Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Evelyn Underhill on St John of the Cross

In her book 'Mysticism'  Evelyn Underhill famously described St John of the Cross, whose feast day falls today, as "at once the sanest of saints and the most penetrating of psychologists."
This is from another work, 'The Spiritual Life' published in 1936, containing some encouraging words this Advent, when, for some of us, many things seem so fragile and impermanent:  
"St. John of the Cross, in a famous and beautiful poem, described the beginning of the journey of his soul to God:

“In an obscure night
Fevered by Love’s anxiety
O hapless, happy plight
I went, none seeing me,
Forth from my house, where all things
quiet be”

Not many of us could say that. Yet there is no real occasion for tumult, strain, conflict, anxiety, once we have reached the living conviction that God is All. All takes place within Him. He alone matters, He alone is. Our spiritual life is His affair; because, whatever we may think to the contrary, it is really produced by His steady attraction, and our humble and self forgetful response to it. It consists in being drawn, at His pace and in His way, to the place where He wants us to be; not the place we fancied for ourselves.
Some people may seem to us to go to God by a moving staircase; where they can assist matters a bit by their own efforts, but much gets done for them and progress does not cease. Some appear to be whisked past us in a lift; whilst we find ourselves on a steep flight of stairs with a bend at the top, so that we cannot see how much farther we have to go. But none of this really matters; what matters is the conviction that all are moving towards God, and, in that journey, accompanied, supported, checked and fed by God. Since our dependence on Him is absolute, and our desire is that His Will shall be done, this great desire can gradually swallow up, neutralise all our small self-centred desires. When that happens life, inner and outer, becomes one single, various act of adoration and self-giving; one undivided response of the creature to the demand and pressure of Creative Love."

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