Retro: June 5th – 11th

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

This week’s highlights related to Lewis include: his most famous sermon, a first letter to an eventual longtime friend, winning a scholarship and a book related to his professional specialty.

Weight of GloryBefore the magic of Narnia started in 1950 C.S. Lewis had a magical year in 1941. In April he gave his first RAF talk, in May his first letter by Screwtape was published, in August he gave his first radio talk on the BBC and was asked to do a second series in September, then in December he gave a special series of lectures that became A Preface to Paradise Lost. But it is this week in 1941 that some would say was the best thing he did for the year. On June 8, 1941 he gave what was just his second sermon. If you are familiar with any of his shorter works you already know its name, “The Weight of Glory.”

Some may not be aware that this piece from Lewis was actually a sermon because the style of preaching he did was more like a lecture. But unlike boring lectures given by most people, Lewis nearly always had very readable talks. In fact “The Weight of Glory” (included in the 1949 collection called Transpositions that was published as The Weight of Glory in the U.S.), is a very quotable work. His humor also shines through, especially noted in the line: “who wishes to become a kind of living electric light bulb?” One of the best lines, however, is close to the very end when he states, “Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbour is the holiest object present to your senses.”

Studies in Medieval and Renaissance LiteratureDuring this week on the 7th in 1947 Lewis published a book review in The Times Literary Supplement about a manuscript from Thomas Malory. “The Morte D’Arthur” was also included as one of fourteen essays in Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Literature, which was posthumously released on the 9th in 1966. So, if the title of the review didn’t spark any recognition then the fact that it was included in a book dealing with Lewis’s professional work probably clued you in as to why. Interestingly only half of the fourteen essays in this collection were ever published during Lewis’s life.

A few things occurred this week that there’s not a lot to say about, even though they are significant. In 1913 on the 9th he won a scholarship to Malvern College based on his really good exam scores. Part of the significance is the fact that he was very sick when he took the tests. A year later (on the 5th) he wrote his first letter to his eventual long-time friend, Arthur Greeves. He wrote so many letters to him that they first filled a single book in 1979 (They Stand Together) before being included in the later three volume Collected Letters. Additionally, Lewis gave a talk at the Socratic Club on the 5th in 1944, “Is Institutional Christianity Necessary?” that was never republished.

Aslan (book cover)As noted last week Lewis responded to many letters about Narnia. One such letter he wrote was on the 8th in 1960 to a 13 year-old girl who had apparently connected too many dots when it came to the parallels to the Christian faith. Before giving seven specific examples of differences, he notes, “I’m more saying ‘Suppose there were a world like Narnia and it needed rescuing and the Son of God (or the “Great Emperor oversea”) went to redeem it, as He came to redeem ours, what might it, in that world, all have been like?’”

Speaking of letters, the sixth one from Screwtape appeared in The Guardian on the 6th in 1941. In it he reminds Wormwood that keeping humans in “the maximum uncertainty” is very important. He also advises him on how to “weaken his (patient’s) prayers.” Another key point dealt with how he views humans: “Think of your man as a series of concentric circles, his will being the innermost, his intellect coming next, and finally his fantasy.”

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