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

Be Thou by Us

From "David Elginbrod": the prayer at the cottage:

“O thou, wha keeps the stars alicht, an’ our souls burnin’ wi’ a licht aboon that o’ the stars, grant that they may shine afore thee as the stars for ever and ever. An’ as thou hauds the stars burnin’ a’ the nicht, whan there’s no man to see, so haud thou the licht burnin’ in our souls, whan we see neither thee nor it, but are buried in the grave o’ sleep an’ forgetfu’ness. Be thou by us, even as a mother sits by the bedside o’ her ailin’ wean a’ the lang nicht; only be thou nearer to us, even in our verra souls, an’ watch ower the warl’ o’ dreams that they mak’ for themsels. Grant that more an’ more thochts o’ thy thinkin’ may come into our herts day by day, till there shall be at last an open road atween thee an’ us, an’ thy angels may ascend and descend upon us, so that we may be in thy heaven, e’en while we are upo’ thy earth: Amen.”

— George MacDonald

So beautiful, so loving and gentle. May we learn to be more like that. 🌸

Waiting Watchful for Thy Will

O master, my desires to work, to know,

To be aware that I do live and grow—

All restless wish for anything not thee,

I yield, and on thy altar offer me.

Let me no more from out thy presence go,

But keep me waiting watchful for thy will—

Even while I do it, waiting watchful still.

— 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.

When My Heart Sinks

Help me, my Father, in whatever dismay,

Whatever terror in whatever shape,

To hold the faster by thy garment’s hem;

When my heart sinks, oh, lift it up, I pray;

Thy child should never fear though hell should gape,

Not blench though all the ills that men affray

Stood round him like the Roman round Jerusalem.
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

 

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