Less Merely Individual, More Truly Personal

“The spiritual life of individuals has to be extended both vertically to God and horizontally to other souls; and the more it grows in both directions, the less merely individual and therefore more truly personal it will become.”

-Evelyn Underhill

Evelyn Underhill

Evelyn Underhill is one of the best known and the most widely read Christian authors on the subject of mysticism.   She was born on December 6, 1875 in Wolverhampton in the United Kingdom and is the author of 39 books and over 350 articles.  Underhill’s book Mysticism, published in 1911, is perhaps one of the most widely read books on the topic of Christian Mysticism in print.  Underhill focused almost all of her literary strength on the topics of religion, spiritual practice, and in particular Christian mysticism.  Christian mysticism–at its most basic–focuses on the practice of intentionally looking for and being conscious of the direct and immediate presence of God, both in one’s life and in the world around us.  A prolific Anglo-Catholic writer, Underhill is one of the best known and influential Christian mystics of the 20th century.

The gospel passage assigned for Evelyn Underhill’s feast day is John 4:19-24 which is:

“The Samaritan woman at the well said to Jesus, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

In his response to the Samaritan woman at the well Jesus starts off by informing her that even the heathen Samaritans will worship God…and not just in a specific location, but they will worship God everywhere.  “God is spirit,” Jesus says, and thus as spirit can go and be anywhere at any time in any and all locations.  The worship of God is not confined to a particular locale or designated spot, but is able to happen every place, at all times.

Underhill, in her quote above speaks to the idea that our spiritual lives, our relationship with God and with as she puts it, “other souls” is deepened and truly grows only when we share our faith.  This sharing of our faith with others makes us vulnerable to other’s thoughts and ideas, their pre-conceived notions about someone who would share their views on faith and religion openly.  But in that moment we are given a precious opportunity to not only talk about how our lives are changed by our relationship with God, but to reinforce and deepen our own faith simply by putting voice to those things that we hold as sacred, vital and important in our own faith lives.   Each time we share our faith with others, each time we answer the question, “So what DO you believe in,” or, “Why do you go to St. Alban’s, or even go to church,” our answer internalizes for us our faith, our religion, our beliefs and our relationship with God.  In saying those words, in sharing our faith we are letting loose the Holy Spirit into the world and worshiping God in spirit and in truth.

About matthewhanisian

Associate Rector at St. Alban's Episcopal Church, Washington, D.C.
This entry was posted in The Rev. Matthew R. Hanisian and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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