simone weil – the cross

simone weil gravity and graceWhoever takes up the sword shall perish by the sword. And whoever does not take up the sword (or lets it go) shall perish on the cross.

Christ healing the sick, raising the dead, etc.—that is the humble, human, almost low part of his mission. The supernatural part is the sweat of blood, the unsatisfied longing for human consolation, the supplication that he might be spared, the sense of being abandoned by God.

The abandonment at the supreme moment of the crucifixion, what an abyss of love on both sides!

‘My God, my God, why has thou forsaken me?’
There we have the real proof that Christianity is something divine.

To be just it is necessary to be naked and dead—without imagination. That is why the model of justice has to be naked and dead. The cross alone is not open to imaginary imitation.

In order that the imitation of God should not be a mere matter of words, it is necessary that there should be a just man to imitate, but in order that we should be carried beyond the will it is necessary that we should not be able to choose to imitate him. One cannot choose the cross.

One might choose no matter what degree of asceticism or heroism, but not the cross, that is to say penal suffering.
Those who can only conceive of the crucifixion under the aspect of an offering do away with the salutary mystery and the salutary bitterness of it. To wish for martyrdom is far too little. The cross is infinitely more than martyrdom.
It is the most purely bitter suffering—penal suffering. This is the guarantee of its authenticity.

The cross. The tree of sin was a real tree, the tree of life was a wooden beam. Something which does not give fruit, but only vertical movement. ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up and he will draw all men unto himself.’ We can kill the vital energy in ourselves while keeping only the vertical movement. Leaves and fruit are a waste of energy if our only wish is to rise.

Adam and Eve sought for divinity in vital energy—a tree, fruit. But it is prepared for us on dead wood, geometrically squared, where a corpse is hanging. We must look for the secret of our kinship with God in our mortality.

God wears himself out through the infinite thickness of time and space in order to reach the soul and to captivate it. If it allows a pure and utter consent (though brief as a lightning flash) to be torn from it, then God conquers that soul. And when it has become entirely his he abandons it. He leaves it completely alone and it has in its turn, but gropingly, to cross the infinite thickness of time and space in search of him whom it loves. It is thus that the soul, starting from the opposite end, makes the same journey that God made towards it. And that is the cross.

God is crucified from the fact that finite beings, subject to necessity, to space and to time, think. I have to know that as a thinking, finite being I am God crucified. I have to be like God, but like God crucified. Like God almighty in so far as he is bound by necessity.

Prometheus—the god crucified for having loved men too much. Hippolytus, the man punished for having been too pure and too much loved by the gods. It is the coming together of the human and the divine which calls forth punishment.

We are what is furthest from God, situated at the extreme limit from which it is not absolutely impossible to come back to him. In our being, God is torn. We are the crucifixion of God. The love of God for us is a passion. How could that which is good love that which is evil without suffering? And that which is evil suffers too in loving that which is good. The mutual love of God and man is suffering.

In order that we should realize the distance between ourselves and God it was necessary that God should be a crucified slave. For we do not realize distance except in the downward direction. It is much easier to imagine ourselves in the place of God the Creator than in the place of Christ crucified.

The dimensions of Christ’s charity are the same as the distance between God and the creature.

The function of mediation in itself implies a tearing asunder. That is why we cannot conceive of the descent of God towards men or the ascent of man towards God without a tearing asunder.

We have to cross the infinite thickness of time and space—and God has to do it first, because he comes to us first. Of the links between God and man, love is the greatest. It is as great as the distance to be crossed.

So that the love may be as great as possible, the distance is as great as possible. That is why evil can extend to the extreme limit beyond which the very possibility of good disappears. Evil is permitted to touch this limit. It sometimes seems as though it overpassed it.

This, in a sense, is exactly the opposite of what Leibniz thought. It is certainly more compatible with God’s greatness, for if he had made the best of all possible worlds, it would mean that he could not do very much.

God crosses through the thickness of the world to come to us.

The Passion is the existence of perfect justice without any admixture of appearance. Justice is essentially non-active. It must either be transcendent or suffering.
The Passion is purely supernatural justice, absolutely stripped of all sensible help, even of the love of God in so far as it can be felt.
Redemptive suffering is that which strips suffering naked and brings it in its purity right into existence. That saves existence.

As God is present through the consecration of the Eucharist in what the senses perceive as a morsel of bread, so he is present in extreme evil through redemptive suffering through the cross.

From human misery to God. But not as a compensation or consolation. As a correlation.

There are people for whom everything is salutary which brings God nearer to them. For me it is everything which keeps him at a distance. Between me and him there is the thickness of the universe—and that of the cross is added to it.

Suffering is at the same time quite external with regard to innocence and quite essential to it.
Blood on snow. Innocence and evil. Evil itself must be pure. It can only be pure in the form of the suffering of someone innocent. An innocent being who suffers sheds the light of salvation upon evil. Such a one is the visible image of the innocent God. That is why a God who loves man and a man who loves God have to suffer.

Happy innocence. That also is something precious. But it is a precarious and fragile happiness, a happiness which depends on chance. The blossom of apple trees. Happiness is not bound up with innocence.

To be innocent is to bear the weight of the entire universe. It is to throw away the counterweight.

In emptying ourselves we expose ourselves to all the pressure of the surrounding universe.

God gives himself to men either as powerful or as perfect—it is for them to choose.

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Excerpted from Simone Weil‘s Gravity and Grace. First French edition 1947. Translated by Emma Crawford. English language edition 1963. Routledge and Kegan Paul, London.

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