In his talk on Evelyn’s feast day, June 15, 2021, Bishop Frank Griswold both modeled and reflected on what it means to be a “person of prayer.” He said he does not study Evelyn Underhill, but that he has found her to be a companion, experiencing in her teaching the way that Christ comes to us through the saints.
He began by reflecting and expanding on the importance of worship and adoration in the life of prayer, so foundational to all of Underhill’s work. A person of prayer is someone who is attached to God at the very deepest level, and who is learning that praise, worship and service are all part of our “yes” to the Holy Spirit praying in us, a “yes” to who God has made us to … Read more
For many years now the annual day of Quiet Reflection in honor of Evelyn Underhill has been an important spiritual resting-point in my life. It is always held in June, near Evelyn’s June 15 feast day. At that time of year the cathedral close is beautiful, the roses blooming in the Bishop’s garden, with quiet green places to walk and pray, and a lovely sense of “home” in the living room of Sayre House, where we meet. Even though I usually have leadership responsibilities, that June quiet day has become for me an annual time of rerooting, reconnecting to my own deepening experience of God’s presence in my life. It is a time to rest in what Evelyn Underhill somewhere calls “that deep place where the soul is at home with God.”
In her introduction to “The Call of God” (also used as introduction to an earlier retreat on “Inward Grace and Outward Sign,”) Evelyn suggests how questions about vocation emerge naturally as soon as we do the sort of thing we’re doing today – as we make space and time to turn our hearts wholly to God, moving out of ourselves and resting in that loving presence, in a spirit of adoration. She is speaking to people who have gathered in a beautiful place – the crypt of Canterbury Cathedral — to place themselves, as we are doing, in the presence of the beauty and holiness and insistent love of God The result of taking this kind of time for retreat, she writes, “will be a new and more vivid sense of His reality and … Read more
For many years now an important spiritual resting-point in my life has been the annual day of quiet reflection in honor of Evelyn Underhill, sponsored by the Evelyn Underhill Association at the Washington National Cathedral. It is always held in mid-June, on a Saturday close to the day when the Episcopal Church calendar observes Evelyn’s feast day, June 15. It is a beautiful time of year on the Cathedral close, usually with lovely weather, the roses blooming in the Bishop’s Garden, quiet places to walk and pray on the grounds or in the Cathedral. Always the day has included several hours of communal silence, punctuated by a leader’s reflections on some theme from the writings of this 20th century mystic, spiritual director and retreat leader.
Evelyn Underhill’s gift to the Church may best be summarized by … Read more
Evelyn Underhill recalls how her first experience of a conducted retreat at Pleshey retreat house in 1922 transformed her attitude toward church and vocation, and began the process of clarifying her own calling. She writes to Baron von Hugel of the satisfactions of the daily regime of communion and four services a day, and reflects that “the whole house seemed soaked in love and prayer.” With that description in my memory, I made a two-day retreat to Pleshey last April.
And so I found myself, late on a Saturday afternoon, at the railway station in the distinctly unromantic London suburb of Chelmsford, being met by a tall, soft-spoken man in a worn tweed jacket! He introduced himself as Bruce Hollamsby, the assistant warden, and welcomed me heartily, saying, “You cannot imagine how delighted we are to have … Read more
A modern reader coming to Theophanies is bound to be put off by the Edwardian conventionality of rhythm and music and by the tendentiousness of those poems on explicitly spiritual—especially neo-platonic—themes. But buried among these unsatisfactory efforts are flashes of genuine and original insights, where we see Underhill testing and using her gift for imaging, in homely terms, what she perceived as the presence and pull of God’s love in the world.
For example, the poem entitled “In the Train” constrasts the ardor and excitement of her own vision with the blindness of those around her. Beginning “O Train full of blind eyes, rushing through the world,” it goes on to sketch out in vivid, positively sensual imagery the poet’s imaginative communion with the meadow outside—”it and I, close locked in passionate embrace”