52 Poems, Week 12: Little Orphant Annie (James Whitcomb Riley)
52 Poems, Week 13: The Universal Prayer (Victor Hugo)

Sunday Night Journal, March 25, 2018

Today begins Holy Week, for Western Christians, anyway...actually I'm not sure how many Protestants use the term--I don't remember hearing it when I was growing up. Instead of rattling on about what I'm reading and current events and such, I'm just going to post a few remarks from Simone Weil. You may or may not remember that I said I was going to read more of her during Lent. I didn't, in the end, read all that much, but what I did read was potent--and also at times perplexing. Most of these are from two essays, "The Things of This World" and "The Father's Silence." The last one is quoted in the March issue of Magnificat, and is apparently from the collection Waiting for God, recently translated anew under the title Awaiting God, but I'm not sure which essay. I'm working from The Simone Weil Reader, which appears to be out of print, though easily found.

One quick item from my own personal current events: last night my wife and I attended the Mobile Symphony Orchestra's performance of Mahler's Second Symphony. It's been some years, eight or ten anyway, since I last heard the orchestra, and I went with modest expectations. (I'm not sure I would even have known about this performance, but our children had given us tickets for Christmas.) The work is so very great that I was excited about hearing it even if the performance left a bit to be desired; there's nothing like a live performance, even if it's technically inferior to recorded ones. But it was excellent. I'm sure someone used to hearing one of the major orchestras, and having a more finely-tuned ear than mine, would have found much to criticize. Whatever faults it may have had did not interfere in the least with my enjoyment. It was a memorable evening. If you ever have a chance to hear this symphony performed live, go. It requires so many performers (a choir and vocal soloists in addition to a large orchestra) that it doesn't get performed all that often, at least not outside the major metropolitan areas. It's a great and massive work. The last time I heard it was roughly twenty years ago, at the summer music camp in Brevard, North Carolina, which one of our children attended for several years. That also was a memorable night. Although I have the symphony on CD, I can't recall having listened to it since then. 

Ok, now Simone Weil:


God emptied himself of his divinity and filled us with a false divinity. Let us empty ourselves of it. This act is the purpose of the act by which we were created.... 

God waits patiently until at last I am willing to consent to love him.

God waits like a beggar who stands motionless and silent before someone who will perhaps give him a piece of bread. Time is that waiting.


God is only the good. That is why he is waiting there in silence. Anyone who comes forward and speaks is using a little force. The good which is nothing but good can only stand waiting.


No saint has been able to obtain from God that the past should not have been, or that he himself should grow ten years older in one day or one day older in ten years, or that.... [Weil's ellipses] No miracle can do anything against time. The faith that moves mountains is impotent against time.

God has left us abandoned in time.

God and humanity are like two lovers who have missed their rendezvous. Each is there before the time, but each at a different place, and they wait and wait and wait. He stands motionless, nailed to the spot for the whole time. She is distraught and impatient. But alas for her if she gets tired and goes away. For the two places where they are waiting are at the same point in the fourth dimension.

The crucifixion of Christ is the image of the fixity of God....

Time, which is our one misery, is the very touch of his hand. It is the abdication by which he lets us exist.


...the one and only liberation is love of the order of the world.

Christ on the cross, the greatest harm inflicted on the greatest good: if one loves that, one loves the order of the world.


One can only excuse men for evil by accusing God of it. If one accuses God one forgives, because God is the Good.

Amid the multitude of those who seem to owe us something, God is our only real debtor. But our debt to him is greater. He will release us from it if we forgive Him. Sin is an offense offered to God from resentment at the debts he owes and does not pay us. By forgiving God we cut the root of sin in ourselves. At the bottom of every sin there is anger against God.

If we forgive God for his crime against us, which is to have made us finite creatures, He will forgive our crime against him, which is that we are finite creatures.


Humility is the root of love. Humility exerts an irresistible power upon God.

If God had not been humiliated, in the person of Christ, he would be inferior to us.


The beautiful is the contact of the good with the faculty of sense. (The real is the same thing.)

The true is the contact of the good with the intelligence.


There are those people who try to elevate their souls like someone who continually jumps from a standing position in the hope that forcing oneself to jump all day--and higher every day--they would no longer fall back down, but rise to heaven. Thus occupied, they no longer look to heaven. We cannot even take one step toward heaven. But if we look to heaven long-term, God descends and lifts us up.


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I just have to read one or rwo lines of Simone Weil to remember how repulsive I find it

And I didn't even give you the really hard-to-take stuff about affliction.

Funny you should mention Weil -- Del Noce has a whole chapter on her in the "new" book, but he's looking at her philosophical work, not her "spirituality." Based on his recommendation I ordered The Need for Roots and the Selected Essays.

He argues that her thought offers a valuable critique of modernism, but that she died when she was at a fork in the road philosophically (or perhaps before she came to it), the one between Christianity and her Gnostic Platonism. Hence, he describes her work as more "itinerary" than "system," since it describes a prototypical modern intellectual path from atheism to Christianity, albeit a truncated form of the latter. I found his commentary on her to be very enlightening.

It's an eccentric form of Christianity to say the least, and she really needed the correction of orthodoxy. But there's a purity to some of her scattered remarks that is very powerful to me. I love that passage about the lovers. And the last one about jumping strikes me as very funny.

At the moment I'm not that interested in her social and political thought, though no doubt there's good stuff there.

Grumpy, why "repulsive"?

I'm curious, too, though I think I have an inkling.

Unless I just don't understand them, which is highly possible, I don't get how either of these two quotes of Simone Weil's can be considered Christian thoughts:

"God is only the good. That is why he is waiting there in silence. Anyone who comes forward and speaks is using a little force." Does that mean we shouldn't pray?

"God has left us abandoned in time." That sounds Nietzschean or Sartrean, or something.

Many of these have me scratching my head. Some seem to me as if they have a deeper meaning that I comprehend.

I think the Anyone is referring to God, Who, if He spoke, would be forcing us. Just a guess.


Thanks, Janet; I was fuzzy on who that "anyone" was. Now I'm left wondering if it means God, it's saying he can't/won't answer our prayers.

For what it's worth, I take most of these as poetic insights, not doctrinal statements. And yes, that was my understanding of the "anyone" in that one line. The passage from which that's taken is about God not forcing himself on us.

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