“Care, as a primordial structural totality, lies ‘before’ every factical ‘attitude’ and ‘situation’ of Dasein, and it does so existentially a priori; this means that it always lies in them.”
In the Incarnation, we see the embodiment of God’s solicitude, which is at the center of Who He Is for others — and at the center of who we are, created in His image to be primarily relational beings.
Sin inevitably involves a falling away from this solicitude. So each man becomes an island, isolated and alienated, no longer concerned with the interests of others but only with his own. But to be turned in on one’s self is to slowly implode, spiraling downward into a deteriorating despair that limits vision and prevents awareness.
The man who has lost his solicitude has lost his sense of purpose. He cannot see the threads that unite him to others; he cannot understand the impact of his actions, how the environment is transformed by even the most miniscule of his decisions. He does not see the interconnectedness of the world around him, and his orientation becomes so inwardly turned that even the good he does is tainted with ultimately destructive self-absorption.
By taking upon Himself our nature, the Son demonstrated the fullness of His outward orientation, the fundamental constitution of humanity. The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve: His focus outward, His eyes set to serve, His hands poised for the miracle needed to transform the lives of the broken and undone.
This solicitude is seen the most transparently on Good Friday. It is there, on Calvary, that solicitude is exemplified through action, most particularly through sacrifice. But this sacrifice is more than simply a giving up; it is a complete expenditure of self, accompanied by a bearing of an otherwise unbearable weight. What Christ pours out is His own life; what He takes upon Himself is the complete gravity of our transgressions, past, present, and future, borne through the agonizing hours until death steals the last breath from His lungs.
Beyond the atonement secured through His death, what do we learn from the crucifixion? We learn how to restore the fundamental orientation of personhood: solicitude. For Jesus Himself has done this, His own life both a model and the source of strength we require to enter into this state of concern, readily available to us when we ask in faith.
To walk in Golgothic solicitude is to spend ourselves for others. It is to orient our perception of every facet of reality towards the question of how we can utilize our energy, our volition, for the upbuilding of other persons. Solicitude teaches us that all of life is intention and movement, and we were created for that intention and movement to be primarily directed towards others and not ourselves.
Immediately we hear this, and thoughts of self-preservation enter in. We feel weak; we do not have the strength to sustain this kind of life, even if it gives us purpose and meaning. We are aware of the necessity, perhaps even as unredeemed persons: phenomenologically, our consciousness is always directed out from us (even our thoughts exist, in the structures of experience, separate from ourselves). Yet the awareness of our self’s deterioration compels us to retract, to deny the impulse of solicitude.
Yet Jesus tells us — “he who seeks to save his life will lose it.” To seek preservation is to, quite literally, cause the dissolution of self. Here is a universal paradox: that we only become more fully ourselves when we engage in solicitude. An isolated self begets entropy; it prevents growth, which must always be outward, and thus intentional.
This is what we learn on Good Friday. The truest self is that self which is constructed from concern, consistently oriented outward to bear the emotional, psychological, and spiritual weight of others. In so doing for us, the God-Man teaches us to do it for others. Only then is our existence restored to reflect His goodness and present His image in the world.
P.C. Joshua Eckstein