The Grand Miracle, Or Easter in Everyday Life (70th Anniversary)

Artwork at St. Jude on the Hill, London

On this week 70 years ago, C.S. Lewis preached a sermon called “The Grand Miracle” at St. Jude on the Hill Church in London. The talk was published two weeks later in The Guardian–following the last episode of The Great Divorce by just two weeks. It is part of C.S. Lewis’ “Miracles” phase–a series of articles, letters to the editor, essays, and sermons in 1941-45 that became Miracles (1947). It continues to resonate as one of C.S. Lewis’ most important essays, published in God in the Dock.

St. Jude on the Hill, London

“The Grand Miracle” considers the incarnation, the in-fleshness of God in Jesus, the embodiment of the Creator within creation. It talks of the unique event of the space-less and time-less God entering history–taking up space and time as a fleeting cloak of protection against the brokenness of human being in the universe. You might be surprised, then, as we celebrate the resurrection this weekend, that I am pointing us toward the incarnation. Why are we talking about Christmas at Easter?

Worship at St. Jude on the Hill

That is partly answered by saying, “because we also talk about Easter at Christmas.” Even Good Friday, in all its horror, is part of the Christmas meditation. But the reason is deeper than this. In “The Grand Miracle,” Lewis talks about the descent of God in our world, like a diver pushing down to the depths. But in descent there is also ascent–resurrection, coming back up for air. The seed enters the ground in Spring. There it dies, and rots. But that rot feeds the birth of new life. For Lewis, the logic of death and resurrection is in all parts of life, so the incarnation is really just the first step in the great journey of Holy Week. Christmas and Easter are connected in a single movement.

Our Lady Chapel St. Jude on the Hill

If we look further into C.S. Lewis’ work, though, we see that The Grand Miracle is not just about Christ. The cycle of death and life is not just prefiguring the gospel story, but the story of how to live the Christian life. As Christians, we die to self, and then are resurrected to new life. Baptism pictures this: death to a watery grave, all of life distorted through the lid of the water, the body tightening against the instincts of life when breath is taken away, and then release as we erupt into new life. C.S. Lewis’ theology is always spiritual theology. Aslan does not rise from his self-sacrifice merely because Christ did; Aslan arises from humiliation because we all do.

At Easter we meditate on this new life: the giving way of Winter death to Spring life, the harrowing of hell and the emptying of all tombs, and the great promise of every Christian life. “The Grand Miracle” is an Easter meditation meant to draw us into communion with Christians across time and space who say, “Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed!”

Apr 27 Grand MiracleΧριστὸς ἀνέστη! Ἀληθῶς ἀνέστη!

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About Brenton Dickieson

“A Pilgrim in Narnia” is a blog project in reading and talking about the work of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the worlds they touched. As a "Faith, Fantasy, and Fiction" blog, we cover topics like children’s literature, apologetics and philosophy, myths and mythology, fantasy, theology, cultural critique, art and writing. This blog includes my thoughts as I read through Lewis and Tolkien and reflect on my own life and culture. In this sense, I am a Pilgrim in Narnia--or Middle Earth, or Fairyland. I am often peeking inside of wardrobes, looking for magic bricks in urban alleys, or rooting through yard sale boxes for old rings. If something here captures your imagination, leave a comment, “like” a post, share with your friends, or sign up to receive Narnian Pilgrim posts in your email box. Brenton Dickieson is a father, husband, friend, university lecturer, and freelance writer from Prince Edward Island, Canada. You can follow him on Twitter, @BrentonDana.
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9 Responses to The Grand Miracle, Or Easter in Everyday Life (70th Anniversary)

  1. Bill says:

    But in descent there is also ascent–resurrection, coming back up for air.

    Yes! Well said.
    The profound connection between spring planting and resurrection has long been recognized, even if it is not as appreciated in our urban culture as it once was.

    Like

  2. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    Thank you for this, also for all its photographic detail of place! Before coming to it today, I read his poem, “On Being Human”, first published on 8 May 1946 (in the week after the second Sunday after Easter that year).

    Do you know how Lewis came to preach in different places? Someone who knew him from his time at his parish church, Holy Trinity, Headington Quarry, told me that he never went up into the pulpit, but always preached at the chancel rail – I think he said (or did I suppose?), as a layman. But did he preach at all because members of the University were lay clerks? (I preached twice, while a junior member of the University, but never thought to ask why I was permitted to, though perhaps things were laxer then, than in Lewis’s time!)

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    • I just read “on Being Human” a couple of weeks ago.
      I know little of the preaching invitations, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he spoke from the rail. I do, though I am ordained. If I spoke in a liturgical tradition, I would give deference to their tradition. I also doubt he wore laymen or academic robes while preaching–both of which would have been fine in some contexts.
      I don’t think preaching in the Anglican church is a restricted office, but open to scholars, deacons, and readers. Am I mistaken? Good question.

      Like

  3. M. Joelle says:

    Beautifully written, especially this piece: “But in descent there is also ascent–resurrection, coming back up for air. The seed enters the ground in Spring. There it dies, and rots. But that rot feeds the birth of new life.” It reads like it comes from Augustine’s City of God (I’m thinking book 19, maybe chapter 4? ish?).

    Also, this line: “Aslan does not rise from his self-sacrifice merely because Christ did; Aslan arises from humiliation because we all do.”

    Wonderful post.

    Like

    • Well, what a beautiful comment! Any comparison with Augustine’s writing are welcome! To be honest, the last time I read City of God I was cherry-picking–I was looking for something. I have to sit and do an enjoy read sometime.
      I am working on this sort of image for my thesis, so these are the words that rolled out….

      Liked by 1 person

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