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ADVENT WITH EVELYN UNDERHILL: The Focus Of Prayer

From The School of Charity These great objective truths are not very fashionable among modern Christians; yet how greatly we need them, if we are to escape pettiness, individualism, and emotional bias.  For that mysterious inner life which glows at the heart of Christianity, which we recognize with delight whenever we meet it, and which is the source of Christian power in the world, is fed through two channels.  Along one channel a certain limited knowledge of God and the things of God enters the mind; and asks of us that honest and humble thought about the mysteries of faith which is the source of Christian power in the world, is fed through two channels.  Along one channel a certain limited knowledge of God and the things of God [...]

THE ADVENT EUCHARIST: The Eucharistic Imagination Of Jesus, by Peter John Cameron

From Jesus, Present Before Me: Meditations for Eucharistic Adoration From the first instant that Jesus Christ came to be in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Lord began to live his final promise: I am with you always.  Throughout his life on Earth, Jesus prepared for the everlasting presence he would offer us in the Eucharist.  The Lord’s forty-day fast in the desert taught him firsthand that to be human means being hungry and thirsty.  We starve for truth and meaning; we thirst for what will totally satisfy.  No wonder Christ’s first parable has as its protagonist a sower whose planted seed promises a hundredfold harvest, or that his first miracle at Cana produces a flood of miraculous wine.  As the Lord went [...]

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 [...]

POETRY: Fourth Sunday In Advent, by John Keble

The eyes of them that see shall not be dim, and the ears of them that hear shall hearken. (Luke 32:3) Oft, as I gaze on landscape fair, In thought I feel me poor and base; Soft shades and gleaming lights are there— I know it well, but cannot trace. Mine eye unworthy seems to read One page of Nature’s beauteous book; It lies before me, fair outspread— I only cast a wishful look. I cannot paint to Memory’s eye The scene, the glance, I dearest love— Unchang’d themselves, in me they die, Or faint, or false, their shadows prove. In vain, with dull and tuneless ear, I linger by soft Music’s cell, And in my heart of hearts would hear What to her own she deigns to tell. ‘Tis misty all, both sight and sound— I only know ‘tis [...]

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 [...]

ADVENT MEDITATION: There We Live, by Edward Bouverie Pusey

But our citizenship is in Heaven. (Philippians 3:20) “Our citizenship is in Heaven.”  Many are the meanings of this word, and every way the Apostle says we are in Heaven.  For the word, in the original language, means the city or state to which we belong, or the way of life of the citizens, and in all these ways he places us in Heaven.  He does not say only, our faith, our hopes, our expectation, the object of our longing, is in Heaven; he speaks not of what is to be, but of what is; “our citizenship is in Heaven.”  Again, he does not say, “It ought to be,” “let it be,” “let our deeds and words and thoughts aim thitherward, thither aspire, thither be directed”; he does not [...]

ADVENT WITH EVELYN UNDERHILL: Prayer Is Central

From The Spiritual Life Prayer means turning to reality, taking our part, however humble, tentative and half-understood, in the continual conversation, the communion, of our spirits with the Eternal Spirit; the acknowledgement of our entire dependence, which is yet the partly free dependence of the child.  For prayer is really our whole life toward God: our longing for him, our “incurable God-sickness,” as Barth calls it, our whole drive towards him.  It is the humble correspondence of the human spirit with the Sum of all Perfection, the Fountain of Life.  No narrower definition than this is truly satisfactory, or covers all the ground.  Here we are, small half-real creatures of sense and spirit, haunted by the sense of a [...]

STATIONS OF THE NATIVITY: Birth Of Jesus, by Raymond Chapman

From Stations of the Nativity: Meditations on the Incarnation of Christ Before the Stations Almighty God, whose blessed Son took our human nature so that we might regain our lost innocence and be restored to the divine image that was disfigured by sin, grant that as we meditate on the mystery of his humanity we may share the glory of his divinity, who lives and reigns in the unity of the Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen. A hymn may be sung: the familiar Christmas hymns tell of the wonder of the Incarnation and the following is particularly suitable (click on hymn title to be directed to the YouTube video of its performance): Creator of the Stars of Night 6: Birth of Jesus V: We adore thee O Christ and we [...]

ADVENT WITH EVELYN UNDERHILL: Spiritual Life Begins With Prayer

From The School of Charity God, not man, is the first term of religion: and our first step in religion is the acknowledgement that He Is.  All else is the unfolding of those truth about his life and our life, which this fact of facts involves.  I believe in One God.  We begin there; not with our own needs, desires, feelings, or obligations.  Were all these abolished, his independent splendor would remain, as the Truth which gives its meaning to the world.  So we begin by stating with humble delight our belief and trust in the most concrete, most rich of all realities – God.  Yet even the power to do this reflects back again to him, and witnesses to his self-giving to the soul.  For Christianity is not a pious reverie, a moral [...]

ADVENT MEDITATION: Show Me Where You Are, O My God, by Elizabeth Rowe

From Devout Exercises of the Heart What is hell, what is damnation, but an exclusion from your presence?  ‘Tis the loss of that which gives the regions of darkness all their horror.  O when will you scatter this melancholy darkness?  When will the shadows flee before you?  When will the cheerful glory of your grace dawn upon my mind at your approach? I will revive at your light; my vital spirits will confess your presence.  Grief and anxiety will vanish before you, and immortal joys surround my soul. Where you are present, Heaven and happiness ensue; hell and damnation fills the breast where you are absent.  While God withdraws I am encompassed with darkness and despair; the sun and stars shine with an uncomfortable luster; [...]

ADVENT WITH EVELYN UNDERHILL: Centrality Of Prayer

From The Life of the Spirit and the Life of Today If the seeking of the Eternal is actuated by love, the finding of it is achieved through prayer.  Prayer, in fact – understood as a life or state, not an act or an asking – is the beginning, middle, and end of all that we are now considering.  As the social self can only be developed by contact with society, so the spiritual self can only be developed by contact with the spiritual world.  And such humble yet ardent contact with the spiritual world – opening up to its suggestions our impulses, our reveries, our feelings, our most secret dispositions as well as our mere thoughts – is the essence of prayer, understood in its widest sense.  No more than surrender or love can [...]

POETRY: Maker Of All Things, Even Healings, by Mary Oliver

All night under the pines the fox moves through the darkness with a mouthful of teeth and a reputation for death which it deserves. In the spicy villages of the mice he is famous, his nose in the grass is like an earthquake, his feet on the path is a message so absolute that the mouse, hearing it, makes himself as small as he can as he sits silent or, trembling, goes on hunting among the grasses for the ripe seeds. Maker of All Things including appetite, including stealth, including the fear that makes all of us, sometimes or other, flee for the sake of our small and precious lives, let me abide in your shadow— let me hold on to the edge of your robe as you determine what you must let be lost and what will be [...]

POETRY: Heaven, by Thomas Ken

Nor eye, ear, thought, can take the height To which my song is taking flight, Yet raised an humble wing, My guess of Heaven I’ll sing; ‘Tis love’s reward, and love is fired By guessing at the bliss desired. Guess then at saints’ eternal lot, By due considering what ’tis not, No misery, want, or care, No death, no darkness there, No troubles, storms, sighs, groans, or tears, No injury, pains, sickness, fears. They dwell in pure ecstatic light, Of God Triune have blissful sight, Of fontal love who gave God filial man to save, Of Jesus’s love, who death sustained, By which the saints their glory [...]

ADVENT WITH EVELYN UNDERHILL: Corporate Life And Mysticism

From Mystics of the Church As the life and growth of the church proceed, her corporate consciousness, enriched by all the discoveries of the saints, grows richer: so that she has more and more to give to each of her sons.  The beautiful interdependence of all Christian souls, living and dead, everything that is meant by the doctrine of the “Communion of Saints,” is here strongly illustrated, and refutes the common idea that mysticism is individualistic, and can nourish independently of history or tradition.  Thus all Christian mysticism is soaked in the language and ideas of the Bible; is perpetually taught and re-taught by Saint Paul and Saint John.  In addition to this, it reflects the special religious color of the period [...]

STATIONS OF THE NATIVITY: Joseph’s Dream, by Raymond Chapman

From Stations of the Nativity: Meditations on the Incarnation of Christ Before the Stations Almighty God, whose blessed Son took our human nature so that we might regain our lost innocence and be restored to the divine image that was disfigured by sin, grant that as we meditate on the mystery of his humanity we may share the glory of his divinity, who lives and reigns in the unity of the Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen. A hymn may be sung: the familiar Christmas hymns tell of the wonder of the Incarnation and the following is particularly suitable (click on hymn title to be directed to the YouTube video of its performance): Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus 5: Joseph’s Dream V: We adore thee O Christ [...]

ADVENT WITH EVELYN UNDERHILL: Christ Changes Circumstances

From Light of Christ More and more as we go on with the Christian life we learn the strange power of the Spirit over circumstance; seldom sensationally declared but always present and active – God in his richness and freedom coming as a factor into every situation, overruling the ceaseless stream of events which make up our Earthly existence and, through those events, molding our souls.  The radiation of his love penetrates, modifies, quicken our lives. This general action of the Power of God in life is what we rather vaguely call Providence.  Its pressure and action is continuous in and through the texture of that life but usually it is unseen.  It conditions our whole career from birth to death just as the invisible lines of force [...]

THE ADVENT EUCHARIST: Think About Jesus, by Peter Magee

From God’s Mercy Revealed: Healing for a Broken World There is much to adore in the Body of the Lord.  As you allow your eyes to become fixed upon that little white host, think of the eternity that lies behind it.  Think of the vast universe, which sooner or later will be drawn into that host, for judgment unto life or death. Think of the body of him who was truly born of the Virgin Mary.  Think of all he went through as a child, an adolescent, a youth, a young adult – like us in every way except sin. Think of the hands that blessed the children and healed the sick, of the voice that calmed the storm and called Lazarus from the tomb; of the eyes that pierced with love the heart of the rich young man, that saw Nathaniel and [...]

ADVENT WITH EVELYN UNDERHILL: Facing Reality As Baptized Christians

From Light of Christ You and I are committed, as baptized Christians, to what has been given his deep and touching Earthly revelation, to the steady loyal effort, in our own small place and way, towards bringing that mounting vision a little nearer completeness, bringing a little more of that Kingdom in.  Each faithful upward glance, each movement of trust, each act of selfless love, helps it on.  The Hallowing of the whole Universe, physical, mental, and spiritual, in all its grades, the infinitely great and the infinitely small, giving our lives at whatever cost to the helping of the fulfillment of their sacramental promise – we must take sides in some way for that, because we are the Children of God. Those thoughts kill all [...]

POETRY: Hell, by Thomas Ken

When, go ye, cursed, God proclaims, And sinners plunge in endless flames, Think, O my soul, what mighty pain, The damned sustain. Self-rage for breach of gracious laws, The worm of conscience which still gnaws, Confusion, terror, trembling, shame, And fierce self-blame. Heaven lost, the choice of torments sure, Souls tempered tortures to endure, Gnashing of teeth, outrageous fire, And darkness dire. How long have I ‘gainst God rebelled? How many gracious calls repelled? More hardships ran to work my bane Than Heaven would gain. My pestilence I oft diffused, Great God’s long suffering I abused, And damned to these eternal woes, Have what I chose. All praise to God who spares me time, To search and mourn for every crime; Souls [...]

ADVENT WITH EVELYN UNDERHILL: Evil And Reality

From The Spiritual Life When we consider the evil, injustice, and misery existing in the world, how can we claim that the ultimate Reality at the heart of the universe is a Spirit of peace, harmony, and infinite love?  What evidence can we bring to support such a belief?  And how can we adore a God whose creation is marred by cruelty, suffering, and sin? This is, of course, the problem of evil; the crucial problem for all realistic religion.  It is no use to dodge this issue, and still less use to pretend that the church has a solution of the problem up her sleeve.  I would rather say with Baron von Hügel that Christian spirituality does not explain evil and suffering, which remain a mystery beyond the reach of the human mind, but [...]

ADVENT MEDITATION: All Come Together Before God, by Phillips Brooks

And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne. (Revelation 20:12) “The dead, small and great,” Saint John says that he saw standing before God.  In that great judgment day, another truth is that the difference of sizes among human lives, of which we make so much, passes away, and all human beings, in simple virtue of their human quality, are called to face the everlasting righteousness.  The child and the greybeard, the scholar and the boor, however their lives may have been separated here, they come together there.  It is upon the moral ground that the most separated souls must always meet.  Upon the child and the philosopher alike rests the common obligation not to lie, but to tell the truth.  The [...]

ADVENT WITH EVELYN UNDERHILL: Centering

From The Spiritual Life Most of our conflicts and difficulties come from trying to deal with the spiritual and practical aspects of our life separately instead of realizing them as parts of one whole.  If our practical life is centered on our own interests, cluttered up by possessions, distracted by ambitions, passions, wants, and worries, beset by a sense of our own rights and importance, or anxieties for our own future, or longings for our own success, we need not expect that our spiritual life will be a contrast to all this.  The soul’s house is not built on such a convenient plan: there are few sound-proof partitions in it.  Only when the conviction – not merely the idea – that the demand of the Spirit, however [...]

STATIONS OF THE NATIVITY: Birth Of The Baptist, by Raymond Chapman

From Stations of the Nativity: Meditations on the Incarnation of Christ Before the Stations Almighty God, whose blessed Son took our human nature so that we might regain our lost innocence and be restored to the divine image that was disfigured by sin, grant that as we meditate on the mystery of his humanity we may share the glory of his divinity, who lives and reigns in the unity of the Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen. A hymn may be sung: the familiar Christmas hymns tell of the wonder of the Incarnation and the following is particularly suitable (click on hymn title to be directed to the YouTube video of its performance): There is No Rose of Such Virtue 4: Birth Of The Baptist V: We adore thee O [...]

ADVENT WITH EVELYN UNDERHILL: A Job To Be Done

From The Spiritual Life More is required of those who wake up to reality, than the passive adoration of God or intimate communion with God.  Those responses, great as they are, do not cover the purpose of our creation.  The riches and beauty of the spiritual landscape are not disclosed to us in order that we may sit in the sun parlor, be grateful for the excellent hospitality, and contemplate the glorious view.  Some people suppose that the spiritual life mainly consists in doing that.  God provides the spectacle.  We gaze with reverent appreciation from our comfortable seats, and call this proceeding Worship. No idea of our situation could be more mistaken than this.  Our place is not the auditorium but the stage – or, as the [...]

THE ADVENT EUCHARIST: Grace, by John Hampsch

From The Healing Power of the Eucharist How do we receive grace?  There are three major avenues.  First of all, we can receive grace through some form of prayer: prayer of blessing and adoration, prayer of petition, intercessory prayer, prayer of thanksgiving, or prayer of praise.  Likewise, it can be any expression of prayer: vocal prayer, meditation, contemplative prayer, community prayer, liturgical prayer, or psalm prayer. The second major source of that spiritual energy we call grace comes from practicing the virtues, such as faith, hope, charity, prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance.  In fact, some 56 virtues have been cataloged over the years.  (Even suffering could be considered a virtue when it is motivated by love, [...]

ADVENT WITH EVELYN UNDERHILL: Spiritual Life

From The School of Charity A genuine inner life must make us more and more sensitive to that molding power, working upon his creation at every level, not at one alone: and especially to the constant small but expert touches, felt in and through very homely events, upon those half-made, unsteady souls which are each the subject of his detailed care.  A real artist will give as much time and trouble to a miniature two inches square, as to the fresco on the cathedral wall.  The true splendor and heart-searching beauty of the Divine Charity is not seen in those cosmic energies which dazzle and confound us; but in the transcendent power which stoops to an intimate and cherishing love, the grave and steadfast Divine action, sometimes painful [...]

POETRY: The Candle Indoors, by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Some candle clear burns somewhere I come by. I muse at how its being puts blissful back With yellowy moisture mild night’s blear-all black, Or to-fro tender trambeams truckle at the eye. By that window what task what fingers ply, I plod wondering, a-wanting, just for lack Of answer the eagerer a-wanting Jessy or Jack There God to aggrándise, God to glorify.— Come you indoors, come home; your fading fire Mend first and vital candle in close heart’s vault: You there are master, do your own desire; What hinders? Are you beam-blind, yet to a fault In a neighbor deft-handed? Are you that liar And, cast by conscience out, spendsavour [...]

POETRY: Judgment, by Thomas Celano

Day of wrath! O day of mourning! See fulfilled the prophets’ warning, Heaven and Earth in ashes burning. O what fear man’s bosom rendeth When from Heaven the Judge descendeth On whose sentence all dependeth! Wondrous sound the trumpet flingeth; Through Earth’s sepulchers it ringeth; All before the throne it bringeth. Death is struck, and nature quaking, All creation is awaking, To its Judge an answer making. Lo! The book exactly worded, Wherein all hath been recorded: Thence shall judgment be awarded. When the Judge his seat attaineth And each hidden deed arraigneth, Nothing unavenged [...]

ADVENT WITH EVELYN UNDERHILL: God’s Agents In The Real World

From The Spiritual Life We are the agents of the Creative Spirit in this world.  Real advance in the spiritual life, then, means accepting this vocation with all it involves.  Not merely turning over the pages of an engineering magazine and enjoying the pictures, but putting on overalls and getting on with the job.  The real spiritual life must be horizontal as well as vertical; spread more and more.  It must be larger, richer, fuller, more generous in its interests than the interests of the natural life alone can ever be; must invade and transform all homely activities and practical things.  For it means an offering of life to the Father of life, to whom it belongs; a willingness – an eager willingness – to take our small [...]

STATIONS OF THE NATIVITY: Visitation, by Raymond Chapman

From Stations of the Nativity: Meditations on the Incarnation of Christ Before the Stations Almighty God, whose blessed Son took our human nature so that we might regain our lost innocence and be restored to the divine image that was disfigured by sin, grant that as we meditate on the mystery of his humanity we may share the glory of his divinity, who lives and reigns in the unity of the Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen. A hymn may be sung: the familiar Christmas hymns tell of the wonder of the Incarnation and the following is particularly suitable (click on hymn title to be directed to the YouTube video of its performance): Of the Fathers Heart Begotten 3: Visitation V: We adore thee O Christ and we [...]