ADVENT WITH EVELYN UNDERHILL: Prayer Gives Our Lives Focus

ADVENT WITH EVELYN UNDERHILL: Prayer Gives Our Lives Focus

From The Spiritual Life

When we lift our eyes from the crowded bypass to the eternal hills; then, how much the personal and practical things we have to deal with are enriched.  What meaning and coherence come into our scattered lives.  We mostly spend those lives conjugating three verbs: to Want, to Have, and to Do.  Craving, clutching, and fussing, on the material, political, social, emotional, intellectual – even on the religious – plane, we are kept in perpetual unrest: forgetting that none of these verbs have any ultimate significance, except so far as they are transcended by and included in, the fundamental verb, to Be; and that Being, not wanting, having, and doing, is the essence of a spiritual life.  But now, with this widening of the horizon, our personal ups and downs, desires, cravings, efforts, are seen in scale; as small and transitory spiritual facts, within a vast, abiding spiritual world, and lit by a steady spiritual light.  And at once a new coherence comes into our existence, a new tranquility and release.  Like a chalet in the Alps, that homely existence gains atmosphere, dignity, significance from the greatness of the sky above it, and the background of the everlasting hills.

The people of our time are helpless, distracted, and rebellious, unable to interpret that which is happening, and full of apprehension about that which is to come, largely because they have lost this sure hold on the eternal; which gives to each life meaning and direction, and with meaning and direction gives steadiness.  I do not mean by this a mere escape from our problems and dangers, a slinking away from the actual to enjoy the eternal.  I mean an acceptance and living out of the actual, in its homeliest details and its utmost demands, in the light of the eternal; and with that peculiar sense of ultimate security which only a hold on the eternal brings.  When the vivid reality which is meant by these rather abstract words is truly possessed by us, when that which is unchanging in ourselves is given its chance, and emerges from the stream of succession to recognize its true home and goal, which is God – then, though much suffering may, indeed will remain, apprehension, confusion, instability, despair, will cease.

 

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