to walk worthily of the Lord, pleasing him in all respects

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Lent, Day 31: it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me

As John sees Jesus come into his ministry, John recognizes that his own work is at an ebb. "He must increase, but I must decrease."  (John 3:30)

Where for John this statement sums up his role as the one who comes before, for us who come after this statement must not be discarded. Indeed, it should become our prayer as it is the only way that we can persist on the way of love.

In his science fiction book Perelandra, C S Lewis beautifully captures the manner in which the increase of the Lord is our own fulfillment. Ransom, the protagonist, encounters on Perelandra (Venus) an un-fallen planet and an un-fallen human woman. Lewis describes the aftermath of Ransom and the Lady's first sustained encounter thus:

As soon as the Lady was out of sight Ransom's first impulse was to run his hands through his hair, to expel the breath from his lungs in a long whistle, to light a cigarette, to put his hands in his pockets, and in general, to go through the ritual of relaxation which a man performs on finding himself alone after a rather trying interview. But he had no cigarettes and no pockets; nor indeed did he feel himself alone. The sense of being in Someone's Presence which had descended on him  with such unbearable pressure during the very first moments of his conversation with the Lady did not disappear when he had left her. It was, if anything, increased. Her society had been, in some degree, a protection against it, and her absence left him not to solitude but to a more formidable kind of privacy. At first it was almost intolerable; as he put it  to us, in telling the story, "There seemed no room." But later on, he discovered that it was intolerable only at certain moments--at just those moments in fact (symbolized by his impulse to smoke and to put his hands in his pockets) when a man asserts his independence and feels that now at last he is on his own. When you felt like that, then the very air seemed too crowded to breathe; a complete fulness seemed to be excluding you from a place which, nevertheless, you were unable to leave. But when you gave in to the thing, gave yourself up to it, there was no burden to be borne. It became not a load but a medium, a sort of splendour as of eatable, drinkable, breathable gold, which fed and carried you and not only poured into you but out from you as well. Taken the wrong way, it suffocated; taken the right way, it made terrestrial life seem, by comparison, a vacuum. 

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