Clive Staples Lewis, Apologist and Spiritual Writer, 1963

Welcome to the Holy Women, Holy Men blog! We invite you to read about this commemoration, use the collect and lessons in prayer, whether individually or in corporate worship, and then tell us what you think. For more information about this project, click here.

File-C.s.lewis3.JPG.jpg

 

About the Commemoration

“You must make your choice,” C. S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity. “Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up as a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon, or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God.”

Lewis did not always believe this. Born in Belfast on November 29, 1898, Lewis was raised as an Anglican but rejected Christianity during his adolescent years. After serving in World War I, he started a long academic career as a scholar in medieval and renaissance literature at both Oxford and Cambridge. He also began an inner journey that led him from atheism to agnosticism to theism and finally to faith in Jesus Christ.“Really, a young Atheist cannot guard his faith too carefully,” he later wrote of his conversion to theism in Surprised by Joy. “Dangers lie in wait for him on every side … Amiable agnostics will talk cheerfully about ‘man’s search for God’. To me, as I then was, they might as well have talked about the mouse’s search for the cat. You must picture me all alone in that room at Magdalen, night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet. That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me. In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England.” Two years later, his conversion was completed: “I know very well when, but hardly how, the final step was taken. I was driven to Whipsnade one sunny morning. When we set out, I did not believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and when we reached the zoo, I did.”

Lewis’s conversion inaugurated a wonderful outpouring of Christian apologetics in media as varied as popular theology, children’s literature, fantasy and science fiction, and correspondence on spiritual matters with friends and strangers alike. In 1956 Lewis married Joy Davidman, a recent convert to Christianity. Her death four years later led him to a transforming encounter with the Mystery of which he had written so eloquently before. Lewis died at his home in Oxford on November 22, 1963. The inscription on his grave reads: “Men must endure their going hence”.

Collects

i O God of searing truth and surpassing beauty, we give thee thanks for Clive Staples Lewis, whose sanctified imagination lighteth fires of faith in young and old alike. Surprise us also with thy joy and draw us into that new and abundant life which is ours in Christ Jesus, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

ii O God of searing truth and surpassing beauty, we give you thanks for Clive Staples Lewis, whose sanctified imagination lights fires of faith in young and old alike. Surprise us also with your joy and draw us into that new and abundant life which is ours in Christ Jesus, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Psalm

139:1–9

Lessons

Proverbs 23:15–18

1 Peter 1:3–9

John 16:7–15

Preface of a Saint (3)

 

 

21 Responses to Clive Staples Lewis, Apologist and Spiritual Writer, 1963

  1. Linda Clader says:

    I appreciate the beauty of this collect, and particularly note the use of the present tense when it refers to Lewis’ continuing contribution to people today. Since I have just finished working on a homiy for his day, I am keenly aware of the fact that the chosen readings present abstract ideas, with no stories or images to speak of. Ironic, considering how rich Lewis’ work is with same.

  2. Michael Hartney says:

    Hebrew reading: Only 4 verses of Scripture for CS Lewis? Surely we can spare a few more for this great man.

    Bio. He needs a ‘who he is’ and ‘why he is important’ statement. I know, I know – people should know who he is… but many do not.

  3. Richard H Lewis says:

    The reading from Proverbs seems less than connected to any part of the life and work of CS Lewis.
    Suely there is some “word” about being led into Truth that can be utilized ! The quote from his grave
    marker ( his remains and his brothers are in the same site) is a Shakespearean quote and was on the
    calandar page that was in the Lewis home on the day of his mother’s death in 1908. The quote ( thank
    you, Walter Hooper “C S Lewis A Companion & Guide” p 692) is from King Lear V:ii). A man a year
    ahead of me at Virginia Seminary spoke of CS Lewis as the “one who put suspenders on the eagle”, a
    reference to helping our imaginations see the markers in the pulpit bible thru another lens. Thanks,
    Mike.

  4. Thomas Lindsay says:

    This information is fantastic, and it’s timeless information in that it comes around every year. I wonder though if maybe it could be made available as a calendar addition – such as a Google Calendar – so that we can simply turn on the calendar and have access to the information directly in the calendars we’re already using, on a daily basis, showing whose feast day it is.

    As a an Episcopalian who knows little about the saints but has a profession in technology, a background in history and a desire to learn more, I’d be interested in helping to make this content available in a Google calendar. Please contact me if you can.

  5. Philip Wainwright says:

    One of the better bios, definitely. Although I think ‘popular theology’ is not quite right; he wrote books that put some of the great issues of theology in terms that the average reader could understand, but that’s not quite the same thing. Academic theologians have engaged with his arguments as much as anyone.

    He was also a poet, and someone with a deep sensitivity to the meaning and use of words, and I suspect would find the collect an embarrassment. ‘Searing’ is a technique in cookery which brings a quick change to the outside and leaves the inside unchanged—about as inappropriate a metaphor for God’s truth as can be imagined. I’m not sure either of the adjectives are necessary, they sound like someone straining to be eloquent. The point, I take it, is that God is the source of both truth and beauty, which are concepts we don’t always value equally as Lewis did, and perhaps ‘both’ is what needs emphasising, rather than picking one out of an innumerable number of possible adjectives, however appropriate.

    ‘Sanctified imagination’ isn’t quite right either, although it’s not an inaccurate description. It just bumps into something in my mind rather than flowing naturally. Perhaps it reminds me of the word ‘sanctimonious’. IN any case, it’s not only his fiction that helps people to faith—that’s what’s so important about Lewis, that he appeals to left and right brain types equally. ‘Surprise us also with your joy’ doesn’t work for me either, but that’s probably because I can’t help remembering the jokes made by his colleagues when he got involved with Joy Davidman (according to a biography I read some years ago).

  6. Leonel L. Mitchell says:

    What! No photo?
    Lewis is a significant addition to our calendar. His life and his work were some of the greatest apostolic, evangelical witness in the 20th Century.
    How is one to pick whether to keep him or St. Cecelia? Could she be moved back to the previous day with the church musicians: Byrd, Merbecke and Tallis?

  7. Steve Lusk says:

    Leave Cecelia on her traditional day (November 22) and bump Lewis to the next open day (November 24). One feast of music is enough, and that feast should be Cecilia’s. If you want another one, move Byrd, Merbecke,and Tallis back to July 28 with Bach, Handel, and Purcell to provide a feast of classical musicians, and give Lewis November 21st.

  8. Philip Wainwright says:

    Thanks for the picture, Michael, but more interesting for me was the following quote from Lewis on the blog from which the picture came. It is great advice for writers of collects:

    1. Always try to use the language so as to make quite clear what you mean and make sure your sentence couldn’t mean anything else.
    2. Always prefer the plain direct word to the long, vague one. Don’t implement promises, but keep them.
    3. Never use abstract nouns when concrete ones will do. If you mean “More people died” don’t say “Mortality rose.”
    4. In writing. Don’t use adjectives which merely tell us how you want us to feel about the things you are describing. I mean, instead of telling us the thing is “terrible,” describe it so that we’ll be terrified. Don’t say it was “delightful”; make us say “delightful” when we’ve read the description. You see, all those words (horrifying, wonderful, hideous, exquisite) are only like saying to your readers “Please, will you do my job for me.”
    5. Don’t use words too big for the subject. Don’t say “infinitely” when you mean “very”; otherwise you’ll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.

    • dewluca says:

      Delightful! Good to remember that advice to children is often applicable to all of us🙂

    • John LaVoe says:

      I do believe you’ve sanctified my imagination with that, Philip! Thank you. Only, I wouldn’t use “very” very often, because it’s very easy to say nothing by adding very to a sentence written very well in the very first place. (I’m very sereious about that.)

  9. Charlotte Corneil says:

    I thought bio was good. NT readings more on piont than OT. Can’t say how to improve but collect needs some work I think. Kiefer from lectionary at St. Clair’s may have something to offer. Such a powerful figure who always seemed to struggle with and over come some of more difficult parts of simply being human.

  10. John LaVoe says:

    This write-up was great. Thank you. My only reservation, as you may have guessed, is with “sanctified imagination” in the collect. Yea, verily.

    • John LaVoe says:

      PS – I cringe when two good offerings occupy the same day. In devotional use, public or private, I’d feel compelled to use only one. Beyond that, what’s next — three a day, then Years 1 and 2; or years A, B and C — maybe with Track 1 and Track 2?

    • Sarah V. Lewis says:

      With fewer adjectives, & following CS Lewis’ advice, I submit the following adaptation of the Collect for his day: O God of all truth and beauty, we give you thanks for Clive Staples Lewis, whose wonderfully gifted imagination lights fires of faith in old and young alike. Astound us with your joy and draw us into the new and abundant life that is ours in Christ Jesus, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

    • John LaVoe says:

      I love inclusion of direct quotes. I felt they put me in direct touch with him.

  11. Philip Wainwright says:

    I’ve been working on this for a few days and am ready to gve it an airing:

    O God, source of both truth and beauty, we give you thanks for Clive Staples Lewis, whose writings inspired and strengthened faith in young and old alike. Give us such love of your truth, and such delight in your beauty, that we too may be drawn to that new and abundant life which is the gift of your Son Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

  12. Nigel Renton says:

    I wish that some space had been left in the bio to list at least The Screwtape Lettters and The Chronicles of Narnia by name. A brief biography should not contain the long quotations from his work, although it is a interesting paragraph.

    Line 1 of the fifth paragraph: add the name “Gresham” after “Davidman”.

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