This week marks the end of my third year and the beginning of my fourth as rector at Holy Apostles. How the time has flown! I remain deeply grateful to be here doing what I love to do, alongside people who I love, in a place that I love.
Of course, none of us imagined what we would face together as a parish in 2020. I won’t bore you (or condescend) with obvious descriptions of how difficult this year has been, or of what challenges this Fall will bring us. Instead, I will share a lengthy quote from a speech given by CS Lewis shortly after World War II. I thought of this passage, while sitting at the Jersey shore (I first typed “beach” but then corrected myself). Faced with the awesome and awful power of the Atlantic Ocean one cannot help but contemplate the connection between beauty and goodness. Right? The fact is this world is heartbreakingly beautiful. If it were not so, pandemics and other terrible adversity wouldn’t hurt so much. The pathos of life is born out of its contrasts. Whether you are contemplating the grandness of the ocean, or all the splendor, life, and diversity that can be found in one square foot of your backyard, if you have eyes to see you will find beauty. That beauty raises questions about what is good and true, and about how we should live (and die).
Here’s what CS Lewis has to say on that subject:
“We do not want merely to see beauty, though, God knows, even that is bounty enough. We want something else which can hardly be put into words—to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it.
That is why we have peopled air and earth and water with gods and goddesses and nymphs and elves that, though we cannot, yet these projections can, enjoy in themselves that beauty, grace, and power of which Nature is the image. That is why the poets tell us such lovely falsehoods. They talk as if the west wind could really sweep into a human soul; but it can’t. They tell us that ‘beauty born of murmuring sound’ will pass into a human face; but it won’t. Or not yet.
For if we take the imagery of Scripture seriously, if we believe that God will one day give us the Morning Star and cause us to put on the splendour of the sun, then we may surmise that both the ancient myths and the modern poetry, so false as history, may be very near the truth as prophecy.
At present we are on the outside of the world, the wrong side of the door. We discern the freshness and purity of morning, but they do not make us fresh and pure. We cannot mingle with the splendours we see. But all the leaves of the New Testament are rustling with the rumour that it will not always be so. Someday, God willing, we shall get in.”
-C. S. Lewis, “The Weight of Glory,” in The Weight of Glory: And Other Addresses (New York: HarperCollins, 1949/2001), 42-3.