“The space opened in man by the bodily senses and affectivity is the space in which God’s Word has let himself be experienced in fullness.”
“O taste and see that the Lord is good!” (Ps 34:9), exclaims the psalmist, while St. Peter says to the Christians, “you have tasted the kindness of the Lord” (1 Pt 2:2–3; cf. also Heb 6:4), and Paul speaks of sharing “the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Cor 1:4). Each of these expressions serves as a confirmation that Christianity is not a cold reflection on a purely spiritual idea, but is rather a living experience of God that embraces the whole of man’s being. As Jesus said, according to a logion preserved by Origen: “those who draw near to me draw near to fire.”1
We may ask, however, in view of these expressions, whether and how it is possible to have an experience of the transcendent God, the God who seems to be above and beyond any possible human experience.
In its contemporary usage the word “experience” refers primarily either to the experiments of positivistic science or to the subjective feelings of the individual. In the first case, it is difficult to see a connection between experience and transcendence in the latter’s etymological sense of “going beyond.” The scientific experiment, in fact, is always under the control of the one who conducts it. The conditions and expected results are settled in advance, thus eliminating any possible novelty. Robert Spaemann has spoken in this regard of the homogenization of experience that characterizes modernity.2
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1. Origen, Homilies on Joshua 4, 3; English translation: Homilies on Joshua, trans. Barbara J. Bruce, The Fathers of the Church, vol. 105 (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 2002), 56.
2. Cf. R. Spaemann, “Ende der Modernität?” in Philosophische Essays (Stuttgart: Reclam, 1995), 232–60.