Christian Themes

(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

The letters of Waiting for God offer the most direct way of comprehending (to some degree only, of course) the iconoclastic faith of Simone Weil, for they are personal and go directly to the heart of her affliction and her faith. (We know her personal anguish when she describes herself in the letters “Last Thoughts” as “a barren fig tree for Christ” and tells Father Perrin that “for other people, in a sense I do not exist. I am the color of dead leaves, like certain unnoticed insects.”)

The essays are valuable, however, as an intellect’s reading of her Christian faith. In “Reflections on the Right Use of School Studies with a View to the Love of God,” Weil develops the central idea that prayer consists of attention and that, accordingly, Christian study is fundamentally a matter of giving full attention and developing the power of attention. “In every school exercise,” she writes, “there is a special way of waiting upon truth, setting our hearts upon it, yet not allowing ourselves to go out in search of it,” and she underscores the spiritual seriousness of her message by writing: “Only this waiting, this attention, can move the master to treat his slave with such amazing tenderness.” Even the love of neighbor requires attentively looking at the neighbor to know the neighbor as one who suffers. If one goes at Latin or geometry with the right kind of attentiveness, she concludes, one may on that account “be better...

(The entire section is 490 words.)