The Very Children of God

From a report of George MacDonald's sermon:

"He was not here to make a fine sermon; he scorned that kind of thing; he was there to persuade them if he could to be the disciples of Christ, the very children of God; less than that was loss and ruin to the very essence of their being . . . True obedience to the word of Christ was the only bond between Him and those who called themselves Christians."

Thou Art my Home

"That man is perfect in faith who can come to God in the utter dearth of his feelings and his desires, without a glow or an aspiration, with the weight of low thoughts, failures, neglects, and wandering forgetfulness, and say to him, 'Thou art my refuge, because thou art my home.'"

-George MacDonald

Because Thou Knowest

I cannot tell why this day I am ill;

But I am well because it is thy will—

Which is to make me pure and right like thee.

Not yet I need escape—’tis bearable

Because thou knowest. And when harder things

Shall rise and gather, and overshadow me,

I shall have comfort in thy strengthenings.

Till my Love Loves Burningly

Lo, Lord, thou know’st, I would not anything

That in the heart of God holds not its root;

Nor falsely deem there is any life at all

That doth in him nor sleep nor shine nor sing;

I know the plants that bear the noisome fruit

Of burning and of ashes and of gall—

From God’s heart torn, rootless to man’s they cling.

Life-giving love rots to devouring fire;

Justice corrupts to despicable revenge;

Motherhood chokes in the dam’s jealous mire;

Hunger for growth turns fluctuating change;

Love’s anger grand grows spiteful human wrath,

Hunting men out of conscience’ holy path;

And human kindness takes the tattler’s range.


Nothing can draw the heart of man but good;

Low good it is that draws him from the higher—

So evil—poison uncreate from food.

Never a foul thing, with temptation dire,

Tempts hellward force created to aspire,

But walks in wronged strength of imprisoned Truth,

Whose mantle also oft the Shame indu’th.
Love in the prime not yet I understand—
Scarce know the love that loveth at first hand:

Help me my selfishness to scatter and scout;

Blow on me till my love loves burningly;

Then the great love will burn the mean self out,

And I, in glorious simplicity,

Living by love, shall love unspeakably.

—George MacDonald

But a Fool

Who sets himself not sternly to be good,Is but a fool, who judgment of true things

Has none, however oft the claim renewed.

And he who thinks, in his great plenitude,

To right himself, and set his spirit free,

Without the might of higher communings,

Is foolish also—save he willed himself to be.
— George MacDonald 

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