June 15, 2006

Evelyn Underhill

Category: Communion of Saints — Micah @ 12:00 am

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Good day, and welcome to Communion of Saints from stjeromeschapel.org. I’m your host, Micah Jackson. Today is June 15th, 2006: the feast of Blessed Evelyn Underhill.

If when you think of mystics or mysticism, you can only imagine monks and nuns long dead, or contemporary charlatans faking a trance to separate the unwary from their money, and especially if you think that contemporary understandings of psychology and mental functioning make a spiritual interpretation of mysticism impossible, then I am sure you’ve never encountered the life and work of the woman we remember today, Evelyn Underhill.

Underhill was born in England at the end of the 19th century. She was, therefore, strongly influenced by the Enlightenment and Modernist thought. Her family was wealthy, and starting early in her life, she was able to travel throughout Europe. In Italy she became enamored by two things, the Italian painting tradition and the Roman Catholic Church. It was no struggle to love the paintings, but her interest in Roman Catholicism touched off a fifteen year struggle for her religious affiliation. In the end, she settled in the Church of England, but continued to insist on calling herself a “Catholic Christian,” acknowledging her felt connection, through God’s grace, to Christians in other places and times.

She wrote a great deal–books, essays, and lectures. Perhaps because of her commitment to the universal connections between Christians, many of them remain surprisingly relevant. Her books Worship and Mysticism are frequent sellers, and her essay “The Church and War” speaks to many of today’s issues.

One of the readings appointed for today speaks of Wisdom. “In every generation she passes into holy souls and makes them friends of God, and prophets; for God loves nothing so much as the person who lives with wisdom.” (Wisdom 7:24-8:1) Evelyn Underhill certainly had that kind of wisdom. She was a friend of God, and a prophet, and more than that, she knew that anyone could gain that wisdom and friendship with God. Check out one of her books or other writings, if you haven’t. You might find yourself mystically transported to the Kingdom of God.

Let us pray: O God, Origin, Sustainer, and End of all your creatures: Grant that your Church, taught by your servant Evelyn Underhill, guarded evermore by your power, and guided by your Spirit into the light of truth, may continually offer to you all glory and thanksgiving and attain with your saints to the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have promised by our Savior Jesus Christ; who with you and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Thank you for listening to Communion of Saints. Please join us tomorrow at stjeromeschapel.org for the feast of Blessed Joseph Butler. I’m Micah Jackson. May God be with you.

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