Homily Commemorating C.S. Lewis
I remember reading The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe in second grade and subsequently watching the grainy 1988 movie version of it as a celebration of my class’ completion of the book. I remember the feeling of the book: the coldness of a place where it is “Always winter, but never Christmas”, a place where talking fauns, beavers, and lions are as normal as a sunny day in Denver. This is the sanctified imagination that C.S. Lewis invited his readers into over a life in literary labor.
Last year, my close friend Carlos and I got dessert at The Eagle and Child after a long day walking around Oxford. I wasn’t particularly excited about stopping by, given its notoriety and prospective busy-ness. See, The Eagle and Child was the pub where C.S. Lewis and his colleagues (including J.R.R. Tolkien) would gather on Tuesday mornings during their semesters at Oxford. And one can only imagine the arguments had, the love shared, and the surprising joy that enraptured the people in those riveting literary circles.
While Carlos and I finished up our meal and were heading to the train station to head back to London, I was struck by the humanity of that place; its ordinariness. There was nothing particularly special about it. It was - like most other pubs - dingy, dim, and well-worn and the food was nothing to write home about. And yet, that was a defining characteristic of the very first Lewis book I’d ever read, in which a wardrobe isn’t just a wardrobe, but a portal to a world in which fauns, beavers, and lions talk.
C.S. Lewis’ imagination was sanctified because he knew that God prefers to get our attention through the ordinary, not the spectacular. That we often only ever stumble into Narnia, not arrive there with maps in hand. That the snow and trees and talking beasts are just on the other side of the walls of our limited imaginations. That four abandoned children living through the horror of World War II are actually rightful heirs of a not-so-distant kingdom. That Aslan the great god-lion is always lurking just beyond what we can see, which is both comforting and haunting.
Eucharist Commemorating C.S. Lewis
Saint John's Cathedral