O Bridegroom, brilliant in Thy beauty above all mankind, Who didst call us to the spiritual banquet of Thy chamber, cast away from me the likeness of rags of iniquity by participation in Thy Passion, and adorn me with the robe of Thy beauty. Distinguish me as a brilliant guest in Thy kingdom; for Thou art compassionate.
…Behold, the Master entrusteth thee with a talent, O my soul. Wherefore, receive thou the gift with fear. Lend to the giver and console the poor. Obtain the Lord as a friend, that thou mayest stand on His right hand when He cometh in glory, and that thou mayest hear that blessed voice: “Enter, O servant, into the joy of thy Lord.” Prepare me, a prodigal, for it. O Savior, for the multitude of Thy mercies.Bridegroom Matins (celebrated evening of Holy Tuesday)
I sat up late last night and have read the Geste as far as to where Beren and his gnomish allies defeat the patrol of orcs above the sources of the Narog and disguise themselves in the reaf,” an Anglo-Saxon term for clothing and weapons taken from the dead. “I can quite honestly say that it is ages since I have had an evening of such delight.
CSL to JRRT, December 8, 1929, in The Lays of Beleriand, pp. 150-151.
Aelred of Rievaulx, Spiritual Friendship (1.20-26):
AELRED: It is proper for my friend to be the guardian of mutual love or of my very soul, that he may in loyal silence protect all the secrets of my spirit and may bear and endure according to his ability anything wicked he sees in my soul. For the friend will rejoice with my soul rejoicing, grieve with it grieving, and feel that everything that belongs to a friend belongs to himself…
IVO: Since there is so much perfection in true friendship, no wonder those whom the ancients praised as true friends were so few. From so many centuries past, as Cicero says, legend extols only three or four pairs of friends! But if in our own Christian times friends are so few, I seem to be slaving in vain to acquire this virtue, for I am terrified now by its astonishing height, and I almost despair of reaching it.
AELRED: As a wise man once said, “for great achievements, the effort is great in itself.”
“…I was hungry after the voice and face of my kind—after any live soul, indeed, human or not, which I might in some measure understand. What a hell of horror, I thought, to wander alone, a bare existence never going out of itself, never widening its life in another life, but, bound with the cords of its poor peculiarities, lying an eternal prisoner in the dungeon of its own being! I began to learn that it was impossible to live for oneself even, save in the presence of others—then, alas, fearfully possible! evil was only through good! selfishness but a parasite on the tree of life! In my own world I had the habit of solitary song; here not a crooning murmur ever parted my lips! There I sang without thinking; here I thought without singing! there I had never had a bosom-friend; here the affection of an idiot would be divinely welcome! “If only I had a dog to love!” I sighed—and regarded with wonder my past self, which preferred the company of book or pen to that of man or woman; which, if the author of a tale I was enjoying appeared, would wish him away that I might return to his story. I had chosen the dead rather than the living, the thing thought rather than the thing thinking! “Any man,” I said now, “is more than the greatest of books!” I had not cared for my live brothers and sisters, and now I was left without even the dead to comfort me!”
George MacDonald (Lilith)
In each of my friends there is something that only some other friend can fully bring out. By myself I am not large enough to call the whole man into activity; I want other lights than my own to show all his facets. Now that Charles is dead, I shall never again see Ronald’s [Tolkien’s] reaction to a specifically Charles joke. Far from having more of Ronald, having him ‘to myself’ now that Charles is away, I have less of Ronald.
Hence true Friendship is the least jealous of loves. Two friends delight to be joined by a third, and three by a fourth, if only the newcomer is qualified to become a real friend. They can then say, as the blessed souls say in Dante, ‘Here comes one who will augment our loves.’ For in this love ‘to divide is not to take away.
In this, Friendship exhibits a glorious ‘nearness by resemblance’ to heaven itself where the very multitude of the blessed (which no man can number) increases the fruition which each of us has of God. For every soul, seeing Him in her own way, doubtless communicates that unique vision to all the rest. That, says an old author, is why the Seraphim in Isaiah’s vision are crying ‘Holy, Holy, Holy’ to one another (Isaiah 6:3). The more we thus share the Heavenly Bread between us, the more we shall have.
C.S. Lewis in The Four Loves.
One could dare say that a man’s friends do more harm to his soul than his enemies. The Lord Himself said, ‘A man’s foes, shall be they of his own household’ (Matthew 10:36; Micah 7:6). Those who live under the same roof with us, and who are so concerned for our bodily needs and comfort, are often the worst enemies of our salvation, for their love and concern are not aimed at our soul but our body. How many parents have done inestimable damage to the souls of their sons [daughters], and brothers and sisters to the souls of their siblings, and wives to the souls of their husbands [and vice versa]? And this all out of love for them! This realisation, that is confirmed every day, is a further solid reason for us not to give ourselves over too completely to love of our kinsfolk and friends, nor to lesson our love of our enemies. Is it necessary to say once again, that often, very often, our enemies are our true friends? The ways in which they unsettle us are of help to us; the ways in which they denounce us serve for our salvation; the ways in which they press on our outward, physical life help us to withdraw inwards, into ourselves, and find our souls cry to the living God to save them. In very truth, our enemies are often those who save us from the ruin that our kinsfolk prepare, inadvertently making our characters lax and feeding up our bodies at the cost of our souls.
St. Nikolai Velimirovic, Homilies Vol 2, 19th Sunday After Pentecost, p. 196
The good and the virtuous are only seen and known as they are embodied in other persons. Thus virtue friendships simultaneously produce dedicaton to transcendent values and intense deveotion to the friend.
The Feast of Friendship by Paul D. O’Callaghan, page 37.
For some time now, I have been growing in my understanding of how many cultural disorders are related to hatred of limits. The aspiration to limitlessness was embedded in the first temptation and the original sin, it informed the earliest docetic and Gnostic heresies, and it inspired the founding intellects of modernity. Many sincere Christians still have some sense that being limited is an effect of sin, rather than a condition of the Creation. Both Genesis accounts of Creation (in chapters 1 and 2) resound with the establishment of boundaries—in time, in space, in ontology, and in vocation. God created all things (including his image-bearers) to thrive within limits, and he then asserted that this circumstance of Creation is very good. After delivering the mandate to serve as his regents and stewards over all Creation, God reminds Adam and Eve that they are creatures who are bounded. They do not exist independently, but must turn to the earth (from which they came and to which will return) for food, for the stuff of life. But not all the food in the Garden was on the menu. Man was limited and needy in his created state, and his continued fellowship with God required the recognition of boundaries.
Almost all human cultures have pursued the task of defining and governing boundaries in human behavior. Philip Rieff argued (in The Triumph of the Therapeutic) that every culture survives “by the power of its institutions to bind and loose men in the conduct of their affairs with reasons which sink so deep into the self that they become commonly and implicitly understood.” The story of modern Western culture, however—a culture built around the ideal of the sovereign self—is a story of the abandonment of restrictions and restraints in the name of human freedom. Our institutions have increasingly been defined in terms of encouraging liberation from limits rather than cultivating a conscientious honoring of limits.
…With echoes of numerous theologians who have related the imago dei to our essential relationality, Berry questions the understanding of freedom that dominates modern culture. “In our limitless selfishness, we have tried to define ‘freedom’ for example, as an escape from all restraint. But, as my friend Bert Hornback has explained in his book The Wisdom of Words, ‘free’ is etymologically related to ‘friend.’ These words come from the same Indo-European root, which carries the sense of ‘dear’ or ‘beloved.’ We set our friends free by our love for them, with the implied restraints of faithfulness or loyalty. All this suggests that our ‘identity’ is located not in the impulse of selfhood but in deliberately maintained connections.”
Ken Myers rarely has a thought that is not backed up by much reading and reflection. These thoughts of his from an online posting spoke volumes to me in several areas.
These two reminders from C.S. Lewis about minding our own business have something profound to do with the office of prophethood and the spreading of truth. This fact that bold proclamation, intimate communication and strict attention to privacy are all mutually dependent is somewhat counterintuitive but true.
“Child,” said the Voice, “I am telling you your story, not hers. I tell no one any story but his own.”
(The Horse and His Boy, chapter 11)
My children are listening to these stories repeatedly (and in indiscriminate order) this summer, so I also overheard this passage again earlier this week:
“But do you really mean, sir,” said Peter, “that there could be other worlds – all over the place, just round the corner – like that?”
“Nothing is more probable,” said the Professor, taking off his spectacles and beginning to polish them, while he muttered to himself, “I wonder what they do teach them at these schools.”
“But what are we to do?” said Susan. She felt that the conversation was beginning to get off the point.
“My dear young lady,” said the Professor, suddenly looking up with a very sharp expression at both of them, “there is one plan which no one has yet suggested and which is well worth trying.”
“What’s that?” said Susan.
“We might all try minding our own business,” said he. And that was the end of that conversation.
After this things were a good deal better for Lucy. Peter saw to it that Edmund stopped jeering at her, and neither she nor anyone else felt inclined to talk about the wardrobe at all. It had become a rather alarming subject. And so for a time it looked as if all the adventures were coming to an end; but that was not to be.
(The Lion the Whitch and the Wardrobe, chapter 5)
Yesterday, I listened in the car with my family to part of The Horse and His Boy (C.S. Lewis). I teared up a little at this sentence: “The two boys were looking into each other’s faces and suddenly found that they were friends.” There are many goodbyes with family, friends and even brief acquaintances where I have felt that I was saying goodbye to someone that I had known for a long time and would really like to adventure with forever.
There is also the beautiful element of this story where Shasta gets a glimpse of his true self in the person of Corin. Significantly, however, the prince recognizes that, in some sense, the pauper’s adventures are more substantial than his own. It’s a hint, I think, about how we might view our current lives in the light of eternity. (All from chapter 5.)
“I’m nobody, nobody in particular, I mean,” said Shasta. “King Edmund caught me in the street and mistook me for you. I suppose we must look like one another. Can I get out the way you’ve got in?”
After hearing Corin’s story, Shasta adds:
“I’m a Narnian, I believe; something Northern anyway. But I’ve been brought up all my life in Calormen. And I’m escaping: across the desert; with a talking Horse called Bree. And now, quick! How do I get away?”
And here are their parting words:
“Thanks,” said Shasta, who was already sitting on the sill. The two boys were looking into each other’s faces and suddenly found that they were friends.
“Good-bye,” said Corin. “And good luck. I do hope you get safe away.”
“Good-bye,” said Shasta. “I say, you have been having some adventures.”
“Nothing to yours,” said the Prince. “Now drop; lightly I say,” he added as Shasta dropped. “I hope we meet in Archenland. Go to my father King Lune and tell him you’re a friend of mine. Look out! I hear someone coming.”