On the Memorial Service to C.S Lewis
Poet’s Corner, Westminster Abbey, 22 November 2013
Noon-tide on Saint Cecilia’s day, and here
In England’s royal church, I sit and watch
The winter sunlight streaming in, gold, clear,
Silent, pure, almost solid to the touch.
Nor is it fairy-gold; it does not fade.
For though that glorious beam of autumn light
Sank down to dusk, to darkness, died that day,
In living memory it still shines bright.
Within that golden light, the choir sings –
The notes resound in blood and bone, as if
I breathed the music in like air; it brings
Me to the point of tears, this time-bound gift
So unexpected, undeserved: a grace
To hold with joy through all my dying days.
In his Confessions, St. Augustine wrote “Thou movest us to delight in praising Thee; for Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee.” We all understand the restless heart. In younger days, we dreamt of adventure and pursued visions which were compelling if not clear. The so-called midlife crisis is often a season of disappointment when the evaluation of one’s life falls short of its earlier aspirations. The imago Dei – the image of God in which we are created longs for the eternal, and we finally find our footing on that fulfilling path when we turn and return to our Creator. His calling is specific and He knows us by name.
In the previous chapter, we considered the problem of suffering and noted that we recognize evil precisely be- cause we have a deep underlying sense of what goodness is. No matter how pervasive or inescapable suffering is, we somehow recognize that it does not, or should not, have the last word. This ‘problem of good’ opens up the possi- bility of our intuitions and desires pointing us toward the truth. The value of building on our deep-seated longing for the good and the beautiful is so great that it is worth taking the time to develop a well-rounded imaginative apologetics approach to it.
We do not merely prefer what is good, beautiful, and meaningful if we can get it. We deeply desire and are al- ways restlessly searching for it, even if we aren’t quite sure exactly what we seek or where we can find it. Although it is possible (and unfortunately all too common) to have one’s longings for goodness, beauty, and meaning dulled and misdirected, it is part of our common human nature to experience longing for something more than what we experience in the here-and-now. C. S. Lewis called it “Sehnsucht” and observed that it could not be identified with any particular experience or pleasure, but was something beyond all of those. This longing can be felt in personal terms—as a desire for meaning and beauty in one’s own life—and also as a profound desire for justice, peace, reconciliation, and love in one’s society, over against the daily injustices, conflict, hatred, and instability that we see in the news and in our own families and neighborhoods.
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John 1: 1-5
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.
Meet The Author
Dr Holly Ordway is Professor of English and faculty in the M.A. in Apologetics at Houston Baptist University; she holds a PhD in English from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
She is the author of Apologetics and the Christian Imagination: An Integrated Approach to Defending the Faith (Emmaus Road, 2017) and Not God’s Type: An Atheist Academic Lays Down Her Arms (Ignatius, 2014), and she has contributed chapters to C.S. Lewis at Poets’ Corner (edited by Michael Ward and Peter S. Williams), C.S. Lewis’s List: The Ten Books that Influenced Him Most (edited by David Werther) among other volumes; she is also a published poet, with poems in Word in the Wilderness and Love, Remember (edited by Malcolm Guite).
Her academic work focuses on the writings of the Inklings, especially C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. Her current book project is Tolkien’s Modern Sources: Middle-earth Beyond the Middle Ages (forthcoming from Kent State University Press, 2019).
She lives in La Crosse, Wisconsin, and travels regularly to speak on Tolkien, Lewis, and imaginative apologetics.
Photo of Holly Ordway by Lancia E Smith