Quench our thirst, if you must break our hearts

See Soulwork Toward Sunday: self-guided retreat
Proper 11 (year B) July 22, 2012
“thirst for compassion”

I’m on the road, taking a course at Omega and then leading a retreat at Adelynrood.  To help deepen thoughts on spiritual thirst, here’s Simon Weil’s poem Necessity, and a commentary by Malcolm Muggeridge.  -Suzanne 


The Cycle of days in the deserted sky turning
In silence watched by mortal eyes
Gaping mouth here below, where each hour is burning
So many cruel and beseeching cries;
All the stars slow in the steps of their dance,
The only fixed dance, mute brilliance on high,
In spite of us formless, nameless without cadence.
Too perfect, no fault to belie;
Toward them, suspended, our anger is vain.
Quench our thirst, if you must break our hearts.
Clamouring and desiring, their circle draws us in their train;
Our brilliant masters were forever victors.
Tear flesh apart, chains of pure clarity.
Nailed without a cry to the fixed point of the North,
Naked soul exposed to all injury,
May we obey you unto death.

Notebooks (OC 6:2:147-148)
Poetry and Poetics, Simone Weil : Thinking Poetically. Joan
Dargan, State University of New York Press. 1999.

Simone Weil, 1909-1943

Gravity, or necessity, Simone Weil argues, is the force pulling us and all creation down; from the sun is derived the energy enabling trees and us ourselves to stand and grow upright against this force. So the love of God, shining down like the sun, overcomes the downward pull of our earthiness. The same point is exquisitely made in her interpretation of the fairy story about the little tailor and the giant. They have a contest as to which of them can throw a stone farthest. The giant picks up a huge one and hurls it a prodigious height and a prodigious distance, but the little tailor releases a bird from his hand which flies away and is soon lost to view. Whatever is moved by power, or the will, that is to say, however terrific the force generated, must sometime, somewhere, fall to the ground, whereas whatever is animated by the spirit, or the imagination, can soar away like a bird high above the earth and into the sky.
The love of God and affliction are themes to which Simone Weil constantly returns. She sees affliction as a nail driven into our souls fastening us to the very centre of the universe—the ‘true centre which is not in the middle, which is not in space and time, which is God.’ So fastened, we are at ‘the point of intersection between creation and Creator,’ which is also the point of intersection of the two branches of the cross. When thought is confronted with affliction, she goes on, ‘it takes immediate refuge in lies, like a hunted animal dashing for cover., To deal with affliction, therefore, we have to go beyond thought and beyond the self, into the realm of Christ who conquered the world simply because he, being the Truth, continued to be the Truth in the very depth of extreme affliction.’
In other words, affliction, which to our mortal eye is intolerable and even ridiculous, is the way—and the only way—to understanding and being fully alive, and, what is more, to being able to help the afflicted.

Malcolm Muggeridge, Observer, 22 September 1968

The Wikipedia article on Simon Weil quotes Richard Rees on Simon Weil’s early death.
” As for her death, whatever explanation one may give of it will amount in the end to saying that she died of love.”

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