SIMONE WEIL: AN INTRO & A LITANY

SIMONE WEIL: AN INTRO & A LITANY

During this phase of “ordinary time,” we will learn about ordinary people who had faith in God and did extraordinary things. Today we learn about Simone Weil, who died on August 24, 1943.


An Intro to Simone Weil
prepared by Brian Garrison

Simone Weil is the saint who remained forever outside the church. She believed it was the will of God for her to abstain from baptism so that she could remain in solidarity with the poor, the afflicted, and the lost.

Weil decided early in life that she would need to adopt masculine qualities and sacrifice opportunities for love affairs in order to fully pursue her vocation to improve social conditions for the disadvantaged. From her late teenage years, Weil would disguise her “fragile beauty” by adopting a masculine appearance, hardly ever using makeup and often wearing men’s clothes.

This passion for the oppressed that she carried literally from her infancy led her to an uncompromising marxism and pacifism.  At the age of 10 she declared herself a bolshevik. Her teen years were spent in protests, writing tracts, and marching in solidarity with the working class. She would later hold debates with Trotsky, critiquing Marxism because it lacked her complete and uncompromised allegiance to justice.

Her brilliant mind led her to study philosophy at the Ecole Normale Supieriore where she graduated first in her class — Simone De Beauvoir finishing second.

She took a path, However, that few revolutionaries and philosophers take — towards religion and mysticism. She wrote about God as one who lives militantly in the truth. In direct opposition to her fellow Marxists, Weil understood God to be diametrically opposed to fantasy and comfort: If we want to have a love which will protect the soul from wounds, then we must love something other than God. She also wrote that, “To love truth means to endure the void and accept death. Truth is on the side of death.”

Weil died at the age of 34 out of a self inflicted starvation caused by her attempt to remain in solidarity with those living in concentration camps, eating only the rations that those who died in the holocaust were given.

And on a more personal note, Simone Weil offered to me a way back to God.

Not to a God cut short or reduced down, But the full and robust God my heart desires. A God who finally and deeply belongs to all that we imply when we invoke that name. A God who in the midst of the suffering, death, and brokenness of the world remains both Love, and the source of all that takes place, ordaining all either in gravity or grace. A God who is not theological but real, and ultimate.

Simone Weil’s spirituality cuts like a sword through a world that is waking up from a bad religion hangover. Her heart is earnest. Her eyes see clearly. And nonsense is far from her.

She has given me more than a spirituality or a theology.

She has shaped the very way my heart searches.

 

A Litany for Love, Justice, & Beauty. Inspired by the writings* of Simone Weil.

 

Simone Weil, French Philosopher & Christian mystic, wrote of attention as contemplative practice: “Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity. Attention, taken to its highest degree, is the same thing as prayer. It presupposes faith and love. Absolutely unmixed attention is prayer.”

Let us now fix our attention to God, “giving all the careful attention of which our souls are capable.”

Let these words of Simone be our prayer tonight.

 

Love

“God created through love and for love. God did not create anything except love itself, and the means to love. God created love in all its forms. God created beings capable of love from all possible distances. Because no other could do it, God himself went to the greatest possible distance. This intimate distance between God and God, this supreme tearing apart, this agony beyond all others, this marvel of love, is the crucifixion.”

All: We marvel at your love, O God.

 

“Yet I still half refused, not my love but my intelligence. For it seemed to me certain, and I still think so today, that one can never wrestle enough with God if one does so out of pure regard for the truth. Christ likes us to prefer truth to him because, before being Christ, he is truth. If one turns aside from him to go toward the truth, one will not go far before falling into his arms.”

All: We marvel at your love, O God.

 

“We cannot take a step toward the heavens. God crosses the universe and comes to us.”

All: We marvel at your love, O God.

 

Justice

“Justice: To be ever ready to admit that another person is something quite different from what we read when he is there (or when we think about him). Or rather, to read in him that he is certainly something different, perhaps something completely different from what we read in him. Every being cries out silently to be read differently.”

All: We marvel at your humanity, O God.

 

“They who, being reduced by affliction to the state of an inert and passive thing, returns, at least for a time, to the state of a human being, through the generosity of others; such a one, if they know how to accept and feel the true essence of this generosity, receives at the very instant a soul begotten exclusively of charity. They are born from on high of water and of the Spirit. To treat our neighbor who is in affliction with love is something like baptizing them.”

All: We marvel at your humanity, O God.

 

“They who treat as equals those who are far below them in strength really makes them a gift of the quality of human beings, of which fate had deprived them. As far as it is possible for a creature, they reproduce the original generosity of the Creator with regard to them.”

All: We marvel at your humanity, O God.

 

Beauty

“Only beauty is not the means to anything else. It alone is good in itself.”

All: We marvel at your beauty, O God.

 

“The longing to love the beauty of the world in a human being is essentially the longing for the incarnation… God has stripped himself naked in order to have immediate contact with the beauty of the world.”

All: We marvel at your beauty, O God.

 

“The sea is not less beautiful in our eyes because we know that sometimes ships are wrecked by it.”

All: We marvel at your beauty, O God.

 

The Lord’s Prayer

Simone Weil wrote that she made a practice of saying The Lord’s Prayer once each morning, before going to work, with absolute attention. If during her recitation her attention wandered or went to sleep, she begin again until she had succeeded in going through it with absolute pure attention.

Let us fix our attention once more, and pray together the Lord’s Prayer (from A New Zealand Prayerbook):

All: Eternal Spirit

Earth-Maker, Pain-bearer, Life-giver,

source of all that is and that shall be,

Father and Mother of us all. Loving God, in whom is heaven.

The hallowing of your name echoes through  the universe!

The way of your justice be followed by the peoples of the earth!

Your heavenly will be done by all created beings!

Your commonwealth of peace and freedom

sustain our hope and come on earth.

With the bread we need for today, feed us.

In the hurts we absorb from one another, forgive us.

In times of temptation and test, spare us.

From the grip of all that is evil, free us.

For you reign in the glory of the power that is love,

now and forever. Amen.

 

* The passages used in this litany are taken from various writings of Simone Weil.

Leave a Reply