The “Rumour” Is True: We Shall Get In

The reading assignment I gave my C. S. Lewis class for yesterday was his magnificent sermon, “The Weight of Glory.” As always, I went through with them some of Lewis’s key passages, marveling at the way he chose to express the almost-inexpressible.

Looking it over again this morning, I thought I would highlight a section that didn’t stand out to me as much yesterday but most certainly did this morning. Isn’t that the way it is, whether reading someone like Lewis or or the Bible, that no matter how often you may have read it before, something new seems to come to the forefront?

I did mention to the class that there is a strong connection between what Lewis said about longings in this sermon and what he eventually wrote in his autobiography, Surprised by Joy.

For instance, when commenting on those longings and how we tend to refer to them as beauty, Lewis reminds us that “the books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing.”

Lewis warns that we can turn even good things into “dumb idols.”

For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.

Men, he says, have been laboring under a false concept for many decades—“the evil enchantment of worldliness” brought to us through faulty education that “has been directed to silencing this shy, persistent, inner voice; almost all our modern philosophies have been devised to convince us that the good of man is to be found on this earth.”

Everything I’ve mentioned thus far I did bring out in class. The next part I didn’t, and wish I had. Lewis says that men invent philosophies that try to fill in the vacuum in our lives, and that each one actually, without even realizing it, points back to the void that our longings seek to fill. They attempt to give earthly solutions to something eternal that is above and beyond the earth.

When they want to convince you that earth is your home, notice how they set about it. They begin by trying to persuade you that earth can be made into heaven, thus giving a sop to your sense of exile in earth as it is.

Next, they tell you that this fortunate event is still a good way off in the future, thus giving a sop to your knowledge that the fatherland is not here and now.

Finally, lest your longing for the transtemporal should awake and spoil the whole affair, they use any rhetoric that comes to hand to keep out of your mind the recollection that even if all the happiness they promised could come to man on earth, yet still each generation would lose it by death, including the last generation of all, and the whole story would be nothing, not even a story, for ever and ever. [emphasis added]

Later on, Lewis returns to this theme and notes that whenever we have experiences of beauty, they are fleeting, and never truly satisfy: “Beauty has smiled, but not to welcome us; her face was turned in our direction, but not to see us. We have not been accepted, welcomed, or taken into the dance.”

But we’re not left with this dismal ending, not if we find our life in Christ. We will not be separated perpetually from what we long for. Lewis’s words resonate within my soul:

At present we are on the outside of the world, the wrong side of the door. We discern the freshness and purity of morning, but they do not make us fresh and pure. We cannot mingle with the splendours we see.

But all the leaves of the New Testament are rustling with the rumour that it will not always be so. Some day, God willing, we shall get in.

This is what awaits us: the very presence and essence of God and His heaven. The “rumour” is true.

Some Day, God Willing, We Shall Get In

Your eyes will see the King in His beauty; They will behold a far-distant land. Isaiah 33:17

All true beauty resides in God and in the works of His hands. There is a longing in those who have submitted their lives to Him to see the fulfillment of true beauty someday.

C. S. Lewis expressed it in his own unique way in “The Weight of Glory,” one of the greatest of all his essays, originally a sermon delivered during WWII from the pulpit of Oxford’s Church of the Virgin Mary.

He notes that God has already given us glimpses of what one day we will see when we no longer look through the veil of this world.

God has given us the Morning Star already: you can go and enjoy the gift on many fine mornings if you get up early enough. What more, you may ask, do we want?

Ah, but we want so much more—something the books on aesthetics take little notice of. But the poets and the mythologies know all about it.

The external sense of sight is only the beginning for “seeing” the depth of God’s beauty. There is a longing that goes to the essence of what beauty is:

We do not want merely to see beauty, though, God knows, even that is bounty enough. We want something else which can hardly be put into words—to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it.

We attempt to put it into words. The poets try via what Lewis calls “such lovely falsehoods.” What does he mean?

They talk as if the west wind could really sweep into a human soul; but it can’t.

They tell us the “beauty born of murmuring sound” will pass into a human face; but it won’t. Or not yet.

That little sentence—Or not yet—performs the transition in Lewis’s sermon.

For if we take the imagery of Scripture seriously, if we believe that God will one day give us the Morning Star and cause us to put on the splendour of the sun, then we may surmise that both the ancient myths and the modern poetry, so false as history, may be very near the truth as prophecy.

“The Weight of Glory” has so many poignant passages, but the next one Lewis offers can send a splendid thrill up one’s spine if we read it correctly and enter into what he is saying. It should be read slowly, taking into ourselves each word and phrase:

At present we are on the outside of the world, the wrong side of the door. We discern the freshness and purity of morning, but they do not make us fresh and pure. We cannot mingle with the splendours we see.

But all the leaves of the New Testament are rustling with the rumour that it will not always be so. Some day, God willing, we shall get in.

And what a glorious Day that will be.