Evelyn Underhill: Innumerable responsibilities

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There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Luke 2:36-37

“We know, as a historical fact, unusually well attested by contemporary evidence and quite outside the sphere of hagiographic romance, that both St. Catherine of Siena and her namesake St. Catherine of Genoa — active women as well as ecstatics, the first a philanthropist, reformer, and politician, the second an original theologian and for many years the highly efficient matron of a large hospital — lived, in the first case for years, in the second for con- stantly repeated periods of many weeks, without other food than the consecrated Host which they received at Holy Communion. They did this, not by way of difficult obedience to a pious vow, but because they could not live in any other way. Whilst fasting, they were well and active, capable of dealing with the innumerable responsibilities which filled their lives.”

Evelyn Underhill (1875-1941) in Mysticism: A Study in Nature and Development of Spiritual Consciousness (Grand Rapids: CCEL, 1911) 59.

I felt led by God to look up fasting in the thinking of Evelyn Underhill yesterday, and I am glad I did. In this excerpt which is outside the norm of my regular posts, Underhill reveals a spiritual secret of two famous Catherine’s in church history, one a generous giver and reformer and the other a theologian and hospital administrator. They actively fasted.

Do you feel God has called you as a giver or a ministry administrator to juggle “innumerable responsibilities” for Him? I know I do right now in my life. If so, join me in this. Set aside your desires for God’s through the adoption of a regular pattern of fasting. Do this so that all that you do is guided and sustained by God. Both Catherine’s would say there is no other way to live.

Today is my last day set aside to work on a draft of the GTP training program with my colleague, Ereny Monir, before she heads to the Global Leadership Summit in Chicago, and before Jenni and I head to teach at the Kurios Gospel Forum in Seattle tomorrow. Pray for a fruitful day of meetings at the Denver office of Nathan Jones of Youth For Christ. Thanks.