Thursday of the Fourth Week in Lent: God and Understanding – Evelyn Underhill

“The Utmost that we know of God,” says Saint Thomas, “is nothing in respect of that which He is.”

Such an outlook on the Unchanging redeems our prayer from pettiness, discounts our worries, brings a solemn selfless peace.  Everything drops away except awe, longing, and humility.  “Whom have I in heaven but thee?  And there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee.”  The soul stands over against the eternal reality of the Universe, and finds there a friend and not a void.  Deus Meus!  My God!  We have, in our creaturely weakness, a personal hold upon Infinite Reality.  The Psalms are full of this exultant certitude.  “O God, thou art my God!  Early will I seek Thee!”  Saint Augustine is ever recurring to such thoughts: isolating, gazing at, the Fact of God.  Thus to dwell upon the great keywords of religion gives depth and width to human prayer; clarifies the sight with which we look out upon the sky.

We turn to the window on the other side of Faith’s tower.  That looks out upon our homely, natural, changeful world.  It shows us human life, conditions, problems, from the angle of faith; and the mystery of the Eternal self-revealed in human ways.  That too, is a wonderful and inspiring sight, enlightening the understanding.  Though clouds pass over that landscape, storms come, seasons change, it is yet seen to be full of God’s glory.  The same unchanging light and life bathes the world we see out of each window.  Jungle and city, church and marketplace, the mostly homely and the most mysterious aspects of creation, equally known as works of the Wisdom of God. 

From this window the earth with its intricate life is perceived in the light of the Incarnation; God self-disclosed in and with us, as well as God over against us.  The depth and mystery of Reality, its stern yet loving action, are revealed with the limitations of history, and in the here-and-now experience of men.  We pierce the disconcerting veil of appearance, and discern that Holy Creativity, making, rectifying, and drawing all things to itself.  At times a lovely glint transfigures even the smallest living things.  We see the kitten play in Paradise.  The humble inhabitants of the hedgerows suddenly reveal their origin, their kinship with God.  At other times a deep secret, the little golden rill of Holiness welling up from beyond the world of visible life, is glimpsed by us in the most unexpected situations. 

Yet there is no pink glass in this window.  It blurs none of the dread facts; the ever-present evil, the baffling pain, the conflict and apparent failure and inequality of life.  But from the angle of Faith these are seen in proportion, as material for the self-imparting of God; and for man’s self-giving to God truly tabernacled among us.  Through the clatter of the world, Faith hears an insistent call to purity and sweetness; and discerns in the tangle of life the perpetual emergence of an other-worldly beauty, which has its source in and end in Him alone.

  • The House of the Soul

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