“Presence” and “Spiritual Priesthood”

October 8, 2010 § Leave a comment

Abraham Joshua Heschel, the first holy man I ever heard, a man whose words and presence have never left me, has been described thus:

He was blessed with a gift which few men possess: the marvel of presence. He did not have to speak to communicate his faith, his convictions, his nobility. His very presence communicated a vision. His outwardness conveyed something of his indwelling greatness. His very being radiated a sacred meaning.

The same could be said of the Dalai Lama, another holy man from whom it was my privilege to receive the gift of Presence.

Someone with Presence has a quality of transparency about them.  Almost as if you could look through them. Into another Reality.  As if they are simultaneously flesh and blood as well as pointing at this other Reality. With a Radiance, glowing from within, as part of their bearing.  A radiant Presence.

If you have never experienced this, then I simply cannot really describe it.  But I will try. Persons with Presence have a capacity to transform the way others see, maybe thus transforming their “being” as well.  There is something so powerful about the Presence of a spiritually transformed person – a person literally transfigured through contact with Holy Mystery – that having truly met them, you may never be the same.

This, in a sense, is the point of all spiritual paths:  Transformation.  Transfiguration.

Individuals who embody Presence are able to affect change in the world around them.  Even unconsciously.  In those who leave themselves open to the Great and Holy Mystery which is both completely Beyond us as well as tenderly, intimately In our Midst. And amazingly, even those who may neither believe nor understand what has occurred – but may sense something nonetheless – can be powerfully affected by the Presence or the Touch of such a person.  (I have witnessed this.)

This transparency, this window into eternity quality of Presence is, I think, what this priesthood of the faithful entails. And it is not something one can grasp or purchase or manipulate. As Merton says, it is “pure gift“.

Such individuals are said to receive Wisdom from within.  To spontaneously understand scriptural passages, for example – as if the words have  been lit up for them – from this deep place of transparency or nothingness.  Their very being points beyond themselves.


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