects, exists as it were “in dispersion”.
Every individual, through personal suffering, constitutes not only a small part of that a world”, but at the same time” that world” is present in him as a finite and unrepeatable entity. Parallel with this, however, is the interhuman and social dimension. The world of suffering possesses as it were its own solidarity.
People who suffer become similar to one another through the analogy of their situation, the trial of their destiny, or through their need for understanding and care, and perhaps above all through the persistent question of the meaning of suffering.
Thus, although the world of suffering exists “in dispersion”, at the same time it contains within itself a singular challenge to communion and solidarity. We shall also try to follow this appeal in the present reflection.
Considering the world of suffering in its personal and at the same time collective meaning, one cannot fail to notice the fact that this world (of suffering), at some periods of time and in some eras of human existence, as it were becomes particularly concentrated.
This happens, for example, in cases of natural disasters, epidemics, catastrophes, upheavals and various social scourges: one thinks, for example, of a bad harvest and connected with it – or with various other causes – the scourge of famine.
One thinks, finally, of war. I speak of this in a particular way. I speak of the last two World Wars, the second of which brought with it a much greater harvest of death and a much heavier burden of human sufferings.
The second half of our century (The 20th Century) , in its turn, brings with it—as though in proportion to the mistakes and transgressions of our contemporary civilization—such a horrible threat of nuclear war that we cannot think of this period except in terms of an incomparable accumulation of sufferings, even to the possible self-destruction of humanity.
In this way, that world of suffering which in brief has its subject in each human being, seems in our age to be transformed—perhaps more than at any other moment—into a special “world”: the world which as never before has been transformed by progress through man’s work and, at the same time, is as never before in danger because of man’s mistakes and offenses.
APOSTOLIC LETTER, “SALVIFICI DOLORIS“, of the Supreme Pontiff, Saint John Paul II to the Bishops, Priests, Religious Families and to the Faithful of the Catholic Church on the Christian meaning of Human suffering, pp 7-8, February 11,1984.
Come Lord Jesus, Come …