Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Beauty Grace and the Scent of a Flower

A Review: “The Weight of Glory”, C.S. Lewis (June 8, 1942) ~ published in Theology, Nov. 1941
Read: "The Weight of Glory"

Application: Living the Christian life in our modern culture – hope abounds…

This is quintessential Lewis. He begins with a casual thought then conversationally brings an idea to clarity and significance. Lewis brings the huge and insightful points right before you then neatly ties the beginning to the end showing how the seemingly insignificant matters after all. I also find it amazing how much Charlotte Mason philosophy parallels are seen here…

The sermon begins with the thought that today (1942, now think 2012 political correctness and social justice causes) we value the virtue of Unselfishness which has actually been warped from the true virtue: Love.
“The negative ideal of Unselfishness carries with it the suggestion not primarily of securing good things for others, but of going without them ourselves, as if our abstinence and not their happiness was the important point.” 
We are a self-absorbed people are we not? Lewis moves to the natural desire for our own good and enjoyment being seen in modern times as a bad thing – he suggests this is actually Kant and Stoic philosophy instead of Christian theology listing the promise of rewards in the Gospels as support and suggesting that our desires are actually weak and ignorant ~ “we are far too easily pleased”. He then discusses different types of rewards and the proper and fitting ones vs. the ones that have no natural connections. “The proper rewards are not simply tacked on to the activity for which they are given, but are the activity itself in consummation.” An example used is of a school boy learning Greek who has no understanding of the enjoyment of reading Sophocles in the future which is a natural or proper reward, but after a while at some unknown point it becomes enjoyment and even as he works toward it, it shows itself a “preliminary reward”. Very CMesque in habit formation (see volume 6 first 9 chapters).

Lewis then brings one of the main points to light. For the Christian, heaven is such ~ a proper and natural reward. We were made for heaven. The first or preliminary rewards of our obedience gain us a desire for our ultimate reward. Sometimes we fix on false rewards which are mere shadows or reminders of our real citizenship. The world wishes to falsify and pass off our longing and desire for our true home and tries to present the beauty (uses Wordsworth’s poetry of memories) given for these glimpses of what is to be as the end goal – we must not betray our trust to them.
“These things – the beauty, the memory of our own past – are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshipers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited. Do you think I am trying to weave a spell? Perhaps I am; but remember your fairy tales. Spells are used for breaking enchantments as well as for inducing them. And you and I have need of the strongest spell that can be found to wake us from the evil enchantment of worldliness which has been laid upon us for nearly a hundred years.” 
Lewis speaks of the philosophies devised to deceive us and the rhetoric that would push away our spell breaker… our intimate desire for heaven and the “glory” to be given there. Here he brings us back to the point of rewards and insists that the authority of scripture be foundational for our understanding.

He discusses ideas related to glory – fame and luminosity. Fame being the fame with God – pleasing God, “well done thy good and faithful servant”. He goes on to talk of praise from God without a vanity but in humility without modesty.
“It is written that we shall stand before him, shall appear, shall be inspected. The promise of glory is the promise, almost incredible and only possible by the work of Christ, that some of us, that any of us who really chooses, shall actually survive that examination, shall find approval, shall please God… a weight or burden of glory which our thoughts can hardly sustain. But so it is.” 
Here Lewis brings out that connection (natural and proper reward) is now clear. “Glory, as Christianity teaches me to hope for it, turns out to satisfy my original desire…” He talks about the process and journey toward this enjoyment and the chasm between where we are and where we will be – our inconsolable secret – which will one day be revealed, and our old ache healed.

Lewis moves to “glory as brightness, splendor, luminosity”. He calls it "beauty grace" referring to all the beauty here as just the image, but not reality, that will someday be. “We discern the freshness and purity of morning, but they do not make us fresh and pure. We cannot mingle with the splendours we see. But all the leaves of the New Testament are rustling with the rumour that it will not always be so.”

Now Lewis moves into the practical realm; of what use is this today? We should not think too often of our own potential for glory, but we cannot think too often of our neighbour’s. “the weight of my neighbour’s glory should be laid daily on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it…” We are all eternal souls, either one that will receive that glory or else a horror. Back to the beginning of the sermon:
“All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or the other of these destinations. It is in light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ORDINARY people… our charity must be a real and costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinner – no mere tolerance or indulgence which parodies love as flippancy parodies merriment… your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses.”
Since I first read and reviewed this sermon over the summer, God has consistently brought it to mind; it relates to so many areas of daily living... I hope I am learning to recognize beauty grace and begin to see how the weight of glory is carried as I live under His perfect grace each new day.

Grace for the day,