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Saturday Of The Fifth Week In Lent: Evelyn Underhill

Evelyn Underhill has been tugging at my sleeve and tells me that she will be sending us a message every day from today throughout Holy Week up until Easter Eve. Here we go:

Meekness and Temperance; Humility and Moderation

‘Though I give my body to be burned’, said Saint Paul, ‘ and have not love, I am nothing‘. I do not as a spiritual being exist. And now he gives us another and much more surprising test of spiritual vitality. Though you feel an unconquerable love, joy and peace, though you are gentle, long-suffering, good in all your personal relationships, though you are utterly faithful in your service of God — in the end the only proof that all this is truly the fruit of the Spirit, Christ in you and not just your own idea, is the presence of the last two berries in the bunch: not showy berries, not prominently placed, but absolutely decisive for the classification of the plant. Meekness and Temperance, says the Authorised Version or, as we may quite properly translate, Humility and Moderation. That means our possession of the crowning grace of creatureliness: knowing our own size and our own place, the self-oblivion and quietness with which we fit into God’s great scheme instead of having a jolly little scheme of our own, and are content to bring forth the fruit of His Spirit, according to our own measure, here and now, in space and time.

Humility and Moderation — the graces of the self-forgetful soul — we might almost expect that if we have grasped all that the Incarnation really means — God and His love, manifest not in some peculiar and supernatural spiritual manner, but in ordinary human nature. Christ, first-born of many brethren, content to be one of us, living the family life and from within His Church inviting the souls of men to share His family life. In the family circle, there is room for the childish and the imperfect and the naughty, but the uppish is always out of place.

We have got down to the bottom of the stairs now and are fairly sitting on the mat. But the proof that it is the right flight and leads up to the Divine Charity, is the radiance that pours down from the Upper Storey: the joy and peace in which the whole is bathed and which floods our whole being here in the lowest place. How right Saint Paul was to put these two fruits at the end of his list, for as a rule they are the last we acquire. At first we simply do not see the point. But the saints have always seen it. When Angela of Foligno was dying, her disciples asked for a last message and she, who had been called a Mistress of Theology and whose Visions of the Being of God are among the greatest the medieval mystics have left us, had only one thing to say to them as her farewell: ‘Make yourselves small! Make yourselves very small.’

Evelyn Underhill

The Fruits of the Spirit
Passage chosen for today in the anthology ‘Lent with Evelyn Underhill’
The illustration is the bronze panel “Humility”, on the south doors (by Andrea Pisano) of the Florence Baptistry, Italy, via Wikimedia.

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