Of Mice & Marshwiggles – Day 15 – Aslan
Setting the Scene: Shasta’s companions, Aravis a young Calormene Tarkheena (princess) and Bree and Hwin (talking horses from Narnia) are safe in the Hermit’s garden. Bree who thinks he knows all there is to know about Aslan tells Aravis about the lion of Narnia.
‘You are silly, Bree,’ said Aravis.
‘By the Lion’s Mane, Tarkheena, I’m nothing of the sort,’ said Bree indignantly. ‘I have a proper respect for myself and for my fellow horses, that’s all.’ ‘Bree,’ said Aravis, who was not very interested in the cut of his tail, ‘I’ve been wanting to ask you something for a long time. Why do you keep on swearing By the Lion and By the Lion’s Mane? I thought you hated lions.’
‘So I do,’ answered Bree. ‘But when I speak of the Lion of course I mean Aslan, the great deliverer of Narnia who drove away the Witch and the Winter. All Narnians swear by him.’
‘But is he a lion?’
‘No, no, of course not,’ said Bree in a rather shocked voice.
‘All the stories about him in Tashbaan say he is,’ replied Aravis. ‘And if he isn’t a lion why do you call him a lion?’
‘Well, you’d hardly understand that at your age,’ said Bree. ‘And I was only a little foal when I left [Narnia] so I don’t quite fully understand it myself.’
(Bree was standing with his back to the green wall while he said this, and the other two were facing him. He was talking in rather a superior tone with his eyes half shut; that was why he didn’t see the changed expression in the faces of Hwin and Aravis. They had good reason to have open mouths and staring eyes; because while Bree spoke they saw an enormous lion leap up from outside and balance itself on the top of the green wall; only it was a brighter yellow and it was bigger and more beautiful and more alarming than any lion they had ever seen. And at once it jumped down inside the wall and began approaching Bree from behind. It made no noise at all. And Hwin and Aravis couldn’t make any noise themselves, no more than if they were frozen.)
‘No doubt,’ continued Bree, ‘when they speak of him as a Lion they only mean he’s as strong as a lion or (to our enemies, of course) as fierce as a lion. Or something of that kind. Even a little girl like you, Aravis, must see that it would be quite absurd to suppose he is a real lion. Indeed it would be disrespectful. If he was a lion he’d have to be a Beast just like the rest of us. Why!’ (and here Bree began to laugh) ‘If he was a lion he’d have four paws, and a tail, and Whiskers! . . . Aie, ooh, hoo-hoo! Help!’
For just as he said the word Whiskers one of Aslan’s had actually tickled his ear. Bree shot away like an arrow to the other side of the enclosure and there turned; the wall was too high for him to jump and he could fly no farther. Aravis and Hwin both started back. There was about a second of intense silence…..
The Horse and His Boy – Chapter 14 – How Bree Became a Wiser Horse (© C.S. Lewis)
My first experience of theological discussion was in the early 1970’s whilst I was at Boarding School in Ipswich. A group of us went with the School Chaplain to the friary at East Bergholt for, what I think was, a Lent Lecture on ‘New Theology’. This was the theology of Bultmann and company who were busy de-mythologizing the New Testament and explaining away the power of God – a theology that seems rather worn and tired and far from ‘new’ forty years later!
This theology might be best illustrated by this reinterpretation of the response of the disciples to Jesus’ question at Caesarea Philippi (Mark 8.27f)
‘Jesus said unto them—’Who do you say that I am?’
And they replied: – ‘You are the eschatological manifestation of the ground of our being, the kerygma in which we find the ultimate meaning of an interpersonal relationship.’
And Jesus said unto them ‘What?’
Whatever Bree did when he was a foal in Narnia it seems he must have spent too much time at the feet of the Narnia equivalent of Rudolf Bulltmann, Martin Heidegger and friends! Bree’s view of Aslan is similar to those who see God as a concept – a possibility around which they can play semantic gymnastics – but cannot see God to be a present reality who breaks into lives and transforms the way they live. The God of Bultmann definitely did not have whiskers!
If we hold God at a distance, if we do not allow God to come close to us, if we only ever use God’s name as an unexplained oath, we will find that God is distant from us and it may take a personal encounter – such as the one Bree had – to bring us to our senses. Bree had lived all his life knowing about the possibility of Aslan but had never encountered the reality of the Lion of Narnia and was the poorer for it! Personal encounter is essential for growth in our faith – this is something that cannot be ‘de-mythologized’ – and is at the heart of the love shown to us by our incarnate God.
One of my brothers-in-law, Gavin Hendry, is also a church minister. He has a ministry that brings healing to people who have struggled in their primary family relationships and so find it difficult to relate fully to the One who loves them best. Gavin’s ministry comes out of his own experiences in the book he has written titled ‘The Kiss of the King’ which reminds each of us that we need a personal encounter with God, a kiss, and not simply the intellectual assent which describes Bree’s picture of Aslan.
Many times in the Chronicles of Narnia Aslan comforts the children in the stories by licking their faces, not so much the action of a lion but that of a kitten. God too wants to come to each of us and lick our faces, kiss us, and reassure us that he really is next to us and his name is not simply a byword we might use to make our conversation more ’holy’.
None of us wants to meet,
‘the eschatological manifestation of the ground of our being, the kerygma in which we find the ultimate meaning of an interpersonal relationship’
All of us need to meet the One who loves us best. Will you let God ‘lick your face’?
O our Saviour! of ourselves we cannot love you, cannot follow you,
cannot become one with you
but you came down that we might love you,
you ascended that we might follow you,
you bound us close to you,
that we might hold fast to you.
Since you have loved us, make us love you.
Since you have found us when we were lost,
be yourself the way,
that we may find you
and be found in you
our only hope, and our everlasting joy
in ‘The Book of a Thousand Prayers’ © Angela Ashwin – Compiler
It’s Friday and the weekend approaches – a time for relaxation and refreshment from our Lenten discipline. A time to let God love you.
If possible sit in the sun and spend some time being ‘sun-kissed’
Hug a friend or a family member for a little while longer than you normally would.
Give someone a surprise gift.
© Andrew Dotchin 2018