Waiting for God

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  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2010-02-22
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publications
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Emerging from the thought-provoking discussions and correspondence Simone Weil had with the Reverend Father Perrin, this classic collection of essays contains the renowned philosopher and social activist's most profound meditations on the relationship of human life to the realm of the transcendent.

An enduring masterwork and "one of the most neglected resources of our century" (Adrienne Rich), Waiting for God will continue to influence spiritual and political thought for centuries to come.


Waiting for God

Chapter One

Letter One

Hesitations Concerning Baptism

January 19, 1942

My Dear Father,

I have made up my mind to write to you ... to bring our conversations about my case to a conclusion—that is to say, pending further developments. I am tired of talking to you about myself, for it is a wretched subject, but I am obliged to do so by the interest you take in me as a result of your charity.

I have been wondering lately about the will of God, what it means, and how we can reach the point of conforming ourselves to it completely—I will tell you what I think about this.

We have to distinguish among three domains. First, that which is absolutely independent of us; it includes all the accomplished facts in the whole universe at the moment and everything that is happening or going to happen later beyond our reach. In this domain everything that comes about is in accordance with the will of God, without any exception. Here then we must love absolutely everything, as a whole and in each detail, including evil in all its forms; notably our own past sins, in so far as they are past (for we must hate them in so far as their root is still present), our own sufferings, past, present, and to come, and-what is by far the most difficult-the sufferings of other men in so far as we are not called upon to relieve them. In other words, we must feel the reality and presence of God through an external things, without exception, as clearly as our hand feels the substance of paper through the penholder and the nib.

The second domain is that which is placed under the rule of the will. It includes the things that are purely natural, close, easily recognized by the intelligence and the imagination, and among which we can make our choice, arranging them from outside so as to provide means to fixed and finite ends. In this domain we have to carry out, without faltering or delay, everything that appears clearly to be a duty. When any duty does not appear clearly, we have sometimes to observe more or less arbitrarily established rules; and sometimes to follow our inclination, but in a limited degree; for one of the most dangerous forms of sin, or perhaps the most dangerous, consists of introducing what is unlimited into a domain that is essentially finite.

The third domain is that of the things, which, without being under the empire of the will, without being related to natural duties, are yet not entirely independent of us. In this domain we experience the compulsion of God's pressure, on condition that we deserve to experience it and exactly to the extent that we deserve to do so. God rewards the soul that thinks of him with attention and love, and he rewards it by exercising a compulsion upon it strictly and mathematically proportionate to this attention and this love. We have to abandon ourselves to the pressure, to run to the exact spot whither it impels us and not go one step farther, even in the direction of what is good. At the same time we must go on thinking about God with ever increasing love and attentiveness, in this way gaining the favor of being impelled ever further and becoming the object of a pressure that possesses itself of an ever-growing proportion of the whole soul. When the pressure has taken possession of the whole soul, we have attained the state of perfection. But whatever stage we may have reached, we must do nothing more than we arc irresistibly impelled to do, not even in the way of goodness.

I have also been thinking about the nature of the sacraments, and I will tell you what I think about this subject as well.

The sacraments have a specific value, which constitutes a mystery in so far as they involve a certain kind of contact with God, a contact mysterious but real. At the same time they have a purely human value in so far as they are symbols or ceremonies. Under this second aspect they do not differ essentially from the songs, gestures, and words of command of certain political parties; at least in themselves they are not essentially different; of course they are infinitely different in the doctrine underlying them. I think that most believers, including some who are really persuaded of the opposite, approach the sacraments only as symbols and ceremonies. Foolish as the theory of Durkheim. may be in confusing what is religious with what is social, it yet contains an element of truth; that is to say, that the social feeling is so much like the religious as to be mistaken for it. It is like it just as a false diamond is like a real one, so that those who have no spiritual discernment are effectively taken in. For the matter of that, a social and human participation in the symbols and ceremonies of the sacraments is an excellent and healthy thing in that it marks a stage of the journey for those who travel that way. Yet this is not a participation in the sacraments as such. I think that only those who are above a certain level of spirituality can participate in the sacraments as such. For as long as those who are below this level have not reached it, whatever they may do, they cannot be strictly said to belong to the Church.

As far as I am concerned, I think I am below this level. That is why I said to you the other day that I consider myself to be unworthy of the sacraments. This idea does not come, as you imagined, from scrupulosity. It is due, on the one hand, to a consciousness of very definite faults in the order of action and human relations, serious and even shameful faults as you would certainly agree, and moreover fairly frequent. On the other hand. . .

Waiting for God. Copyright © by Simone Weil. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Excerpted from Waiting for God by Simone Weil
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To read this book is to be in touch with reality. August 1, 2011
This beautiful textbook offers philosopher Simone Weil's thoughts on the Christian faith. Although Weil never officially joined the Church, she came to a deep faith in Christianity that is wonderfully told in this textbook. Highly recommended.
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Waiting for God: 5 out of 5 stars based on 1 user reviews.

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