I love C.S Lewis’ book ‘The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe’, and I think I love it more as an adult than when I read it as a child. If you haven’t read the book, I want to say: please read it! It is a subtle yet powerful allegory of Christianity, set in an enthralling fantasy land which four normal children stumble across through the back of a wardrobe, and enter into a battle to save it from the clutches of evil. Aslan the Lion is an allegory for Christ, and whilst the book is predominantly aimed at children, the allegories of Narnia are an accessible and fresh way for adults to comprehend difficult aspects of faith.
As the Feast of Christ the King approaches this week there are a number of aspects of the book that apply well to the feast day itself. The Feast of Christ the King was instigated as recently as 1925 by Pope Pius XI, in response to the increase in secularism, communism and the public erosion of Christianity by the State. The feast day was to serve as a reminder of “the princely dignity of Christ” and to reiterate Christ’s sovereignty over the earth in a world fast eradicating Him.
I think one of the hardest aspects of relating to Christ is grasping the paradox of His intimacy and friendship with us (John 15:15) with His kingship and Sovereignty over us. How do we reconcile who we are before God in terms of both children of God and subjects of God? Using the character of Aslan the Lion, C.S Lewis provides ways of understanding this paradox.
When we focus solely on Christ as our friend, we radically reduce Him and neuter His power and authority. We often don’t like the word authority, or its implications on us. Of course, authority wrongly used is a terrible and damaging thing. But what if authority was correctly and purely used, without corruption? Christ, perfect and without sin, perfectly uses His authority without corruption. This quote illustrates something of Christ’s nature, that He can be both completely good and yet wield a greatness that is beyond our own understanding. It is an authority that is beyond our own that has the power to do things beyond our own strength.
If this sounds scary, harsh, or autocratic, consider this. When you are facing your own personal hell or Good Friday- when death, bereavement or grief strike- when you are drowning in your own weakness or pain and unable to pull yourself out, what kind of God do you want? One who offers comfort, mercy and love of course, but who can also come into your darkness with power bigger and stronger than your sufferings. It takes a God who is “terrible”, not “tolerant” to come into our private calvaries and do battle with our own and other’s terrible sins. God is all-powerful and can actually defeat the things we fear most. Yet we tend to forget this. He will never force His power on us, but it is always there for us to ask for.
In the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, the evil Witch taunts Aslan with her knowledge of “the Deep Magic” which she believes gives her power over him. She does not realise however the limitation of her power, because Aslan was there when it was written and there is a “deeper magic from before the dawn of time” that she does not know about. Of course, this is an obvious allegory for the power God has over death and evil. When we look at the world right now and see the enormous suffering and evil over it, we must still remember God’s sovereignty over the world and His triumph of good over evil. Pope Benedict XVI wrote:
“[we need] that primordial trust which ultimately only faith can give. That the world is basically good, that God is there and is good. That it is good to live and to be a human being”.
When you are tempted to despair at the fate of the world and humanity, don’t. God has not, and will not abandon us. More than that, His authority over the world means we will not be defeated by evil.
In the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe Edmund, one of the children, betrays his siblings in a terrible way. Towards the end of the book, Edmund is redeemed by Aslan but still has to meet the Witch who taunts him for his past treachery. Edmund however has already experienced the joy of forgiveness from Aslan and knows he does not have to trouble himself with what is in the past.
When we only preach only Jesus’ friendship, we ignore His authority over our past sins. How many times have we felt despair over mistakes we have made, regrets we have, things we wished we’d never done? How many times have we felt taunted by our weaknesses and failings? How often have we felt that we are only the sum of the negative things we have done? We forget that Christ has the authority to stop the taunting voice in our minds, the authority to forgive our sins (go to Confession!) and to wipe our souls clean. We forget that we need only fix our sights on Christ, not on ourselves or our pasts, and that our sins are but a drop in the ocean of His mercy.
There are many quotes from the Narnia books that I would love to share and that have significance for this feast day, but suffice to say, maybe take some time over the festive season to read the books yourself, whether it’s for the first time as an adult, or the first time ever. They are perfect for the Advent and Christmas season, and you may find yourself discovering new insights into your faith that you had never thought of before!
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