Saturday, February 18, 2012


When you listen to an audio book your ear catches words and phrases (even the whole story) in a different outlook than when you sit down and read it yourself, either silently or even out loud with others. Many times it's like watching a movie over and over again, like my sister and Westside Story. I still know all the songs, by the way.

At any rate, I was listening to the audio version of The Silver Chair and once I got over the performer accenting a long vowel at the end of Aslan's name, I noticed something about another name that I had not noticed before. Perhaps it's mere coincidence. Perhaps it has nothing whatsoever to do with Lewis's choice of names or the narrative as it develops, especially in Dawn Treader. But here it is nonetheless. When Eustace Scrubb's first name was called out by Jill Pole several times, "Eustace! Eustace. Eustace!" I heard the letters bubble up in my head, albeit spelled a different way: Justus. For those of you don't sprechen sie Latin, that's Justus, as in Justified, as in Justification. Although it can also be pronounced: "You-stus" with the "y" sound (in Latin). In fact, in Latin it would be properly spelled with an "I," as in Iustus. Since there was no "J" in Latin.

Moving on from grammatical nerd land. Once I heard Eustace's name pronounced in that manner, a great number of things came to mind. What if Lewis had intentionally named him that way? Could he have made that sort of philological trick on purpose knowing (at least as much as an author knows where the story is going while writing) where the story might take this snotty boy? Is there more to this than merely a name that fits the personality of this character? I think there is.

Remember where he began the story. There once was a boy named Eustace Scrubb and he almost deserved the name. He was a rather arrogant and annoying sort of boy. The kind you'd like to wallop but rather not waste the time it would take, or the bruise it would yield your knuckles to box his ears. But, as it is in many cases, great arrogance is born of greater ignorance. Such was the case with Eustace. For he had not read the right books. And it showed. But Narnia has its way with people, one way or another. Either they reject it as a fool or they go from fool to favor. Eustace was an altogether different boy by the end of Dawn Treader, something even noted at the beginning of The Silver Chair.

Something happened to him on that island in the Eastern seas. His outward nature finally reflected his inward reality; he became what he had been all along - a dragon. Until, that is, Aslan undressed him of his sinful skin, laid him naked into a baptismal pool and clothed him in new life. Clothed in Aslan, to paraphrase St. Paul. Yes, the Eustace from the beginning of Dawn Treader compared with the Eustace at the end, was quite a new boy (or rather, a new man). He had been "un-dragoned." He went from needing Iustus (Justification) to living in Iustus. He had been Eustified. Something only Aslan can do, as Eustace quickly found out.

And that's really the way it is for all the children who come into Narnia, whether they are in the books or reading the books. Eustace is one of those identifiable characters - at first you hate him, even pity him a bit but almost can't help but laugh at his not-so-subtle sarcasm. A part cast very well in the recent movie by the way. But he's also one of those prototypical characters. There's a little bit of Eustace in all of us. Both the Eustace before and the Eustace after Aslan, after the un-dragoning. We are in need of being Eustified. We too need to be un-dragoned. That's precisely what Baptism gives us: the justification won for us by Christ on the cross. And now we live "simul Eustace et peccator." Something happened to you in that water. Jesus happened. And something continues to happen in you each new day, call it the daily drowning of your old dragon (or your old Gollum to mix mythical metaphors!).

As it was with Eustace, so it is for us too. Justified by the Great Lion himself, Judah's Lion. He roars and the devil flees. He paws and claws your dragon nature away from you. His breath gives life, even the Holy Spirit. Who lives ever pointing us to this Lion, who is also the Good Shepherd. The Shepherd who becomes the Lamb to lay down his life for his sheep. In Christ, the Lion and the Lamb are one, at peace - laid down together on the cross, laid in the tomb and inviting you to breakfast after the resurrection. In Christ all your dragons are slain, both now and forever. We too have been changed, from the former Eustace to the new Eustace, Iustus, Justus. Eustified in Christ.

P.S. Thanks to Kaleb for suggesting the "simul Eustace et Peccator."

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