Through him all things came to be, not one thing had its being but through him. All that came to be had life in him and that life was the light of the human race, a light that shines in the dark, a light that darkness could not overcome.
John 1: 3-5
Today is the last day of 2015; another year of life has passed. Today’s reading from the Prologue of John’s gospel invites us to reflect on the life we have lived in the past year. For most of us this ending year, as every year, has been a time of living at times from “the fullness we have all received” and at others from the surface of life, from a place of habit and routinization.
Adrian van Kaam speaks of the these two modes of living as the distinctively human and the typically human. As typically human our actions are sourced by the demands of our unconscious, by our movements toward pleasure and away from pain. In this mode we act mostly out of the habits of a lifetime, habits that we have developed in defense against the presences in life that we perceive as a threat to our survival, well-being, status, and comfort. From this perspective we live and act as if others and the world are threats we must defend against. We must be vigilant lest others get and have more than ourselves. From the typically human stance, we live in service of our bodily needs and desires, unrelated to the source of our true being.
As distinctively human, we live in and from the life and light that is our source. Our actions spring from our life in and of God that is our true life. While this life is the very source of our uniqueness as persons, it is also the life of all of us, so that we live and act not in a defensive and reactive mode but rather from the truth of our union with all. The distinctively human personality moves not primarily toward, away from, or against others but rather with them in accord with God’s will, that is with “the way things are.” We live not from a fear of scarcity but rather “from the fullness we have all received.”
December 31 brings with it an invitation to reflect on our own life in formation over the past year. Van Kaam tells us that Christian spiritual formation is: “A graced process of a prayerful search for and of a tentative gradual incarnation in all dimensions of life of the unique image of Christ one is called to realize.” In this light, perhaps we can ask ourselves the following questions for our end of year examen of consciousness. What have been the new “tentative gradual” ways that the unique image of Christ that we truly are has begun to manifest in the internal and external dimensions of our personalities? In what even very small ways is the expression of our lives more true to our unique and original image in God than it was 365 days ago? Where has there been even a “tentative and gradual” change in our habitual ways of being and reacting that are deformative in nature? Have there been any specific instances where we have been able to forgive a past hurt or resentment? Where have we been unable to forgive? Have we been able to expand our time of abandoning our own projects and compulsions for the sake of silent receptive presence to the life of God within us? Have we managed, even occasionally, in our encounters with others to speak less and to listen more?
Our deeper life is not a possession of ours. “Not one thing had its being but through him.” God is always living God’s life in and and among us. Our task, from birth to death, is to receive the form that God is giving to our lives and to give our lives form in accord with that gift. This does not happen spontaneously for us. We must choose to become the one God has created us to repeatedly and consistently, and we learn how to do this by trial and error. Where the answers to our examen questions are negative, we can recognize those errors as possibilities for the coming year. May God bless our humble, tentative, and gradual efforts, in their successes and failures, to conform increasingly our lives to God’s will for us and thus to bring more fully our unique manifestation of God’s light and love into the world.
God also knows all things and is able to do everything he wishes, both in heaven and on earth. He is in us as light and truth and reveals himself in the topmost part of our created being, raising our memory to a state of purity, our spirit to a state of divine freedom, and our understanding to a state of imageless bareness. He enlightens us with his eternal wisdom and teaches us to see and contemplate his fathomless riches. There there is life without labor, at the fountainhead of all grace; there there is the taste and experience of eternal blessedness, fully satisfied, with no tinge of anything unpleasant. Let us then transcend all that is passing with time; then we will be able to rejoice in love, for eternal life has been prepared for us.
Jan van Ruusbroec, A Mirror of Eternal Blessedness, III,A