I just got through a fresh listen to Till We shave Faces, and it’s been a great & deep experience every time for me, with room to see & appreciate more on subsequent reads. I really like the aspect of Lewis’s treatment and answer to lament of “Job” in this book, much like GKC’s The Man Who Was Thursday. I remember thinking after reading one of GMD’s books that it was much the same idea, but I can’t remember now which book that was. I liked the development of the idea of what happens when we go against the little ray of light we have been given. Which is usually all we get – a glimpse; John said no man hath “seen” God at any time, and maybe relates to truth as well, we can’t “see” it clearly because we are not such as are *able* to see it yet. Not till we have faces. And I liked how Orual was able to help make reparations for the damage she had caused, and that as she tried to find a way to do her work, she was always given help. And of course, that to be heard at all, and to know that there is “one who hears” and knows, is in some sense to be answered. Perhaps at this stage in our growth, it is the only sense in which we can be answered. As a babe cries out in its anguish, not even knowing what the cause of his pain is, just to hear the voice of his mother is a consolation, because he knows that help is on the way. So we, not having a full knowledge of the universe (or even of our own selves) cry out our blind complaint against the gods. And the God comes, and hears the cry of our hearts, and we have been heard. Help is on the way. 🌸
To Henry Cecil (1)
Dear Old Friend,
What can I say to you, for the hand of the Lord is heavy upon you. But it is his hand, and the very heaviness of it is good…. There is but one thought that can comfort, and that is that God is immeasurably more the father of our children than we are. It is all because he is our father that we are fathers…. It is all well – even in the face of such pain as yours – or the world goes to pieces for me.
It is well to say “The Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away,” but it is not enough. We must add, And the Lord will give again: “The gifts of God are without repentance.” He takes that he may give more closely – make more ours…. The bond is henceforth closer between you and your son….
To give a thing and take again
Is counted meanness among men ;
Still less to take what once is given
Can be the royal way of heaven!
But human hearts are crumbly stuff,
And never, never love enough;
And so God takes and, with a smile,
Puts our best things away awhile.
Some therefore weep, some rave, some scorn;
Some wish they never had been born.
Some humble grow at last and still,
And then God gives them what they will.
~ George MacDonald
(1) This letter was written on the occasion of the death of Cecil’s eldest son.
“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
And now it is empassioned so deep,
For fairest Una’s sake, of whom I sing,
That my frail Eyes these Lines with Tears do steep,
To think how she through guileful handeling,
Though true as touch, though Daughter of a King,
Though fair as ever living Wight was fair,
Though nor in Word nor Deed ill meriting,
Is from her Knight divorced in Despair,
Yet she, most faithful Lady, all this while
Forsaken, woeful, solitary Maid,
Far from all People’s Praise, as in exile,
In Wilderness and wastful Deserts stray’d,
To seek her Knight; who, subtilly betray’d
Through that late Vision, which th’ Enchaunter wrought,
Had her abandon’d. She of nought afraid,
Through Woods and Wastness wide him daily sought;
Yet wished Tydings none of him unto her brought.
~Edmund Spencer, The Faerie Queene
Ah, for the courage to be strong and good despite adversity… #givemethatoldtymereligion
“Might I but scatter interfering things–
Questions and doubts, distrusts and anxious pride,
And in thy garment, as under gathering wings,
Nestle obedient to thy loving side,
Easy it were to love thee. But when thou
Send’st me to think and labour from thee wide,
Love falls to asking many a why and how.
Easier it were, but poorer were the love.
Lord, I would have me love thee from the deeps–
Of troubled thought, of pain, of weariness.
Through seething wastes below, billows above,
My soul should rise in eager, hungering leaps;
Through thorny thicks, through sands unstable press–
Out of my dream to him who slumbers not nor sleeps.”
– George MacDonald
“”O God of battles! who, thyself dwelling in peace, beholdest the strife, and workest thy will thereby, what that good and perfect will of thine is I know not clearly, but thou hast sent us to be doing, and thou hatest cowardice. Thou knowest I have sought to choose the best, so far as goeth my poor ken, and to this battle I am pledged. Give me grace to fight like a soldier of thine, without wrath and without fear. Give me to do my duty, but give the victory where thou pleasest. Let me live if so thou wilt; let me die if so thou wilt—only let me die in honour with thee. Let the truth be victorious, if not now, yet when it shall please thee; and oh! I pray, let no deed of mine delay its coming. Let my work fail, if it be unto evil, but save my soul in truth.”
Excerpt From: MacDonald, George. “St. George and St. Michael.” iBooks.
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What has been, shall not only be, but is.
The hues of dreamland, strange and sweet and tender
Are but hint-shadows of full many a splendour
Which the high Parent-love will yet unroll
Before his child’s obedient, humble soul.
Ah, me, my God! in thee lies every bliss
Whose shadow men go hunting wearily amiss.