Tension, then, is an inescapable feature of our spirituality and no one was more insistent upon this that von Hugel.
‘Christianity’, he wrote, ‘can and does develop in man a temper, a state of soul, which so deeply and delicately, so sharply and steadily perceives and feels the difference between Time and Eternity, the Fleeting and the Abiding, Pleasure and Beatitude, the Contingent and the Final, the Greatness and God. Our religious task therefore is to seek out what is real and true and life enhancing.
Therein certainly lies our hope, but the words drive us back to consider how observant we are, how spiritually sensitive, to be able to know the genuine from the false in day-to-day living. This means we shall have to deal with the perturbing reality of alienation ! What does alienation mean if not that living apart from the realities of our condition as children of God, and living apart for so long that we lose the knowledge of truth?
Those fed on substitutes and toxic things are not healthily hungry that they search for the food of eternal life before all else. Alienation from the light can produce an acceptance of fog and filthy air, an acquiescence in pollution.
But von Hugel continues: ‘No doubt this world-fleeing movement will have to be alternated with, will have find its stimulus and material in, a world-seeking movement; and only the two together in their proper proportions and inter-penetrations will furnish the complete service of God by complete mankind.’
What might this mean for todays disciples?