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Thought For Saturday Of The Fourth Week In Lent: Evelyn Underhill

A Fish In The Sea

Mystics, trying to tell us of their condition, often say that they feel ‘sunk in God like a fish in the sea‘.

We pass over these phrases very easily, and forget that they are the final result of a long struggle to find the best image for an admittedly imageless truth. Yet prayer is above all the act in which we give ourselves to our soul’s true Patria; enter again that Ocean of God which is at once our origin and our inheritance, and there find ourselves mysteriously at home. And this strange, home-like feeling kills the dread which might overcome us, if we thought of the unmeasured depth beneath us, and the infinite extent and utter mystery of that Ocean into which we have plunged. As it is, a curious blend of confidence and entire abandonment keep us, because of our very littleness, in peace and joy: content with our limited powers and the limitless Love in which we are held. Nothing in all nature is so lovely and so vigorous, so perfectly at home in its environment, as a fish in the sea. Its surroundings give to it a beauty, quality and power which is not its own. We take it out, and at once a poor, limp, dull thing, fit for nothing, is gasping away its life.

So the soul sunk in God, living the life of prayer, is supported, filled, transformed in beauty, by a vitality and power which are not its own. The souls of the saints are so powerful because they are thus utterly immersed in the Spirit: their whole life is a prayer. The Life in which they live and move and have their being gives them something of its own quality. So long as they maintain themselves within it, they are adequate to its demands, because fed by its gifts. This re-entrance into our Origin and acceptance of our true inheritance is the spiritual life of prayer, as it may be experienced by the human soul.

Far better to be a shrimp within that ocean than a full-sized theological whale cast upon the shore.


This week’s guest post from the hereafter is by Evelyn Underhill. 1875-1941

It is taken from ‘Lent with Evelyn Underhill’ (2006); the extract is from The Golden Sequence

The illustration comes from a photograph of S.E.A. Aquarium in the Marine Life Park at Resorts World Sentosa, Singapore. Uploaded to Wikimedia in January 2013 by Smuconlaw.

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