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.”
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.
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?”