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Jack in Retrospect: April 10th – 16th

April 10, 2013

The following is part of a weekly series reflecting on the life of C.S. Lewis. This is done by summarizing various events or happenings during his lifetime for the noted week and may include significant events related to him after his death.

Retro Weekly 4-10Something related to The Great Divorce occurred three times this week over a twelve year span for Lewis. On the 16th in 1933 he shared with his brother Warnie the idea for what first became the weekly series in The Guardian (although he got the initial thought in September of 1931). Then on the 13th in 1944 he read the concluding chapter of The Great Divorce at an Inklings meeting when Tolkien and Charles Williams was present. Finally, the twenty-third and concluding installment of “Who Goes Home? or The Grand Divorce” appeared in The Guardian on the 13th in 1945. This segment raps things up with a few some key points, namely the question about MacDonald being a Universalist and the reveal that all of what is described is from a dream. In fact, Lewis says “make it plain that it was but a dream” and that he was making no claim to knowing what the afterlife is like.

Another book by Lewis, but released after his death this week was Letters to Children. It came out on the 11th in 1985. As the title suggests they are a collection of letters that were written to children. They were, of course, responses to questions he had received from younger fans of his works. It’s no surprise that the majority came as a result of his Narnia stories. In fact, a fairly well-known quote from this work is a letter that Lewis wrote in reply to a mother who wrote to him about her nine-year old son being concerned that he loved Aslan more than Jesus. His response, in part, was “God knows quite well how hard we find it to love Him more than anyone or anything else, and He won’t be angry with us as long as we are trying. And He will help us.”

On the 15th in 1945 Lewis preached a short sermon at St. Jude on the Hill Church in London. By the end of the month it was found in the April 27th issue of The Guardian. “The Grand Miracle” is not to be confused with a chapter later to be found in his book simply called Miracles, although the content is similar. To confuse matters, Lewis also had an article entitled “Miracles” and a letter he wrote in response to it is listed as “Miracles” in God in the Dock, where “The Grand Miracle can be best found. In his message, Lewis notes that Christianity is likely the only religion that cannot be stripped of its miraculous elements. He believed that the greatest miracle was Christ’s birth.

“Lilies that Fester” was an article appearing in the April, 1955 issue of a periodical called Twentieth Century. It was essentially a rebuttal to another article in that same issue. As a result, Lewis spends several pages answering a question raised by that piece, why some “go to such lengths to prove to us that really they are not intellectuals at all and certainly not cultured.” In the remaining part he explains why matter is important. The title is from one of Shakespeare’s sonnets that states “Lilies that fester, smell far worse than weeds.” Within the article Lewis contrasts culture for the sake of enjoyment with culture for the sake of self-improvement and/or advancement. You can locate this shorter work best in The World’s Last Night.

Many are unaware that Lewis served in World War One. He didn’t join the conflict until late this month in 1917. During part of this week in 1918 Lewis was in the middle of a clash in Mouth Bernenchon that is now known as the Battle of Arras. On the 15th he was wounded by “friendly fire” and pieces of the British shell remained in his chest for nearly the remainder of his life. Subsequently he was sent back to England to recover. Later in his life Lewis took part in another war in a much different way. He was asked to speak to the Royal Air Force (RAF). The first one is believed to have likely happen sometime in April, but could have been as late as early May in 1941.

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