One evening my son came to me beaming: “Mom, you have to read this!”
Earlier he had been “in a mood,” so I had sent him to his room with clear instructions: Do not to speak to anyone the rest of the night until you have read two chapters of your C. S. Lewis literature assignment for this week.
C. S. Lewis often helps my son’s thinking more effectively than I can, so I lean on the author heavily. Classically educated himself, Lewis expertly weaves truth into allegory that speaks to my son.
Michael returned about an hour later, humble as if transfigured, ready to apologize and eager for me to read what he had seen. “I think it’s Jesus,” he said quietly.
What I tell you is the evangelium aeternum. This has been known always: ancients and moderns bear witness to it. The stories of the Landlord in our own time are but a picture-writing which show to the people as much of the truth as they can understand. Stewards must have told you—though it seems that you neither heeded nor understood them—the legend of the Landlord’s Son.
They say that after eating of the mountain-apple and the earthquake, when things in our country had gone all awry, the Landlord’s Son himself became one of his Father’s tenants and lived among us, for no other purpose than that he should be killed. The Stewards themselves do not know clearly the meaning of their story; hence, if you ask them how the slaying of the Son should help us, they are driven to monstrous answers. But to us the meaning is clear and the story is beautiful. It is a picture of the life of the Spirit itself … for the whole world is nothing else than the Eternal thus giving itself to death that it may live—that we may live.”¹
This was not the first time Lewis helped my son. Prone to sullenness, mood swings, and dabbling where he ought not, my son finds a sometimes reluctant solace in the writings of Lewis that heartily affirm all he learns, sings, and prays on Sunday mornings. Lewis has become a literary mentor in our home. A classical education is infused with eternal truths at every turn, and few accomplish this for us like this Christian writer.
Respectful of a good book and its author, when Michael learned that Lewis wanted a person to read The Magician’s Nephew (Creation) prior to reading The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (Redemption), Michael did. Good and evil war royally, majestically, spiritually in The Magician’s Nephew. Chilling portraits of the wickedly deceptive Jadis and her dangerously cruel tyranny sober the reader to silence. As we read, we realize the warring is not ethereal, but personal. “Let your world beware.”²
Then the sobered reader learns where to turn, as the children in Narnia look squarely into the face of Aslan. Miraculously, the gloriously warm and loving face of Aslan is as gracious and merciful as it is stern and just. In this my son finds comfort. So do I.
The face seemed to be a sea of tossing gold in which they were floating, and such a sweetness and power rolled about them and over them and entered them that they felt they had never really been happy or wise or good, or even alive or awake, before.³ This is not just for the moment, we remember as we read. “As long as they both lived, if ever they were sad or afraid or angry, the thought of all that golden goodness … would come back and make them sure, deep down inside, that all was well.”⁴
As a writer, C. S. Lewis never turns our children to himself but rather to our children’s true source of life and hope. Only One can change—transfigure—our children in ways that matter for all time. “When he remembered the face of Aslan he did hope.”⁵ This gives us hope.
As we continue to feed our children from the Fount of Goodness, we can look forward to the day when all necessary “ransacking of the Witch’s fortress”⁶ will end for the eternal good of our child. Until that day, through hallowed teachings in the castle of our children’s minds we see “every door and window open and the light and the sweet spring air flooding in to all the dark and evil places which needed them so badly.”⁷
When our own wisdom falters and our words fail us with our teens and older children, we can turn with confidence to those who think and write and breathe the faith more compassionately, more effectively, more beautifully than we do. We can lean on hymn writers, poets, writers of good literature, and especially the Holy Scriptures to give our children meaningful truth to refresh minds and nourish souls in ways that will continue to transfigure far beyond today.
¹ C. S. Lewis, Pilgrim’s Regress (Eerdmans, 1943), p. 129
² C. S. Lewis, The Magician’s Nephew, (HarperTrophy, 1983), p. 194.
³ The Magician’s Nephew, p. 194.
⁴ The Magician’s Nephew, pp. 194-195.
⁵ The Magician’s Nephew, p. 198.
⁶ C. S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, (HarperTrophy, 1978), p. 171.
⁷ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, p. 171.
This article was originally published in The Classical Teacher.