Of Mice & Marshwiggles – Day 3 – Friday after Ash Wednesday – Turning
Setting the Scene: Eustace, who until know has been a ‘difficult’ passenger on the Dawn Treader has been magically turned into a dragon. This has unexpected consequences for him……
In spite of the pain, his first feeling was one of relief. There was nothing to be afraid of any more. He was a terror himself and nothing in the world but a knight (and not all of those) would dare to attack him. He could get even with Caspian and Edmund now but the moment he thought this he realized that he didn’t want to. He wanted to be friends. He wanted to get back among humans and talk and laugh and share things. He realized that he was a monster cut off from the whole human race. An appalling loneliness came over him. He began to see that the others had not really been fiends at all. He began to wonder if he himself had been such a nice person as he had always supposed. He longed for their voices. He would have been grateful for a kind word even from Reepicheep.
When he thought of this the poor dragon that had been Eustace lifted up its voice and wept. A powerful dragon crying its eyes out under the moon in a deserted valley is a sight and a sound hardly to be imagined.
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader – Chapter 6 – The Adventures of Eustace (© C.S. Lewis)
‘There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it’ are the opening words of ‘The Voyage of the Dawn Treader’ and they introduce us to at once the most challenging (he is described as ‘beastly’ in the synopsis of the book) and the most penitent of all the characters from this world ever to visit Narnia.
Eustace, in the beginning, is not a very nice piece of work at all. He complains all the time, gets seasick, pulls Reepicheep’s tail (a dangerous pastime if the mouse in question carries a sword!) and is generally an all-round nuisance.
He refuses to take his turn in the chores of the ship’s crew and when he discovers a dragon’s golden hoard he thinks he has it made. Until he is transformed into a dragon, that is. Then the ‘beastly’ boy becomes a ‘beast’ and he reaps the rewards of his selfish behaviour.
For me, I still find myself fighting the ‘inner beast’, the self-willed person at my centre who craves to be in sole charge of my life. When the beast rules I can’t imagine why people don’t understand my need for them to run to do my bidding, to give in to my demands and spend themselves in my service. As the years go by I hope (and pray) that this inner self is being transformed and changed, but I know the ‘old Andrew’ is still there inside and, given just a little bit of oxygen, will roar into life and breathe fire all over the place.
I also know that these times, when I think I am finally getting my own way, are the loneliest of times. Shouldn’t I be happy at those moments? When I let the dragon free haven’t I ‘won’, I have got my own way haven’t I? Finally I am in charge. But it is so lonely and, like Clarence Eustace Scrubb I discover that being an all-devouring all-powerful beast means I am cut off from those around me and, having won the prize of selfishness, I realise that this means I will be alone. As the Abba song reminds us the ‘Winner’ does indeed ‘take it all’.
I too know the feeling of a being a powerful dragon crying its eyes out under the moon.
Strange as it may seem this is good news. In the Franciscan community we are called first of all to be ‘Brothers and Sisters of Penance’. Franciscans should be people who are vitally, viscerally even, aware of the sin within themselves and in the world around them. We are called to weep for the lostness and loneliness which sin brings. This may sound a little out of kilter coming from a group of people whose key charism is supposed to be joy, but this should not surprise us.
Just as questioning is the first step to a deeper faith, so naming our sin and crying our tears is the first step towards restoration and salvation. To weep over our past is the beginning of our transformation and the promise of future joy. Before we can be born again we have to die to our self. And, as there is at any passing from this life to the life after life, this will bring tears.
Tomorrow we will find out how Eustace is transformed, but for today, on this first Friday of Lent, let us weep with him as we ponder our own selfishness
God help us to find our confession;
The truth within us which is hidden from our mind;
The beauty or ugliness we see elsewhere but never in ourselves;
The stowaway which has been smuggled into the dark side of the heart,
Which puts the heart off balance and causes it pain,
Which wearies and confuses us,
Which tips us in false directions and inclines us to destruction,
The load which is not carried squarely because it is carried in ignorance
God help us to find our confession.
Help us across the boundary of our understanding.
Lead us into the darkness that we may find what lies concealed;
That we may confess it toward the light;
That we may carry our truth in the centre of our heart;
That we may carry our cross wisely and bring harmony into our life and our world.
In ‘The Book of a Thousand Prayers’ © Angela Ashwin – Compiler
It is Friday; find a cross to hold, to look at or to carry for some part of the day.
If you can look at the cross of San Damiano and allow Christ from the cross to speak to you as He spoke to St Francis.
Read some of the conversations Don Camillo has with the Christ on the Cross in his church in the Po Valley (see ‘The Little World of Don Camillo’ by Giovanni Guareschi).
© Andrew Dotchin 2018