Saturday, May 10, 2014

Waiting for God

Again Weil challenges the metaphor so often clung to of the "search for God"; a search made by the efforts as it were of a muscular will.  To this Weil gives a categorical "No".  It is God who seeks us in his gratuitous love and we are to long and wait and renounce anything that would prevent our giving a full response.  

We shouldn't be tempted to think of this waiting and longing as less intense than searching.  On the contrary: Weil tells us "Attention animated by desire is the whole foundation of religious practices."  It is the mediocre part of our soul that wishes to make our meagre efforts and even our religious practices God - an action to be performed rather than a Love to be longed for and desired.  When we fall in to this trap, she states, we make the marvel of the Eucharist useless in our lives.  We seek to set up a worldly or psychological peace for ourselves, whereas as a true encounter with God casts us out of ourselves, severs us from the imitation faith we often construct.  

We must keep the reality of this pure love (Christ Crucified) constantly before our eyes and the eyes of the world and yet protect and keep hidden the secrets of the intimacy of God within the our soul and from becoming a mere curiosity to others.  In other words, we must not degrade this divine love but stripping it of what is most true to its essence or expose it in a prideful, immodest and exhibitionistic fashion.

“The Christianity of today has let itself become contaminated by its adversaries, on this point as on many others. The metaphor of a search for God is suggestive of efforts of muscular will. 

. . . in the parables of the Gospel, it is God who seeks man. ‘Quaerens me sedisti lassus.’ Nowhere in the Gospel is there question of a search undertaken by man. Man does not take a step unless he receives some pressure or is definitely called. The rĂ´le of the future wife is to wait. The slave waits and watches while his master is at a festival. The passer-by does not invite himself to the marriage feast, he does not ask for an invitation; he is brought in almost by surprise; his part is only to put on the garment which is appropriate. The man who has found a pearl in a field sells all his goods to buy the field; he does not need to dig up the whole field with a spade in order to unearth the pearl, it is enough for him to sell all he possesses. To long for God and to renounce all the rest, that alone can save us.

The attitude which brings about salvation is not like any form of activity. The Greek word which expresses it is hypomene, and patientia is rather an inadequate translation of it. It is the waiting or attentive and faithful immobility which lasts indefinitely and cannot be shaken. 

This waiting for goodness and truth is, however, something more intense than any searching.  The notion of grace as opposed to virtue depending on the will and that of inspiration as opposed to intellectual or artistic work, these two notions, if they are well understood, show the efficacy of desire and of waiting.

Attention animated by desire is the whole foundation of religious practices. That is why no system of morality can take their place. The mediocre part of the soul has however a great many lies in its arsenal which are capable of protecting it, even during prayer or the participation of the sacraments. It puts veils between our eyes and the presence of perfect purity, and it is clever enough to call them God. Such veils for instance as states of the soul, sources of sensible joy, of hope, of comfort, of soothing consolation or else a combination of habits, or one or several human beings, or perhaps a social circle.

It is difficult to avoid the pitfall of striving to imagine the divine perfection which religion invites us to love. Never in any case can we imagine something more perfect than ourselves. This effort renders useless the marvel of the Eucharist.

A certain formation of the intelligence is necessary in order to be able to contemplate in the Eucharist only what by definition it enshrines; that is to say something which is totally outside our experience, something of which we only know, as Plato says, that it exists and that nothing else can ever be desired except in error.

The trap of traps, the almost inevitable trap, is the social one. Everywhere, always, in everything, the social feeling produces a perfect imitation of faith, that is to say perfectly deceptive. This imitation has the great advantage of satisfying every part of the soul. That which longs for goodness believes it is fed. That which is mediocre is not hurt by the light; it is quite at its ease. Thus everyone is in agreement. The soul is at peace. But Christ said that he did not come to bring peace. He brought a sword, the sword that severs in two .  .  .

It is almost impossible to distinguish faith from its social imitation. All the more so because the soul can contain one part of true faith and one of imitation faith. It is almost impossible to distinguish faith from its social imitation. All the more so because the soul can contain one part of true faith and one of imitation faith. It is almost but not quite impossible.  Under present circumstances, it is perhaps a question of life or death for faith that the social imitation should be repudiated.

The necessity for a perfectly pure presence to take away defilement is not restricted to churches. People come with their stains to the churches, and that is all very well. It would, however, be more in conformity with the spirit of Christianity if, besides that, Christ went to bring his presence into those places most polluted with shame, misery, crime and affliction, into prisons and law-courts, into workhouses and shelters for the wretched and the outcast. Every session of bench or courts should begin and end with a prayer, in which the magistrates, the police, the accused and the public shared. Christ should not be absent from the places where work or study is going on. All human beings, whatever they are doing and wherever they are, should be able to have their eyes fixed, during the whole of each day, upon the serpent of bronze.

It should also be publicly and officially recognised that religion is nothing else but a looking. In so far as it claims to be anything else, it is inevitable that it should either be shut up inside churches, or that it should stifle everything in every other place where it is found.  Religion should not claim to occupy a place in society other than that which rightly belongs to supernatural love in the soul. Moreover it is true also that many people degrade charity in themselves because they want to make it occupy too large and too visible a place in their soul. Our Father only lives in secret. Love should always be accompanied by modesty. True faith implies great discretion, even with regard to itself. It is a secret between God and us in which we ourselves have scarcely any part.”

Excerpt From: Weil, Simone. “Waiting on God"