“I would say that the subject who says ‘Here I am’ bears witness to the Infinite. It is this witness, whose truth is neither representational nor perceptual, that produces the revelation of the Infinite. It is through this witness that the very glory of the Infinite glorifies itself” (Born From the Gaze of God, Christophe Lebreton, p. 206). Br. Christophe, martyred monk of the community of Tibhirine in Algeria, quoted these words of the Jewish philosopher, Emmanuel Levinas, in his journal less than a month before he was kidnapped and murdered.
‘Here I am’…How do we pray this? To whom and to what do we address these words? What intention is behind them and raises them up to the heart of God? This simple phrase—‘Here I am’—said from the heart, with heart, through heart bears witness to the Infinite…How can this be?
‘Here I am’…I am ready to be your vessel of love, of light, of truth. I am ready with each new day to walk as you walked. ‘Here I am’…a sinner and still here for you…for your gospel, for embodying your Way and your Life. We in our prayer are so often talking to God…this is good…still we need to step back and receive the silent Word of God… ‘Here I am’ is a response to the call of God, a response to the initiative of God.
Keeping in mind that ‘Here I am’ is a response to the Divine voice, to the Divine initiative, the text I quoted is telling us two things: when we say ‘here I am’ we are bearing witness to God…to God’s life in us and in our midst….and secondly it is saying that this bearing witness through the offering of ourselves is revelatory…meaning it reveals the Divine face of God in our lives.
As you know we find this phrase in two prominent places in the Bible: Psalm 39(40) and in the call of Samuel. In the dialogue with Samuel, God is calling and Samuel does not realize that it is God calling him; he is learning (with Eli’s help) how to recognize, how to discern the Divine voice. Samuel eventually responds by saying ‘here I am’ and he adds ‘speak Lord your servant is listening’…’Here I am’ is a response to God’s initial call…we are moved, prodded, prompted to say ‘here I am’ knowing we first have been loved, knowing that we are called into a relationship. We are called by the One who seeks us, who longs to become more and more incarnate in our lives…and we are learning the way and manner that the Divine voice speaks to each of us.
Then Psalm 39: “You, who wanted no sacrifice or oblation, opened my ear,you asked no holocaust or sacrifice for sin;then I said, ‘Here I am! I am coming’” (Psalm 40:6)
The initiative of God in psalm 39 is ‘to open the ear’, to open the ‘ear of the heart’…this heart opening elicits our response: ‘here I am’…’here I am…I am ready…ready to listen.Cassian in his Conference #10 on prayer has said that “for possessing the perpetual awareness of God” (p.379) we need to pray: ‘O God come to my assistance, Lord make haste to help me.’ Cassian also points out that this prayer “contains an invocation of God in the face of any crisis” (p.379). This prayer is an invocation and is initiated by us: we are calling upon God and waiting a response…however, even the act of calling upon God in faith begins to bring some inner peace…it helps to settle what is disturbing our hearts. The prayer phrase ‘here I am’ is at the same level of importance…It is as I said already a response to the Divine invitation. Simply feel into what it does inside as we pray each word: ‘Here…I…am’. It seems to me that one thing that it does is to topple our egocentricity…we are getting out of the way and making our lives available for God alone. Another thing I think it does is break open our ‘small little world’ into the larger perspective of Divine life….the Divine life that seeks to be incarnate in my life…in the life of this community…’here I am’ focuses us on the ‘one thing necessary’…What happens to our ‘hardened’ critical hearts as we say these words? ‘Here I am’ assumes the ‘Other’…so it is no longer just a focus on me with no dialogical space or sense of the ‘Other’, which we all can so easily fall into. We are saying ‘here I am’ to the ‘Other’…to Jesus…to the God of Jesus…‘Here I am’ ready to follow you.’ Here I am ready to give my all this day so that you may be glorified. Here I am in my poverty and wounds that can fester so easily…yet still ready to serve…to be a witness through my life to your Life. ‘Here I am’: saying it with the right intention and with the whole of our being puts us in an intimate relationship with God…and we are in this moment bearing witness to the Infinite.