“The real Christian is always a revolutionary. To say day by day
“Thy Kingdom Come”,
if these tremendous words
really stand for a conviction and desire, does not mean
“I quite hope that some day
the Kingdom of God will be established, and peace and goodwill prevail. But at present I don’t see how it is to be managed, or what I can do about it.”
On the contrary, it means, or should mean, “Here am I! Send me!”
Active, costly collaboration with the Spirit in whom we believe.” (Evelyn Underhill)
Evelyn Underhill was born on 6th December 1875 in Wolverhampton. From an early age she described having mystical insights, and her deep interest in spiritual matters continued throughout her life. Between 1921 and 1924 her spiritual director was Baron Friedrich von Hűgel, who encouraged her to place Jesus Christ more centrally at the heart of her reflections. After his death in 1925 she began taking on a prominent role in the Church of England, leading retreats at Pleshey and elsewhere, and as a spiritual guide to many. Amongst the books she published are ‘Mysticism’ (in 1911) and ‘Worship’ (in 1936). She was one of the first women theologians to give public lectures at English universities, and was the first woman allowed officially to teach Church of England clergy. She died on 15th June 1941.
Evelyn Underhill is firmly established in the mainstream of twentieth century Anglo-Catholic spirituality, probably influencing its contemporary shaping more than most writers in the field. In that regard, she was not extreme nor radical in her perspective. She was not a socio-political activist, except perhaps briefly, towards the end of her life, when she advocated pacifism at the beginning of the Second World War. She possessed no feminist agenda, and theologically she maintained pretty traditional views.
"It is noticeable that those who do not set much store by institutional religion, always respect those whose religious practices cost them something, and who fulfil the religious obligations which they have taken on.
Many who cannot or will not join in liturgical worship will yet be made to take that worship more seriously than before, because the parish priest is seen to find time for it, and shows it to be for him one of the ruling realities of daily life.
Izaak Walton, in his life of George Herbert, describes how Mr. Herbert went twice every day to his church of Bemerton, rang the bell, and said his daily Office; and because all the common people loved him dearly, how even the ploughman would pause in his ploughing when ‘Mr. Herbert’s saints’ bell rang to prayers.’ That might still happen; and if it did, it would mean that twice a day the spirit of prayer was radiating from the church, which is intended as its visible shrine and abiding place, to permeate the common life of the parish." The Parish Priest and the Life of Prayer
PREPARING TO CHANGE
Penetrate these murky corners
where we hide our memories
and tendencies on which we do not care to look, but which we will not yield freely up to you, that you may purify and transmute them.
The persistent buried grudge,
the half-acknowledged enmity
which is still smouldering,
the bitterness of that loss
we have not turned into sacrifice,
the private comfort we cling to,
the secret fear of failure
which saps our initiative
and is really inverted pride,
the pessimism which is an insult to your joy. Lord, we bring all these to you, and we review them with shame and penitence in your steadfast light.