Sunday, December 28, 2008

The One True Light...

Beholding His Glory is only half our job. In our souls too the mysteries must be brought forth; we are not really Christians till that has been done. "The Eternal Birth," says Eckhart, "must take place in you." And another mystic says human nature is like a stable inhabited by the ox of passion and the ass of prejudice; animals which take up a lot of room and which I suppose most of us are feeding on the quiet. And it is there between them, pushing them out, that Christ must be born and in their very manger He must be laid—and they will be the first to fall on their knees before Him. Sometimes Christians seem far nearer to those animals than to Christ in His simple poverty, self-abandoned to God.

The birth of Christ in our souls is for a purpose beyond ourselves: it is because His manifestation in the world must be through us. Every Christian is, as it were, part of the dust-laden air which shall radiate the glowing Epiphany of God, catch and reflect His golden Light. Ye are the light of the world - but only because you are enkindled, made radiant by the One Light of the World. And being kindled, we have got to get on with it, be useful. As Christ said in one of His ironical flashes, "Do not light a candle in order to stick it under the bed!" Some people make a virtue of religious skulking.

From Light of Christ by Evelyn Underhill, quoted in Advent with Evelyn Underhill, edited by Christopher L. Webber. Copyright © 2006. Used by permission of Morehouse Publishing, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. With thanks to Vicki K Black.

Evelyn Underhill still amazes me with her imagery. The picture of the Church as innumerable dust-motes floating in the glorious light of Christ, each one reflecting his glory in infinitesimal radiance is so full of resonance for me. The house I grew up in, in Felpham on the Sussex coast, had a marvellous stained-glass window on the stairs, just abstract shapes and roundels of coloured glass, through which the sun used to stream in the late afternoon. As a little boy I used to sit on the stairs for what seemed like hours, just watching the dust-motes drifting in the beams of coloured light, changing colour themselves as they moved, each one a tiny reflection of the glory of the low sun as it came through that window. I wonder - suppose that sun were the light of Christ, and the colours scraps of glass were our traditions, Catholic, Orthodox, Lutheran, Anglican, the different shades of free church, emerging church, home church... each one of us would be ourselves, our own speck of dust, coloured by our church background, true, but each reflecting the one true Light streaming into the world... 


  1. This is a brilliant post to read first thing in the day.

    It shall remain on my heart and in my prayers; as always I thank you!

  2. So happy to come visit and see "synchronicity" again! My last couple of posts at Consecrated to Mary were also about the birth of Jesus in our souls, referencing Meister Eckhart, because I have been pondering it this Christmas season. If you have a chance to pop over, I also posted a very good YouTube from a Jesuit priest speaking on the same subject.

    I love this passage you have from E. Underhill. I recently downloaded her "Practical Mysticism" which is available at the Project Gutenberg online; have not read it yet, but am looking forward to doing so.