Part 4: The Journey to Aslan's Country

The great thing about the Narnia stories, of course — just like our own story — is that it is actually going somewhere. At the end of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, for example, the children are taken up to Castle Cair Paravel, the home of the kings and queens of Narnia by the shores of the Great Sea. There is something about Cair Paravel that Lewis wanted his readers to experience: the glory of that ideal kingdom, under the reign of Aslan, as a foretaste of the glory to come.

C.S. Lewis loved the New Testament word “glory.” He even entitled one of his most famous writings, the text of a sermon he gave at the University Church of St. Mary the Virgin in Oxford, “The Weight of Glory.”

In Narnia the children receive their first real taste of what that “glory” really is, and it makes them long to return to Narnia again and again to experience more.

Lewis’s aim here, like that of his friend J.R.R. Tolkein (author of The Lord of the Rings) was to try to awaken the deepest longings of his readers for their true home and true glory, of which Narnia — and even this real life that we live in the non-fiction world — is merely a hint and an echo. As Lewis put it in “The Weight of Glory,” the beauty of nature in this world, and the splendor of the gods and goddesses, nymphs and elves who inhabit nature in Narnia, are but a foretaste of the glory that will one day be given to us. This beauty, Lewis wrote, is only “the scent of a flower we have not found, an echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.” He continued:

Do you think I am trying to weave a spell? Perhaps I am; but remember your fairy stories. Spells are used for breaking enchantments as well as for inducing them. And you and I have need of the strongest spell that can be found to wake us from the evil enchantment of worldliness which has been laid upon us for nearly a hundred years.
— The Weight of Glory

By this “evil enchantment of worldliness” Lewis meant the blatant lie that our culture has taught us: that the only thing that matters is our present, all-too-brief time on earth, and whatever personal happiness we can cobble together here. It is the lie that we were made for this life alone. But it is not so. We were not made for this world alone; this is not our true home. As soon as we get to know Aslan personally, we start to realize what our true heart’s desire really is: just to be with Him, to know and experience His glory and His love, and to love Him back forever. Even Adam and Eve were not made solely for this earthly life; their experience of intimacy with God in Eden, and harmony with all created things, was only a foretaste, a beginning, of the glory that is to come: the beatific vision, and a risen and glorified state of communion with God. Jesus promised, “In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (Jn 14:2-3).

Perhaps the character who says it best in all of the Narnia stories is Jewell the Unicorn, at the end of the last book in the series called The Last Battle. When Jewell finally makes it with all of his companions into Aslan’s country, he exclaims:

I have come home at last! This is my real country. I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it until now. The reason why we loved the Old Narnia is that it sometimes looked a little like this.
— The Last Battle

The same is true for all of us. Once we come to know our Lord’s love for us personally and deeply, once we have spent a whole lifetime letting His love un-dragon us, heal us, and sanctify us, then we are ready for the final step, which is to be able to go on receiving and returning His love, in an ever greater fullness, forever and ever.

That is why Aslan’s last words in The Chronicles of Narnia are ones he spoke to the children when they finally arrived at Aslan’s country: “The dream is ended.… This is the morning.”

And so Lewis concludes the Chronicles saga with these final words:

But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.
— The Last Battle

 

 

Robert Stackpole, STD

©The Fellowship of Catholics and Evangelicals, 2016