Sacrographic Friday – The Wardrobe and the Holy Spirit
Posted by Tim Melton on April 17, 2010
I love the book, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. Honestly, there are too many things about the story that I love, to recount them all in this post. This photo made me think about the Wardrobe. In Lewis’ story, the four Pevensies are evacuated from London because of the air-raids during WWII. They are sent to the home of Professor Digory Kirke. When in the house, the children become enamored with an old Wardrobe that, as it turns out, is a portal into another world – the world of Narnia. In this, C.S. Lewis is brilliant. He has found a way, through the mechanism of a children’s story, to create an experience that gives his readers a frame of reference for understanding the Gospel: A land that has been cursed, subjects who live in fear and slavery, a Queen who rules by lying and manipulating the desires of her subjects, A Great Lion who gives his life to break that curse, the Kingdom of that Great Lion vanquishing the curse by redeeming slaves and freeing the oppressed. It’s just so great.
I also find it fascinating that the children enter into this “true vision” of the world, when they enter a Wardrobe that is found in the house of Professor Digory Kirke: that is Professor (a Teacher), Digory (the British word for a levee of water), and Kirke (the Scottish word for church). I believe that in this, before Lewis ever begins his epic tale, he establishes a subtle way of telling us how people are taught this true vision of the world. Let me explain. As a character, I believe that Professor Digory Kirke symbolizes the Holy Spirit in much the same way that Aslan, the Great Lion, symbolizes Christ. This view of Professor Kirke as the Holy Spirit is further founded in Lewis’ description of him in The Magician’s Nephew, which reveals that the Professor had been present with Aslan at the creation of Narnia. I believe that Professor Digory Kirke’s name emphasizes three works of the Holy Spirit: “Professor” – Revealing the Word of God, “Digory” – Applying the Water of Sacrament, “Kirke” – Establishing the Church of Christ. So then, Professor Kirke is the Holy Spirit who works through the Word, Sacrament, and the Church. The Pevensie children have run away from a war they don’t understand, to seek safety in a house of refuge, and to be taught by a Professor through an epic story that is discovered by entering through a Wardrobe found inside the Professor’s enormous old house. Isn’t that cool?
So let’s play Lewis’ thought out a little further… I think it is safe to say that when people come into the Church on Sunday Mornings, they are running away from a war that they do not understand. They are running away from a world that makes no sense. They run into a House of Refuge. Yet, when inside this house, they need more than safety. They need strength, they need nourishment, they need truth, and they need their vision to be adjusted. In other words, they need to see and understand. They need to peer through a “window”, move through the back of a wardrobe where they will see the world as it really is. They need to see the truth of the Gospel. They need to be baptized into the waters of the Church. They need to adore the beauty of Christ through the power of Word and Sacrament. This is Lewis’ view, and in this vision, he is so dead on correct.
Sadly, in recent times, modern Christians seemed to have lost faith in the power of the Holy Spirit. And, having done so, they have also lost touch with the power that comes through the Holy Spirit – the Spirit working through the Word, the Spirit working through Sacrament, and the Spirit working through the Church. So often, Christians abandon the Spirit of Christ and run off – chasing after the idols of the age. We abandon God’s Story – the powerful, trustworthy, unfailing narrative of the Gospel found in the Bible. We abandon God’s Sacrament – where the Gospel in Baptism and Communion are like the front of the Wardrobe of Earth intersecting with back of the Wardrobe of Heaven. And we abandon God’s People – the household of Christ, where the power of the Gospel is relationally affirmed, again and again and again.
Getting back to the photo above – nothing seems out of the ordinary. Does it? It’s just a room. A window. A desk. And a dresser. Yet, look at the mirror. Like the Wardrobe, it reveals something special. It is a portal, leading us into another world. O how Christians need to reaffirm a trust in the Holy Spirit, who reveals Himself to us and leads us through this portal. With a firm grip on the Gospel found in the Word, Sacrament, and the Church, we need to follow the Spirit as he leads us through the old coats and hats of the Wardrobe until we feel our hearts adjusting to the truth that comes from another world. For in following the Spirit in this way, Christians renew themselves in the excitement of Lewis’ description of Professor Kirke’s old house: “It was the sort of house that you never seemed to come to the end of, and it was full of unexpected places“.