Capacity to transcend, capacity for God

Photo from
One of the 20th century's most respected theologians, Karl Rahner, SJ, may have been considered as unorthodox for his somewhat realistic views on God, but his thoughts could be considered a protest on the dominant approach to theology at the time, neo-scholasticism. 

Rahner posits that the incarnation of Jesus Christ, his being human, is in itself a divine revelation or God's way of communicating his love to humanity. For this, it is but right to appreciate and to imitate Jesus Christ in his being human. For this, Christology should be approached in light of anthropology, or simply put, studying Christ for his being human. Like, how was he as a person? How is he different from the rest of the people of his time? What makes Jesus God's revelation or self-communication to humanity?

Rahner subscribed to a theology and a Christology that would bring God closer to the people, closer to each of the ordinary person’s experience.

Commenting on mystical experiences as an experience of God, he said, “The real religious and existential heart of visionary experiences like this is in no way to be sought in these pictorial, visual phenomena.”

And for this he gave as an example Saint Anthony of Padua who was granted a vision of the Baby Jesus. Surely Jesus as a baby ceased to exist in his journey to adulthood, and so this can be said as a simple “imaginary vision” which can be brought about by “purely natural means.”

And so, we are faced with a Jesus who does not exclusively interact with special chosen people gifted with this exclusive grace from God. Rather, we now have a Jesus who was as human as any Juan de la Cruz or Maria Clara; a Jesus who is the very image of God made man; a Jesus who is a manifestation of God’s mercy for humanity.

This anthropology of Christ is central to Rahner’s theologizing, for it is in the realization and the study of Christ’s humanity that God has showed how we can transcend our being human and touch divinity, which I presume, with all humility, would be God’s goal for all of humanity.

Rahner said: “Putting a distance, existentially withdrawing from the individual reality of my being—this isn’t something about which I can just say the word and it’s done. It’s rather a difficult, slow mystical development. When this at least slowly begins, when there’s death, renunciation, when the taken-for-grantedness of the world crumbles in a night of the senses and of the spirit, it’s then that a person slowly…senses and experiences what human transcendence oriented to God really is, experiences it as something more than the inevitable condition that makes possible our everyday dealings with the world…. This is the real, mystical, fundamental experience of God."

To be able to transcend our humanity is to experience God. And such transcendence can only be experienced when after a God experience, an exceptional experience that would allow a person to say that he was touched by God, we are able to realize, accept, and make the decision to go beyond our weaknesses, to overcome the difficulties that we experience in our being human.


On his 17th birthday and barely two months after the death of his father, Christopher (not his real name) was diagnosed with cancer. And when he was brought to Manila for treatment, the person to whom he was entrusted to left him to fetch for himself.

"What was I to do? I didn't even know how to go to Manila. It was my first time to come to Manila and to PGH (Philippine General Hospital)," he said in Filipino. "But I wanted to get well."

Christopher said that when he was about to give up on his situation, especially since he had no one to take care of his treatment and that he literally would be doing the tedious processing of his papers, in looking for the money for him to be able to pay for his treatment (in one treatment he had to come up with P200,000), but when he saw the young children (many as young as two years old) in the half-way house where he was referred to by well-meaning people who saw him wandering in the corridors of the hospital, obviously without a place to stay, he thought to himself, "If these little children are fighting to live, why can't I fight to live?"

Christopher's ability to transcend from a somewhat hopeless situation has given him the determination, the strength, and the courage to face the inevitable. It allowed him to put his faith more on God, rather than on himself or to people who may just abandon him in times of distress, and to see God's hands in the people whom He obviously sent to take care of his needs.

"Despite my having nothing, despite me having to walk for kilometers under the heat of the sun and in the middle of Metro Manila's traffic just for me to get treatment, despite me having to look for the money I need for my treatment, despite me being the only pediatric cancer patient with no caregiver, I have to go on because He sends me help when I need it," he said, adding that all his needs were surprisingly met all of the time, an experience that can only be that of God.

This experience allowed him to appreciate his situation as a means for him to strengthen his faith in God and to be an inspiration to the people he comes into contact with. His ability to transcend the challenges that he faces and to strive to be an even better person is the very example of Rahner's thoughts on transcendence. More than being able to go beyond our limitations, to be able to go beyond it with the recognition that such is made possible only through God's grace is what Rahner is speaking about.

Christopher has not only transcended his situation, but he has also helped others to transcend from their own fears and doubts. Such is the experience of God through people, through situations, through the very experience itself. Such is man's capacity to transcend and, in the humblest way, the capacity to embrace God in every situation.


  1. One's ability to transcend the physical, and to be guided to places to which one has no sense of location, is proof positive that this world is but one of the worlds in which the soul exists. The physical frame is our current place of being, when we are in a wakeful state, yet one's consciousness visits other realms, when the body is asleep. Last night, I had an intimate visit with my wife, who departed her body, in March, 2011. We have had several such visits since that sorrowful day.

    1. I'm sorry to hear about your wife. She will always be alive in the memory of her loved ones. And thank you for your beautiful insight. Be blessed.

  2. At the approach of Christmas your article is very meaningful . God was a little baby born like a refugiee..
    Our "perception " of God is complexe since at time we say He is in us , he is us all, he is a creator spirit . We can read no one has never seen God , Only the Son . I believe God is a deep mystery and us, poor humans , we can only have faith.
    I did not know you had a blogspot site Tribo .. This is great
    In friendship

    1. Thank you, Michel. I agree, God is a mystery that we can but only hope to understand. Faith, indeed is what we need most.


Post a Comment

Popular Posts