Envy Devours Us Most Of All

It is enough if you don’t freeze in the cold and if thirst and hunger don’t claw your insides. If your back isn’t broken, if your feet can walk, if both arms can bend, if both eyes can see, if both ears hear, then whom should you envy? And why? Our envy of others devours us most of all.

—Alexandr Solzhenitsyn

(HT: Sam Crabtree)

There Are No Ordinary People

This one of my all-time favourite Lewis quotes. It re-orients us in the way we look at and interact with those around us. Or, at least, it should. For, we should be “taking each other seriously.”

There are no ordinary people.

You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilisations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is imortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendours.

This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn: We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously – no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption. And our charity must be a real and costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinner – no mere tolerance, or indulgence which parodies love as flippancy parodies merriment. Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses. If he is your Christian neighbour, he is holy in almost the same way, for in him also Christ vere latitat – the glorifier and the glorified, Glory Himself, is truly hidden.

- from “The Weight of Glory” (paragraphing mine)

The Christ-Life

It’s Thursday, which means time for some more C.S. Lewis:

In Christ a new kind of man appeared: and the new kind of life which began in Him is to be put into us.

How is this to be done? Now, please remember how we acquired the old, ordinary kind of life. We derived it from others, from our father and mother and all our ancestors, without our consent – and by a very curious process, involving pleasure, pain, and danger. A process you would never have guessed. Most of us spend a good many years in childhood trying to guess it: and some children, when they are first told, do not believe it – and I am not sure that I blame them, for it is very odd. Now the God who arranged that process is the same God who arranges how the new kind of life – the Christ-life – is to be spread. We must be prepared for it being odd too. He did not consult us when He invented sex: He has not consulted us either when He invented this.

There are three things that spread the Christ-life to us: baptism, belief, and that mysterious action which different Christians call by different names – Holy Communion, the Mass, the Lord’s Supper. At least, those are the three ordinary methods…

I cannot myself see why these things should be the conductors of the new kind of life. But then, if one did not happen to know, I should never have seen any connection between a particular physical pleasure and the appearance of a new human being in the world. We have to take reality as it comes to us: there is no good jabbering about what it ought to be like or what we would have expected it to be like.

Repentance

In studying the sermon text for Sunday (Luke 3:15-22), and the idea of repentance, came across this from C.S. Lewis:

Now repentance is no fun at all.

It is something much harder than merely eating humble pie. It means unlearning all the self-conceit and self-will that we have been training ourselves into for thousands of years. It means killing part of yourself, undergoing a kind of death…

And here comes the catch. Only a bad person needs to repent: only a good person can repent perfectly. The worse you are the more you need it and the less you can do it. The only person who could do it perfectly would be a perfect person – and he would not need it.

~ from Mere Christianity

Better Is Not Enough

God became man to turn creatures into sons: not simply to produce better men of the old kind but to produce a new kind of man. It is not like teaching a horse to jump better and better but like turning a horse into a winged creature. Of course, once it has got its wings, it will soar over fences which could never have been jumped and thus beat the natural horse at its own game.

But there may be a period, while the wings are just beginning to grow, when it cannot do so: and at that stage the lumps on the shoulders – no one could tell by looking at them that they are going to be wings – may give it an awkward appearance.

~ C.S. Lewis, from Mere Christianity

Servants Who Become Sons

Some of you may have noticed the frequency with which I have been quoting from C.S. Lewis these past months. It is overflow from a goal in my reading this year. Namely, to get through a number of works by this amazing writer over the course of 2012.

I will continue to share gleanings and things I’m learning from Lewis each Thursday here at Growing in Grace. This week’s installment comes from The Screwtape Letters, a book where Lewis uncovers the secret communication between demons as they work on us, their “patients.”

Screwtape (a demon, writing to his nephew, Wormwood) reveals the Enemy’s intentions (the Enemy of demons, of course, being God) ::

Now it may surprise you to learn that in His [the Enemy’s] efforts to get permanent possession of a soul, He relies on the troughs even more than on the peaks; some of His special favourites have gone through longer and deeper troughs than anyone else.

The reason is this. To us a human is primarily food; our aim is the absorption of its will into ours, the increase of our own area of selfhood at its expense. But the obedience which the Enemy demands of men is quite a different thing. One must face the fact that all the talk about His love for men, and His service being perfect freedom, is not (as one would gladly believe) mere propaganda, but an appalling truth. He really does want to fill the universe with a lot of loathsome little replicas of Himself – creatures whose life, on its miniature scale, will be qualitatively like His own, not because He has absorbed them but because their wills freely conform to His.

We want cattle who can finally become food; He wants servants who can finally become sons. We want to suck in, He wants to give out. We are empty and would be filled; He is full and flows over. Our war aim is a world in which Our Father Below has drawn all other beings into himself: the Enemy wants a world full of beings united to Him but still distinct.