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Grace of God: A Phenomenological Inquiry

  • Aryabhatta College, University of Delhi


Grace, in the Christian understanding, is the unconditional love, the free, and undeserved favor of God. Grace, in this context, is not of man, but of the Divine through which the knowledge of truth is gained-truth that surpasses man's natural knowledge and experience; by which the soul is likened to the Divine. In this paper, an attempt is made to decipher (through phenomenological inquiry) the experience of grace in the life of a middle-aged individual and how it provide resilience in the functioning of ones' everyday life. The paper also discusses the possibility of the essential nature of the experience of Gods' grace as it look into the subjective experience of the individual.
Research Article
The International Journal of Indian Psychology
ISSN 2348-5396 (e) | ISSN: 2349-3429 (p)
Volume 4, Issue 4, DIP: 18.01.035/20170404
DOI: 10.25215/0404.035 | July-September, 2017
© 2017 Thangbiakching & Soreng E; licensee IJIP. This is an Open Access Research distributed under the terms
of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits
unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any Medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Grace of God: A Phenomenological Inquiry
Thangbiakching1*, Dr. Eric Soreng2
Grace, in the Christian understanding, is the unconditional love, the free, and undeserved
favor of God. Grace, in this context, is not of man, but of the Divine through which the
knowledge of truth is gainedtruth that surpasses man's natural knowledge and experience;
by which the soul is likened to the Divine. In this paper, an attempt is made to decipher
(through phenomenological inquiry) the experience of grace in the life of a middle-aged
individual and how it provide resilience in the functioning of ones' everyday life. The paper
also discusses the possibility of the essential nature of the experience of Gods' grace as it look
into the subjective experience of the individual.
Keywords: Grace, Graceful Ageing, Phenomenological Inquiry
Art Thou not mighty, God Almighty, so as to heal all the diseases of my soul, and by Thy
more abundant grace to quench even the impure motions of my sleep!
-The Confessions of St. Augustine (1909)
It was in the year 1873, Spafford wrote the ever enduring words of the hymn: “It Is Well
With My Soul.” Spafford had lost his only son of four years to scarlet fever in the year 1870,
his property and investment were decimated by the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, was greatly
hit by the economic downturn of 1873, and lost his four daughters in a ship wreck that same
year. But he wrote:
When peace like a river, attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows, roll, -
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to know, It is well, it is well, with my soul.
The pain that Spafford endured during the period of three years (1870-1873) culminated into
a melodious “it is well with my soul,” as a thanksgiving to the Divine love. It is not in the
ways of man to give thanks when sorrow strikes, nor is it in his nature to see the essence of
the ways of the Divine (Aquinas, 1920). It is only through grace that the essence of God is
1 Research Scholar, Department of Psychology, Arts Faculty Extension Building University of Delhi, Delhi,
2 Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology, Arts Faculty Extension Building University of Delhi, Delhi,
*Responding Author
Received: June 30, 2017; Revision Received: July 14, 2017; Accepted: July 30, 2017
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revealed. St. Thomas Aquinas wrote, “...the created intellect cannot see the essence of God,
unless God by His grace unites Himself to the created intellect.” And it is through this same
Divine grace that “the power of understanding” is added. The endurance and understanding
that comes through the knowledge of truth is hidden from man, but is showered in abundance
through Divine grace.
Grace is not of man, but of the Divine through which the knowledge of truth is gained— truth
that surpasses man’s natural knowledge and experience. Grace is that through which man’s
nature is healed, it is the vine through which the thirst for enlightenment arises, and is sought.
Grace is that in which Gods’ gift pertains, which is the first and foremost the free gift of God
(O’Riordan, 1962), transcends the notion of value (Outka, 1972), through which creation is
manifested (Kaylor, 1976). Grace is that, according to Aquinas (1915), “which restore in us
the image of God, after which we were made.” Grace is that through which life everlasting is
merited (Aquinas, 1915). So was revealed to St. Paul, in his second epistle to the Corinthians,
of God’s grace, “My grace is sufficient for thee” (2 Cor. xii. 9 KJV).
Gratia, in Latin, is the translation of the Greek word charis which also means charisma,
charm, favour, or kindness (Watson, 1959). To Jordan (1988), grace is an “experience of
condescending love, conciliatory compassion and unfailing fidelity.” He further describes the
gratuitous nature of grace, and how it is the unmerited and undeserved gift of God. Grace as a
divine inspiration has been shown to indicate the experience of a spiritual assistance from the
Divine that furthers one’s emotional and psychological developmental processes, enhancing
self-efficacy, as well as change of one’s world-view to a relatively positive one, all
culminating to a transformed self (Gowack and Valle, 1998; Kaplan, 2005; Thrash and
Elliott, 2004; Bronte and Wade, 2012).
Al-Ashqar (2005) wrote of the value of grace and mercy, terming them the only way through
which Paradise could be achieved, not by the virtue of deeds alone. According to the Mother
(1956), grace is that Presence through which the state of the world is perceived, because of
which we understand and have the strength to carry on. Grace is that which calms us, and
leads us toward a goal that is higher than the preferences of our everyday life. And it is
because of the presence of the Divine grace that one has joy, and a sense of being complete.
Gowack and Valle (1998) in their work with the volunteers for the care of the terminally ill
found that grace was the source of energy, peace, and joy in their selfless service.
In Summa Theologiae (Prima Pars), St. Aquinas (1920) writes that supernatural beatitude is
attained by God’s grace. Beatitude is the feeling of utmost bliss and happiness. Beatitude,
according to St. Aquinas, is twofold, the accomplishment of which may be attained by the
detailing of the distinction between philosophical knowledge and divine revelation, that is, of
the distinction between the natural and the supernatural (Marshall, 2011). The natural ability
of a man as a man is attained by him naturally. Our natural capabilities as human are that
which comes to us naturally. But nature is not sufficient for the attainment of that which is
supernatural. Hence the attainment of a supernatural beatitude is in itself out of the abilities of
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a man: for, the desire of such supreme beatitude in itself, according to St. Aquinas, is out of
the nature of man. It is only through the grace of God that such may be desired, and thus
attained. As such, man may be capable of natural knowledge, of philosophical thoughts, and
natural beatitude; but it is through the grace of Divine that things that are of the Heaven are
Grace is also mentioned by St. Aquinas (1920) as the “charity of God” by which the soul is
likened to God. Thus, the likeness of God is bestowed upon us by grace. Grace is again
received only through the acts of faith: a faith in the existence of the free gift of God, a faith
in the grace of God, a faith in God. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of
yourselves: it is the gift of God” (Eph ii. 8 KJV). The illumination of grace in an individual’s
life is thus rooted in faith. And faith is caused by “that which moves man inwardly to assent,”
it is that which object is the “First Truth”; “Faith is the substance of things to be hoped for,”
(Aquinas, 1917) and the substance that is the likeness to which is found in each genus, the
first thing in the genus that contains the others. “Faith is, after all, a human response to a
revelation” (Meissner, 1969). This gift that is also the “charity of God” dispenses from us a
charity of heart, as our soul is likened to God. That is to say, through sanctifying grace the
actual act of grace bears witness in an individual’s life. In his first epistle to Corinthians, St.
Paul wrote, “And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all
knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not
charity, I am nothing.” (1 Cor. xiii.2 KJV) As was taught in the parable of the fruitless fig
tree by Jesus, one that does not give fruit shall be cut down (Luke xiii. 6-9 KJV).
Meissner (1964) attempted to demonstrate the comparative development of the psychosocial
and the psychosexual development with the process of spiritual growth under the influence of
grace. He concluded that man’s relation to grace positively influences his capacity for self-
realization, and achievement of a true personal autonomy and freedom. His basic principle
remains that grace works in and through the resources of the ego, and grace, at the same time,
supports the proper functioning of the ego, and is the energizing and dynamizing principle
that makes this spiritual growth possible via transformation and reintegration of the psyche.
Sengupta (2011) in her study on growth of motivation delineated asceticism as a functional
need in the process of inner growth of an individual; a basic need in our journey to self-
awareness and realization that may lead us to a better understanding of the meaning of our
own existence. “Asceticism” refers to Sri Aurobindo’s concept of motivation, of how man’s
basic drive is toward transcendence, and his motivation is “that of the soul towards the
Divine,” wherein the Divine is pre-existent in man. The divine self is thus the spiritual self;
and the spiritual growth of man is eminent in the archetypal notion of grace in the Divine,
that is, a spiritual existence of the self in the grace of the Divine. This brings us to the context
of a spiritual being, wherein a man strives to be likened to the Divine. Such is the notion of
spirituality- that subjective experience of the Divine that transcends time and space. Studies
in the experiences of spirituality (Larson et al. 1998; Sawatzky et al. 2005; Galanter et al.
2011; Kohls et al. 2011) as well as religiosity (Propst, 1980; Bennett and Rigby, 1991; Green
and Elliot, 2010; Abdel-Khalek and Lester, 2012; Nandal et al. 2013) have found them to be
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a coherent factor in the wellbeing and positive health of an individual. Spirituality and
religiosity, in this sense, pertains to a better sense making of meaning which may facilitate an
individual in understanding and eventually accepting the suffering and hardship of life
(Scharlach and Fuller, 1994; Smith et al. 2003; Koenig, 2009). The difference between
spirituality and religiosity here in our study entails the preference of adhering to a dogma of a
religious person. Nevertheless, the subjective experiences of the Divine are not undermined
in the true essence of religiousness.
The concept of grace has been dealt with in a number of papers, specifically in trying to
understand its religious as well as psychological nature (eg. Watson, 1959; O’Riordan, 1962;
Meissner, 1964, 1969; Outka, 1972; Kaylor, 1976; Jordan 1988; Gowack and Valle, 1998;
Kaplan, 2005; Bronte and Wade, 2012). The focus in this paper is on locating and
conceptualizing the resilient and teleological nature of grace by using phenomenological
enquiry. Hence, a phenomenological investigation for the experience of “feeling grace” was
carried out on a middle aged individual. A single participant was chosen for this research
purpose as an in-depth psychological study on the human experience, that is the phenomena
of the essence of grace, was the focus of the research. Further studies may involve a wider
range of participants. Also, the fact that grace as a psychological factor may be influenced by
other factors is not being taken into consideration. This is because the current study, as we
have already mentioned above, want to stay as close as possible, as well as, be true to the
structure of the participant’s experience.
The participant is a middle aged woman residing in a quiet countryside. She married at a
relatively young age of 16, without any social or financial support from either her parents or
her husband’s parent. She lost her second child (a daughter) to cancer at the age of 8 years.
Becoming a working woman to help support the family with her husband, and taking
voluntary retirement due to the need of the money, her family had come a long way. At age
50+, she is now a graceful grandmother. She is still happily married to the same person,
socially active, and respectfully religious.
The procedure followed for the analysis is an adaptation of Colaizzi’s (1973, 1978) six-step
procedure. The transcript data were re-read a number of times to get the feel of the data. Once
assured that the data were understood as originally intended by the participant, phrases and
sentences that best represented or explained her experience were extracted as the protocol
summary. The next step was to transform the protocol summary into significant statements
that best reflected the essential meaning of her statements. Similar significant statements
were then clustered together to form theme clusters which ultimately gave us a structural
summary. After formulating the structural summary, the participant was contacted to ask if
the descriptive results did indeed compare with her experiences, and whether any aspect of
her experience was omitted. The new relevant data were incorporated and the analysis was
re-done. From the final structural summary, comprehensive thematic structures were
extracted. Through-out the whole process one has to always remember to stay as close as
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possible to the data. The last step include putting the comprehensive thematic structures into
constituent themes, all culminating into a comprehensive constituent summary that best
reflects the experience of the participant.
Six constituent themes were identified:
1. Acclamation and expression of faith
2. Blessing and guidance received
3. Healthy intra- and inter-personal relation
4. Change of heart and yearning
5. Humility and support
6. Living in the Lord and belief in heavenly abode
Acclamation and expression of faith. This theme was evident in her recurring exclamations
of praises for the Lord. These proclamations were made after her narration of a blessing or a
positive event in her life, a realization of how little she could have done in such situation, and
the acceptance of a Higher Power at work. For example: “What or who am I to receive such
blessings? Hallelujah!”, “The Lord had used my hand to save my baby’s life back then.
Hallelujah! I didn’t even know how to pray or thank the Lord back then, how good the Lord
was (and is) to me!!”, “Ever since that, the way we talk or what we usually talk about in our
house changed. Even my children began to yearn for the Lord. Praise be the Lord”, “But
through that experience all my children started yearning for that place called heaven. Praise
the Lord!” Also worth noting is the stream of negative events that consequently turns into
blessings in her life. She narrated the event of her child’s death and ended the event with
“Praise the Lord.”
Blessing and guidance received. This theme was the richest in the participant’s statement.
She identified the events in her life as blessings from the Lord. Some examples are:He has
blessed me aplenty”, “Blessings can be seen in the faces of not only my children, but my 6
grandchildren as well.” She also identified the guiding nature of the Lord in her life
accounting to the Lord’s kindness and grace to her everyday life. Examples of such statement
are given below: “The Lord was always guiding me even when I didn’t know Him”, “The
Lord guided me…”, “The Lord has been very kind and good to me”, “How good the Lord
was (and is) to me!!”, “My third child was still a baby, and I would go to the women’s
convention (conference) with him on my lap. But the way I could go was all God’s grace”,
“The Lord had used my hand to save my baby’s life back then.”
Healthy intra- and inter-personal relation. Another theme that was evident was the healthy
intra and inter-personal relation. The statement reflected the song “Count Your Blessings
Name Them One by One....”, that is, acceptance of not only the past, but being happy and
satisfied with the choices that she had made. For example: “All of them (my children) are
self-sufficient”, “I got married to the one who really loves me and whom I really love…”,
“Through my dying daughter (cancer at 8 years of age), I and my whole family saw the
goodness and grace of the Lord”, We were all at peace with her death.”
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Change of heart and yearning. This theme was reflected in many of the events that
followed after an experience of the Divine. In the statement she had mentioned of the
Divine’s presence in her life and the way He had changed her life. Examples are given below:
“Ever since that incident, the way we talk or what we usually talk about in our house
changed”, “I gave up my smoking habit in the name of Jesus ever since that day”, “The Lord
had lifted me”, “In the year 1980, I started having a yearning for the Lord”, “Even my
children began to yearn for the Lord”, “But through that experience all my children started
yearning for that place called heaven.”
Humility and support. Another theme that was reflected was that of humility and a sense of
support from God. There is a sense that every good comes of the Lord, and the Lord is at
work. It is not because one has done so great a deed to receive such blessings, but it is
because and only because the Lord is good, it is all in His grace. For example: “What or who
am I to receive such blessings?”, “I am hoping and I believe that God will be good and kind
to let me complete this term with good health”, “….my aspiration was just to sell vegetables
or make a tea hotel to earn money….”, “I never even once saw myself as a leader. But the
Lord had appointed me as one.”
Living in the Lord and belief in heavenly abode. This theme evolved from a sense of
personal experience with the Divine within the family of the participant. When their daughter
was on her death bed she had visions which further strengthened their faith in the Lord, as
well as the existence of a Home. “She (her dying daughter) saw Jesus when she was about to
die”, “As she said she saw Jesus coming to take her up to heaven, and even said that the
place where she was going was majestic and beautiful”, “She was very happy that she was
going to Jesus….”
This was again further reflected in their life and ways of living, as well as anointing the
Lord’s Hand in each and every blessing received. All culminating in a life lived in the Lord.
Examples are given below: “Ever since that, the way we talk or what we usually talk about in
our house changed. Even my children began to yearn for the Lord. Praise be the Lord”, “But
through that experience all my children started yearning for that place called heaven. Praise
the Lord!”, “Blessings can be seen in the faces of not only my children, but my 6
grandchildren as well”, “The Lord was always guiding me even when I didn’t know Him”,
“The Lord has been very kind and good to me...”, “How good the Lord was (and is) to
From the literature gathered and the narration of experience of grace provided by the
participant, we may say that grace is first and foremost an experience of Divine Providence.
David, feeling very well the providence of his Lord, exclaimed, “...though I walk through the
valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for Thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff
they comfort me” (Psalm xxiii. 4 KJV). Here, Divine Providence is taken in the context of the
felt presence of God’s guidance. A Providence of the Divine that accumulates to a life of a
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committed and personal faith in the Divine (O’Riordan, 1962), the sense of being blessed in
addition to the security of guided-ness, all of which culminates in the formation of not only
an optimistic outlook but also a sense of security providing one with an inner strength and
agility. This may ascertain one in the everyday activities of life that everything is well and in
place. The sense of spiritual guided-ness is prevalent in the participant’s narration of her
experiences. Researches relating to the notion of spiritual guided-ness pertaining to
spirituality as a coping mechanism have found it to be beneficial in dealing with daily hassles
(Hathaway, 1992; Belavich, 1995), posttraumatic symptoms (Peres et al. 2007; Laufer and
Solomon, 2011), illnesses that are disabling, critical or terminal (Yates et al. 1981; Kaye and
Raghavan, 2002), and in maintaining a good mental and physical health (Seybold and Hill,
2001; Ghobari and Sadri, 2006). The evidences listed here suggests the capacity for an
individual to give into the care of a Higher Being, make peace with whatever life may bring
at the same time hoping for the best of situations, especially in times of troubles and
suffering; all things shall eventually pass with the guidance of the Lord. Prayers and
meditations are shown to be an archetypal method of dealing with stress. Even the most
reasonable man prays in his own significant way in the most trying of his times.
Experiencing grace is also, thus, the experience of a change of heart, and a yearning for the
Divine that culminates to a transformation of the self. It is that humbles one, it does not make
one proud, does not make one think one is above others, and it engraves the sense of Divine
Providence in one’s life. The grace of the Lord, herein, have a psychological impact on the
individuals’ ego, deriving a faith in the Unseen and the unexplained, ascertaining humility
and humbleness in relation to the ego-self, pertaining to accepting the processes of life as it
goes through different stages and experiences (Meissner, 1964, 1969). It is that which lifts
our heart and our spirit even in the darkest of all time and make one say “it is well with my
soul...” The experience of grace is thus the experience of Metanoia: it is not just a change of
heart and mind, but a transformation of the soul that leads to reflective healing through
revelation (Friesen and Guhr, 2009; Myers, 2011), it is the transformation of the self-involved
ego to a life of communion with the Lord and others (Branch, 2009). And in His Grace we
find the ability to be grateful not just to God, but “to all for all they happen to give” (Menzel,
1975), in the process of which one becomes a relatively selfless individual thus improving
upon one’s interpersonal as well as intrapersonal relationship (Wagenseller, 1998; Smith,
2005; Bronte and Wade, 2012). A personal experience with the Divine, an interpersonal
relation with God as a person, is thus the experience of the Divine Grace that touches the
heart and changes the life of an individual.
Experiencing grace is also the experience of the Beatific Visionnamely, direct
communication with God, of knowing and loving God, of always living in the Lord, an
attainment of that “perfect happiness”, the belief in a heavenly abode, and the experience of a
heaven on earth. And it is by grace that this intellectual sight is endowed to us through which
we ‘see’ God (Tinkle, 1988). This intellectual sight that perceives the knowledge and the
wisdom of the Divine is the Beatific Vision (Hamilton, 1935) that “leads us whether we like it
or not, whether we know it or not, towards the supreme goal, that is, union with the Divine,
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the awareness of the Godhead and union with Him” (The Mother, 1956). Herein lies the
essence of happiness, which endows a man with resilience of ways - a strong sense of inner
support (Yates et al. 1981; Scharlach and Fuller, 1994; Kaye and Raghavan, 2002; Smith et
al. 2003; Koenig, 2009; Green et al. 2010). Such ways leads man to ask, ‘How does man
strives to live on after being through so much?’, ‘How does man overcome the sufferings and
losses he acquires, and how does he get back up?’ Aquinas (1920) contends that man’s
perfect happiness consists in knowing the first substance, namely, God.
The experience and acknowledgement of grace in one’s own life is, thus, having as an inner
guide, which in the Jungian terminology is referred to as Sophia (the Wisdom of God), or the
Archetype of the Wise Guide. An inner guide, because with grace comes not only the
understanding of the ways of nature, but also understanding the ways of God which is
grounded in reality (O’Riordan, 1962). The understanding of nature in the sense that through
grace comes the living experience of everyday life, of relating to those around you, and of
being equally capable in forming personal relationship and maintain them as well. It is
wisdom that also gives us the capacity to understand the ways of the Lord through which life
is lived in the knowledge that “the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away, blessed be the
name of the Lord” (Job i.21 KJV). It is eventually something that is perpetual. In the life of
the participant, grace thus becomes that medium through which she experiences a religious
luminosity whereby she acquire a new meaning and perspective in life, a spiritual firmness,
or even an invisible inner support (von Franz, 1968). Hence, grace is that through which
spiritual growth is made possible (Meissner, 1964), through which one becomes a more
individuated being with a better sense of Self, and an overall understanding of life and its
ways enabling us to accept with humility any weakness or failures that may come our way
(O’Riordan, 1962).
In Christian world-view, man is in a state of fallen nature due to the Original Sin,
consequently living the curse of toiling on the land till the end of his life and the labour pain.
Having lost the Paradise, lamentation, exodus and sin has befallen upon humankind. With the
dawn of consciousness, he has also become subjected to moral and health deficiencies, and
the inevitable aging and death. Living a life of manifold shortcomings and a life made up of a
variety of vulnerability and vulgarity, it is the grace from above, as a vital-spiritual principle,
which sublimates the individual, making him capable of infused virtues and enables him to
perform meritorious acts. Although the life of Paradise is lost, grace is still conferred in
abundance upon us through the infused virtues, the gifts of the Holy Spirit and the institution
of the sacraments as the sensible signs of grace to furnish us with greater security and greater
confidence: “Where sin abounded, grace did more abound” (Romans v. 5 KJV).
In Christian tradition, grace is a transpersonal quality inherent in the soul which makes us
partakers of the divine nature (2 Peter i. 4 KJV), causes us to enter into communion with the
Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians viii. 13 KJV) and establishes a fellowship with the Holy Trinity (1
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John i. 3 KJV). It is a mode of being, a state of soul that has transforming effects and a
foretaste of the Beatific Vision, making the individual partake in divine goodness.
Grace is discerned and realized, leading to a relatively permanent change in behaviour by
transcending moral and physical impediments, thus prepare for and perpetuate a virtuous life
through prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance. These enlisted theological virtues play a
vital role in removing obstacles or in supplying positive means to press onwards towards
spiritual goals beyond Maslow’s lower level needs. Prudence as a virtue allows us the
capacity to choose the right judgment and the right path so that one may not stray from the
goal. Justice frees us from personal desires that binds us to selfishness, cleansing our soul so
we may deliver what is due to others. Fortitude armors our soul with patience and endurance,
strengthening us through trials and temptations. Temperance, plying on the pleasure principle
of the super ego, enables us delay of gratification so we may follow the right course.
Reception of grace facilitates human faculties into action which enlighten the mind,
strengthen the will and aid in increasing the measure of grace that has been divinely granted.
Grace received through divine charity helps in perfecting the exercise of the infused virtues.
To live a life of salutary acts, grace blesses the individual with the gifts of the Holy Spirit: the
gift of understanding that begets tranquility; the gift of knowledge that brings us an
awareness so we may know God; the gift of fear that begets the virtue of temperance; the gift
of wisdom that may discern for years of experience begetting an insightful love and
understanding of the Divine; the gift of counsel so we may not falter and in turn gives us the
virtue of prudence; the gift of piety so we may perform our duty to God in spirit; and the gift
of fortitude strengthening us in spirit.
The soul is nurtured by these virtues and gifts of the Holy Spirit in the presence of grace. The
experience of grace is, thus, an experience of the Divine in everyday life. It is a life of grace
not when they have lived a handful number of years, but when they have lived long enough to
experience Divine Providence, Metanoia, and Beatific Vision. As St. Thomas Aquinas had
written in Summa Theologiae (Dreyer, 1990), through grace are given the gifts of love,
wisdom, and understanding for our enjoyment. His basic premise is that grace is primarily the
gratuitous gift of God, given out of the abundance of God’s merciful love. Grace within a
person is the outcome of God’s mercy, and God alone is the cause. So says in the book of
Psalms, “…goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in
the house of the Lord forever” (Psalm xxiii. 6 KJV).
The author appreciates all those who participated in the study and helped to facilitate the
research process.
Conflict of Interests: The author declared no conflict of interests.
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How to cite this article: Thangbiakching & Soreng E (2017). Grace of God: A
Phenomenological Inquiry. International Journal of Indian Psychology, Vol. 4, (4),
DIP:18.01.035/20170404, DOI:10.25215/0404.035
Full-text available
The aim of the present study is to clarify the lay experience of grace through person-level narratives. This empirical qualitative study follows a bottom-up approach, not restricted by specific theoretical assumptions, and includes a large and heterogeneous group of Belgian participants. The sample (recruited online) was composed of 456 participants (64% women, mean age = 50.04, age range from 18 to 93 years). Data consisted of 456 written narratives describing the experience of grace. They were analysed using a thematic analysis and thematic network approach with the help of a qualitative data management package Nvivo 12 pro. The resulting thematic network visualizes the experience of grace in the flow of time with (a) antecedents, grace can happen anywhere and anytime, but difficulties often precede grace; (b) the core experience is one of receiving an unmerited free gift in response to failure or brokenness or as an encounter with goodness and beauty, and this can be given by the divine or by other people and lastly (c) consequences entails a transformation at the intrapersonal, interpersonal and/or situational level. Our approach allows for an ecological and bottom-up understanding of grace as experienced nowadays in a secularized country and can empirically inform future studies about the connection between grace and psychological flourishing.
There exist in many cultures some powerful and distinct human experiences we have little scientific understanding of. One such experience is the experience of feeling grace. In this chapter, the nature of the experience of feeling grace in voluntary service to the dying is explored from a phenomenological perspective. Twelve individuals who described themselves as having experienced grace while working with the dying were interviewed, their descriptions were analyzed, and seven constituent themes were identified. The relationship of these themes to previous writings on the nature of grace is then explored.
This essay explores what is suggested by a statement of Carl Jung's: “Of all those who consulted me in the second half of their lives, no one was ever cured who did not attain a spiritual outlook on life,” Special emphasis is focused upon the psyche's upheaval at midlife and the transformation from an ego-centered personality to a more self-oriented way of being. Creative aspects of the midlife experience are discussed as they pertain to the individuation process.
When Kairos, the god of opportunity, passes by, Metanoia is left in his wake. At first glance, Metanoia is the embodiment of regret, a sorrowful woman cowering under the weight of remorse. However, there is more to the concept of metanoia than feelings of regret. This article looks to the long-standing partnership between kairos and metanoia as a way to better understand the affective and transformative dimension of kairos. The kairos and metanoia partnership can take shape as a personal learning process, a pedagogical tool, and a rhetorical device. Kairos and metanoia stimulate transformations of belief, large and small, that can advance personal understanding and lead to more empathetic responses. As such, this article argues for further exploration of the kairos and metanoia partnership in rhetorical theory and practice.
It is often asserted that in Hindu bhakti cults human devotion more than divine grace is the basis of salvation. This paper tests the accuracy of that assertion as it relates to hymns of the medieval Śrī Vaisnava saint Nammāvār: in his Tiruvāymoli is “grace” spontaneous or is grace God's response to a person's character or deeds? Apparently contradictory answers are suggested by various hymns (which are translated in the full text of the paper). On the one hand, various actions or attitudes are recommended for obtaining God's grace and presence: saying the name of God in prayer or in ignorant exclamation, visiting “residences” of God, worshipping with sincerity and enlightenment, utterly surrendering to God (prapatti). On the other hand, God's grace is portrayed as spontaneous: God's very nature is grace; creation is a manifestation of grace; enlightenment is possible only through grace; God graciously makes himself accessible through forms known in later systematic teachings as avatāra (descent), arca (icon) and antaryāmī (inner controller). Even though God is accessible, he is not at human disposal: he remains incomprehensible, and he may absent himself. The latter is reflected in hymns in which the “maiden” pines for her absent lover. Such absence, however, is not a contradiction of the gracious presence of God; rather, it emphasizes the Joy and spontaneity of his presence. How are we to put together these two seemingly contradictory lines of Nammālvār's thought? While logical consistency may not be expected in a devotional and mystical poet, the conclusion is advanced that in Nammālvār's theology God's grace is essentially spontaneous, and that hymns which suggest that grace is responsive are to be accounted for in three ways. First, passages which speak of the amazing results of ritualistic or pietistic deeds are best explained in terms of vyāja (occasion), and thus actually emphasize the spontaneous more than the responsive character of grace. Second, passages which exalt certain residences of God should be viewed in the context of the pilgrimage tradition and thus be understood in a more doxological than hortatory sense; insofar as exhortation is present, It is exhortation to recognize the grace already available. Third, passages which exhort worshippers to be sincere or which advocate bhakti or prapatti as the way to salvation are the most difficult to harmonize with the assertion that grace is spontaneous, for they suggest that only if one is or does certain things will God's grace be available These kinds of passages, however, stand in contexts which heavily emphasize spontaneous grace and which either implicitly or explicitly reject the notion that grace is conditioned. Passages denying the conditioned character of grace are not balanced by others denying its spontaneous character, a fact which strongly argues for the priority of grace. When grace is not the primary focus of attention, statements may be made which could signify an understanding of grace as conditioned by ritual, bhakti, etc.; but when attention is directed to grace per se, the understanding is that grace is spontaneous and unconditioned