Further Up and Further In

The Chronicles of Narnia is concluded by the story of “The Last Battle”.  It is, as all the rest are, an adventure in a fantastic and fantasy world known as Narnia.  The reader, if they’ve journeyed from the first story (chronologically, although not historically), “The Magician’s Nephew”, have seen the creation of this world; will now come to its final destruction.

Throughout all the adventures, the heart is stirred to “recognize” certain natural and spiritual realities.  The Creation and fall of man, the death and resurrection of the Only Son, the forgiveness of a betrayer, the coronation of the faithful, a stable that contains new world in it, a lion for a king, a final battle, etc.  All of these elements are present and exciting.  And why so exciting?  Because of the way they are presented.

As we read the story, the character of Aslan, a lion, is revealed to us as Jesus Christ.  His person is exciting and heroic, the children long to run the hands through his mane.  He is everything we know we ought to love in Jesus, but often times find it hard to see.  But it is precisely because we see Jesus presented in this new world, separated from the mundane, secular world, that we are able to see him with fresh eyes.  In the stories the “recognizable” events become fresh and vivid, inspiring us to live out a renewed and living faith.

Now, in “The Last Battle”, the end has come.  The children enter in, through the stable, into Aslan’s Country, what we would understand to be heaven, which appears to be familiar to them.  As the story continues, we discover that the heaven they are in is familiar because it is in fact Narnia, except redeemed, new, and full.  The children have had a down payment of heaven in the Narnia they knew, and now they discover its true grandeur: its fullness, and pure beauty.

These truths are breathtaking to us, but not because they are unbelievable, simply because they are too close to us for us to see.  We need to take a step back to understand what we have in Christ.  In the Liturgy and the Sacraments we have a foretaste of heaven, the manna in the desert (the manna tasted “like honey” because it was a foretaste of the promised land which was flowing with milk and honey).  When Mary, at the wedding feast of Cana, asks the servants to “do all that he tells you”, Christ brings the miraculous wine to the wedding feast when it was not his “hour” (his hour is of course his cross, but to us we know his our is his return).  The wine is given as a foretaste, and as such we have heaven in our midst in the Sacraments.

We have the true signs of an everlasting relationship to engage in now, to grow in and mature in.  We have Sacred Scripture and a great cloud (and crowd) of witnesses who have run the race before us, to teach us.

In Aslan’s country the cry became, “Further up and further in” as they began to experience the heighth, depth, length and breadth of the mystery of heaven.  So our cry, after we have entered into a sacramental relationship with Christ, should be also, “Further up and further in!”

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