Solid and Whole

But you will be healed. You were meant to be solid and whole, and you will be.

– JRR Tolkien

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Self to Christ

The terrible thing, the almost impossible thing is to hand over your whole self—all your wishes and precautions to Christ. But it is far easier than what we are all trying to do instead. For what we are trying to do is to remain what we call ‘ourselves,’ to keep personal happiness as our great aim in life, and yet at the same time be ‘good.’ We are all trying to let our mind and heart go their own way—centered on money or pleasure or ambition—and hoping, in spite of this, to behave honestly and chastely and humbly. And this is exactly what Christ warned us you could not do.

— C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

God Suffers With His Creatures

“They killed him, you know, my lady, in a terrible way that one is afraid even to think of. But he insisted that he laid down his life; that he allowed them to take it. Now I ask whether that grandest thing, crowning his life, the yielding of it to the hand of violence, he had not learned also from his Father. Was his death the only thing he had not so learned? If I am right, and I do not say if in doubt, then the suffering of those terrible three hours was a type of the suffering of the Father himself in bringing sons and daughters through the cleansing and glorifying fires, without which the created cannot be made the very children of God, partakers of the divine nature and peace. Then from the lowest, weakest tone of suffering, up to the loftiest pitch, the divinest acme of pain, there is not one pang to which the sensorium of the universe does not respond; never an untuneful vibration of nerve or spirit that thrills beyond the brain or the heart of the sufferer to the brain, the heart of the universe; and God, in the simplest, most literal, fullest sense, and not by sympathy alone, suffers with his creatures.”

—George MacDonald, ‘The Marquis of Lossie.’

Strange Paths

My prayers, my God, flow from what I am not;
I think thy answers make me what I am.

Like weary waves thought follows upon thought,

But the still depth beneath is all thine own,

And there thou mov’st in paths to us unknown.

Out of strange strife thy peace is strangely wrought;

If the lion in us pray—thou answerest the lamb.
— George MacDonald

The Freedom of the Children


“Christ died to save us, not from suffering, but from ourselves; not from injustice, far less from justice, but from being unjust. He died that we might live–but live as he lives, by dying as he died who died to himself that he might live unto God. If we do not die to ourselves, we cannot live to God, and he that does not live to God, is dead. ‘Ye shall know the truth,’ the Lord says, ‘and the truth shall make you free. I am the truth, and you shall be free as I am free. To be free, you must be sons like me. To be free you must be that which you have to be, that which you are created. To be free you must give the answer of sons to the Father who calls you. To be free you must fear nothing but evil, care for nothing but the will of the Father, hold to him in absolute confidence and infinite expectation. He alone is to be trusted.’ He has shown us the Father not only by doing what the Father does, not only by loving his Father’s children even as the Father loves them, but by his perfect satisfaction with him, his joy in him, his utter obedience to him. He has shown us the Father by the absolute devotion of a perfect son. He is the Son of God because the Father and he are one, have one thought, one mind, one heart. Upon this truth–I do not mean the dogma, but the truth itself of Jesus to his father–hangs the universe; and upon the recognition of this truth–that is, upon their becoming thus true–hangs the freedom of the children, the redemption of their whole world. ‘I and the Father are one,’ is the centre-truth of the Universe; and the circumfering truth is, ‘that they also may be one in us.'”

—George MacDonald, Unspoken Sermons

Deus Absconditus, and Reading Between the Lines

Image result for christ on the tree, painting

“Of all Biblical passages, the one which occurs most frequently in Lewis’s writings is Christ’s cry from the cross: ‘My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?’ (Matt. 24:46 and Mark 15:34, a quotation of Ps. 22:1a). Not only are its appearances in Lewis’s work very numerous, they are also spread across the whole range of his corpus In one form or another, the cry of dereliction appears in his diary, poetry, fiction, apologetics, journalism, literary criticism, correspondence, autobiography, and in his MacDonald anthology.  No other scriptural verse comes close to receiving a treatment in so many and various of Lewis’s works; and, interestingly, two of these nineteen mentions occur even before his theistic conversion.

The cry of dereliction, although not directly quoted in The Last Battle, may be heard echoing in Tirian’s cry from the tree, where he stands bound and bleeding:

And he alled out, ‘Aslan! Aslan! Aslan! Come and help us now.’

But the darkness and the cold and the quietness went on just the same.

In spite of such desolation, Tirian persists with his prayer:

‘Let me be killed,’ cried the King. ‘I ask nothing for myself. But come and save all Narnia.’

And still there was no change in the night or the wood, but there began to be a kind of change inside Tirian. Without knowing why, he began to feel a faint hope. And he felt somehow stronger.

We observe here a felt abandonment, followed by self-abnegation, followed by the awakening of the contemplative faculty, the perception of spiritual presence despite unchanging external circumstances. It is admittedly vague. Tirian experiences a ‘kind of change,’ but it involves no ‘knowing why,’ it comes about ‘somehow.’ But it is not nothing; it is something. As with Jane’s experience of sorrow, things are not visibly changed, but they are changed. Aslan does not ‘come and help’ in the way Tirian wants, but ultimately the King is stronger for calling on him. Aslan evidently becomes present to him in the role of Luther’s ‘hidden God,’ the deus absconditus, who can only be discerned with what Lewis calls ‘the seeing eye.’ Tirian conceives this gift of insight; Aslan appears to him, as it were, like a transparent silhouette: nothing subtantial, but at least the outline of a shape. In that gap is the thing that Lewis is trying to communicate, ‘the conviction of things not seen’ (Heb. 11:1).  Tirian demonstrates what Lewis (following MacDonald) called ‘The highest condition of the Human Will… when, not seeing God, not seeming itself to grasp him at all, it yet holds Him fast.’ He exercises ‘obstinacy in belief,’ finding Aslan perceptible despite his invisibility: ‘I give myself up to the justice of Aslan,’ he says; ‘in the name of Aslan let us go forward’; ‘I serve the real Aslan.’ He is resolved to take the adventure that Aslan would send,’ for ‘we are all between the paws of the true Aslan’: ‘Aslan to our aid!’ Jewel likewise sustains faith in the face of failure, trusting that the stable ‘may be the door to Aslan’s country and we shall sup at his table tonight.’ In all this we are to discern a parallel with Christ’s faithful contemplation of his Father, for even in his cry of dereliction he addressed the One by whom he felt abandoned. ‘He could not see, could not feel Him near; and yet it is ‘My God’ that He cries.’ (52, GMD)

Tirian, Jewel, and the others see Aslan with the eyes of their heart, thus sharing in his own resignation when, bound and shorn on the Stone Table, he had looked up at the sky and had endured its blank response in quietness and sadness. Lewis argued in The Problem of Pain that ‘only God can mortify,’ that is, put sin to death. Tirian accepts the calamities that befall him as necessary tribulations, understood from within by Aslan, that furnish him with an occasion for utter submission to the holy and perfecting purpose of the divine surgeon. As a result, after death, he receives the divine accolade: ‘Well done, last of the kings of Narnia, who held firm in the darkest hour.’

 

– Michael Ward, Planet Narnia; IX – Saturn