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Evelyn Underhill: For the God who Radiates from the Heart. Alleluia!

We grow best …not by direct and anxious conflict with our difficulties and bad qualities, but by turning to and gazing at the love, joy, peace of the saints, accepting their standards, setting our wills and desires that way.

Concerning the Inner Life (Underhill, p 51)

First of two addresses on Evelyn Underhill & St Benedict

Church of the Resurrection at Mt Macedon, All Souls Day, 2019

In the preface to his recent book, Luminaries - Twenty lives that illuminate the Christian way, Rowan Williams writes about how one person's story can change another person's life. He goes on to offer the stories of luminary figures who have influenced his own thinking and being. These are the ‘stories and writings that themselves set out to decipher the world and the attempt to illuminate it.’ These figures, and their stories, may also help us make sense of God. This may be a startling process.

Jesus himself used narrative to unveil truth. In telling stories, throughout the New Testament, it’s as if Jesus is saying: ‘At the end of this story you will not be where you were at the beginning.’ The parables in particular, ‘push us towards getting away from the cliches which we imprison ourselves, towards taking us into another world, or several other worlds, where we don’t yet know the end of our story and where the categories and conventions we’ve been taking for granted don’t automatically apply.’ (Luminaries px)

The stories of saints lives are each unique but they all point us back again and again to the one story told in different ways and from different perspectives in the New Testament: Jesus. And this draws us, as do the writings of Evelyn Underhill, St Benedict and many other figures of light as well, to the foot of the cross. And from here, even further onward toward a nameless silence. For us, to decipher the stories of the saints’ lives as they in turn deciphered and attempted to illumine their world, is to be broken free and know the world afresh from new perspectives, to acknowledge that we don’t yet know the end of our own story.

At first these two saints, Evelyn Underhill and St Benedict, both recognised in our Anglican Church Calendar, would seem to b