Brian’s Reflection: Monday, July 5, 2010
A hurtful act is the transference to others of
the degradation which we bear in ourselves.
Simone Weil, philosopher, mystic
“Self-examination” has been a long spiritual discipline in the Christian faith. My favourite “office” when I was a monk was Compline – the evening office said just before retiring for the day. It has beautiful psalms, including Ps. 91 – one I deeply love. My most beautiful experience of Compline was at Gethsemane Abbey where Thomas Merton spent his life. Compline was offered at 8:30pm. The chapel – stark and simple – was in total darkness, except for one votive light which hung over the lectern on which sat the Bible. In the total darkness, the cantor’s voice suddenly intoned the Office’s beginning Versicle: “O God, make speed to save us!”. It sent chills up my spine every night.
The purpose of self-examination is self-awareness. Knowing the truth about ourselves is, I would say, the primary stepping stone to liberation and to growth into our full humanity as “God” has shaped and destined it.
Of course it is unloving to act hurtfully towards another. But we will not be able to move beyond acting hurtfully towards others until we recognize, as Madame Weil so wisely points out, that such acts do indeed proceed from the lack of understanding and respect we have for ourselves. We forget how much God delights in our Loving! How much God understands our failures in Love. And that those failures in love towards others flow from our forgetfulness of our Beauty. All people are just like us; we act out of “the degradation which we bear in ourselves”.
One of the most powerful things that God has said is, “Love others as you are loved”. We are loved unconditionally! God sees us in all our fundamental loveliness and beauty. Once we know this, know it in our souls, we have no need to transfer our own “degradation” to others.
We have imagined such a God. Such imagining is the Mystery of Life working in us, opening us to our human wonder.