Monday, July 29, 2019

"All earth was lifted to communion . . ." (Evelyn Underhill)



Since my teens I have been nourished by the writings of Evelyn Underhill (1875-1942), a widely acclaimed Anglican spiritual director who more than deserves to be rediscovered. An Anthology of the Love of God, published after her death, is a good initiation into her work.  Each chapter begins with a poem, many of which come from Immanence, published by Underhill in 1912. Immanence is available FREE for downloading from the internet. I love this particular poem, a deeply moving burst of praise to the Lord for his sacred presence in the Holy Eucharist:

MISSA CANTATA   
Once in an Abbey-church, the whiles we prayed 
All silent at the lifting of the Host, 
A little bird through some high window strayed ; 
And to and fro 
Like a wee angel lost 
That on a sudden finds its heaven below, 
It went the morning long. 
And made our Eucharist more glad with song. 

It sang, it sang ! and as the quiet priest 
Far off about the lighted altar moved, 
The awful substance of the mystic feast 
All hushed before, 
It, like a thing that loved 
Yet loved in liberty, would plunge and soar 
Beneath the vault in play 
And thence toss down the oblation of its lay. 

The walls that went our sanctuary around 
Did, as of old, to that sweet summons yield. 
New scents and sounds within our gates were found ; 
The cry of kine. 
The fragrance of the field, 
All woodland whispers, hastened to the shrine : 
The country side was come 
Eager and joyful, to its spirit's home. 

Far-stretched I saw the cornfield and the plough, 
The scudding cloud, the cleanly-running brook, 
The humble, kindly turf, the tossing bough 
That all their light 
From Love's own furnace took — 
This altar, where one angel brownly bright 
Proclaimed the sylvan creed. 
And sang the Benedictus of the mead. 

All earth was lifted to communion then. 
All lovely life was there to meet its King ; 
Ah, not the little arid souls of men 
But sun and wind 
And all desirous thing 
The ground of their beseeching here did find ; 
All with one self-same bread. 
And all by one eternal priest, were fed.




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