Sunday, January 27, 2008


Serendipity is often the means by which we encounter a word or phrase that pierces the darkness dogging our spiritual path. I came upon one such phrase as I was reading the NY Times Book Review this week. It was a quotation from Simone Weil that read: "attentiveness without an object is prayer in its supreme form."
Earlier that day, on the Sabbath, the Ten Commandments were recited in the synagogue, the second one ringingly pronouncing that any form of allegiance to anything other than God is an egregious violation of the underlying foundation of legitimate religion. This commandment came along to prohibit idolatry.
In its simplistic form, idolatry suggests the worship of idols, graven images. Yet, is it humanly possible not to visualize, concretize or objectify God as we seek a spiritual connection through prayer? Are not the established descriptive designations of God-Father, Shepherd, Judge, Impassioned or Compassionate One, Redeemer, even Savior, not suggestions of qualification and compromise of God's omnipresence and totality?
Thus when we pray according to given texts and in words of our tradition, we in fact objectify God ! As we pray, we utter gratefulness to a Giver of particular gifts -health, wisdom, forgiveness, the bounty of the land, sight, smell, the ability to rise from our supine positions each morning and take physical steps into the day's unfolding experiences. However grateful we may feel, this articulation of thankfulness is circumscribed, falling short of a sense of wonder that accompanies the awareness of the "fullnes "and "allness" of life and being in their totality. Thus the words of Simone Weil awaken in us an understanding of the highest form of prayer, of gratefulness rendering , when its expressions are not directed to an object but are rather declared with attentiveness to the invisibility of a limitless God of all possibility and imagination. To gain even the slightest appreciation of the ineffability of God is to be grateful for the mere gift of being. Infinite possibility is the realm of the divine. Attentiveness to this infinity is the supreme form of prayer. Gratefulness for the sheer mystery of being alive is the truest experience of worship.

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