Tuesday, 15 January 2008


I just read through CS Lewis's "A Grief Observed" this Christmas and was quite struck by Lewis's quite profound wrestling with grief and doubt at the death of his wife. The book has a rigorous honesty and language we sometimes find hard to appropriate. It is basically a modern lament psalm moving through the familiar psalmic structure of pain-doubt-faith in God.

The omnipresent effect of death..... "if one were forbidden all salt one wouldn't notice much more in any one food than in another. Eating in general would be different, every day, at every meal. It is like that. The act of living is different all through. Her absence is like the sky, spread over everything." (p.11)

The emptiness after death.... "I look up at the night sky. Is anything more certain than that in all those vast times and spaces, if I were allowed to search them I should nowhere find her face, her voice, her touch? She died. She is dead. Is the word so difficult to learn?" (p.15)

The finality of death..."What pitiable cant to say, "She will live forever in my memory!" Live? That is exactly what she won't do. You might as well think like the old Egyptians that you can keep the dead by embalming them." (p.20)

The challenge of death..."You never really know how much you really believe anything until its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you. It is easy to say you believe a rope to be strong and sound as long as you are merely using it to cord a box. But suppose you had to hang by that rope over a precipice. Wouldn't you then discover how much you really trusted it?" (p.22)

Does the gospel comfort in the face of death? ..."What St Paul says can comfort only those who love God better than the dead, and the dead better than themselves." (p.26)

Death and marriage..."bereavement is a universal and integral part of our experience of love. It follows marriage as normally as marriage follows courtship or as autumn follows summer. It is not a truncation of the process but one of its phases; not the interruption of the dance, but its next figure." (p.50)

The imapct of death upon our images of God..."Images of the Holy easily become holy images - sacrosanct. My idea of God is not a divine idea. It has to be shattered time after time. He shatters it Himself. He is the great iconoclast. Could we not almost say that this shattering is one of the marks of His presence? The Incarnation is the supreme example; it leaves all previous ideas of the Messiah in ruins. And most are 'offended' by the iconoclasm; and blessed are those who are not." (p.66)