Humankind, time and again, needs a fresh reference point. Big changes and a new epoch occur when it is able to have a distance from its present. This is a time for understanding the past, admitting wrongdoings, and setting up new aims. In these moments of re-orientation, culture is capable of setting up its ‘new agenda’ because of the ‘screen’, the reference point, upon which it can projects and re-shape its desires. These ‘screens’ are hallmarks within history, bearing the names we gave to periods, like feudalism, medieval culture, renaissance, modernity, the age of psychoanalysis, etc. After periods of crisis, culture needs a fresh distance by ‘naming’ the previous period. This is the way of purification and cultural rebirth.
It seems that Christianity has brought something radically new. Christians have the distance of reflection in the person of Jesus. What is revolutionary is the fact that they can scrutinise themselves and their culture on a daily basis. We can call it prayer life, spirituality, Lectio Divina, sacramental life, Holy Communion. The point is the intensity and the closeness of this horizon of grace.
To have or not to have this ‘screen’ of daily rebirth is the question. Christian culture offers the option of daily healing and genuine self-knowledge. If we take up this offer (a toiling work, though!) our culture should wait to the next cataclysm before finding out where we are.
The intriguing thing is that recognising this option is just as real as losing it. ‘They said, “Where did the man [Jesus] get all this? What is this wisdom that has been granted him, and these miracles that are worked through him? This is the carpenter, surely, the son of mary, the brother of James and Joset and Jude and Simon? His sisters, too, are they not here with us?” And they would not accept him.’ (Mk 6:2-3)
These are verbal Icons, expressions of how the world is seen from Saint Augustine's..