Monday of the Third Week in Lent: Holiness and the Two Loves – Evelyn Underhill

This is not mere pious fluff.  This is a terribly practical job; the only way in which we can contribute to the bringing in of the Kingdom of God.  Humanitarian politics will not do it.  Theological restatement will not do it.  Holiness will do it.  And for this growth toward holiness, it seems that it is needful to practice, and practice together, both that genuine peaceful recollection in which the soul tastes, and really knows that the Lord is sweet, inwardly abiding in His stillness and peace; and also the suffering, effort and tension required of us unstable human creatures, if we are to maintain that interior state and use it for the good of other men. 

This ideal is so rich, that in its wholeness it has only been satisfied once.  Yet it is so elastic, that within it every faithful personality can find a place and opportunity of development.  It means the practice of both attachment and detachment; the most careful and loving fulfilment of all our varied this-world obligations, without any slackening of attachment to the other-worldly love.

And if we want a theoretical justification of such a scheme of life, surely we have it in the central Christian doctrine of the Incarnation?  For does not this mean the Eternal, Changeless God reaching out to win and eternalize His creatures by contact through personality?  That the direct action of Divine Love on man is through man; and that God requires our growth in personality, in full being, in order that through us His love and holiness can more and more fully be expressed?  And our Lord’s life in ministry supported by much lonely prayer gives us the classic pattern of human correspondence with this, our two-fold environment.  The saints tried to imitate that pattern more and more closely; and as they did so, their personality expanded and shone with love and power.  They show us in history a growth and transformation of character which we are not able to grasp; yet which surely ought to be the Christian norm? 

In many cases they were such ordinary, even unpromising people when they began; for the real saint is neither a special creature nor a spiritual freak.  He is just a human being in whom has been fulfilled the great aspiration of Saint Augustine – “My life shall be a real life, being wholly full of Thee.”  And as that real life, that interior union with God grows, so too does the saints’ self-identification with humanity grow.  They do not stand aside wrapped in delightful prayers and feeling pure and agreeable to God.  They go right down into the mess; and there right down in the mess, they are able to radiate God because they possess Him.

  • Concerning the Inner Life

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