– Evelyn Underhill
Friday, September 21, 2012
– Evelyn Underhill
Monday, September 17, 2012
Every Christian communicant volunteers for translation into the supernatural order, and is self-offered for the supernatural purposes of God. The Liturgy leads us out toward Eternity, by way of the acts in which [we] express [our] need of God and relation to God. It commits every worshipper to the adventure of holiness, and has no meaning apart from that.– Evelyn Underhill
Receiving the bread into my outstretched hands and sipping wine–wine!– from a common cup reinforced all of this. And wine. I remember feeling it infusing my chest as I swallowed. So different from the shot glass of communion grape juice I had grown up with. There was an awareness of its potency. And, indeed, the idea that Christ was somehow really present in the bread and wine was potent indeed. The mystery of God was made mysteriously tangible. The weekly Eucharist became and remains a central and essential aspect of my piety.
Wednesday, September 5, 2012
Dorothy Sayers (greatly influenced by C. Williams and a friend of Lewis)
Charles Gore (who I recently learned was an influence on C. Williams)
Austin Farrer (theologian who preached at Lewis' funeral)
E. L. Mascall
N. T. Wright
Rowan Williams (Archbishop of Canterbury who has recently written a book about Lewis' Narnia Chronicles)
To that list of mostly 20th century authors I would add these classic Anglican worthies:
F. D. Maurice
I have been inspired and informed by representatives from other traditions, but I feel most at home with these.
Each of them exhibits a commitment to what I've identified elsewhere as basic Anglican Values.
One way or another reading each of these authors evokes Christmas for me which is one of my basic tests for whether or not someone is onto something. They bear witness to the hope that now that Christmas has arrived in the coming of Jesus Christ there is the promise that we might be overcome by Christmas any time, any place even in the midst of whatever winters we endure as we await the final Advent of the King.
There is more to this sense of Christmas. There is in the writing of each an emphasis on the centrality of the Incarnation. The Incarnation, of course, includes the way of the cross and the crucifixion. But the Incarnation has rich purpose, meaning , and wonder in itself.
To varying degrees they each emphasize what Charles Williams calls the 'Way of Affirmation' which bears witness to the goodness of being human in the midst of the splendor of God's good creation. As Hooker wrote, "All things are of God (and only sin is not) have God in them and he them in himself likewise." There is goodness and beauty in humans and the all creation because God is Good and Beautiful.
Consequently, they tend to hold to a sacramental appreciation of all created reality as having the potential of mediating the divine Presence.
At the same time they do not minimize the deep reality of sin and our need of salvation.
Thus, in each is a serious engagement with spiritual disciplines that make for sanctification in the context of God's grace.
Each is more or less an exponent of what Evelyn Underhill called 'practical mysticism':
Therefore it is to a practical mysticism that the practical man is here invited: to a training of his latent faculties, a bracing and brightening of his languid consciousness, an emancipation from the fetters of appearance, a turning of his attention to new levels of the world. Thus he may become aware of the universe that the spiritual artist is always trying to disclose to the race. This amount of mystical perception–this 'ordinary contemplation', as the specialist call it,–is possible to all men: without it, they are not wholly alive. It is a natural human activity.
Nearly all of them represent a high church, catholic way of seeing things that draws abundantly from the deep well of Christian thought, practice, and worship.
For the most part they each express an expansive orthodoxy – solidly orthodox with an appreciative engagement with non-Christian ways of thinking and being (which is not the same thing as unChristian ways of thinking and being, though they are not shy about challenging those as well both within and without the church).
Each also holds to a typically Anglican reticence which is wary of claiming to know overmuch about God or God's ways. They accept that God has been revealed in Jesus Christ and the scriptures that bear witness to him, but each retains a posture of humility and awe in the presence of the untamed, wild God at the heart of it all who is, as Lewis says of Aslan, "Good, but not safe."
No doubt we could name other common themes, but these are the ones that occur to me at the moment. In any event, their themes and presentation of Christian faith resonate deeply and inspire me. I am an Episcopalian partly because of these 'Glorious Companions'.
Saturday, September 1, 2012
In the Litany this morning we had some extra petitions, one of which was, ‘Prosper, oh Lord, our righteous cause’. Assuming that it was the work of the bishop or someone higher up, when I met Bleiben [the vicar] in the porch, I ventured to protest against the audacity of informing God that our cause was righteous – a point on which he has his own views . . . I hope it is quite like ours, of course, but one never knows with him.
And that reminded me of this by Charles Williams also written in the midst of WW2 (1942):
The conversion, where it is demanded, of the wild justice of revenge to the civil justice of the Divine City is the precise operation of the Holy Spirit towards Christ. All we need to do is attend to the goodwill, to the civility; the justice (in the personal relation) can be left to Christ. ‘Vengeance is mine; I will repay, sayeth the Lord.’ It is perhaps desirable to notice that the repayment is not limited to our enemy. We shall be unfortunate if we forget the trespasses, the debts, which our enemies desire to repay with their wild justice and are content to leave to his promise. It is important that we should be ready to forgive the Germans; it is not unimportant to recognize that many Germans (including Herr Hitler? Possibly; we do not very well know) may feel that they have much to forgive us. Many reconciliations have unfortunately broken down because both parties have come prepared to forgive but unprepared to be forgiven. Instruction is as badly needed in this as in many other less vital things; that holy light which we call humility has an exact power of illumination all its own.
A couple of things strike me in the above quotes. Both Lewis and Williams refuse to get caught up in nationalistic rhetoric that assumes that 'God is with us' or that their country is particularly blessed by God. Even in the midst of war, they were compelled by their Christian convictions to accept the possibility that their nation was wrong and that their enemies might well have grievances of their own. If that is the faithful Christian attitude in the midst of war how much more so in times of (relative) peace? It raises questions about the ease with which Americans blend God-talk and patriotism which smacks of syncretism. It raises questions about the rhetoric of American exceptionalism.