Sunday, March 27, 2016

Easter! Now What?

          Lent is over. Easter is here. Hot Cross buns have been eaten. Pageants performed. The great Easter hymns sung. But what’s next? Where do we go from here?

          Life seems to return to “normal.” But the Easter message is that the Risen Christ has made all things new. What is this newness and how do we identify and participate in it?

          Fortunately, C. S. Lewis has given us a wonderful fictional depiction of our participation in Christ’s resurrection triumph. In Prince Caspian, the second in the original published order of the Narnia Chronicles, the four Pevensie children from our world have returned to Aslan’s world of Narnia. There are a great kings and queens. They have been called to aid Prince Caspian, a young royal whose scurrilous uncle had his father killed and claimed the throne of Narnia for himself. Having no male heir, Uncle Miraz had adopted Caspian and ruled in his stead till the young man grew into his adulthood.

          However, Miraz’ wife has become pregnant and given him a son. Now Caspian is a threat to Miraz. Warned by his old nurse, Caspian flees. He undertakes to the lead the forces of Old Narnia, whom Miraz has suppressed and outlawed, to retake their land and clam his rightful rule.

          Aslan, the great lion and Christ-figure, joins them. His resurrection is in the first story The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe so he joins this story as the resurrected one. He advises Caspian, Peter, Edmund, and the creatures of old Narnia in battle against Miraz and his forces and leads a victory procession through the land restoring it to its proper order. This double-sided task, battle against the enemy (Eph.6:10-20) and leading a movement of liberation and restoration captures perfectly the post-Easter life of Christ’s people.

          As we take up our post-Easter life again this year, may Lewis’ tale stir our imaginations to embrace both our struggle against the “principalities and powers” and ministries of healing, restoration, and hope in a world still bound by the lies and illusions of the evil one. It begins at the conclusion of the battle against Miraz and relates in detail the victory procession.

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But almost before the Old Narnians were really warmed to their work they found the enemy giving way. Tough-looking warriors turned white, gazed in terror not on the Old Narnians but on something behind them, and then flung down their weapons, shrieking, “The Wood! The Wood! The end of the world!”

But soon neither their cries nor the sound of weapons could be heard any more, for both were drowned in the ocean-like roar of the Awakened Trees as they plunged through the ranks of Peter’s army, and then on, in pursuit of the Telmarines. Have you ever stood at the edge of a great wood on a high ridge when a wild southwester broke over it in full fury on an autumn evening? Imagine that sound. And then imagine that the wood, instead of being fixed to one place, was rushing at you; and was no longer trees but huge people; yet still like trees because their long arms waved like branches and their heads tossed and leaves fell round them in showers. It was like that for the Telmarines. It was a little alarming even for the Narnians. In a few minutes all Miraz’s followers were running down to the Great River in the hope of crossing the bridge to the town of Beruna and there defending themselves behind ramparts and closed gates.

They reached the river, but there was no bridge. It had disappeared since yesterday. Then utter panic and horror fell upon them and they all surrendered.

But what had happened to the bridge?

Early that morning, after a few hours’ sleep, the girls had waked, to see Aslan standing over them and to hear his voice saying, “We will make holiday.” They rubbed their eyes and looked round them. The trees had all gone but could still be seen moving away toward Aslan’s How in a dark mass. Bacchus and the Maenads— his fierce, madcap girls— and Silenus were still with them. Lucy, fully rested, jumped up. Everyone was awake, everyone was laughing, flutes were playing, cymbals clashing. Animals, not Talking Animals, were crowding in upon them from every direction.

“What is it, Aslan?” said Lucy, her eyes dancing and her feet wanting to dance.

“Come, children,” said he. “Ride on my back again today.” “Oh, lovely!” cried Lucy, and both girls climbed onto the warm golden back as they had done no one knew how many years before. Then the whole party moved off— Aslan leading, Bacchus and his Maenads leaping, rushing, and turning somersaults, the beasts frisking round them, and Silenus and his donkey bringing up the rear.

They turned a little to the right, raced down a steep hill, and found the long Bridge of Beruna in front of them. Before they had begun to cross it, however, up out of the water came a great wet, bearded head, larger than a man’s, crowned with rushes. It looked at Aslan and out of its mouth a deep voice came.

“Hail, Lord,” it said. “Loose my chains.”

“Who on earth is that?” whispered Susan.

 “I think it’s the river-god, but hush,” said Lucy. “Bacchus,” said Aslan. “Deliver him from his chains.”

“That means the bridge, I expect,” thought Lucy. And so it did. Bacchus and his people splashed forward into the shallow water, and a minute later the most curious things began happening. Great, strong trunks of ivy came curling up all the piers of the bridge, growing as quickly as a fire grows, wrapping the stones round, splitting, breaking, separating them. The walls of the bridge turned into hedges gay with hawthorn for a moment and then disappeared as the whole thing with a rush and a rumble collapsed into the swirling water. With much splashing, screaming, and laughter the revelers waded or swam or danced across the ford (“ Hurrah! It’s the Ford of Beruna again now!” cried the girls) and up the bank on the far side and into the town.

Everyone in the streets fled before their faces. The first house they came to was a school: a girls’ school, where a lot of Narnian girls, with their hair done very tight and ugly tight collars round their necks and thick tickly stockings on their legs, were having a history lesson. The sort of “History” that was taught in Narnia under Miraz’s rule was duller than the truest history you ever read and less true than the most exciting adventure story.

“If you don’t attend, Gwendolen,” said the mistress, “and stop looking out of the window, I shall have to give you an order-mark.”

“But please, Miss Prizzle—” began Gwendolen.

“Did you hear what I said, Gwendolen?” asked Miss Prizzle.

“But please, Miss Prizzle,” said Gwendolen, “there’s a LION!”

“Take two order-marks for talking nonsense,” said Miss Prizzle. “And now—” A roar interrupted her. Ivy came curling in at the windows of the classroom. The walls became a mass of shimmering green, and leafy branches arched overhead where the ceiling had been. Miss Prizzle found she was standing on grass in a forest glade. She clutched at her desk to steady herself, and found that the desk was a rose-bush. Wild people such as she had never even imagined were crowding round her. Then she saw the Lion, screamed and fled, and with her fled her class, who were mostly dumpy, prim little girls with fat legs. Gwendolen hesitated.

“You’ll stay with us, sweetheart?” said Aslan.

“Oh, may I? Thank you, thank you,” said Gwendolen. Instantly she joined hands with two of the Maenads, who whirled her round in a merry dance and helped her take off some of the unnecessary and uncomfortable clothes that she was wearing.

Wherever they went in the little town of Beruna it was the same. Most of the people fled, a few joined them. When they left the town they were a larger and a merrier company.

They swept on across the level fields on the north bank, or left bank, of the river. At every farm animals came out to join them. Sad old donkeys who had never known joy grew suddenly young again; chained dogs broke their chains; horses kicked their carts to pieces and came trotting along with them— clop-clop— kicking up the mud and whinnying.

At a well in a yard they met a man who was beating a boy. The stick burst into flower in the man’s hand. He tried to drop it, but it stuck to his hand. His arm became a branch, his body the trunk of a tree, his feet took root. The boy, who had been crying a moment before, burst out laughing and joined them.

At a little town half-way to Beaversdam, where two rivers met, they came to another school, where a tired-looking girl was teaching arithmetic to a number of boys who looked very like pigs. She looked out of the window and saw the divine revelers singing up the street and a stab of joy went through her heart. Aslan stopped right under the window and looked up at her.

“Oh, don’t, don’t,” she said. “I’d love to. But I mustn’t. I must stick to my work. And the children would be frightened if they saw you.”

“Frightened?” said the most pig-like of the boys. “Who’s she talking to out of the window? Let’s tell the inspector she talks to people out of the window when she ought to be teaching us.”

“Let’s go and see who it is,” said another boy, and they all came crowding to the window. But as soon as their mean little faces looked out, Bacchus gave a great cry of Euan, euoi-oi-oi-oi and the boys all began howling with fright and trampling one another down to get out of the door and jumping out of the windows. And it was said afterward (whether truly or not) that those particular little boys were never seen again, but that there were a lot of very fine little pigs in that part of the country which had never been there before.

“Now, Dear Heart,” said Aslan to the Mistress: and she jumped down and joined them.

At Beaversdam they re-crossed the river and came east again along the southern bank. They came to a little cottage where a child stood in the doorway crying. “Why are you crying, my love?” asked Aslan. The child, who had never seen a picture of a lion, was not afraid of him. “Auntie’s very ill,” she said. “She’s going to die.” Then Aslan went to go in at the door of the cottage, but it was too small for him. So, when he had got his head through, he pushed with his shoulders (Lucy and Susan fell off when he did this) and lifted the whole house up and it fell backward and apart.

And there, still in her bed, though the bed was now in the open air, lay a little old woman who looked as if she had Dwarf blood in her. She was at death’s door, but when she opened her eyes and saw the bright, hairy head of the lion staring into her face, she did not scream or faint. She said, “Oh, Aslan! I knew it was true. I’ve been waiting for this all my life. Have you come to take me away?”

“Yes, Dearest,” said Aslan. “But not the long journey yet.” And as he spoke, like the flush creeping along the underside of a cloud at sunrise, the color came back to her white face and her eyes grew bright and she sat up and said, “Why, I do declare I feel that better. I think I could take a little breakfast this morning.”

“Here you are, mother,” said Bacchus, dipping a pitcher in the cottage well and handing it to her. But what was in it now was not water but the richest wine, red as red-currant jelly, smooth as oil, strong as beef, warming as tea, cool as dew.

“Eh, you’ve done something to our well,” said the old woman. “That makes a nice change, that does.” And she jumped out of bed.

“Ride on me,” said Aslan, and added to Susan and Lucy, “You two queens will have to run now.”

“But we’d like that just as well,” said Susan.

And off they went again. And so at last, with leaping and dancing and singing, with music and laughter and roaring and barking and neighing, they all came to the place where Miraz’s army stood flinging down their swords and holding up their hands, and Peter’s army, still holding their weapons and breathing hard, stood round them with stern and glad faces. And the first thing that happened was that the old woman slipped off Aslan’s back and ran across to Caspian and they embraced one another; for she was his old nurse.

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