Voyage of the Dawn Treader

My wife and I, along with my Orthodox friend Fr. Philip and his wife, recently watched the new movie The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. As a great fan of C.S. Lewis' work, I've watched with interest the 'movie-fication' of the Chronicles of Narnia, but I must admit I've been anticipating this film in particular, as the sea-faring tale is among my favorites in the series.

As with Prince Caspian and most books converted into films, some liberties have been taken with the story to make the drama somewhat more intense. On the whole, I thought it was a solid contribution to the series (it was much better than Prince Caspian) and quite enjoyable. The themes of greed and temptation remain very present in the translation of the story to film. Happily, one of the most significant conversations, taken from the last pages of the book, also makes it into the film:

“Dearest,” said Aslan very gently, “you and your brother will never come back to Narnia.”
“Oh, Aslan!” said Edmund and Lucy both together in despairing voices.
“You are too old, children,” said Aslan, “and you must begin to come close to your own world now.”
“It isn't Narnia, you know,” sobbed Lucy. “It's you. We shan't meet you there. And how can we live, never meeting you?”
“But you shall meet me, dear one,” said Aslan.
“Are-- are you there too, Sir?” said Edmund.
“I Am,” said Aslan. “But there I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name. This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there.”

As Aslan spoke these words to the children in the movie, I had the realization that he was speaking it to all of us in the audience. Or rather CS Lewis was speaking to all of us. “The whole reason I have invited you into Narnia, is that you may learn to know Aslan better, by his other Name: the Lord Jesus.”

I am fond of pointing out to people that the first (by my set's count) book in the series, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, is dedicated to his god-child, Lucy (go check out the dedication page).

When a child is baptized god-parents (sometimes called 'sponsors' in The United Methodist Church), along with the child's own parents, are entrusted with the primary responsibility to see that the child is raised in the Christian faith so that he may profess faith in Christ for himself when he is old enough to be responsible for owning this covenant commitment.

Unfortunately, it seems that this responsibility is not always taken seriously by god-parents/sponsors (this is one good reason to have “pre-baptismal counseling sessions” that all sponsors are required to attend). But Lewis took it seriously enough. He invited his god-daughter into Narnia, that she might come to know and love Aslan and ultimately realize that this great Lion exists to point her to Jesus Christ. And he extends this invitation to us all.

Tolkien, Lewis, and others have been called “culturally savvy Christians” who contribute positively to culture, rather than simply criticizing it as Christians are sometimes wont to do. Christians have in fact brought us many of the great masterpieces of our culture: from the great cathedrals to the poetry of the hymns; from the glorious choral music to the vast wealth of scholarship and philosophy to the great paintings hanging in the Vatican and the Louvre, Christians have created many wonderful cultural achievements just because they were Christians, just as a celebration of the reality of God in their lives. As an aside it seems to me that atheism, because it has no unique positive contribution to celebrate but is merely a negation or a deconstruction of theism, is intrinsically incapable of producing the kinds of beautiful and soul-nourishing cultural achievements that that Christianity has brought to the world.

If the Kingdom of God that Jesus proclaims has truly begun to be realized in his resurrection, then part of our proclamation as Christians can and should be a holy creativity; a celebration of God through art and song and story, as sign-posts to his already-but-not-yet Kingdom victory. Rather than merely lamenting the mindless hedonism and depressed nihilism we see in our popular cultural, I believe we are called to “show a better way” to the world by making our own positive, thoughtful, and beautiful contributions that point the culture to Christ.

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Blogger Fr. Philip said...

Thank you for the reminder of a blessed evening with you and your wife, the dialogue with Aslan, and the importance of God-parents/sponsors (we call them that also). Christ is Born! Glorify Him!

6:40 PM, December 31, 2010  

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