Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Resurrected Lion

Although Easter is still a few days away, you will by now, no doubt, have begun to think about it.  After all, how could you not help it?  The Sunday readings have been escorting your journey through Lent to the Great Week – Palm Sunday to the Feast of the Resurrection of our Lord.  Spare us, good Lord!  As the forty days wind down this is our persistent Lenten prayer: “Let Easter come quickly.  Shorten the days we must endure, not the days of the fast, we do not long for simply another feast, a reprieve from hardship, we want more. We are bold to ask for the end, for the Resurrection of all the dead, for the consummation of all our Easters, the perfection of our bodies and souls, the sealing in bliss, the end of temptation, the removal of guilt and sin, the freedom and joy of heaven.  Or, in the words of Aslan, “we have a long journey to go, you must ride with me.”  Come quickly, Lord Jesus. 
And in a peculiar, yet hallowed way, the closer we get to Easter the more time slows down.  Like the dramatic climax in a film, building and building.  Language becomes more intensified.  Dialogue slows down.  The cameras zoom in.  The focus is sharpened.  Events almost appear to move in slow motion in order that every passing detail might not overwhelm but envelope us into the story.  This is the way good stories are told – both the true ones and the ones grounded in reality.  Such is the case with the Chronicles of Narnia.  Nowhere is this relationship more apparent than in the passion and Easter narratives of Aslan in C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe. 
In many and various ways the narrative closely parallels the Gospel accounts of Christ’s passion and resurrection.  Since the dawn of Easter light is quickly rising in the east, it is fitting that the narrative slow down that we might catch a glimpse of the detailed splendor found in Narnia’s Easter.  Lewis’ account of Aslan’s passion and resurrection so vividly captures the reality to which it points: the resurrected Lion of the tribe of Judah, Christ our Lord. 
But before Easter Sunday came Good Friday.  And, there “standing by the foot of the Jesus’ cross were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.”  Just as Lucy and Susan Pevensie had stood from a safe distance watching the witch inflict her worst upon their beloved Aslan.  They dragged him to the Stone Table, shaved his mighty mane, bound him in cords and muzzled him and mocked him all the while: “you fool of a cat.”  “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; like a lamb (or lion) led to the slaughter, and like sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth.”  And neither did Aslan make a noise, not even a growl.
The Pevensie girls – like the women – had seen the horror and treachery of the passion.  And Susan and Lucy – like the Marys – would come to the Stone Table to tend to Aslan’s body, wipe the blood and remove the muzzle – a merciful deposition.  They tended to Aslan as they cried until they could cry no more.  As the morning light began to pierce the cold darkness there was a loud noise – a great cracking, deafening noise as if a giant had broken a giant plate.  How closely Lewis parallels the Gospel’s resurrection account.  The women come to the tomb (Luke 24:1) and an earthquake cracked the still morning air as an angel of the Lord unsealed the tomb (Matthew 28:2).  Yet there was weeping again.  “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him” (John 20:13).  So too, in Narnia: “the rising of the sun made everything look so different – all colours and shadows were changed – that for a moment they didn’t see the important thing.  Then they did.  The Stone Table was broken into two pieces by a great crack that ran down it from end to end; and there was no Aslan.”[1]
Who’s done it?” cried Susan.  “What does it mean?  Is it magic?”
“Yes!” cried a great voice behind their backs.  “It is more magic.”  They looked around.  There shining in the sunrise, large than they had seen him before, shaking his mane stood Aslan himself.
“Oh, Aslan!” cried both the children, staring up at him, almost as much frightened as they were glad.
“Aren’t you dead then, dear Aslan?” said Lucy.
“Not now,” said Aslan.
“You’re not – not a - ?” asked Susan in a shaky voice.  She couldn’t bring herself to say the word ghost.  Aslan stooped his golden head and licked her forehead.  The warmth of his breath and a rich sort of smell that seemed to hang about his hair came all over her.
“Do I look it?” he said.
“Oh, you’re real, you’re real!  Oh, Aslan!” cried Lucy, and both girls flung themselves upon him and covered him with kisses.[2]

It is almost as if Lewis – in fact he quite intentionally – repaints, even translates, that glorious Easter dawn perfectly, only in Narnian colors.  For we hear in John’s Gospel a similar account of Mary weeping at the tomb only to have the risen Lord come behind her and say, “"Woman, why are you weeping?" She said to them, "They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him." Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus.  Jesus said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?" Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away." Jesus said to her, "Mary." She turned and said to him in Aramaic, "Rabboni!"

There was no doubt; Jesus was real – just as Lucy cried: “Oh, you’re real!  Despite any previous doubts, Jesus confirmed his physical resurrection for Thomas and later the disciples in Emmaus:  “Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see I have” (Luke 24). With a playful cat-like lick and a shake of his newly restored gulden mane, Aslan had risen.  Thankfully, Susan asks the good confirmation question: “what does this all mean?”
The Witch, you see, was right about the Deep Magic, all traitors belonged to her with the right to kill.  But, Aslan reminds the girls that there is a deeper magic which she did not know for her knowledge was limited.  “If she could have looked a little further back, into the stillness and the darkness before Time dawned, she would have known that when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor’s stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backwards.”[3]
Chosen by Christ – written in the Lamb’s book of life – before the foundations of the world.  Easter morning is the dawn of this new creation, this everlasting Sabbath, Aslan’s romp, behold, I make all things new.  The resurrection is a great reversal, death works backwards because Good Friday and Easter have come for you in the waters of Baptism; there you were buried with Christ and there you rise with Christ.  The great Lion of the Tribe of Judah has roared: It is finished.  Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed,   Alleluia!

[1] C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Harper Collins, 2001. p. 184.
[2] Ibid, p. 184-185.
[3] Ibid, p. 185.

No comments:

Post a Comment