Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Improbable Path of Sanctity (Evelyn Underhill)

"Thy Will be done" means always being ready for God's sudden "No" over against our eager and well-meaning "Yes": his overruling of our well-considered plans for the increase of his glory and advancement of his kingdom, confronting us with his cross - and usually an unimpressive cross - at the least appropriate time. All self-willed choices and obstinacy, all feverish intensity drawn out of the work which we supposed to be work for him; so that it becomes more and more his work in us. 

The glorious majesty of the Lord our God be upon us. Then our handiwork will prosper; not otherwise.

A strange reversal of fortune, the frustration of obviously excellent plans, lies behind most of the triumphs of Christian history. It was by an unlikely route that Christ himself, the country carpenter, itinerant preacher, and victim of local politics, carried humanity up into God. It was in defiance alike of the probable and the suitable that St Paul was chosen, seized, transmuted, and turned to the purposes of the Will. Stephen, full of grace and power, is snatched in the splendour of his faith to God; and his Will is achieved and the Catholic Church is created by the abrupt conversion of a brilliant young scholar to a small revivalist sect. If we think of St Paul's situation at the opening of his apostolic life - the humiliating eating of his own words, the long-lived suspicion and unpopularity, and his constancy through it all - it becomes clear that only the immense pressure of God's Will, overwhelming all natural reluctances and desires, can account for it. Nor did the rest of St Paul's life, mostly spent in exhausting, dangerous and often disappointing labours, contain much food for ambition or self-love. Christian history looks glorious in retrospect; but it is made up of constant hard choices and unattractive tasks, accepted under the pressure of the Will. In the volume of the book it is written of me, that I should fulfil thy Will, O my God: I am content to do it. 

- From Evelyn Underhill's book Abba (London: Longmas, Green and Co., 1940). The complete text is online HERE (formatted with music and illustrations for the Katapi Course).  


Alice C. Linsley said...

Wonderful! Encouraging. Such wisdom!

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