ADVENT WITH EVELYN UNDERHILL: Life Of Prayer

ADVENT WITH EVELYN UNDERHILL: Life Of Prayer

From The School of Charity

Think of the span and the depth which is required of a full Christian life of prayer.  For one part of prayer associates us with that creative and supporting Love, and requires us to give ourselves as open channels through which it can be poured out on all life; and the other part of prayer keeps us in humble awareness of our own complete dependence, plastic to the pressure of the molding Charity.  When we consider our situation like this, we realize that the very best we are likely to achieve in the world of prayer will be a small part in a mighty symphony; not a peculiarly interesting duet.  When our devotional life seems to us to have become a duet, we should listen more carefully.  Then we shall hear a greater music, within which the little melody of ours can find its place.

This truth of the deep unity of creation links us with our lesser relations, and with our greater relations, too.  It makes us the members of a family, a social order, so rich and various that we can never exhaust its possibilities.  We are all serving on one Staff.  Our careful pickings and choosings, acceptances and exclusions, likes and dislikes, race prejudice, class prejudice, and all the rest, look rather silly within the glow of that One God, in whom all live and move and have their being; and the graduated splendor of that creation which is the work of his paternal love.  It insists upon our own utter dependence on the constant, varied, unseen Creative Love; and the narrow span of our understanding of our fellow creatures – how slight is the material we have for passing judgment on them – because our understanding is no wider than our charity.

And now we come down to the more painful consideration of all that this demands from us, if our inner and outer life are to match our belief about Reality; and only when this has happened will Christianity conquer the world, harmonizing all things visible and invisible because both are received and loved as the works of One God.  There are still far too many Christians in whose souls a soundproof partition has been erected between the oratory and the kitchen: sometimes between the oratory and the Study, too.  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.

 

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