Christmas With Evelyn Underhill

CHRISTMAS WITH EVELYN UNDERHILL: The Magi And New Birth

January 6, 2017

From The School of Charity The story of the Magi shows the new life which has appeared within the rich texture of our normal experience, casting its purifying radiance upon the whole existence of man, the Light of the world, not the sanctuary lamp of a well-appointed church.  Cozy religious exclusiveness is condemned in this mystery.  It is easy for the pious to join the shepherds, and feel in place at the crib, and look out into the surrounding darkness saying, Look at those extraordinary intellectuals wandering about after a star; they seem to have no religious sense.  Look what curious gifts and odd types of self-consecration they are bringing; not at all the sort of people one sees in church.  Yet the child who began by receiving [...]

CHRISTMAS WITH EVELYN UNDERHILL: Light Of The World

January 5, 2017

From Light of Christ You know how sometimes on a pitch black night in the country, you see far off one glimmer of light and you follow it and it turns out to be just a candle in a cottage window – but it was enough to assure you of life ahead, to give you the lead you wanted in the dark.  In the same way, when the Magi turned from their abstruse calculations in search of Heaven and followed a star, they did not arrive at a great mathematical result or revelation of the cosmic mind.  They found a poor little family party and were brought to their knees – because, like the truly wise, they were really humble-minded – before a baby born under most unfortunate circumstances, a mystery of human life, a little living growing thing. [...]

CHRISTMAS WITH EVELYN UNDERHILL: The Magi And Prayer

January 4, 2017

From The School of Charity Look at the story of the Magi: those scholars of the ancient world, turning from their abstruse calculations and searching of the heavens because they saw a new star, and driven to seek along fresh paths for a clue to the mystery of life.  What they found does not seem at first sight what we should now call “intellectually satisfying.”  It was not a revelation of the Cosmic Mind, but a poor little family party; yet there they were brought to their knees – because, like the truly wise, they were really humble-minded – before a little, living, growing thing.  The utmost man can achieve on his own here capitulates before the unspeakable and mysterious simplicity of the method of God; his [...]

CHRISTMAS WITH EVELYN UNDERHILL: The Magi

January 3, 2017

From Light of Christ Now to accept historical Christianity as God’s supreme self-revelation does not mean some elaborate philosophy of the spirit.  It means accepting the gospel story as touching our lives significantly at every point, because it is conveying God.  If we are ever to learn all that this record can mean for us, we must never forget that these, beyond all other facts of history, are indwelt, molded, brought into being by the Living Spirit of God, while plastic to his creative thought.  And if we thus feel God within these events, some so strange and some so homely, inspiring this action and record, then we also accept all these incidents as conveying something of his overruling will and thought, having something in [...]

CHRISTMAS WITH EVELYN UNDERHILL: Shepherds And Magi

January 2, 2017

From Light of Christ The Christmas Mystery has two parts: the Nativity and the Epiphany.  A deep instinct made the church separate these two feasts.  In the first, we commemorate God’s humble entrance into human life, the emergence and birth of the Holy, and in the second its manifestation to the world, the revelation of the supernatural made in that life.  And the two phases concern our inner lives very closely, too.  The first only happens in order that the second may happen; and the second cannot happen without the first.  Christ is a light to lighten the Gentiles as well as the glory of his people, Israel.  Think of what the Gentile was when these words were written – an absolute outsider.  All cozy religious [...]

CHRISTMAS WITH EVELYN UNDERHILL: Holy Name—Born For A Purpose

January 1, 2017

From Light of Christ Beholding his glory is only half our job.  In our souls, too, the mysteries must be brought forth; we are not really Christians till that has been done.  The Eternal Birth, say Eckhard, must take place in you.  And another mystic says human nature is like a stable inhabited by the ox of passion and the ass of prejudice; animals which take up a lot of room and which I suppose most of us are feeding on the quiet.  And it is there between them, pushing them out, that Christ must be born and in their very manger he must be laid – and they will be the first to fall on their knees before him.  Sometimes Christians seem far nearer to those animals than to Christ in his simple poverty, self-abandoned to God. The [...]

CHRISTMAS WITH EVELYN UNDERHILL: Life Goes On

December 31, 2016

From The School of Charity And now we turn from the central mystery to the clustered events, through which its character is disclosed.  We see the new life growing in secret.  Nothing very startling happens.  We see the child in the carpenter’s workshop.  He does not go outside the frame of the homely life in which he appeared.  It did quite well for him, and will do quite well for us.  It is like the hidden life at Nazareth.  We must be content with the wholesome routine of the nursery, doing ordinary things, learning ordinary lessons and eating ordinary food, if we are to grow truly and organically in wisdom and stature and favor with God and man.  Growth in God is a far more gradual, less conscious process than we realize [...]

CHRISTMAS WITH EVELYN UNDERHILL: Nativity

December 30, 2016

From The School of Charity Nothing in this story, perhaps, is more significant than the quietness and simplicity of its beginning.  The birth of the Child, the Shepherds, and the Magi, the little boy of Nazareth and his wonderful experience in the Temple, and the long quiet years in the carpenter’s shop; there seems at first sight nothing very supernatural in these things.  Indeed, one of the most convicting aspects of Christianity, if we try to see it in terms of our own day, is the contrast between its homely and inconspicuous beginnings and the holy powers it brought into the world.  It keeps us in perpetual dread of despising small things, humble people, little groups.  The Incarnation means that the Eternal God enters our [...]

CHRISTMAS WITH EVELYN UNDERHILL: Incarnation (2)

December 29, 2016

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. [...]

CHRISTMAS WITH EVELYN UNDERHILL: The Example Of The Christ Child

December 28, 2016

From Light of Christ The mystics keep telling us that the goal of that prayer and the goal of that hidden life which should itself become more and more of a prayer, is “union with God.”  We use that phrase often, much too often to preserve the wholesome sense of its awe-fulness.  For what does union with God mean?  It is not a nice feeling we get in devout moments.  That may or may not be a by-product of union – probably not.  It can never be its substance.  Union with God means every bit of our human nature transfigured in Christ, woven up into his creative life and activity, absorbed into his redeeming purpose, heart, soul, mind, and strength.  Each time it happens it means that one of God’s creatures has [...]

CHRISTMAS WITH EVELYN UNDERHILL: Maturing

December 27, 2016

From The School of Charity All gardeners know the importance of good root development before we force the leaves and flowers.  So our life in God should be deeply rooted and grounded before we presume to expect to produce flowers and fruits; otherwise we risk shooting up into one of those lanky plants which can never do without a stick.  We are constantly beset by the notion that we ought to perceive ourselves springing up quickly, like the seed on stony ground; show striking signs of spiritual growth.  But perhaps we are only required to go on quietly, making root, growing nice and bushy; docile to the great slow rhythm of life.  When we see no startling marks of our own religious progress of our usefulness to God, it is well to [...]

CHRISTMAS WITH EVELYN UNDERHILL: Incarnation

December 26, 2016

From The School of Charity Not long ago, I was standing in an artist’s studio before an altarpiece which she had just made.  It represented the Nativity: or rather, the eternal incarnation of the Holy, self-given for the world.  In the foreground one saw the Blessed Virgin, its ordained instrument, and Saint Joseph, watching by her bed.  There was a patient grave simplicity about them both; reflected in the serious young angels, whose majestic scale suggested the greatness of that world of spirit from which they had been drawn.  Below, the sheep were feeding very quietly too: innocent nature entirely at home among the mysteries of the supernatural order, one lamb turning from its mother to press more closely to the mother of the [...]

CHRISTMAS WITH EVELYN UNDERHILL: Incarnation And Childhood

December 25, 2016

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 [...]