CHRISTMAS WITH EVELYN UNDERHILL: Incarnation (2)

Incarnation (2) Evelyn Underhill

From The School of Charity

No amount of description really tells us anything about Holiness; but an encounter with it shames, amazes, convinces, and delights us all at once.  Thou art the Christ! says Saint Peter.  My Lord and my God! says Saint Thomas.  They recognize something from beyond the world: One who enters our mixed life in his perfect beauty; and accepts all the normal conditions of an existence which is so much at the mercy of seasons and weather, thirst and hunger, so afflicted by distresses we do not understand, so vexed by devils we cannot cast out, and tainted by sins we cannot forget.  Through all this that Figure is walking; radiating in and through every situation a selfless charity, an untiring interest and love.  The Word has spoken; and spoken in the language of everyday life.  And because of this, within that everyday life man always has access to God; and can never, at any point in his career claim ignorance of the drift of God’s will, even though his own duty and action may often be hard to decide.  God is Charity; and the human race has one Lord, who is Incarnate Charity and carries through its utmost demands to the Altar and the Cross.  Every decision, therefore, that the Christian takes in life will be controlled by the fact that it must be compatible with following him.  This means that no Christian life will avoid Calvary; though we may come to it by many different ways.

So, because Holiness has entered our world, and appeared in our nature, we know that men and women can become holy; and are bound, in spite of all discouragements, to take an optimistic view of human life.  The church is an undying family which has its face set towards Holiness, and is fed upon the food which can – if we let it – produce Holiness.  As the queen bee is produced by being fed from childhood on “royal jelly,” and thus becomes the parent of new life; so it is what the Christian is given, and what he assimilates of the supernatural food – not what he is by nature – which makes him grow up into the life-giving order of God.  The final test of holiness is not seeming very different from other people, but being used to make other people very different; becoming the parent of new life.

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