Presence 1 – an excerpt from Christian Meditation

An excerpt from the section entitled

“Presence” from Christian Meditation by Hans Urs von Balthasar


Literature is sparing in giving directions on how to meditate. Generally such directions omit the decisive middle part. They treat at length of the entrance to meditation and the various preparatory acts, and also of the end phase, where they deal with acquired and infused contemplation and their mutual limits. For “meditating” on the more abstract truths of faith there are the directives of the Spiritual Exercises. First we are to picture the object we are recalling and then let light shine on it with our intellect (but how this is supposed to be done is seldom explained), so that we can use our will to apply what we have found to our own conduct (Sp. Ex., 50). On taking a closer look, however, we see more than a mere preliminary step in the preparatory instruction for the “contemplation”, which tells us to place ourselves vividly in the scene to be contemplated. Rather, it is something that helps to determine the whole course of the meditation. We shall speak of that first.

1. Presence

Some aspects of this theme have already been mentioned, but now we shall proceed to the heart of the matter. When we meditate on a saying or scene of the Gospel, we do not meditate on a text but on him of whom the text treats and to whom it points: the person of Jesus Christ. This means more than what we have previously said—that the Spirit makes the scene present for us now after so many centuries. It means, rather, that by means of this text, Jesus Christ presents himself to us as present and turned to us in this articulate text by means of this very word spoken by him or through this miracle—not, therefore, merely on the basis of God’s omnipresence in general but of his presence concretized precisely in this word, this gesture or this way of acting. The movement from the written word before me, not to the Spirit but to the living Lord, seems to be difficult for many, although it is really very simple. I stand before my Lord, and he turns toward me personally. He himself is this turning-toward, inasmuch as he is the Word, the Word of the Father in all its human forms, whether speech or silence, jubilation in the Father or tears over Jerusalem, warning or consolation, a humble or a sovereign bearing. In every case, he is Word, and now he is Word just for me.

Balthasar, Hans Urs von. Christian Meditation. Ignatius Press. Kindle Edition.

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