BEYOND OUR UNDERSTANDING

by Fr. Michael Harper

 

"The things above the earth and on the earth were amazed at Thy power as they beheld Thee, O my Saviour, upon Thy throne on high and in the manger below. For beyond our understanding Thou hast appeared in two natures, God and Man." (First Canticle of Christmas Eve Compline)

 

Tony Blair, in his speech in the Irish Dail in Dublin, the first English Prime Minister to speak there in this century, made the statement "there are no absolutes". Thus our first post-modern Prime Minister revealed his New Age credentials, and few even noticed it. But it is in this relativistic atmosphere that we live, and the Gospel has to be proclaimed.

1998 is the centenary of the birth of C.S. Lewis. This autumn my wife and I have been attending a series of sermons in Magdalene College, Cambridge on C.S. Lewis. Although primarily an Oxford man, C.S. Lewis spent much of his later life in Cambridge, at Magdalene College, where he was a Fellow and a Professor of a Chair which was specially created for him. Lewis wrote a book called Beyond Personality. He was able to see so much that his contemporaries missed — beyond the bounds of credibility into the realms of faith.

In one important respect C.S. Lewis reflected the Eastern way of seeing things. He delighted in the use of symbols and allegories, of which perhaps the Nania stories are the most famous, and still enthral children of all ages.

In The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe he describes the effect that the wicked witch has on the land she held in bondage. Lewis writes, "it was always winter and never Christmas".

We live in this winter darkness of faithless and confused post-modernism. In it the witch is pleased that people claim no absolutes, for then they don't meddle with her sovereignty. But for us there is always Christmas, when the true light of Christ pierces the cold darkness of our perennial secular winter.

Christ's birth is in many ways "beyond our understanding", but the simplest person can grasp its essence and rejoice in both its simplicity and its absoluteness.

May God bless us all — and our families and friends this Christmas!

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