Towards a Theology of Divine Presence: the Heart of our Call to Witness

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We are living our life in a religio- culturally plural world. A persistent plurality affects our daily life and impacts our self understanding. No religious community is insulated from this interreligious and inter-cultural experience. The intensity of the imperative of the other that we face in our plural world is unprecedented. While diversity in the past was out there at a distance, today due to mass communication, increased migration, and sophisticated technology, inter-religious encounters have come in our neighbourhood. This is why the question, how do we relate to diversity and otherness that we face not in a far off exotic destination but in our next door neighbourhood has become profoundly important. As Christians, we need a theology of religions to understand and respond to our diverse religio-cultural condition. Our condition is allied to what St. Paul encountered as he walked around the altar of the ‘unknown God’ in Athens (Act 17: 23). Today plurality is not just a social, cultural and political issue; it is strongly a theological issue. All plurality has its origin in God, the creator. This belief becomes the foundation theology of religions that tries to theologically understand the meaning and value of religious plurality. We cannot bracket religious plurality and do theology. We have the challenge to become the witness of Christ on an everyday basis in our world of inter-religious plurality. Living in the presence of God is a way of living a life of holiness.

This study proposes that to become a witness of Christ in our dynamically inter-religious condition, we have a triple task. First is that we have to discern the presence of Christ in our new vibrant condition. This means we need theology of divine presence to enable us to discern the presence of Christ in our world. The second task understands the other person as he/she understands himself or herself. To do this we have to move from the reigning monotopic hermeneutics to diatopic or pluritopic hermeneutics. The third task is the challenge of dialogical dialogue that involves dialogue ad intra as well as ad extra. Stanley J. Smartha has opened four areas of this dynamic dialogue: dialogue of life, dialogue of action, dialogue of experience and dialogue of expert.1 It is only through dialogue ad intra and ad extra at all these levels that we can truly become witnesses of the presence and action of God.

The Theology of Divine Presence

The Gospel of Matthew can be read as the good news of God’s saving presence and solidarity with humans. The entire Gospel opens and closes on the theme of divine presence and solidarity with his people. It is a Gospel that proclaims God as Emanuel, God with us (Mt. 1: 23) who promises companionship till the end of times (Mt. 28: 20). The Immanuel themes can be viewed as encasing the entire Gospel of Matthew. 2 The theme of God’s presence and solidarity overarches the entire narrative of the Gospel giving it unity and coherence. Everything in the Gospel is centred on the paradigm God-with-us in Jesus of Nazareth. In fact, it permeates the whole Gospel and has to be taken as a pivotal key to interpret it. Divine presence and solidarity is a saving presence. We can derive it by juxtaposing the Immanuel with the name Jesus which means God saves. Thus, God with us is God who saves (MT.1: 21, 23, 25). This active divine saving presence can be read along with the theme ‘dwelt-among-us’ in St John ( Jn 1: 14), and ‘God-was-in-Christ’ in St Paul (2 Cor. 5: 19), (Col. 2:9).3

Drawing our inspiration from the Gospel of Matthew, we can enter a theology of God’s active and saving presence. This does not mean that theology of God’s presence is only limited to the Gospel of Matthew. We can indeed discern several models of God’s active presence in the entire Bible. In fact the theology of divine presence and action is at the heart of liturgy. Liturgy is chiefly associated with the model of sacred sanctuary as the model of God’s presence and action. The model of sacred sanctuary of divine presence is visible in theophanies/ encounters like the burning bush, offerings of sacrifice, the arch, tent of meeting, sekinah, temple, the synagogue etc.4  Scholar’s point to the three models of divine presence operating in our liturgies: Sacramental model, Kerygmatic model (preaching), Charismatic model (music).5 (101). We can also find them in our Bible. Besides, the liturgical model of God’s presence, we have the covenantal model, the emancipative or prophetic model, pastoral or the shepherding model.

Theologies of Divine presence in the Old Testament

Some scholars have presented three paradigms of divine presence in the Old Testament provided by the patriarchal, Sinaitic and Davidic/ Zionistic streams of theology. There is essential distinction as well as convergence of theologies of divine presence in these traditions. R.W.L Moberly has positioned a thesis that the patriarch lived a different dispensation different from Sinaitic and Davidic traditions. The text of the holy Bible presents that Yahwist are retelling the patriarchal traditions from Mosaic Yahwism and not using the name known to the patriarchs. The patriarchal tradition is to the Mosaic Yahwism what the Old Testament is to the New Testament (promise and fulfilment). Thus, broadly bracketing the Mosaic Yahwism, Moberly assists us to look at the patriarchs as ancestral heroes whose intense encounters with are foundational to Israel’s understanding of divine self disclosure. The narratives of the patriarchs exhibit God’s promise, ‘I am with you’ and the experience of divine presence. Thus, there is a strong sense of clan deity and clan father. This is why divine presence is linked to definite person and not definite place. This may have been in keeping with their semi-nomadic condition of their social organization. Thus, God was seen as one who protects, helps, brings success and accompanies. This means God’s presence was corresponding to the clan’s insecurities as a wandering pastoral group.

Sinai is a great symbol of Israel’s religious, social and political emergence. It is a mountain on which the slaves became free. It offers us the corporate sense of YHWH’s presence and his will in Torah. Within this Sinatic tradition, we can see the birth of Israel as a people of God. Divine presence is overwhelming in the narratives that recount the liberation of the people. There are several symbols like fire, cloud, angel, face, the tablets etc and events of divine presence knitted into the intense narratives that we find the Bible. We can also find a challenge to the divine presence through the episodes of the golden calf, complaining about food and water in the desert. Moses comes across as YHWH’s exclusive mediator of divine presence. This is why we have to agree that the book of exodus is a book of divine presence. What really sets apart the divine presence in the patriarchal traditions and the Sinaitic tradition is holiness. Holiness is fundamental to the appearance of God in Sinai. It is central to the understanding of presence, election, covenant and Torah. Holiness, therefore, became the key to encounter God as ‘YAHWEH with us’. Also, we can see a conflict or tension between theology of cultic presence and other theologies of God’s presence. The cultic presence is fixed by a tabernacle that becomes God’s dwelling place. We can already trace conflict about reduction of God’s presence only to cultic presence in the episode of the golden calf. This means God’s presence and covenant is a gracious gift and can be spurned by acts of disobedience.[efn_noted]Ibid., 218-195. [/efn_note]

The royal Zionistic tradition arose mainly out of Prophet Nathan’s oracles (2 Sam 7:8-17), David’s Psalms (2 Sam 23:1-7), Solomon Prayer (1Kings 8: 46-53) and YHWH’s response (1Kings 9: 2-9). The heart of the theology of God’s presence is the emergence of Jerusalem as a seat of God’s special presence leading to the establishment of the temple cult and Davidic dynasty to rule from it to perpetuity. YHWH dwelling in Jerusalem became the foundation for the representation of YAHWEH as King. This is why the king also then is viewed as the son of God (2 Sam 7: 14). King therefore becomes YHWH’s mediator. There is an ambiguity of the permanency of divine dwelling in the temple. It is made dependent on the obedience of the people to the covenant. There is a discernible shift in the theology of God’s presence from Sinaitic tradition. Mosaic covenant was mainly concerned with justice while Davidic tradition manifests a concern for order. Hence, in the Mosaic tradition, YHWH manifests his presence as a protector and miraculous liberator while in the Davidic tradition YHWH manifests a majestic presence whose dwelling in Zion upholds in political, social, economic and religious terms. The theology of divine presence in the Zionist tradition addresses the political and social realities of Israel. It does exhibit a strong cultic and political impact. Post-destruction of the temple and the sacred city of Jerusalem proved a watershed to Israel. The Deuteronomists and Prophets clearly indicate that faithfulness to the covenant is YHWH’s requirement to the survival of Israel. The event of exile as well as the destruction of the temple in C E 70 has been appropriated by the Jewish people as consequences of people’s apostasy. These events decentralised Jewish religion and open God’s presence beyond cultic realms.6

Theology of God’s Presence in the New Testament

The New Testament theology of the presence of God rests in the revelation of God in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. The participation in his life through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and the experience of his victory over death by the then nascent church of his disciples becomes the foundation of the confidence in the presence of God in the life of Jesus of Nazareth. The event of resurrection becomes the fulcrum of the faith in Jesus as Kyrios, the anointed one of God who suffered, died and rose for the salvation of mankind. The New Testament theology of God’s presence emerges as a witness of faith was a response to God’s definite intervention in Jesus Christ. We can certainly say that the Gospel of Matthew enshrines a theology of God’s presence in dialogue with the theologies of divine presence in the Old Testament.7

The New Testament theologies of God’s presence are linked to the Christologies in the New Testament and have to be carefully discerned from it. What emerges is a direct link between the God of the Old Testament and the triune God of the New Testament. We can find the theology of the heavenly sanctuary which presents Jesus Christ as seated to on the right of the heavenly father. This enthronement in heaven becomes the cause of outpouring of the Holy Spirit on earth. We do not just find such sacramental models of divine presence, we also find the Kerygmatic models of God presence that link the God who spoke through the prophets in the past also spoke through the his only begotten son ( Hebrew 1:1). Besides, we can also trace the charismatic/ prophetic models of God presence and action where in God in Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit acts emancipation in favour of the anawim, the downtrodden ( Lk 4: 18-21). Mathew clearly has his goal to depict Jesus as an Emmanuel messiah. This mean God’s presence is transformative presence that challenges the reimagining social, religious and political values and codes. The person of Jesus and not a place like zion becomes the centre for human eschatological fulfilment. This means we can notice a shift from theocentricity of the Old Testament to Trinity Centricity through mediation of Jesus Christ in the New Testament.

The New Testament theologies of God presence manifest a remarkable shift from Zionist tradition that is place-centric and exhibits the personcentric theologies of God’s presence of the patriachs and demands obedience to the teachings of Jesus (Mat 3:17) and hence can be seen as continuing the Sinaitic tradition. This God’s presence and action is not in Jerusalem but in Galilee, not on a throne but in the streets and homes of ordinary people, not in the capital city with political and military strength but in the mountains in the wilderness, not in power and wealth but in poverty and humility, not with the power-brokers but with the little ones, not in thousands but in ‘twos and threes’, not in the temple but in the risen son of God. This is why we have the challenge to seek the presence of the risen Lord in the power of the Holy Spirit not just in the liturgies through the model of the sanctuary but have to trace the prophetic/ charismatic models that take us into the wilderness and margins of our society. Today the wilderness and the margins are amidst our life. This means that which we think as the other can become the centre of manifestation of God’s presence. Otherness is not at a distance today but has become a vibrant condition of our life. We therefore have the challenge to discern the presence of Christ in our dynamic otherness that surrounds us.

Marking our Distance from Monotopic Hermeneutics

How do we understand the other as another? The other certainly does not understand him/ her as some Other. Every other that we meet has his/her self understanding. No one understands oneself as others. Each of us thinks of ourselves as a distinct self. How are we to understand the other as he/she understands himself/ herself? The Other that we encounter is both spatially and temporally distant from us. Often the other is geographically distant. Besides He/she is also culturally distant to us. Like the self, the other is a being in the world and as such is not just a being in time but is a being that is rooted in space through culture, religion and tradition. Therefore, we cannot fully understand the other diachronically (across time). We have to understand the other together in time. We are synchronous with the other and have to understand the other synchronically. But synchronicity demands us to also factor in the spatial dimension of the other. This requires us to bridge the distance in space and not simply time.

Western Hermeneutics following Heidegger’s Being and Time is mainly concerned with time.8 Somehow it has forgotten the hermeneutical circle between two distant traditions, cultures, and others over space. Today the distant traditions, cultures, religions and other persons are no longer distant apart. This gap is overcome by globalization and new developments in communication technologies. This is why the other is not far away but is immersed into our daily life. Globally we are facing Otherness is entering into the comfort zones and is disrupting homogenous cultural living conditions of humanity. This condition of our global community has produced new forms of alienations, enmities, distrusts and even violence. This is why we have the challenge to build hermeneutical circles that assist us to make the ‘topoi’ as the new locus of doing hermeneutics.

Towards Diatopic Hermeneutics

Thanks to the effort of Raimundo Panikkar, we can spot a spatial turn in hermeneutics. He has christened his hermeneutical method as diatopical hermeneutics.9 He presents it as the tool to bridge across cultural as well as religious otherness. He is rightly indicating that we cannot understand otherness through dialecticism. Dialecticism opposes the other on the bases of it’s ‘either/ or’ logical structure and comes to understand the other by assimilating the other into its framework of sameness. Emmanuel Levinas has already argued against this violent digestive approach and demonstrated that the otherness cannot be totalized as it has a trace of infinity.10

Panikkar is sensitive and avoids such a reductionism and hence, proposes his homological principle that avoids the temptation to mutually translate one concept in one tradition with a corresponding one in another tradition. Homological principle tries to unearth correlations of functions within two distinct traditions.11 He teaches the homological principles work alongside dialogical principles. 12 The dialogical principle pushes us to dialogue both ad intra and ad extra. This dialogue ad intra and extra opens us to assumptions and presumptions of the tradition in which we root our self understandings. Therefore, the working of the two principles brings into effect an expansive understanding of the self and it’s other. The coordinating process that brings about this understanding is called dialogical dialogue. The dialogical dialogue opens oneself to the other as a fellow pilgrim or co-traveller and not an opponent to be conquered.

The dialogical dialogue challenges us to understand one’s own rootedness to one’s own tradition. It is a challenge to initiate an ad intra dialogue. It opens us to the pre-understanding that becomes a lens of our understanding. Panikkar teaches that this pre-understanding lens cannot be theorised and rationally rendered into language. He calls it mythos13 which becomes a light through which we see and understand our world and our life within it. It is like the light that enables us to see everything but we are not able to see light itself. This dialogue with one’s own rootedness brings us to the understanding of limitations of individual understanding and opens us to understand the other.

Dialogue with the other happens at the level of logos. Panikkar teaches that logos belongs to the level of language and reason. It is only through the dialogue (logos) that we be enabled to stand into the mythos of the other and thus be able to understand the other. Dialogue with the other brings about mutual understanding that is not just limited to the logos but is open to the mythos or the pre understanding of the partners in dialogue. This means we can come close to the self understanding of the other. Such an encounter with the other can become a prophetic moment that challenges our self understanding. We may come to understand our own limitations and be enabled to reach a new level of self understanding. It can also open us to understand how our self understanding is conditioned by error, pathos, pain and trauma.

While operating the two moments of dialogical dialogue (dialogue with self and dialogue with the other), Panikkar proposes a third dimension of dialogue that he calls cosmic confidence. This is confidence that there is always more to reality. At their primordial level all things, traditions, cultures and religions are interrelated. Everything is becoming and is growing through these inter-relations. This belief is important to enter into dialogical dialogue. Cosmic confidence is the condition of possibility of dialogical dialogue. It is our radical openness to the world. When one finds God as coordinate of what Panikkar calls cosmic confidence dialogical dialogue.

Dialogue (intra and inter) becomes a mission. With the self and it’s other being placed within a dynamic and vivifying religious and cultural plurality, dialogical dialogue simultaneously becomes inter-religious dialogue. It is this dialogue that enables us to reach a convergence of our hearts. Panikkar says that dialogical dialogue leads us to articulate our experience through a new common language with the other tradition leading us to a larger horizon that installs a new mythos. It is at this level that each person involved in dialogical dialogue reaches a point of understanding the other in accordance to the self understanding of the other. But this understanding has to continue to grow. We all have the challenge become peripatetic Hermes willing to go through the passover of the encounter with the other .

Towards Pluritopic Hermeneutics

The other is now everywhere disrupting the self sameness that we do not want to lose. Our xenophilia is masked and what is manifested is xenophobia in the face of seemingly omnipresent others. It seems to come from deep felt anxiety that is not able to come to terms with the fact that ‘I am the other’. Xenophobia is an expression of ecology. One other hates another other to come to terms with the anxiety of profound experience of one’s otherness. The strangeness of the other continuously erodes the security of the sameness. This is because we understand the so-called other and the self through monotopic hermeneutics. The understanding of the other derived through a monology of monotopic hermeneutics presupposes a ‘same‘ that enjoys epistemic and discursive privilege. Hence to really understand the other as self it seems that we have to make a shift from the monotopic hermeneutics to the pluritopic decolonial hermeneutics.

Pluritopic hermeneutics is inspired by the work of Raimundo Panikkar on diatopic hermeneutics which teaches that understanding occurs by crossing spaces ( dia-topoi) between traditions, cultures, or religions. Panikkar does not assume that the other has the same understanding of self as we do. The other is other in his/ her self understanding. Panikkar does mark his distance from the western monotopic hermeneutics and claims that we can understand something that does not belong to our horizon. This means I do not need to have a pre understanding of the other to arrive at the understanding of the other. He says the radical alienation that one feels in the face of the other is enough to begin to let the hermeneutical circle be created between the self and the other. His diatopical hermeneutics refuses to colonize the other. This is why he promotes im-parative (latin imparare/learn in an atmosphere of plurality) and comparative understanding of the other.14 This hermeneutics is dialogic and experiential. This means it lets the other speak for himself/ herself.

Plurtopic hermeneutics does more than diatopic hermeneutics.15 It questions the homogeneity and power position of the understanding subject. It means it focuses on the social, political and ontological dimension of any understanding. Thus the neutrality, innocence and universality of the subject of understandings are brought under interrogation. This means it manifests the difference in loci of enunciations and politics of knowing. It believes that others exist and has the right to exist but is constantly invisiblized by power asymmetries. The pluritopic hermeneutics opens this space so that the other is made visible and can speak for himself/herself. It can open us to the fact that the other is often the invention of the same. The other is an inverted image of the self. The other is all that the self is not.16

Therefore, pluritopic hermeneutics becomes another space of understanding the other. It opens us to the understanding of the other as the other understands himself/ herself. It is examination and dismantling of the asymmetric politics of knowing. In doing so it creates the hermeneutical circle for us to understand the other unto his/her terms. This means pluritopic hermeneutics opens us to the dwelling space of the other. It is only possible by the interrogation of the reigning politics of knowing and enunciation.17 The other being enunciated and fixed from the framework of the same (in order to actually fix the same) needs to be scrutinized and dismantled. This is the task of pluritopic hermeneutics. It thus, frees us from the monology of the universal and opens the room for the pluriversal to arrive. This means pluritopic hermeneutics make room for the plural other/s to arrive. It thus becomes an epistemic disobedience to the premises of the logic of the same that enframes its other.

The pluritopic hermeneutics makes room for the subaltern to speak. But to let the hermeneutical circle move the subaltern has to speak and reveal himself/ herself on its own terms. The hermeneutical circle begins to operate only when the other begins to take the field and denounces the otherness of the same. This means the other has to unmask the pretence of the same and expose its otherness. This means pluritopic hermeneutics demonstrate that there is nothing the same. What is there is only otherness. By denunciations of the same, the other/s can come into the visibility. This is why pluritopic hermeneutics opens the hermeneutics field to understand the other as the other enables us to understand him or her as he/ she is. All the walls of othering built from the privileged location of the same like gender, race, caste and religion crumble and we face self and it´s other in its nakedness. We arrive at second naivety and are enabled to embrace all shades of otherness. This is where true love of the other as he or she can be lived in the most radical sense.

The house of being cannot be the same. It has to be plural, multiple and other. This means being cannot have one single home. Being is not simply one. It is entangled with other beings. This is why to be is to be between. Being is an inter-being. It cannot be understood in a singularized, static monolithic sense. It has to be understood in the dynamism of its inter-becomings. Pluritopic hermeneutics is emancipative. It makes the subordinated subaltern visible and calls us to responsibility. It can thus enable us to build resistance. Pluritopic hermeneutics was built by Walter Mignologo by letting the colonized others speak through the denunciations of the politics of knowledge imposed by the west on everyone else.18 By making room for the pluriversal, the pluritopic hermeneutics reduced the western as another among others. We all are others. No one has the privilege to subsume the other into one’s assimilative sameness. It is our challenge to create a convivial atmosphere where every shade of otherness can flourish not in isolation but in creative, responsible and emancipative dialogue with each other.

Towards the Unbound Christ of Humanity

Panikkar has opened us to appreciate the unknown Christ of Hinduism.19 But our catholicity can take us beyond it to recognize the unbound Christ of humanity. Maybe we will have to understand that we need the logic of advaita and catholicity to discover Christ both within and outside the visible boundaries of Christianity. The other traditions of faith do not just provide other languages for us to express the kerygma of Christ but Christ and his Spirit are already at work in those traditions. Here we have Chistopahany or the manifestation of Christ that has to be discovered by the discerning eye of the catholic faith. This means the unbound Christ of humanity invites us to recognize the presence and action of Christ everywhere and become his witness to humanity at large. There is already an encounter of Christianity with other faith traditions. People of other faith traditions have their own self understanding of Christianity. This self understanding is complete other than our own understanding of the same and we have embraced a border thinking that things from the other side of the border of Christianity. Theologians have employed the logic of advaita to understand the catholicity of Trinity. Perhaps it is time that we employ it to understand catholicity itself. It will enable us to understand how in a silent way, the triune God is present and acting in and through his creation and humanity. This presence and action remains apophatic and has to be discerned by faith.

The unbound Christ is the meeting point of all faith traditions. It is opening ground to produce pluritopic theologies. It always resists reduction to logocentric cataphatic/positivist theologies but we cannot avoid them. Cataphatic rendering of the presence and working of the unbound Christ in our world does live a surplus behind. There always remains this epistemic distance that we have to overcome in dialogue with these traditions that will enable us to discern the seeds of the Gospel embedded within them. The unbound Christ is the Alpha and Omega of everything. This is why all faith traditions will reach their fulfilment in and through him. To understand this profound reality we need to embrace border thinking that will take us to think from the other side of the border of Christianity. Besides, we will have to be able to trace the Christ of the crucified people who suffer injustice and exploitation. This is why we have to come to the Christos in the Mythos of the other traditions and experiences of Humanity and find logos, language to express the same is a great challenge today. Perhaps, an expansive theology of God’s presence that avoids reduction isms but stays open to divine presence in the entire universe and humanity will enable us to become authentic disciples and witness of the Christopany that continues in our universe. The mystery of Christ may be deeply appreciated through the logic of advaitic catholicity or the Kairos hermeneutics that opens to the fullness of time . This does not mean that we are losing sight of the presence and working of Christ within the visible boundaries of the Church. We need the logic of advaitic catholicity/ kairos hermeneutics to respond to our pluri-regio-cultural and secular-atheistic world.

The diatopic hermeneutics of Panikkar along with the pluritopic hermeneutics of Walter Mignolo do offer us hermeneutical tools to discern the presence and action of God beyond the visible boundaries of the Church. The diato pic hermeneutics enables us to reach out in dialogical dialogue, while pluritopic hermeneutics enables us to discern presence and action of Christ in the crucified people of our time. We need these hermeneutical tools to be able to discern the presence and action of Christ in the world. It will enable us to deepen the theology of the presence of God in our world today which in its turn will enable us to become the witness of our Lord. Will we critically employ the hermeneutical tools of diatopic hermeneutics that will open us possibilities of standing into the Mythos of the other traditions so as to deeply understand the Mysterium Christos working in them. We also need to understand how pathos of several shades is afflicting our dialogue with5 other faith traditions. The pathos that affects our dialogos has multiple faces and is in need of therapy. This is why our dialogue has to become salubrious and heal the brokenness of humanity weakened by sin and egocentrism. Hence, the dialogue that we seek is indeed a polylogue that seeks to integrate humanity with Theos and Cosmos revealed Jesus Christ our Lord. Dialogical dialogue ad extra and ad intra needs to become truly God with us experience for us.

Dialogical Dialogue in Goa

The inter-faith dialogue in Goa has to focus on intercultural dialogue with Goan-ness. All people of other faiths in Goa share a common belonging to Goa and Goan-ness. This adavitic belonging to Goa and Goan-ness is a resource that can become a point to understand and determine the presence and action of Christ in our society. Christian dialogue with Goan-ness is part of evangelization of cultures and is also an important space of dialogue with other faith traditions in Goa. The diatopic hermeneutics of Panikkar can inspire this dialogue. It is a mutual opportunity for all that will simultaneously become a triple dialogue: Dialogue ad intra dialogue, dialogue with other faiths and dialogue with Goan-ness. This is why we have to begin dialogue and extra with our dialogue with Goan-ness. Goan culture is inter-religious as well as the fruit of cross pollination of different forces of history. The colonial rule of Portugal that lasted 450 years has made a deep and irreversible impact on Goa, Goan-ness and Goans. Besides, the culture of the Islamicate, the reign of Kadambas, Vijayanagara empire along with earlier rulers like the Bojas, Satvanas etc have laid their marks on Goan-ness.20 We can also find traces of the influence of Buddhism on Goans even today. It has been agreed that the dictum ‘Sonvsar ho chear disacho’ is a relic of Buddhist belief that everything is passing. The opinion poll in 1967 has to be accepted as a living giving milestone in the formation of a distinct identity of Goa. Therefore, dialogical dialogue with Goan culture is a good starting point to live the theology of God’s presence and become witness to the same in Goa.

A good site to start the dialogue with Goan culture is our mother tongue Konkani. Besides the context of language, we may also initiate this dialogue with ancient institutions like Gavkaria, customs and practices like zagor where we can already find Goans already together in practice. Tourism, ecology, reigning political economy or even politics can become other sites for this dialogue. We all belong to Goa in a non-dualistic or advaitic manner. Even in the issue of mother tongue that unites us in our communication, we stand divided on the scripts. This means we belong differently as well as commonly to Goa. It is our advaitic relation to Goa and we cannot bracket it in our dialogue with Goan-ness. This is why dialogical dialogue with Goan-ness has to be done with deep sensitivity and love for Goa, Goans and Goan-ness. Because of our difference and sameness in belonging to Goa, we need to employ the principle of homology or functional sameness in our dialogue with Goan-ness. This means we need to avoid translating Christian category with a corresponding Konkani word but have to discern functional closeness of Christian theology with Goan-ness. This will enable us to bring symbols from within Goan-ness and unleash their evangelizing power so that Christ Jesus becomes all to all. I have pointed out how the function of dovornem can become a point of conversation about the power and role of the holy Eucharist as well as the centricity of our Lord Jesus in our life elsewhere. This kind of dialogue can manifest how Christ Jesus continues to become a dovornem to people in Goa, through the Church and other people of God even today. Dovornen can also become an important conversation point to develop a christocentric theology of tourism rooted in Goa.

The past of Goa also lays its burden on Goans. We are yet to fully reach freedom and therapy from the ravages of the colonial past. The trauma of conversion and separation still haunts our society as a loss. This calculus of loss influences the Christian and Hindu relations in Goa. This is why we also need a therapeutic dialogue to deal with the past disruption as well as contemporary use of the same for votes and notes by some political forces. The contours of this dialogue have to be carefully laid as the trauma associated with the past simultaneously crosses lines of caste, destruction of temples, loss of land and migrations as well as the role of the gaonkar when it came to conversions and opportunists of the dominant upper caste community who now controls most of the temples in Goa benefiting from the Mhajan act of the Portuguese. Besides this therapeutic dialogue, we need dialogue for a dignified human life in Goa. To achieve this end, we need the pluritopic hermeneutics of Walter Mignolo. Since it opens our conversation on the basis of locus of enunciation, it can open several blind spots that guarantee our silent acceptance of how the ruling ideas and institutions are the ideas and institutions of the rulers operate in Goa. The ability to contest these enunciations can enable us to interrogate the upper caste hegemony. It will enable us to contest the historiography that animates the writing of history of Goa. Thus, pluritopic hermeneutics can offer us keys to discern how low castes, minorities and women are rendered ahistorical objects of history. Alongside this dialogue, pluritopic hermeneutics can lead us to seek justice to the victims of oppression and exploitation.


Our study indicates that our ability to become witnesses of our Lord is linked to our ability to discern the presence and action of our Lord amidst us. To discern it, we need both faith and principles of hermeneutics. This study made an attempt to offer diatopic and pluritopic hermeneutics as possible hermeneutical keys to arrive at the discernment of presence and action of our Lord in our society. These hermeneutical keys enable us to live a theology of God’s presence and action for his anawim and also a theology of God’s presence and thus live our call to be the witness of our Lord Jesus Christ in our daily Life.


  1. See Stanley J. Smartha, One Christ: Many Religions (Eugene: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2015). Also see link accessed on 18/01/2021.
  2. See Samuel Rayan, ‘Good News of God’s Presence and Solidarity with The Oppressed’ in Francis X, D’sa, The Dharma of Jesus (Anand: Gujarat Sahitya Prakash, 1997), 38.
  3. Ibid, 40-41.
  4. Israel Knohl, The Sanctuary of Silence : The Priestly Torah and Holiness School (Indiana: Eisenbrauns, 2007) 131
  5. Karl Tsatalbasodis, Towards a Biblical Theology of God’s Presence in Christian Theology: A study of How Difference Interpretation of Divine Presence Affect Liturgy, p 100
  6. Ibid.
  7. Ibid., 299-407
  8. Karin de Boer, Thinking in the Light of Time : Heidegger’s Encounter with Hegel (Albany: University of New York Times, 2000), 155.
  9. See Andreas Kunz- Lubke, “Resistance in Heaven and on Earth- Postcolonial Approaches to Biblical Hermeneutics” in Ulrick Winkler and Henry Jasen, (Eds.), Shifting Locations and Reshaping Methods: Methodological Challenges Arising from the New Fields of Studies in Inter-cultural theologies and Inter-religious Studies ( Klosbaschstr: Lit Verlag GmbH & Co.KG WIEN, 2018), 59
  10. Link accessed on 18/01/2021.
  11. Marina Lobanova, Musical Style and Genre History and Modernity (Amsterdam: Harwood Academic Publishers, 2000), 5-8.
  12. Ibid., 7.
  13. Peter C. Phan and Young Chan Ro, (Eds.), Raimundo Panikkar: Companion to his Life and Thought (Cambridge :Lutterworth Press, 2018), 275.
  14. Link accessed on 18/01/2021.
  15. Link accessed on 18/01/2021.
  16. Ibid.
  17. Ibid.
  18. Ibid.
  19. Raimundo Panikkar, The Unknown Christ of Hinduism: Towards Ecumenical Christophany (New York: Orbis Books, 1981).
  20. See Gerald A. Periera, An outline of Pre-Portugese History of Goa (Panjim: self Published, 1973).

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao