Religious Personalities: The Prophet

Beverly Lanzetta Meditations, Study

Another personality type is the prophet. All of us have a prophetic voice that effects change in the social and political order because the prophet’s words carry the power of its divine source. Martin Luther King, Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, Dorothy Day, and other social mystics, as example, were contemporary prophets. The prophet has an encounter with the revelatory, which may involve trance, rapture and other ecstatic experiences; but its location is primarily historical, concerned with challenging injustice. Through the injunction of a personal deity, who displays divine anguish, divine outrage, or divine mercy the prophetic voice meditates the community, speaking the divine word. Abraham Joshua Heschel:

Prophecy is the voice that God has lent to the silent agony, a voice to the plundered poor, to the profaned riches of the world. It is a form of living, a crossing point of God and man. God is raging in the prophets words. . . .

The prophet is one who has felt the overwhelming impact of the divine pathos upon his mind and heart, completely involving and gripping his personality in its depths, and the unrelieved distress which sprang from his intimate involvement. The task of the prophet is to convey the word of God.

The prophets of the Hebrew Bible fulfilled their function as a major force in the community because of their relation to:

  1. A Personal God, and numinous encounter with the divine or revelatory word symbolic of the personal deity who called the prophet to his vocation. God, transcendent to the natural order, absolute, and monotheistic, informed their cosmology.
  2. An Ancestral Covenant, by which religious vocations were fulfilled in the context of a sacred, covenantal relationship with God. Continually calling the people to the revealed word, prophets urged a return to the original covenant in order to restore the Lord’s blessings. This provided the prophets with a message of moral obligation.
  3. Historical Salvific Role, through which the prophet counsels the community in response to certain tensions of his time. The prophet speaks divine revelation that calls for individual reform to effect communal transformation. Prophet’s word asserts the salvation inherent in an ancestral covenant, which gradually assumes a universal salvific dimension joined to the historical destiny of the people.

The prophetic personality yearns to actualize God’s message, seeking transformation of self, family, relationship, or society. He or she may be a prophetic voice in family, seeking to mend old wounds or calling the family to confront abuse or rectify injustice. The prophetic personality lives not only his or her personal life but also the life of God, hearing God’s voice and feeling God’s heart. Such a person tries to impart God’s pathos or sympathy for our plight, God’s anguish over our misdeeds, and God’s joy in our pure hearts. While no one describes the self as prophetic, each person contains the seed consciousness of the prophetic heart and mind. Becoming aware of the prophet within, and attunement to subtle forms of injustice, and higher states of pathos deepens one’s soul and advances one’s spiritual life.