Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Deliverance from Evil

“Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil,” writes Evelyn Underhill, is actually “the culmination of the prayer which was given to the Church of God in the persons of her Apostles; those through whom the sanctification of human history was to be set going, the handful of men to whom we owe our Christian inheritance . . . .are taught to acknowledge their own fragility, their childlike status; their utter dependence on the ceaseless guiding and protecting power of God.”

“It is from our own evil tendencies above all, our inveterate egotism with its million cunning disguises, our pride, greed and anger, our steadily downward drag to self-satisfaction that we need deliverance: for this we can never vanquish in our own strength.

“Do not let us be swamped in the strange tumult and conflict; the evil that results from the clash of wills unharmonized with Thy will. Deliver us by keeping clear that single relation with Thee which is our peace.

“Lead us not into temptation. Temptation is that sphere in which the evil dispositions which are present in the world—its whole trend towards self-satisfaction, self-fulfillment, and away from God--appear in their attractiveness and dominate the situation . . .

“There will be plenty of opportunity for courage, staying power and initiative as well as for humble obedience, for those who follow the guide’s footsteps and are docile to His direction; some narrow ledges and treacherous slopes before we finish. All will be well if we do not yield to the temptation to tackle them alone; but there is every reason to fear the attractive short cut, the opportunity to satisfy our thirst for private spiritual adventure.

“The saints were driven on by rough tracks and awful darkness, in suffering and loneliness, by cloud and storm. They reached the summits; but never in their own strength or by following their own ideas—often indeed by taking what seems to onlookers the most unlikely route, because their feet were set upon a supernatural path which others cannot see.” (Abba, Evelyn Underhill, Morehouse Publishing, Harrisburg, PA, 1982, pages 50 to 56).

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Forgive us our trespasses

“Forgive us our trespasses—our voluntary share in the world’s sinfulness—as we forgive them that trespass against us,” so Evelyn Underhill begins her meditation on the section of the Lord’s prayer that focuses our attention on forgiveness.

“If we cannot live without His life feeding and supporting us, still less can we live without His loving-kindness, tolerating our imperfections, rectifying our errors, forgiving our perpetual shortcomings and excesses, debts and trespasses, and giving us again and again another chance.

“The Christian doctrine of forgiveness is so drastic and so difficult, where there is a real and deep injury to forgive, that only those living in the Spirit, in union with the Cross, can dare to base their claim on it. It means not only asking to be admitted to the Kingdom of Redeeming Love, but also declaring our willingness to behave as citizens of that Kingdom even under the most difficult conditions.

“All this is supernatural, and reminds us again that the Lord’s Prayer is a supernatural prayer: the prayer of the re-born, the realistic Christian who exists to do God’s will. Even so this clause comes a long way down: after the life of worship, the life of consecration, the prayer that the soul may be fed by the hand of God. Only then is it ready for this supreme test; this quiet and genial acceptance of the wounds of life, all the deliberate injury and the casual damage that come from lack of love; this prayer from the Cross. ‘Love your enemies and pray for them that persecute you.’” (Abba, Evelyn Underhill, Morehouse Publishing, Harrisburg, PA, 1982, pages 44 to 50.)