Monday of the Second Week in Lent: God and The Temporal – Evelyn Underhill

evelyn-underhill gentle prayer

Saint John of the Cross, at the end of one of his great mystical poems, exclaims suddenly, “How delicately Thou teachest love to me!”  Perhaps if we realized more fully all that is implied in this utterance of one of the greatest of the contemplative saints, so wide and deep in his experience of the realities of the spiritual world, we should not be quite so hurried and full of assurance in constructing our clumsy diagrams of the delicate and subtle processes of God; so rigid in our exclusions, so horribly crude in our conceptions and demands. 

Perhaps this saying might even give us the beginning of a vision of God, as a Presence of unchanging Love and Beauty; teaching the race through history, and each soul through and within those faculties which have been evolved from our animal past.  It might persuade us that a supercilious contempt of history and the time-process, and effort to achieve the Eternal by the mere rejection of the temporal, is hostile to the truest and richest theism.  Such a lofty refusal of the common experience, such an attempt to get out of our own skins and elude the discipline of our humbling limitations, merely defeats its own end.  Rather the faithful acceptance of history, a genial sharing in the experience of the race, is required of an incarnational religion: a full use of, and entrance into, that general scene within which the Eternal penetrates time, and the little creature of time can ascend to consciousness of the Eternal.

Thus the right attitude of religion towards history is that of complete and humble acceptance, not rejection.  Indeed, all of the greatest supernatural experiences of men are found when we investigate them, to require and arise within a rich historical environment.

 –Man and the Supernatural

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