21 October 2009

The Weight of Glory

CS Lewis wrote:
"...Glory, as Christianity teaches me to hope for it, turns out to satisfy my original desire and indeed to reveal an element in that desire which I had not noticed....
When I attempted, a few minutes ago, to describe our spiritual longings, I was omitting one of their most curious characteristics.
We usually notice it just as the moment of vision dies away, as the music ends or as the landscape loses the celestial light. What we feel then has been well described by Keats as “the journey homeward to habitual self.” You know what I mean.
For a few minutes we have had the illusion of belonging to that world.
Now we wake to find that it is no such thing. We have been mere spectators.
Beauty has smiled, but not to welcome us; her face was turned in our direction, but not to see us.
We have not been accepted, welcomed, or taken into the dance. We may go when we please, we may stay if we can: “Nobody marks us.”
A scientist may reply that since most of the things we call beautiful are inanimate, it is not very surprising that they take no notice of us. That, of course, is true. It is not the physical objects that I am speaking of, but that indescribable something of which they become for a moment the messengers.
And part of the bitterness which mixes with the sweetness of that message is due to the fact that it so seldom seems to be a message intended for us but rather something we have overheard. By bitterness I mean pain, not resentment.
We should hardly dare to ask that any notice be taken of ourselves.
But we pine.
The sense that in this universe we are treated as strangers, the longing to be acknowledged, to meet with some response, to bridge some chasm that yawns between us and reality, is part of our inconsolable secret. And surely, from this point of view, the promise of glory, in the sense described, becomes highly relevant to our deep desire.
For glory meant good report with God, acceptance by God, response, and welcome into the heart of things.
The door on which we have been knocking all our lives will open at last.
Perhaps it seems rather crude to describe glory as the fact of being “noticed” by God. But this is almost the language of the New Testament. St. Paul promises to those who love God not, as we should expect, that they will know Him, but that they will be known by Him (I Cor. viii. 3).
It is a strange promise.
Does not God know all things at all times?
But it is dreadfully reechoed in another passage of the New Testament.
There we are warned that it may happen to any one of us to appear at last before the face of God and hear only the appalling words:“I never knew you. Depart from Me.”
In some sense, as dark to the intellect as it is unendurable to the feelings, we can be both banished from the presence of Him who is present everywhere and erased from the knowledge of Him who knows all.
We can be left utterly and absolutely outside—repelled, exiled, estranged, finally and unspeakably ignored.
On the other hand, we can be called in, received, acknowledged.
We walk every day on the razor edge between these two incredible possibilities. Apparently, then, our lifelong nostalgia, our longing to be reunited with something in the universe from which we now feel cut off, to be on the inside of some door which we have always seen from the outside, is no mere neurotic fancy, but the truest index of our real situation.
And to be at last summoned inside would be both glory and honour beyond all our merits and also the healing of that old ache."

by CS Lewis, from The Weight of Glory