For while all things were in quiet silence, and the night was in the midst of her course, Thy almighty word leapt down from heaven from thy royal throne
We are still in the octave of Christmas; tomorrow is the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. A couple of nights ago, we watched Shadowlands, a movie about and C.S. Lewis and Joy Gresham, played by Anthony Hopkins and Debra Winger. It put me in a mood to read more Lewis, and by happy coincidence, our oldest son was sorting though books he had used this past school year, and so Till We Have Faces and The Weight of Glory both ended up on my nightstand.
I did not know (or had forgotten, if I’d heard) the gist of Till We Have Faces, so I was effectively walking into it blind. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and want to follow it up at some point with Apuleius’ Metamorphoses. I’ve always liked the reimagining-of-an-old-story type of novel, especially when it’s done well. I can hardly think of anyone else more suited to retelling a story of gods and losses than Lewis. On the heels of it, The Weight of Glory, a collection of papers and speeches on various subjects feels like a visit to the classroom after finishing the novel. I forget how utterly quotable Lewis is, even though I follow a daily-Lewis-quote twitterbot.
Something about his writing re-ignites some part of my imagination and brings it to bear on matters of faith. The closest I can come by way of a description is that it feels a bit like waking up, with a sudden realization “of course! it must be so!” The world suddenly seems…thicker than it was before. Maybe “re-enchanted” is a better word. The brittle, sterile pieces of daily modern life give way, just for a moment, to a golden sunlight just beyond. It all feels utterly familiar - a homecoming of sorts.
I think we do well to keep this bit of our imaginations active, and maybe at this time of the year most of all - the short days give way to early twilights and the lower sun shines in an odd way (to me), especially in the woods. Everything is dead, but the ground and tree trunks are covered in moss and brilliant green in the late afternoon. I only seem to see it in the dead of winter, usually when it’s bitter cold and wet-but-not-frozen. It’s very much like receiving an invitation to a party that’s some weeks away. This too shall pass and all will be well - winter will end, and here’s a tiny reminder of it.
This Christmas has been a good one so far: no one sick, quite a bit of the family around, generally agreeable weather (though wet). I always look forward to the blue volume of the breviary, the one for Advent/Christmas. It has some of my favorite texts, that quote from the book of Wisdom above chief among them, said at Vespers on the 26th.
On deck for reading: Peter Kreeft’s Heaven and Vatican II: The Essential Texts as edited by Fr. Norman Tanner, SJ. I would like to look into Henri Nouwen’s work as well, but have no idea where to start. In searching for the more formal and flowery version of that scripture above, I came across For Days and Years by H.L. Sidney Lear in the Google Books archive: scriptural readings, meditations, and hymns for each day of the year. The one for today, December the 31st, is too good not to share:
God is our Last End as well as our First Cause. God possessed, our own God, that is creation’s home, our last end, there only is our rest. Another day is gone, another week is passed, another year is told. Blessed be God, then, we are nearer to the end. It comes swiftly, it comes slowly too. Come it must, and then it will all be but a dream to look back upon. But there are stern things to pass through, and to the getting well through them there goes more than we can say. One thing we know, that personal love of God is the only thing which reaches God at last.
— F.W. Faber