Trifles Over Visions


“We too dull our understandings with trifles, fill the heavenly spaces with phantoms, waste the heavenly time with hurry. To those who possess their souls in patience come the heavenly visions.”
Excerpt From: MacDonald, George. “Unspoken Sermons: Series I., II., and III.” MobileReference, 2010-06-01 09:24:33.168000-04:00. iBooks. 

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All Will Be Well

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.

 

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

 

Be Life to Me

Image result for ray charles

 

I had a string of words in my head for days, and I couldn’t remember what song they belonged to. …Be life to me. Finally Ray Charles came on, completed the chain and satisfied my longing. Thank you, Ray.

Come live with me and won’t you be my love?
Share my bread and wine
Be wife to me, be life to me, be mine

Oh, come live with me and be my love
Let our dreams combine
Be great to me, be fate to me, be mine

With these hands
I’ll build a roof to shield your head
Yes, and with these hands
I’ll carve the wood for our baby’s bed

Oh, come live with me and be my love
So I can love you all the time
Be part of me, girl, be the heart of me, be mine

Why don’t y’all help me now?

I’ll try to do my best for you, I swear, I promise you
And girl, didn’t I tell you, I’ll cry for you, don’t you know?
I will accompany you, I say my whole life through

Oh, come live with me and won’t you be my love?
Hey, hey, share my bread and wine
Be part of me, oh, be the heart of me, baby, please be mine

Help Me This Day to Be Thy Humble Sheep

I see a door, a multitude near by,

In creed and quarrel, sure disciples all!

Gladly they would, they say, enter the hall,

But cannot, the stone threshold is so high.

From unseen hand, full many a feeding crumb,

Slow dropping o’er the threshold high doth come:

They gather and eat, with much disputing hum.

 

Still and anon, a loud clear voice doth call—

“Make your feet clean, and enter so the hall.”

They hear, they stoop, they gather each a crumb.

Oh the deaf people! would they were also dumb!

Hear how they talk, and lack of Christ deplore,

Stamping with muddy feet about the door,

And will not wipe them clean to walk upon his floor!

But see, one comes; he listens to the voice;

Careful he wipes his weary dusty feet!

The voice hath spoken—to him is left no choice;

He hurries to obey—that only is meet.

Low sinks the threshold, levelled with the ground;

The man leaps in—to liberty he’s bound.

The rest go talking, walking, picking round.

 

If I, thus writing, rebuke my neighbour dull,

And talk, and write, and enter not the door,

Than all the rest I wrong Christ tenfold more,

Making his gift of vision void and null.

Help me this day to be thy humble sheep,

Eating thy grass, and following, thou before;

From wolfish lies my life, O Shepherd, keep.

 

~George MacDonald

The Diary of an Old Soul; April 16-19

#loveactually

“no man who loves not the truth can love a woman in the grand way a woman ought to be loved.”  George MacDonald
“No man who loves not the truth can love a woman in the grand way a woman ought to be loved.”
Excerpt From: MacDonald, George. “St. George and St. Michael.” iBooks. 

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