‘Tis heart on heart thou rulest. Thou art the sameAt God’s right hand as here exposed to shame,
And therefore workest now as thou didst then—
Feeding the faint divine in humble men.
Through all thy realms from thee goes out heart-power,
Working the holy, satisfying hour,
When all shall love, and all be loved again.
~ George MacDonald
When it comes to Chesterton, somewhere in the back of my mind that lyric wants to come sneaking in – “Do it to me one more time,” although of course there is something not quite right about it, or something that is just out of place so that I don’t want to use it in this context – not in this place. But I do want Chesterton to fill me with wonder again, set my head spinning again, and re-ignite the passion and mystery of life in my heart. Thankfully he has himself provided the adequate line, where he speaks of one so inexhaustible that he never tires of repetition.
It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”
But I digress. Here is the thought that captivated me.
I have made a discovery: or I should say seen a vision. I saw it between two cups of black coffee in a Gallic restaurant in Soho: but I could not express it if I tried.
But this was one thing that it said–that all good things are one thing. There is no conflict between the gravestone of Gertrude and a comic—opera tune played by Mildred Wain. But there is everlasting conflict between the gravestone of Gertrude and the obscene pomposity of the hired mute: and there is everlasting conflict between the comic—opera tune and any mean or vulgar words to which it may be set. These, which man hath joined together, God shall most surely sunder. That is what I am feeling . . . now every hour of the day. All good things are one thing. Sunsets, schools of philosophy, babies, constellations, cathedrals, operas, mountains, horses, poems–all these are merely disguises. One thing is always walking among us in fancy—dress, in the grey cloak of a church or the green cloak of a meadow. He is always behind, His form makes the folds fall so superbly. And that is what the savage old Hebrews, alone among the nations, guessed, and why their rude tribal god has been erected on the ruins of all polytheistic civilisations. For the Greeks and Norsemen and Romans saw the superficial wars of nature and made the sun one god, the sea another, the wind a third. They were not thrilled, as some rude Israelite was, one night in the wastes, alone, by the sudden blazing idea of all being the same God: an idea worthy of a detective story.
GK Chesterton, Letter to Frances Chesterton
When it comes to Chesterton, somewhere in the back of my mind that lyric wants to come sneaking in – “Do it to me one more time,” although of course there is something not quite right about it, or something that is just out of place so that it may not be used in this context – not in this place. But I do want Chesterton to fill me with wonder again, set my head spinning again, and re-ignite the passion and mystery of life. Thankfully he has himself provided the adequate line, where he speaks of one so inexhaustible that he never tires of repetition.
It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy…
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It is hard to read Chesterton without wanting to take notes (on practically everything) – without wanting more of whatever it is that makes his soul so pure, his heart so true, and his thoughts so good. His way of always turning things back to goodness, back to reason and back to reality. Thank you, that there is such a man as Chesterton, and that I get to see the world through his eyes!
I am so glad to hear you say . . . that, in your own words “it is good for us to be here”–where you are at present. The same remark, if I remember right, was made on the mountain of the Transfiguration. It has always been one of my unclerical sermons to myself, that that remark which Peter made on seeing the vision of a single hour, ought to be made by us all, in contemplating every panoramic change in the long Vision we call life–other things superficially, but this always in our depths. “It is good for us to be here–it is good for us to be here,” repeating itself eternally. And if, after many joys and festivals and frivolities, it should be our fate to have to look on while one of us is, in a most awful sense of the words, “transfigured before our eyes”: shining with the whiteness of death–at least, I think, we cannot easily fancy ourselves wishing not to be at our post. Not I, certainly. It was good for me to be there.
~GK Chesterton, From a letter to Frances
“Our Father (for whatever we poor sin-bound creatures may think or do to the contrary, Thou art still our Father), come into our hearts to-day. Give us that deep yearning which finds voice in the cry ‘Our Father!’ . . . We want more of Thy divinity in us, but Thou knowest all we want, and why we want it.”
~ George MacDonald
O Christ, my life, possess me utterly. Take me and make a little Christ of me.
If I am anything but thy father’s son,
‘Tis something not yet from the darkness won.
Oh, give me light to live with open eyes.
Oh, give me life to hope above all skies.
Give me thy spirit to haunt the Father with my cries.
~ George MacDonald
But from whatever quarter, our troubles, whether from the world outside of the world inside, still let us pray. In his own right way, the only way that could satisfy us, for we are of his kind, God will answer our prayers with help. He will avenge us of our adversaries, and that speedily. Only let us take heed that we be adversaries to no man, but fountains of love and forgiving tenderness to all. And from no adversary, either on the way with us, or haunting the secret chamber of our hearts, let us hope to be delivered till we have paid the last farthing.
~ George MacDonald, Unspoken Sermons
“The pleasures of spring have been jawed about so often that I am rather shy of saying anything about the lovely weather that has succeeded to the snow here. Do you know what if feels like when you go out for the first time without an overcoat and feel all the nerves funny up the back of your legs and see the clouds blowing about a really blue sky? At the same I know the spring too well to really like her. She invariably makes you feel lonely & dissatisfied & long for
‘The land where I shall never be
The love that I shall never see.’
You know what I mean?”
~Letter from C.S. Lewis to Arthur Greeves, February 20, 1917
(The actual lines are
‘The love whom I shall never meet,
The land where I shall never be’
Andrew Lang, History of English Literature, p. 579)
I found this beautiful – so full of that lonely longing, long suffered by my waiting soul. I don’t really believe intellectually that these things will “never be,” for that idea has been ruined for me by a thought of hope. But sometimes it does feel that way; most days, in fact. I feel sometimes I am really just waiting for death, although that thought of course is a jolt. That would be a waste of life, and it re-directs me towards thoughts of what needs doing. I don’t know what I am meant to do or be in the larger scale of life, but I do know that I can do what good I know, as best I can. The rest appears an endless waiting for the sun, shining everywhere, and just out of reach.