Evelyn Underhill

POETRY: Divine Ignorance by Evelyn Underhill

July 12, 2013

This is my prayer, that I shall never find The secret of thy name; Never attain to bind The zone of thought about thy formless flame. Grant me the grace that I may never hear The one resolving chord Which shall at last make clear The deep harmonic mystery of my Lord. Shield thou my sense, that I may never know All that thy love can be; Let not my probing go To the dread heart of thy divinity. Wrapped in thy quiet, I do but ask to taste The sweetness of that night; Lost in thy trackless waste, There shall the soul find fulhead of delight. The anguish of thy sacred dark caress, Thy love beyond our span, Self’s loss in this excess: These be the torment and joy of [...]

MORNING DEW: Who Are the Mystics, by Evelyn Underhill

January 26, 2013

The mystics — to give them their short, familiar name — are men and women who insist that they know for certain the presence and activity of that which they call the Love of God.  They are conscious of that Fact which is there for all, and which is the true subject-matter of religion; but of which the average person remains either unconscious or faintly and occasionally aware.   They know a spiritual order, penetrating, and everywhere conditioning through transcending the world of sense.  They declare to us a Reality most rich and living, which is not a reality of time and space; which is something other than everything we mean by “nature,” and for which no merely pantheistic explanation will suffice.  These men and [...]

POETRY: Missa Cantata And Continuous Voice by Evelyn Underhill

January 23, 2013

Missa Cantata Once in an abbey-church, the while we prayed, All silent at the lifting of the Host, A little bird through some high window strayed, And to and fro Like a wee angel lost That on a sudden finds its heaven below, It went the morning long And made our Eucharist more glad with song. It sang, it sang! And as the quiet priest Far off about the lighted altar moved, The awful substance of the mystic feast All hushed before It like a thing that loved, Yet loved in liberty, would plunge and soar Beneath the vault in play And thence toss down the oblation of its lay. The walls that went our sanctuary around Did as of old, to that sweet summons yield. New scents and sounds within our gates were found, The cry of kine, The fragrance of [...]

ABANDONMENT: Fruit Of Retreat by Evelyn Underhill

January 10, 2013

A whole and complete self-offering to God for his unseen purpose, willing to accept suffering, darkness, struggle, temptation at his good pleasure. A promise that wherever I go I will say Peace and try to bring peace. That I will give my own spiritual life without reserve into the keeping of God and strive to make my interior attitude one of weak adoration before God. That I will seek to rejoice in the progress of others, especially those who overpass me, rejecting all movements of envy and spiritual jealousy, trying to take lowest place. That I will be silent about my own interior sufferings and try to offer them to [...]

ADVENT MEDITATION: The Light Of The World by Evelyn Underhill

December 18, 2012

Now burn, new born to the world, Doubled-natured name, The Heaven-flung, heart-fleshed, maiden-furled Miracle-in-Mary-of-flame, Mid-numbered He in three of the thunder-throne! Not a dooms-day dazzle in his coming nor dark as he came; Kind, but royally reclaiming his own; A released shower, let flash to the shire, not a lightning of fire hard-hurled. (Gerard Manley Hopkins) When we come to the first window at the east end of the aisle, the morning light comes through it.  It is the window of the Incarnation.  It brings us at once to the mingled homeliness and mystery of the Christian revelation and of our own little lives.  It is full of family pictures and ideas — the birth of Christ, the shepherds and the magi, the little boy of [...]

MYSTICISM: The House Of The Soul by Evelyn Underhill

December 13, 2012

From: The Essentials of Mysticism and Other Essays When Saint Paul described our mysterious human nature as a “temple of the Holy Spirit” — a created dwelling-place or sanctuary of the uncreated and invisible divine life — he was stating in the strongest possible terms a view of our status, our relation to God, which has always been present in Christianity and is indeed implicit in the Christian view of reality.  But that statement as it stands seems far too strong for most of us.  We do not feel in the very least like the temples of creative love.  We are more at ease with Saint Teresa, when she describes the soul as an “interior castle” — a roomy mansion, with various floors and apartments from the basement upwards, not [...]

EVELYN UNDERHILL: Christianity Proclaims the Value of the Individual

November 26, 2012

From Worship, Chapter IX: The Principles of Personal Worship The “praying church” is built of praying souls; and all that has been said of the fundamentally social character of Christian worship, as expressed in the common liturgic action of the church, and of the status of the individual soul as an organic part of this corporate life, must not be allowed to obscure this complementary truth.  Christianity proclaims, more clearly than any other religion, the value and particular vocation of the individual, his unique and direct relation to God.  Its greatest triumphs have been the individual achievements of the saints: that is, persons whose lives of worship have made them tools of God.  Already in the teaching and practice of [...]

POETRY: Evelyn Underhill (Five Poems)

October 24, 2012

Immanence I come in the little things, Saith the Lord: Not borne on morning wings Of majesty, but I have set my feet Amidst the delicate and bladed wheat That springs triumphant in the furrowed sod. There do I dwell in weakness and in power; Not broken or divided, saith our God! Is your strait garden plot I come to flower: About your porch my vine Meek, fruitful, doth entwine; Waits, at the threshold, Love’s appointed hour. I come in the little things, Saith the Lord: Yes! on the glancing wings Of eager birds, the softly pattering feet Of furred and gentle beasts, I come to meet Your hard and wayward heart. In brown bright eyes That peep from out the brake, I stand confessed. On every nest Where feathery patience is content to brood And [...]

EVELYN UNDERHILL: A Meditation on Peace

July 30, 2012

“Meditation on Peace” was published in 1939 by the Fellowship of Reconciliation. It is clear that when Saint Paul made his great list of the fruits of the Spirit, he did not arrange them in any casual order.  They represent a progressive series of states or graces, which develop in the soul from the single budding-point of Love: that pure, undemanding love of God in Himself, and of His creatures, good and bad, congenial and uncongenial, for His sake, which is the raw material of our blessedness.  Such love means a certain share in the Divine generosity, tolerance, and patience towards every manifestation of life: “Whoso dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.”  Whoever then achieves this state of charity and spreads [...]

ORDINATION OF WOMEN: Ideals For Women In The Ministry by Evelyn Underhill

June 21, 2012

from Mixed Pastures I am opposed to the giving of the priesthood to women; for many reasons, and chiefly because I feel that so complete a break with Catholic tradition cannot be made save by the consent of a united Christendom.  Any local or national church which makes it will drop at once to the level of an eccentric sect.  On the other hand, I greatly desire and also expect an immense extension and recognition of women’s ministry in other directions than this.  Properly “rooted and grounded” in lives of real simplicity and self-abandonment, this must conduce to the well-being and enriching of the church’s life. What, after all, is Christian ministry, male or female, lay or ecclesiastical?  It is, or should [...]

MYSTICISM: The River Of Life

June 12, 2012

Evelyn Underhill writes that the mystic sees the world as sacramental. I like that image. A mystic experiences the world around him as a complete expression of the divine. In my book, there are three active forms of mystics.  (And one passive.)  The active forms are (1) the head, who experiences visions and other sensual Godly phenomenon; (2) the heart, who feels their way through their relationship with God; and (3) the hand, those people who, without articulation, know the right thing to do, the right time to do it, and has the courage to get up and do it. The metaphor I’ve been taught about a head’s relationship to life is that in the river, the head swims.  Uses his arms and legs, and makes his way down the current. [...]

JESUS: On His Baptism, with thanks to Evelyn Underhill

May 8, 2012

The other day I was listening to a priest talk on the subject of Eucharistic adoration, when all of a sudden he takes a sharp turn in his talk and starts in on baptism.  As a quick aside he goes, oh, and Jesus, he didn’t need to be baptized. It’s moments like this one that stay with me for years and years, that start the fingers of my mind searching my “files,” stroking the words of scripture, attempting to touch the reality that was the life of Jesus in a way that keeps him both man and God. After walking around harrumphing now and again and becoming increasingly distracted by the thought of Jesus’s  unnecessary baptism, I began to poke around the wonderful world of the internet. Immediately what came [...]

MYSTICISM: The Dark Night of the Soul, with help from Evelyn Underhill

March 26, 2012

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. I have spent quite a number of my adult years wondering about the dark night of the soul. I knew about “active” periods, those lengths of time that kept my soul so busy that I would long for the period of rest that would invariably follow. For me the quiet periods would be about sweet stillness.  Restoration of my soul.  Green pastures.  Always. Until this time. Ecstasy, for instance, is as common a feature of mystical conversion as of the last crisis, or “mystic marriage” of the soul: whilst visions and [...]

EVELYN UNDERHILL: Prayer in Darkness

March 6, 2012

from The School of Charity We are never alone.  We often feel that we make a mess of our suffering and lose the essence of sacrifice, waste our opportunity, fail God, because we cannot stand up to it.  Gethsemane is the answer of the Divine Compassion to that fear. We sometimes think we need a “quiet time” before making a great spiritual effort.  Our Lord’s quiet time was Gethsemane, and we know what that was like. We must, when the moment comes for us, endure in apparent loneliness the assault of sin, agony, and darkness.  We too must elect for the Will of God when it means the complete frustration of our own efforts, the apparent death of our very selfhood; and only so enter into the life-giving life.  We cannot [...]

EVELYN UNDERHILL: The Mystic Goes to Church

January 24, 2012

In her book, The Life of the Spirit and the Life of Today, in a chapter entitled, “Institutional Religion and the Life of the Spirit,” Evelyn Underhill approaches a very tender subject: how well does a mystic do in a church environment? For me, this has been a very painful, sometimes tortuous conflict — wanting, needing to go to church, but finding there what one finds in church: seemingly tireless church ladies, jovial fellows discussing the replanting of the tulip beds, frazzled choir masters chasing after their brood, et al. This question, often put in the crucial form, “Did Jesus Christ intend to form a church?” is well worth asking.  Indeed, it is of great and pressing importance to those who now have [...]

MYSTICISM: The Thirst Of The Soul, with help from Evelyn Underhill

January 9, 2012

Psalm 42: As the hart pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God; when will I come and appear before God?   Evelyn Underhill, the first woman to lecture at Oxford and the woman who gave retreats to Anglican priests, counseling them to start praying, has an expansive definition of what a mystic is.  My first post to this blog, one I wrote up quickly so that I could experiment with it in deciding how I wanted the blog to look, was a beginning to her definition of a mystic.  Here is a continuation of her thoughts about this: So the beginning of an answer to the question, ‘What is mysticism?’ must be this: mysticism is the passionate longing of the soul for God, the [...]

EVELYN UNDERHILL: A Turning Toward Church

December 12, 2011

Evelyn Underhill was born in 1875 England.  Although her family was associated with the Anglican church, neither her mother nor her father were practicing Anglicans.  Evelyn addresses this situation when she writes, “I was not brought up to religion.” Her father turned away from the church when he grew tired of the constant chapels he was required to attend in boarding school.  Oddly, though, his younger brother had the opposite reaction and eventually became an Anglican priest. In spite of this, at 15, Evelyn began study for her confirmation into the church.  She keeps herself an arm’s length away from true conviction.  She writes in her diary, As to religion, I don’t quite know, except that I believe in a [...]

PRAYER: A Prayer For Courage by Evelyn Underhill

December 12, 2011

O Lord Christ, who in this difficult world was tempted in all things, as I am, yet fell into no sin, look pitifully, I pray you, upon me.  Guide me with your adorable wisdom.  Teach me in everything and in every hour what I ought to do.  You alone know both that I suffer and what I need.  To you, that perfect path that I should walk is known.  Show it to me and teach me how to walk it.  Keep me, O Savior, in body, mind, and spirit, for into your strong and gentle hands I commit myself. Give me, O Lord, I beseech you, courage to pray for light and to endure the light here, where I am on this world of yours, which should reflect your beauty but which we have spoiled and exploited.  Cast your radiance on the dark places, those crimes [...]

EVELYN UNDERHILL: A definition

November 29, 2011

A mystic is not a person who has queer experiences; but a person for whom God is the one reality of life; the supreme object of love. He is a religious realist. Mysticism, then, far from being abnormal, is an essential part of all religion which is fully and deeply alive; it is the light which the mystics cast on the normal spiritual life, their disclosure of the landscape in which we really live, not their occasional excursions into an abnormal spiritual life, which gives them their great importance. (What is [...]