HOLINESS: Creation, Change, Holiness by Evelyn Underhill

Creation, Change, Holiness by Evelyn Underhill

From The School of Charity

But the creative action of the Spirit penetrates the whole of life, and is felt by us in all sorts of ways.  If our idea of that creative action is so restricted that we fail to recognize it working within the homely necessities and opportunities of our visible life, we may well suspect the quality of those invisible experiences to which we like to give spiritual status.  “I found Him very easily among the pots and pans,” said Saint Teresa.  “The duties of my position take precedence of everything else,” said Elizabeth Leseur; pinned down by those duties to a life which was a constant check on the devotional practices she loved.  She recognized the totality of God’s creative action, penetrating and controlling the whole web of life.

A genuine inner life must make us more and more sensitive to that molding power, working upon His creation at every level, not at one alone: and especially to the constant small but expert touches, felt in and through very homely events, upon those half-made, unsteady souls which are each the subject of His detailed care.  A real artist will give as much time and trouble to a miniature two inches square, as to the fresco on the cathedral wall.  The true splendor and heart-searching beauty of the Divine Charity is not seen in those cosmic energies which dazzle and confound us; but in the transcendent power which stoops to an intimate and cherishing love, the grave and steadfast Divine action, sometimes painful and sometimes gentle, on the small unfinished soul.  It is an unflickering belief in this, through times of suffering and conflict, apathy and desperation, in a life filled with prosaic duties and often empty of all sense of God, that the Creed demands of all who dare recite it.

Jesus chose, as the most perfect image of that action, the working of yeast in dough.  The leavening of meal must have seemed to ancient men a profound mystery, and yet something on which they could always depend.  Just so does the supernatural enter our natural life, working in the hiddenness, forcing the new life into every corner and making the dough expand.  If the dough were endowed with consciousness, it would not feel very comfortable while the yeast was working.  Nor, as a rule, does our human nature feel very comfortable under the transforming action of God: steadily turning one kind of love into another kind of love, desire into charity, clutch into generosity, Eros into Agape.  Creation is change, and change is often painful and mysterious to us.  Spiritual creation means a series of changes, which at last produce, Holiness, God’s aim for men.

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