Lay Anglicana, the unofficial voice of the laity throughout the Anglican Communion.
This is the place to share news and views from the pews.

Get involved ...

Easter Even: The Resurrection Faith – Evelyn Underhill


I am writing to you at the moment in the Christian year when, as it were, we pause and look back on the richest cluster of such spiritual facts ever revealed to man. Paschal Time, to give its old name to the interval between Easter and Ascension, marks the end of the historical manifestation of the Word Incarnate, and the beginning of His hidden life within the Church. But the quality of that hidden life, in which as members of the Body of Christ we are all required to take part, is the quality which the historic life revealed. From the very beginning the Church has been sure that the series of events which were worked out to their inevitable end in Holy Week sum up and express the deepest secrets of the relation of God to man.

That means, of course, that Christianity can never be merely a pleasant or consoling religion. It is a stern business. It is concerned with the salvation through sacrifice and love of a world in which, as we can all see now, evil and cruelty are rampant. Its supreme symbol is the Crucifix—the total and loving self-giving of man to the redeeming purposes of God.

Because we are all the children of God we all have our part to play in His redemptive plan; and the Church consists of those loving souls who have accepted this obligation, with all that it costs. Its members are all required to live, each in their own way, through the sufferings and self-abandonment of the Cross; as the only real contribution which they can make to the redemption of the world. Christians, like their Master, must be ready to accept the worst that evil and cruelty can do to them, and vanquish it by the power of love.

For if sacrifice, total self-giving to God’s mysterious purpose, is what is asked of us, His answer to that sacrifice is the gift of power. Easter and Whitsuntide complete the Christian Mystery by showing us first our Lord Himself and then His chosen apostles possessed of a new power—the power of the Spirit—which changed every situation in which they were placed. That supernatural power is still the inheritance of every Christian and our idea of Christianity is distorted and incomplete unless we rely on it. It is this power and only this which can bring in the new Christian society of which we hear so much. We ought to pray for it; expect it and trust it; and as we do this, we shall gradually become more and more sure of it.

Evelyn Underhill

Letter to the Prayer Group, Eastertide 1941, from The Fruits of the Spirit
The illustration, Completing life’s puzzle by: Doug Burke is via Seed Resources.

I hope you have enjoyed these extracts from the writings of Evelyn Underhill, who died in 1941. If they have whetted your appetite for more, may I suggest you do not begin, as I did, by plunging into ‘Mysticism‘, which is hard going in parts if you are not yet a mystic yourself. I suggest that this anthology of her writings, Lent With Evelyn Underhill, which was first published in 1964, and edited by G P Mellick Belshaw, would be a better introduction to her work, as would one of the other anthologies.

2 comments on this post:

Nancy Wallace said...

Thank you for posting Evelyn Underhill extracts – none of them easy, but well worth chewing over. I read some of her writings years ago and you have definitely whetted my appetite for rediscovering her work.

30 March 2013 08:54
Lay Anglicana said...

Thank-you Nancy. It certainly helped my understanding to type out her words, particularly as she has such an idiosyncratic use of semi-colons and dashes that you are forced to go quite slowly and re-read it a couple of times! I also kept her capitalisation, which appears in unexpected places but is sometimes helpful, for example one sentence containing the word ‘will’ several times, but always with a capital W when she means the will of God as opposed to human will. I found I gradually got into the swing of it. But it was definitely a mistake (for me at least) to tackle ‘Mysticism’ head on… 🙂

30 March 2013 09:48

Leave a Reply

We rely on donations to keep this website running.