CHRISTMAS WITH EVELYN UNDERHILL: Incarnation And Childhood

Incarnation And Childhood Evelyn Underhill

From Light of Christ

We are being shown here something profoundly significant about human life – “God speaks in a son,” a baby son, and reverses all our pet values.  He speaks in our language and shows us his secret beauty on our scale.  We have got to begin not by an arrogant other-worldliness, but by a humble recognition that human things can be very holy, very full of God, and that high-minded speculations about his nature need not be holy at all; that all life is engulfed in him and he can reach out to us anywhere at any level.

As the Christmas Day gospel takes us back to the mystery of the Divine Nature – In the beginning was the Word – so let us begin by thinking of what Saint Catherine called the “Ocean Pacific of the God-head” enveloping all life.  The depth and richness of his being are entirely unknown to us, poor little scraps as we are!  And yet the unlimited life who is love right through – who loves and is wholly present where he loves, on every plane and at every point – so loved the world as to desire to give his thought, the deepest secrets of his heart to this small, fugitive, imperfect creation – to us. That seems immense.

And then the heavens open and what is disclosed?  A baby, God manifest in the flesh.  The stable, the manger, the straw; poverty, cold, darkness – these form the setting of the Divine Gift.  In this child God gives his supreme message to the soul – Spirit to spirit – but in a human way.  Outside in the fields the heavens open and the shepherds look up astonished to find the music and radiance of Reality all around them.  But inside, our closest contact with that same Reality is being offered to us in the very simplest, homeliest way – emerging right into our ordinary life.  A baby – just that.  We are not told that the Blessed Virgin Mary saw the angels or heard the Gloria in the air.  Her initiation had been quite different, like a quiet voice speaking in our deepest prayer – “The Lord is with thee!”  “Behold the handmaid of the Lord.”  Humble self-abandonment is quite enough to give us God.

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