Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Weil's Religionless Christianity - Part II

After a litany of all that she loves regarding God, faith, liturgy, saints and church architecture Weil writes this in her first letter.


But I have not the slightest love for the church in the strictest sense of the word, apart from its relation to all things that I do love. I am capable of sympathizing with those who have this love, but I do not feel it. I am well aware that all the saints felt it. . . . Anyhow, one cannot make oneself love. All I can say is that if such a love constitutes a condition of spiritual progress, which I am unaware of, or if it is part of my vocation, I desire that it may be granted to me.

She continues her reflections on the church in her second letter.

After thoroughly considering everything, I think this is what they [the obstacles to joining the church] come to. What frightens me is the Church as a social structure. Not only on account of its blemishes, but from the very fact that it is something social. It is not that I am of a very individualistic temperament. I am afraid for the opposite reason. I am aware of very strong gregarious tendencies in myself. My natural disposition is to be very easily influenced, too much influenced, and above all by anything collective. I know that if at this moment I had before me a group of twenty young Germans singing Nazi songs of chorus, a part of my soul would instantly become Nazi. That is a very great weakness, but that is how I am. . . . I am afraid of the Church patriotism existing in the Catholic circles. By patriotism I mean the feeling one has for a terrestrial country. I am afraid of it because I fear to catch it.

Nothing ever said or written goes as far as the devil's words to Christ in Saint Luke concerning the kingdoms of the world. "All this power will I give thee and the glory of it, for that is delivered unto me and to whomsoever I will I give it." It follows from this that the social is irremediably the domain of the devil. The flesh impels us to say me and the devil impels us to say us; or else to say like the dictators I with a collective signification. By social I do not mean everything connected with citizenship, but only collective emotions.

And then Weil offers her binding paradox.

I am well aware that the Church must inevitably be a social structure; otherwise it would not exist. But in so far as it is a social structure, it belongs to the Prince of this World.

Weil goes on to say that it because the Church is concerned with preservation and transmission that it remains a danger to those who are influenced by social pressures. In this form "what is purest and what is most defiling look very much the same" as they are all sanctioned by the church and give the same structure of language.

This remains my tension and perhaps it is a tension that should increase. How do look to preserve an institution (which is what much of my position involves) and also remain open and vulnerable to the presence of God?