Monday, 13 February 2006

Evelyn Underhill: a Wise Anglican Woman on Worship

I’ve just discovered Evelyn Underhill. She was a devout Anglican scholar, retreat leader and spiritual director in the early twentieth century.

Here are some lovely things she wrote about worship:
By this door and this alone, humanity enters into that great life of the spiritual universe which consists in the ceaseless proclamation of the Glory of God.

God’s invitation to it and man’s response, however limited, crude or mistaken this response may be, are the appointed means whereby we move towards our true destiny…

Worship…is an avenue which leads the creature out from his inveterate self-occupation to a knowledge of God, and ultimately to that union with God which is the beatitude of the soul.
I love that. Our lumpy, idiosyncratic, Sunday morning attempts at worship can lead to the beatitude of the soul which is our true destiny. We can become part of the ceaseless proclamation of the Glory of God.

In order for that to happen, however, we must overcome
The tendency of all worship to decline from adoration to demand, and from the supernatural to the ethical…
New Anglican liturgies such as the Anglican Church of Canada’s supplementary Eucharistic texts reveal such a decline. The language and imagery of numbers one and two, in particular, is more about issues of political correctness and ethics than about unconditional adoration.

Selfless adoration is the goal of worship for Underhill. Such adoring, undemanding, worship
…advances that transfiguration of the whole universe which is the Coming of the kingdom of God. 
Your Kingdom come, indeed.


Anthony said...
Yes, sadly we seem to spend a lot more time just trying not to offend one another these days. Everything seems to be about tolerance. We tolerate everyone's rights to do what they decide they'd like to do. We do it so much that we seem to be sterilizing our response to God.

I believe God can see through it and can still see a genuine intent to worship when it exsists, but we seem to filter our response first through social filters that involve questions about what our response will cause other people to think or feel. In a way, we respond to God second and people first because they (society) govern the filter we apply to our responses to God.

It's a tough filter to just turn around and ignore though.