LENT: The Kingdom, by Evelyn Underhill

From Light of Christ

It is a great thing for any soul to say without reserve in respect of its own life, “Thy kingdom come!” for this means not only the acknowledgement of our present alienation, our fundamental egoism and impurity, but the casting down of the will, the destruction of our small natural sovereignty; the risk and adventure which accompany an unconditional submission to God, a total acceptance of the rule of love.  None can guess beforehand with what anguish, what tearing of old hard tissues and habits, the kingdom will force a path into the soul, and confront self-love in its last fortress with the penetrating demand of God.  Yet we cannot use the words unless we are prepared to pay this price: nor is the prayer of adoration real, unless it leads on to this.  When we said, “Hallowed be thy name!” we acknowledged the priority of holiness.  Now we offer ourselves for the purposes of holiness: handing ourselves over to God that his purposes, great or small, declared or secret, natural or spiritual, may be fulfilled through us and in us, and all that is hostile to his kingdom done away.

There will be two sides to this: passive and active.  The passive side means enduring, indeed welcoming, the inexorable pressure of God’s transforming power in our own lives; for the kingdom comes upon Earth bit by bit, as first one soul and then another is subjugated by love and so redeemed.  It means enduring the burning glance of the holy, where that glance falls on imperfection, hardness, sin.  The active side means a self-offering for the purposes of the kingdom, here and now in this visible world of space and time; the whole drive of our life, all our natural endowments, set towards a furtherance of the purposes of God.  Those purposes will not be fulfilled till the twist has been taken out of experience, and everything on Earth conforms to the pattern in Heaven – that is to say, in the mind of God: wide-spreading love transfiguring the whole texture of life.  Here we have a direct responsibility as regards our whole use of created things: money, time, position, the politics we support, the papers we read.  It is true that the most drastic social reform, the most complete dethronement of privilege, cannot of themselves bring the kingdom in; for peace and joy in the Holy Spirit can only come to us by the free gift of the transcendent.  But at least these can clear ground, prepare the highway of God; and here each act of love, each sacrifice, each conquest of prejudice, each generous impulse carried through into action counts: and each unloving gesture, hard judgment, pessimistic thought or utterance opposes the coming of the kingdom and falsifies the life of prayer.

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