Monday, September 12, 2011

This Sunday, CSL Lewis, Father Jeff Wielding Battle Axe

Dear Students and members of the HC community, 

This is just a reminder that we will resume our discussion on the meaning of Catholic theology this Sunday, September 18, in the parish hall, from 1-2:30. I have a study guide entitled "By Grace Alone" that I will post later today or early tomorrow.

I thought it would also be good to post a few quotes from C.S. Lewis's Cambridge Inaugural Address, 1954.  I've read this address many times over the last two decades, and it never fails to open an older and lost world for me.  

Before posting, those quotes, however, please let me remind you that Father Jeff will be wielding traditional Norwegian ethnic attire and demonstrate the use of a battle axe AFTER the Catholic Inquiry class this coming Sunday.  

Father Jeff is concerned that we might have to do this in the back parking lot, as the eating area might have too low of a ceiling.  He also needs to look up the regulations on weapons in a rectory and church.

Watch this space for further details.  

Well, about the first two things.  I actually don't know if Father Jeff owns a battle axe.  But, wouldn't he look great with one?  So cool.

Yours, Brad


Lewis, C.S. "De Descriptione Temporum." In Selected Literary Essays, ed. Walter Hooper, 1-14. Cambridge, ENG: Cambridge University Press, 1969.

"Of course the un-christening of Europe in (4) our time is not quite complete; neither was her christening in the Dark Ages.  But roughly speaking we may say that whereas all history was for our ancestors divided into two periods, the pre-Christian and the Christian, and two only, for us it falls into three-the pre-Christian, the Christian, and what may reasonably be called the post-Christian." (5)

"Christians and Pagans had much more in common with each other than either has with a post-Christian.  The gap between those who worship different gods is not so wide as that between those who worship and those who do not." (5)

"It is by these steps that I have come to regard as the greatest of all divisions in the history of the West that which divides the present from, say, the age of Jane Austen and Scott.  The dating of such things must of course be rather hazy and indefinite.  No one could point to a year or a decade in which the change indisputably began, and it has probably not yet reached its peak.  But somewhere between us and the Waverly Novels, somewhere between us and Persuasion, the chasm runs." (7)

"If I wished to satirise the present political order I should borrow for it the name which Punch invented during the first German War: Govertisement.  This is a portmanteau word and means 'government by advertisement.'" (8)

"It is hard to have patience with those Jeremiahs, in Press or pulpit, who warns us that we are 'relapsing into Paganism.'  It might be rather fun if we were.  It would be pleasant to see some future Prime Minister trying to kill a large and lively milk-white bull in Westminster Hall.  But we shan't.  What lurks behind such idle prophecies, if they are anything but careless language, is the false idea that the historical process allows mere reversal; that Europe can come out of Christianity 'by the same door as in she went' and find herself back where she was.  It is not what happens.  A post-Christian man is not a Pagan; you might as well think that a married woman recovers her virginity by divorce.  The post-Christian is cut off from the Christian past and therefore doubly from the Pagan past." (10)

"Lastly,  I play my trump card.  Between Jane Austen and us, but not between her and Shakespeare, Chaucer, Alfred, Virgil, Homer, or the Pharaohs, comes the birth of the machines.  This lifts us at once into a region of change far above all that we have hitherto considered.  For this is parallel to the great changes by which we divide epochs of pre-history.  This is on a level with the change from stone to bronze, or from a pastoral to an agricultural economy.  It alters Man's place in nature." (10)

"But I submit that what has imposed this climate of opinion so firmly on the human mind is a new archetypal image.  It is the image of old machines being superseded by new and better ones.  For in the world of machines the new most often really is better and the primitive really is the clumsy.  And this image, potent in all our minds, reigns almost without rival in the minds of the uneducated.  For to them, after their marriage and the births of their children, the very milestones of life are technical advances.  From the old push-bike to the motor-bike and thence to the little car; from the gramophone to radio and from radio to television; from the range to the stove; these are the very stages of their pilgrimage." (11)

"And now for the claim: which sounds arrogant but, I hope, is not really so.  I have said that the vast change which separates you from Old Western has been gradual and is not even now complete.  Wide as the chasm is, those who are native to different sides of it can still meet; are meeting in this room." (13)

"It is my settled conviction that in order  to read Old Western literature aright you must suspend most of the responses and unlearn most of the habits you have acquired in reading modern literature.  And because this is the judgement of a native, I claim that, even defence of my conviction is weak, the fact of my conviction is a historical datum to which you should give full weight.  That way, where I fail as a critic, I may yet be useful as a specimen.  I would even dare to go further.  Speaking not only for myself but for all other Old Western men whom you may meet, I would say, use your specimens while you can.  There are not going to be many more dinosaurs." (14)

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