ADVENT WITH EVELYN UNDERHILL: Contemplation
From Light of Christ
Contemplation of Christ does not mean an emotional sort of pious daydream; it means entering by a deliberate, self-oblivious, and humble attention into the tremendous mysteries of his life – mysteries which each give us some deep truth about the life and will of God and the power and vocation of a soul that is given to God – mysteries which each one of us in particular is called to make part of our very lives. They will break up, into colors we can deal with, that white light of God’s holiness at which we cannot look.
You know sometimes how one goes to see a church which one is told has magnificent windows – and seen from outside they all look alike – dull, thick, grubby. We probably say, Well! it is obvious there is good glass here, but we cannot realize it. Then we open the door and go inside – leave the outer world, enter the inner world – and the universal light floods through the windows and bathes us in their color and beauty and significance, shows us things of which we had never dreamed, a loveliness that lies beyond the fringe of speech. And so in the same way we cannot realize God and all our Lord’s lovely meaning as a revelation of God and his eternal Truth and Beauty, from outside. One constantly hears people commenting on Christianity from outside and missing the point every time. They are on the wrong side of the wall. How important then it is for us to be familiar with the inner vision. It is from within the place of prayer, recollection, worship, and love, where the altar is, where the sacrifice is made, where we are all bound together in a life of communion and self-giving to God, that we fully and truly receive the revelation which is made through Christ. Then we see the different acts and stages of his life like a series of windows through which streams into our souls the pure light of God, mediated to us in a way we can bear: Eternity and Reality given to us in human terms. To reenter that Cathedral, receive a fresh gift from its inexhaustible beauty, see through those windows more and more of the light of God, that is the secret of meditation. Julian says at the end of her Revelations that what she had received from her vision of Christ was, Light, Life, and Love; everything was gathered in that; an energy to show us the Truth, quicken us to fresh vitality and fill us with adoring devotion. What a contrast to our stodgy, vague, twilight inner life! We come into the silence to get more Light, Life, and Love. We come to contemplate our Christian treasure from inside.
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