Monday, November 25, 2013

New memorial to C.S. Lewis in Westminster Abbey

Three days ago (Friday 22nd November - St Cecilia’s Day), was the fiftieth anniversary of C.S. Lewis’ death, and a special service was held in Westminster Abbey to unveil a memorial stone to Lewis in Poets’ Corner. The event was part of a two-day conference in commemoration of the life and impact of C.S. Lewis.

Go HERE to download a pdf of the service booklet.

The following is the explanatory introduction to the booklet by Dr Michael Ward, Senior Research Fellow, Blackfriars Hall,Oxford:


"I believe in Christianity as I believe that the Sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else."

Of the countless fine phrases that Lewis spoke and wrote, this one has been chosen as the inscription on his memorial in Poets’Corner. It links together many areas of his life and work. The sentence comes from an address entitled ‘Is Theology Poetry?’ The answer Lewis gives to his own question is that although Christian theology is not merely poetry it is still poetic and therefore must be received with an imaginative, as well as a rational, embrace. Millions of readers who have moved about the worlds of Narnia, Perelandra, and Glome know the ripe fruits of his imaginative engagement with theological themes and the power of his poetic prose. The address was one of many he gave to the Socratic Club, the forum for debate between Christians and non-Christians, of which he was President. Thus the inscription points to his role as an apologist who publicly - and not without professional cost - defended the faith, ‘following the argument,’ as Socrates said, ‘wherever it should lead’. Lewis was a rationalist as well as a romantic. The sentence is straightforwardly confessional, marking the centrality of his faith at a personal level. ‘I never knew a man more thoroughly converted,’ remembers Walter Hooper, to whom thanks are especially due at this anniversary time for doing so much over the last half century to keep Lewis’s memory green. The Sun is there, aptly enough, for ‘the heavens are telling the glory of God’, in the words of the psalm that Lewis regarded as the psalter’s greatest lyric. ‘Everything else’ is there too, because his vision was all-embracing. Angels, poached eggs, mice and their tails, Golders Green, birdsong, buses, Balder, the great nebula in Andromeda: all are there and all may be redeemed for us in Christ - as long as the Cross comes before the Crown.

That Lewis spoke these words at a debating society in Oxford reminds us also of his long association with that university and of his distinguished academic career. If Oxford could have been picked up and deposited in his native County Down, he said, it would have realised his idea of heaven. He lived in Oxford all his adult life - even while happily employed as a professor at Cambridge - and died there three years after his beloved wife, Joy, at his home, The Kilns, on this day in 1963.The 22nd November is the feast of St Cecilia, patron saint of music and musicians. Lewis’s great comedic character, Screwtape, despises music as a direct insult to the realism, dignity, and austerity of Hell. Lewis himself believed its joy to be the serious business of Heaven. He had, in the words of Donne, ‘tuned his instrument’ at Heaven’s door and knew with greater intensity than most the longing to cross the threshold and join the heavenly harmony. Fifty years ago, the door on which he had been knocking all his life opened at last.‘Nothing makes a man so noticeable as vanishing!’ Lewis once observed, but he had not envisioned how true this would be in his own case. In conversation with Walter Hooper, he predicted that sales of his works would decline steeply after his death. Hooper countered, ‘No,they won’t. And you know why? Your books are too good, and people are not that stupid.’ It was one of the rare occasions when Lewis’s foresight failed him. Hence, it may be safely assumed that he would find today’s service completely surprising, but also - it may be hoped - not wholly displeasing. Come, let us worship God, wonderful in his saints!

C.S. Lewis

Westminster Abbey


Joseph Golightly said...

Bet he would not have approved of what has happened in the Church of England over the past 50 years!

Post a Comment