Just a short one tonight on my tribute to C.S. Lewis.
In my mid-twenties I came across a book called “A Severe Mercy,” written by a man named Sheldon Vanauken. I’d never heard of Mr. Vanauken, but his book caught my eye because, below the title, the cover said “With 18 Letters by C.S. Lewis.” I had to pick it up. “A Severe Mercy” is the true story of a young man and his wife during the 1940s and 50s who were, by their admission “pagans,” but “high pagans,” whose love of beauty and mystery, order and reason, was their ‘god.’ Then they went to Oxford and met Lewis. Here, they found a man whose intellect challenged that of anyone they’d ever met or read, who oddly enough, believed that an “obscure crucified Jew” was truly God, and that Christianity was far more than “a mere local religion of earth, quite inadequate for the immensities of the far-flung galaxies.” They met with Lewis personally, had many discussions, where Lewis never told them they ‘shouldn’t ask such questions.’ Eventually (and it’s a beautiful story–I highly recommend “A Severe Mercy”), they, too, believed.
This poem was written by a fellow Oxford student and friend of the Vanaukens sometime after Lewis’s death, reminiscing about the time they had at Oxford and the conversations that changed all of their lives. (“Studio” in the first line is what they called the flat the Vanaukens lived in at the time, actually “St. Udo’s. “Jack,” is what Lewis’s friends called him.).
Ah Studio! We’ll meet again.
In won’t be gaslight in the lane,
But just as gentle, only brighter.
And Jack, on Aslan’s back.
We’ll sing His glory
around those two: One Love-Truth.
Old world will give one final ‘crack!’
Our hearts could not be lighter.
(Dom Julian, OSB)