Thursday, April 21, 2011

C.S. Lewis On Maundy Thursday

The following is an excerpt from C.S. Lewis' Letters to Malcom: Chiefly on Prayer, chapter 19.  Lewis attempts - and even struggles - to understand the language of the Lord's Supper.  He is imprecise and vague, yet honest at the same time.  He never claims to be a theologian, which is one of his greatest strengths, and yet at times a great weakness.  Although he doesn't give adequate time to divulge his entire sacramentology all at once in this short letter, he seems to attempt navigating between the Scylla of Aristotelian philosophy and the Charybdis of Zwinglian remembrance.  And, while I certainly would have liked him to have said more in this letter (and perhaps there is more to be read elsewhere by Lewis on the Lord's Supper - and that for another day) he is right after all; our Lord did say, Take eat; not, Take, understand.  Sometimes the simplest words are the best explanation; we are left to our Crucified, Risen and Ascended Lord's divine hand of "strong magic" when Jesus says exactly what He means to say and gives what He means to give: This is My body...this is My blood given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. As Dr. Rod Rosenbladt once told us in class, "Risen Jesuses can do whatever they want!"

I don't know and can't imagine what the disciples understood our Lord to mean when, His body still unbroken and His blood unshed, He handed them the bread and wine, saying they were His body and blood...I find 'substance' (in Aristotle's sense), when stripped of its own accidents and endowed with the accidents of some other substance, an object I cannot think...On the other hand, I get no better with those who tell me that the elements are mere bread and mere wine, used symbolically to remind me of the death of Christ.  They are, on the natural level, such a very odd symbol of that...and I cannot see why this particular reminder - a hundred other things may, psychologically, remind me of Christ's death, equally, or perhaps more - should be so uniquely important as all Christendom (and my own heart) unhesitatingly declare...Yet I find no difficulty in believing that the veil between the worlds, nowhere else (for me) so opaque to the intellect, is nowhere else so thin and permeable to divine operation.  Here a hand from the hidden country touches not only my soul but my body.  Here the prig, the don, the modern , in me have no privilege over the savage or the child.  Here is big medicine and strong magic...the command, after all, was Take, eat: not Take, understand.

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