“What does it mean for thine eye to be single?”

Worship Sharing: April 14th, 7-8pm on Zoom: Led by Gary W.

The Quaker tradition of forming a “query” and then letting Friends ponder a response, in silence, is often a rich source of worship sharing.  Worship sharing is both similar to our Meeting for Worship and yet distinctly different.  It is similar in that we wait in silence and learn from our own souls what our deeper feelings and thoughts are regarding the question.  Yet it is different in that we gather with the intent to hear and learn from each other, and therefore we are encouraged to step into the silence more readily and share what we have been given. 

It is also the case that specific quotes add to the richness of the subsequent query.  Here is a piece of Scripture which seems very suitable to the Quaker task of discerning the spirit:

  • “The light of the body is the eye:  if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.  But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness.  If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!”    (Matthew 6: 22-23)

No doubt we want our “whole body to be full of light”!  But what does it mean for thine eye to be “single”?  Research into the translation of this word gives other connotations, such as “clear”, “sound” ,” perfect”, or “generous”.  It is interesting that the focal point of being in light or darkness is attributed to the eye, and it must be “single” despite the anatomical reality of our having two eyes.  There seems to be a mysterious meaning behind these words.  There is a passage from an early Greek Orthodox monk which seems to help us discern what this act of “singleness” involves:

  •   “Some of the Fathers have called this practice stillness of the heart, others attentiveness, others the guarding of the heart, others watchfulness and rebuttal, and still others the investigation of thoughts and the guarding of the intellect. But all of them alike worked the earth of their own heart, and in this way they were fed on the divine manna (Exodus 16:15).”  —– St. Simeon The New Theologian, “The Three Methods of Prayer”

Query:  What does it mean for thine eye to be single?