Friday, September 24, 2021

Remembrance

Faith is not a stagnant pool. It is, rather, a fountain that rises with the influx of personal experience. Personal faith flows out of an experience and 3 pledge. For faith is not a thing that comes into being out Of nothlng. It originates in an event. In the spiritual vacancy of life something may suddenly occur that is like lifting the veil at the horizon of knowledge. A simple episode may open a sight of the eternal. A shift of conceptions, boisterous like a tempest or soft as a breeze, may swerve the mind for an instant or forever. For God is not wholly silent and man is not always deaf. God’s willingness to call men to His service and man’s responsiveness to the divine indications in things and events are for faith what sun and soil are for the plant.

That experience survives as a recollection of how we have once been blessed by the manifestation of divine presence in our life. The remembrance of that experience and the loyalty to the pledge given at that moment are the forces that sustain us in our faith. For the riches of a soul are stored up in its memory. This is the test of character, not whether a man follows the daily fashion, but whether the past is alive in his present. If we want to understand ourselves, to find out what is most precious in our lives, we should search into our memory.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 333

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Faith? Yes, but

Faith implies no denial of evil, no disregard of danger, no whitewashing of the abominable. He whose heart is given to faith is mindful of the obstructive and awry, of the sinister and pernicious. It is God's strange dominion over both good and evil on which he relies. But even this reliance is not an indefeasible bridge across ravines and precipices, a viaduct over the valley of death. To rely only on our faith would be idol worship. We have only the right to rely on God, on His love and mercy. Faith is not a mechanical insurance but a dynamic, personal act, flowing between the heart of man and the love of God.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 333

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

But it requires vigilance…

Faith is always exposed to failure. We often submit to the forces that draw us down to where a small desire seems to outweigh the noblest aspiration. There is the network of the false into which we easily slip. There is the enjoyment of the vile that vitiates the taste for the true. We must not cease to be vigilant, careful and anxious to keep our inner ear open to the holy.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 332

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

The nature of faith

Faith is not the clinging to a shrine but the endless, tameless pilgrimage of hearts. Audacious longing, calling, calling, burning songs, daring thoughts, an impulse overwhelming the heart, usurping the mind—it is all a stalwart driving to the precious serving of Him who rings our hearts like a bell, wishing to enter our empty perishing life. What others call readiness to suffer, willingness to relinquish, is felt here as bestowal of joy, as granting of greatness. Is it a surrender to confide? Is it a sacrifice to believe? True, beliefs are not secured by demonstration nor impregnable to objection. But does goodness mean serving only as long as rewarding lasts? Towers are more apt to be shaken than graves. Insistent doubt, contest, and frustration may stultify the trustworthy mind, may turn temples into shambles. But those of faith who plant sacred thoughts in the uplands of time, the secret gardeners of the Lord in mankind’s desolate hopes, may slacken and tarry but rarely betray their vocation.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 332

Friday, September 17, 2021

You can't miss it … if you are looking for it, that is

Forgoing beauty for goodness, power for love, grief for gratitude, entreating the Lord for help to understand our hopes, for strength to resist our fears, we shall receive a gentle sense for the holiness that permeates the air like a strangeness that cannot be removed. Crying out of the pitfall of our selfishness for purity of devotion will usher in the dawn of faith in the mist of honest tears. For those who are open to the wonder will not miss it. Faith is found in solicitude for faith, in an inner care for the wonder that is everywhere.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 331

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Open yours eyes that you might see!

He who chooses a life of utmost striving for the utmost stake, the vital, matchless stake of God, feels as though the spirit of God comes to rest upon his lids—so close to his eyes and yet never seen. He who has ever been confronted with the ultimate and has realized that sun and stars and souls do not ramble in a vacuum will keep his heart in readiness for the hour when the world is entranced, and awaits a soul to breathe in the mystery that all things exhale in their craving for salvation. For things are not mute. The stillness is full of demands. Out of the world comes a behest to instill into the air a rapturous song for God, to incarnate in the stones a message of humble beauty, and to instill a prayer for goodness in the hearts of all children.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 329–30

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Impressions

We are impressed by the towering buildings of New York City. Yet not the rock of Manhattan nor the steel of Pittsburgh but the law that came from Sinai is their ultimate foundation. The true foundation upon which our cities stand is a handful of spiritual ideas. All of our life hangs by a thread—the faithfulness of man to the will of God.

The course in which human life moves is, like the orbit of heavenly bodies, an ellipse, not a circle. We are attached to two centers: to the focus of our self and to the focus of what is beyond our self. Even the intelligence is driven by two forces—by a force that comes as an instinct from within and by a force that comes with ideals from without. The inner force generates the impulse to acquire, to enjoy, to possess; the outer force arouses an urge to respond, to yield, to give.

It seems as though we have arrived at a point in history, closest to instincts and remotest from ideals, where the self stands like a wall between God and man. It is the period of a divine eclipse. We sail the seas, we count the stars, we split the atom, but never ask: Is there nothing but a dead universe and our reckless curiosity?

Primitive man's humble ear was alert to the inwardness of the world, while the modern man is presumptuous enough to claim that he has the sole monopoly over soul and spirit, that he is the only thing alive in the universe. A little crust of bread holds so much of goodness, of secret harmony, of tacit submission to purpose. Why should our minds be crowded by so much deceit, folly, and supercilious vanity?—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 328–29