Charles de Foucauld, Silent witness for Jesus, 'in the face of Islam'

For Charles de Foucauld, like his friend Henry de Castries, had been impressed - marked for life we can say - by the Muslim adoration of God's greatness.

'I saw the ample burnous (hooded cloaks) of my troops bend down together in a superb gesture of ritual prostration, and I heard the repeated invocation, with increasing intensity: Allah akbar!'12
So wrote Henry de Castries at the beginning of a then famous book entitled simply Islam. He was struck by the 'majestic beauty' of this act of homage, with the 'grandiose immensity' of its Saharan background, and by the fact that it was an act of 'men' in the open air (in contrast to the muttered prayer, mainly of women, inside the walls of Christian temples!). Charles had been struck by the same ritual act of homage: an act seen and heard, an act impressing the imagination and stirring the emotions, an act of public witness to 'something greater' than the purely human, for it involved the immediate cessation of all ordinary human activities in order to witness to the 'beyondness' of God: God is great, or, to be more exact, God is greater.

But while de Castries remains with the visible beauty of the human act of homage, with its appeal to the imagination, and seems unable to get beyond this, Charles is seized, 'seduced', by the beauty of the One to whom the homage is addressed. Hence his constant reference to 'adoration', seen as the 'loss of self, in 'love', in the immensity of the Other.

'Adoration, my dear friend, which is the most complete expression of perfect love, is pre-eminently the human act! Yes, it's our habitual activity as human beings if we act according to our nature and reason!'13