Meditation for the Third Sunday of Advent: Part III
The Conditions for True Joy
Tegel Prison, Berlin, December 1944
… Man must be brought to an absolute clarity about himself and honesty before himself and others. He must come down from the high horses of vanity and self-deception that, for a time, let themselves be trotted forth so proudly. Finally, though, the horses shy or willfully run away and throw their “master” off in the wilderness—or else they turn out to be miserable nags that someone has curried to a shiny, smooth, and competent appearance.
Sincere modesty, meaning knowledge of boundaries and jurisdiction, as well as a sober insight into the capability and potentiality one has been granted are the first steps to life’s truth. “The truth will make you free” (Jn 8:32). After all the freedom to live a full life is what it is all about.
Man always starts to dream again. There is the authentic, creative dream, the vision that calls us forth from the tired slave’s pace of the habitual and usual. Woe, if young people lack vision and their minds are not quickened by the movement of the Holy Spirit! However, there is also a false and foolish dreaming, which obscures the limits of human possibility and reality and conceals them from our consciousness. So instead of expanding his boundaries through sincere watchfulness and authentic exertion, man oversteps them. Overstepping boundaries on the ultimate level of being, however, is deadly.
Two criteria are available to identify whether we are following an authentic impulse or a foolish and presumptuous will-of-the-wisp. Both of these criteria are found in the figure of John the Baptist: service and annunciation.
The voice calling in the wilderness is precisely what it is about: that man remains true to himself and not inflate his own importance. Human honesty requires man to see himself as a servant and perceive his reality as a mission and an assignment. The idea of authentic service and authentic duty belongs to the essence of man’s self-concept…
[excerpt from Advent of the Heart: Seasonal Sermons and Prison Writings]