This story has no end: from Celebration by Margaret Spufford
This story has no end: or rather I do not know it. By the time I do, it will be too late to write it, and there will be no need any more. I shall make my oblation, and it will be hard, and all I will be able to say is ‘Be it unto me according to Thy word’… So the constant redemption and making good of so much amiss continues, and I am full of joy allied with my own fear for the future. Whatever pattern is chosen for me, does not, in essence, matter, if either can also be redeemed. What does matter is that I should at last know myself, astonishingly, loved by God. If that monumental, extraordinary truth is so, then all manner of things will be well, at no superficial level, but at the end of the longest waterfall, even plummeting down the cliffs of fall within pain. For that realisation, I depend on Him. Given it, in rare moments, I am possessed by joy. Whatever lies between me and it, the true end is written in a prayer of Bede, that excellent historian and monk, who died dictating the end of a chapter, and whose last words, except for ‘Glory to the Father and the Son and to the Holy Ghost’, were of his work: ‘It is well finished.’ He wrote in a prayer which survives:
We pray You good Jesus that as you have given us the grace to drink in with joy the Word that gives knowledge of you, so in your goodness you will grant us to come at length to yourself, the source of all wisdom, to stand before your face forever. Amen.
Margaret Spufford, 10 December 1934 - 6 March 2014
Events in Australia and New Zealand
1.15, Tues 4 March, East Stage. In conversation with Barney Zwartz about Unapologetic.
12 noon, Wed 5 March, East Stage. ’The Great Debate’. Is it possible to have a conversation between faith and science? With the science writer Marcus Chown, author of What a Wonderful World.
1.15, Thurs 6 March, East Stage. ’Faith-Based’: talking with the historian Diarmaid MacCulloch about the challenges of Christian belief in the contemporary world.
12.15, Sat 8 March, Embassy Theatre. ’Having Faith in the 21st Century’: with Diarmaid MacCulloch again, endeavouring not to repeat ourselves.
15.15, Sun 9 March, Embassy Theatre. ’The Man That Books Built’, a session with Kate De Goldi on The Child That Books Built, children’s literature, and other things.
For the whole case, in the search after God, is a trial of the affections, and whatever that knowledge may be, of which such great things are spoken, it implies affection combined with, and giving life to the understanding, otherwise dead, and after some heavenly manner illuminating and spiritualizing it. To require, therefore, that such subjects should come to us in a more sensible and palpable way, before we will accept them, betrays the same temper of mind as that of requiring a sign…
There is going to be a German translation of Unapologetic, date not yet fixed, to be published by Brendow & Sohn Verlag. Who are C S Lewis’s German publishers, pleasingly.
Tolkien sleeps in dressing-room with bath in corner, not to disturb Edith with late work & snoring. Flannel trousers, tweed jacket… has to light stove in his study a.m. for tutorials… Lectures in East School… bell of Merton quarter a mile away strikes the hour, gathers up notes, clears out for next lecturer… shops at the Covered Market in High St for sausages… Big typewriter with interchangeable type, Anglo-Saxon letters… Talked fast & not clearly, moved from idea to idea v fast… tended to talk in monologues… would dress up in Icelandic bearskin rug as polar bear, or as A/Saxon warrior… Friendship with C S Lewis… companionship between men… C S Lewis drawn to Xtianity by T’s explanation of it as a ‘myth that is true’.
Visual experiments by readers with too much time on their hands, no 139 of the series. Polos are a form of minty British confectionary, y’r honour.
My previous book Red Plenty seems to be on offer for $2.99 this month in the Amazon US Kindle store. (Scroll down a bit, and it’s under ‘history’.)
I could read the Prayer Book and love it but when I attempted the Bible I would recoil, simply unable to believe that anyone would take it as the word of God. When people describe themselves as ‘bible-believing Christians’ I can attach no meaning to the words, except as a label: it’s like being ‘flag-believing Britons’. Similarly, I don’t know what it could possibly mean to believe in a Creator. None of this innoculated my imagination. I have had numerous experiences that would count as conversion if they’d actually converted me. I remember Robert Runcie celebrating a eucharist in Canterbury Cathedral, when it seemed quite irrelevant to ask if it was true: it was clearly something to be part of. At the other end of the scale, a couple of fundamentalists who had given up their lives to working with junky prostitutes in a provincial town broke bread with a quiet prayer over a linoleum tablecloth and that worked too. In Medjugorje I got zapped by the Holy Spirit and was for a while quite speechless with love for my crass and ignorant fellow pilgrims. All this made me think that it didn’t matter whether I called myself a Christian but the Lambeth Conference of 1998 made me resolve not to do so. It was a triumph of the bullies, of the self-important, the vain and the thoughtlessly cruel. I may be a sinner, I thought, but at least I am miserable. I do not wish to be mistaken for a bishop. But the New Atheist movement made it quite clear to me that I’m not one of them, either. I don’t believe that ‘religion’ exists as a coherent category, let alone something which can or should be extirpated. None of this is terribly satisfying. It is natural to suppose that our philosophical conclusions are the distinctive marks of our moral and intellectual excellence, but that doesn’t work for me. I know Christians who are nicer, cleverer, braver and more honest that I am. I even know some who appear to have no difficulty in believing the whole thing backwards and not all of them are Roman Catholic intellectuals. But I still can’t do it myself. So why worry? Why not see it all as nonsense? Because really it isn’t all nonsense: as a friend of mine, a former missionary, said once ‘It’s about the thing that is true even if Christianity isn’t true’. Christian language does things that no other use of language can. I can only conclude that God has called me to be an atheist.