Tension, then, is an inescapable feature of our spirituality and no one was more insistent upon this that von Hügel. ‘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, as to make souls incapable of being paid off in these deepest matters with anything but the genuine coin.’ It can and does. 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 coin in day-to-day living.  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 Hügel 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… How much decency, leisure and pay is the sinner to have, till he is helped to love prayer and the thought of God?’

 from Firing the Clay by Alan Eccleston (Chapter 5 Spirituality and Alienation page 37)


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