Sunday, February 15, 2009

From Irritation to Blessing

I have been reading the Chronicles of Narnia books to my children (who are six and five). We have gotten through The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and Prince Caspian. We have also seen the recent movies of those books. We just started Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

As someone who thinks that C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity is simply an amazing book, I am fascinated by the Narnia novels. Lewis was clearly a better expository writer than novelist (as one would expect from a scholar), but he does create some wonderful moments of dialogue and imagery.

One of those moments came to me at mass last week. My kids like to sit in the front row so they can see what is going on, but we arrived too late to mass to sit in the front row. We sat toward the back, but the kids were upset because they could not see the altar. So we took them into the "cry room." The cry room is on the second floor, with a plate glass window overlooking the main aisle of the church and the altar. I was irritated because now, instead of sitting in the front row, we were now in the cry room with several children who were up there for the reason that we have a cry room - because they were being too loud or too mobile for the main part of the church.

But God changed my irritation into a blessing. From that angle, we could see the altar surface. Normally, we are a little below the altar and cannot see the surface. Suddenly, seeing the table top of the altar, the image of Aslan's sacrifice on "the stone table" in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe came to me. Aslan, the lion, is an analogue to Christ in the novel, and I had been extremely moved by the scene of his sacrifice. I had understood the symbolism of the slaying of Aslan as paralleling the Crucifixion. But what I had not appreciated was the simultaneous symbolism of the sacrifice of the the mass, of the Victim upon the altar. Suddenly, the "stone table" upon which Aslan was killed, so clearly shed light on the altar that I had looked upon each week but had not really seen.

God has this uncanny way of changing our point of view, even when we wish to remain stuck in our current, limited ways of seeing. There is a great 17th-century Japanese poem by Mizuta Masahide that illustrates this truth:

Barn's burnt down
I can see the moon.


the booklady said...

Yes! Beautiful post. Thank you.

Pete Caccavari said...

Thanks, Booklady. I'm always amazed at how God leads us kicking and screaming where we need to go but don't want to go. It's a drag not being omniscient.

the booklady said...

Pete, I'm in the process of reviewing The Way of Love and I just discovered that the text can be found on-line. Anyway, wanted to give you a heads-up about one article/reflection in there which is specifically about the Eucharist, called Participating in His Gift: The Eucharist. IMHO it's one of the better essays in a book full of great tributes to the Holy Father's encyclical.

God bless!