Wednesday of the First Week In Lent: God and Self-Offering – Evelyn Underhill

Evelyn Underhill God Corner

“O Support Me,” says Newman, “as I proceed in this great, awful, happy change, with the grace of Thy unchangeableness.  My unchangeableness, here below, is perseverance in changing.” 

The inner life consists in an enduring of this deep transforming process.  The chief object of prayer is to help it on: not merely for our own soul’s sake, but for a reason which lifts the devotional life above all pettiness – because this is part of the great creative action which is lifting up humanity to the supernatural order, turn the flour and water of our common nature into the living Bread of Eternal Life.  So, the first movement of our prayer must surely be a self-giving to this total purpose, whatever discipline and suffering it may involve for us . . . Our entire confidence in that One God who is the Creator of all things, the Father of all His creation, and whose wisdom “Sweetly Orders” the working out of His undeclared design, must include such mysterious operations of grace as this. 

Again and again the sufferings of His children are made part of the yeast by which He changes and sanctifies all life.  In our own inward life and prayer, this must mean a perpetual and peaceful self-offering for the hidden purposes of the Divine Charity, whatever they may be; and especially the sacred privilege of giving a creative quality to all pain.  This is perhaps what Von Hugel had in mind, when he spoke of “getting our sufferings well mixed up with our prayer . . .” 

The same principle applies to our daily existence.  “The Kingdom of Heaven,” the supernatural order, is like yeast.  And we are required to be part of the Kingdom of Heaven: sons and daughters of God.  That means that we too have our share in the creative process.  We live and die within the workshop; used as tools if we are merely dull and uninterested, but accepted as pupils and partners with our first movement of generosity in action, prayer or love.  The implications of that truth must be worked out within each separate life: beginning where we are, content if our handful of meal can make a cottage loaf, not indulging in spiritual vanity with large vague dreams about ovens full of beautiful brioches. 

Most of us when we were children managed sometimes to get into the kitchen; a wonderful experience with the right kind of cook.  A whole world separated the cook who let us watch her make the cake, from the cook who let us make a little cake of our own.  Then we were filled with solemn interest, completely satisfied, because we were anticipating the peculiar privilege of human beings; making something real, sharing the creative work of God.  We, in our measure, are allowed to stand beside Him; making little things, contributing our action to His great action on life. 

So we must use the material of life faithfully, with a great sense of responsibility; and especially our energy of prayer, with a due remembrance of its awful power. 

– The School of Charity

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