Dedicated to Research and Reflection in Formative Spirituality




About Us Programs Staff Links Contact Us



December 19, 2011

We concluded the previous reflection by enumerating three aspects of personal presence.  These three fundamental aspects of human presence are articulated as follows by Adrian van Kaam:

1) We are a potency for presence to the Mystery of God, which means that we can abide in recollection of the presence of the Mystery to us.  Although we are not directly present to God, we are a capacity to open ourselves up to and to become aware of the dimension of sacred reality.  Through prayerful attention and God’s grace some people develop an abiding sense of the transcendent dimension of reality, and of God’s personal love and care for them.

2) Self-presence does not foreclose simultaneous presence to and of the Mystery.  I can be aware of myself, my external situation, as well as the interior movements of my soul (psychological and spiritual dynamics), even as I remain open to the presence of the Mystery – which is, simply, receptivity to a horizon of being that transcends my limited cognition.  I may not know what that “more than” is, but I can still be open to it.  This act of openness is an appropriation of the Mystery, an acknowledgment of what is unknown and beyond us.

3) In addition to self-presence and presence to the Mystery, we can be present to others.  As van Kaam puts it:  Our presence to others can reflect the presence of the Mystery to us.

     Differentiating these three components of human presence enables us to focus our attention on each of them separately.  Ideally, we are attentive to our spiritual growth in each of these dimensions of our formative presence.  Ultimately, however, the three are intimately related and together foster the inner and outer flourishing of presence we deeply long for.  The unity of the three aspects of presence is attested to by Adrian van Kaam as follows:

Religion and life are not separated.  My daily task and its religious meaning, my worldly and religious commitments sustain one another.  I can encounter God in the realities of daily life and face all events in God. (On Being Involved, p. 19)

The apogee of our human potential for spiritual presence is evidenced in our ability to be present in all three modes simultaneously and harmoniously.

     Full and open presence to reality does not come easily.  Habituated modes of being as well as mental and emotional impediments interfere with our attempts to be simply present.  We are given to all sorts of subterfuges – “escapes” from the manifestation of reality at hand:  fantasizing, idealizing, phobic reactions, depression, mania, boredom, loss of self in others, affective isolation, depression, hatred and anger.  The list is endless.  We are called to uncover the dynamics of our personal formation that sabotage our desire to be simply present.  We need to assess our innate disposition to be present to the Mystery, to ourselves, and to others; and then to be willing to engage in an ongoing process of prayerful dialogue and reformation of presence.  What is at stake is the integrity of our personality.

(When) I am no longer simply and wholly with and in the situation, I become split, tense, and broken up.  This is true not only of decisive events, which may fill only a small part of my life, but even more of the innumerable simple, seemingly insignificant actions and meetings that make up most of my days.  The secret of growth, the source of peace, the hidden source of spiritual living entails being dedicated to the humble events which bind my days together.  (Ibid., p. 14)

Copyright © 2007 [Resources in Spiritual Formation].

All rights reserved.

Last updated: 11/25/10.