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Music of Eternity: Meditations for Advent with Evelyn Underhill: The Archbishop of York’s Advent Book 2021 by Robyn Wrigley-Carr

22 October 2021

Ayla Lepine considers Evelyn Underhill as a guide during Advent

THE theologian and novelist Evelyn Underhill was irrepressibly prolific, driven by a profound love for God and the Body of Christ. She wrote more than 30 books and countless letters, not to mention her innumerable retreats and lectures within and beyond the Church. Underhill’s importance in shaping the contours of Christian life in modern Britain should not be underestimated, and in recent years she has been making a real comeback, not least because of this year’s centenary of her reception into the Church of England, and her newly restored monument at Hampstead Parish Church.

Robyn Wrigley-Carr, one of the world’s foremost Underhill experts, has curated a range of Underhill’s writing, directing us to a prayerful and holy Advent. What comes through most clearly in Underhill’s reflections on Christian life is God’s compassion. Indeed, Wrigley-Carr opens the book with what Underhill told one friend who was struggling under the social and festal pressures of the season: “I do hope your Invisible Christmas will be full of the Lord even though the Visible part may be rather difficult.”

The book and Underhill’s purpose is to focus our gaze on God, because “It is that focus which enables us, small creatures as we are, to transmit God’s Love to others.” That said, Underhill’s characteristically wry observations on the pitfalls of pride are here, too: “What really matters to you most? The perfection of His mighty symphony, or your own remarkably clever performance of that difficult passage for the tenth violin?”

The book’s structure is ideal for groups, and there is nourishment for the soul on every page. Underhill reminds us that “Our inheritance is God, our Father and Home. We recognise Him, because we already carry in our hearts a rough sketch of His beloved countenance. Looking into those deeps, as into a quiet pool in a dark forest, we there find looking back at us the Face we implicitly long for and yet already know.”

This Advent, Wrigley-Carr encourages us to let Underhill be our companion, so that we may prepare for Jesus our Emmanuel by being “carefully tuned in, sensitive to the music of Eternity”.


The Revd Dr Ayla Lepine is the Ahmanson Fellow in Art and Religion at the National Gallery.

Music of Eternity: Meditations for Advent with Evelyn Underhill: The Archbishop of York’s Advent Book 2021
Robyn Wrigley-Carr
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