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Detail from an ancient, hand-lettered manuscript; photo by Mark Rasmuson, unsplash.

The Grand Miracle

C. S. Lewis

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  • Nicole Solomon

    Thank you for sharing these deeply thought-provoking and soul-searching words of C.S. Lewis. I feel that Advent is a time to seek the deepest of repentance so one is brought low enough to be allowed to be present at the lowliest of births. I think C.S. Lewis really understood this and our response can only be to humble ourselves and turn in trust to Jesus to lead us in the right direction in the end. I am so grateful for each daily Advent reading you send and especially for "When the Time Was Fulfilled" during this Advent time.

  • Erin Kahn

    Great reading just in time for the start of the Christmas season! I love Lewis but I don't think I've ever read this piece before. It makes me feel even more excited for Advent, and puts it all in perspective.

  • Erna Albertz, Plough.com

    Thank you for reading. Please share your thoughts. How has this reading helped you to better grasp the significance of Advent?

Supposing you had before you a manuscript of some great work, either a symphony or a novel. There then comes to you a person, saying, “Here is a new bit of the manuscript that I found; it is the central passage of that symphony, or the central chapter of that novel. The text is incomplete without it. I have got the missing passage which is really the center of the whole work.” The only thing you could do would be to put this new piece of the manuscript in that central position, and then see how it reflected on the whole of the rest of the work. If it constantly brought out new meanings from the whole of the rest of the work, if it made you notice things in the rest of the work which you had not noticed before, then I think you would decide that it was authentic. On the other hand, if it failed to do that, then, however attractive it was in itself, you would reject it.

One has a picture of a strong man trying to lift a very big, complicated burden. He stoops down and gets himself right under it so that he himself disappears; and then he straightens his back and moves off with the whole thing swaying on his shoulders.

Now, what is the missing chapter in this case, the chapter which Christians are offering? The story of the Incarnation – the story of a descent and resurrection. When I say “resurrection” here, I am not referring simply to the first few hours, or the first few weeks of the Resurrection. I am talking of this whole, huge pattern of descent, down, down, and then up again. What we ordinarily call the Resurrection being just, so to speak, the point at which it turns. Think what that descent is. The coming down, not only into humanity, but into those nine months which precede human birth, in which they tell us we all recapitulate strange pre-human, sub-human forms of life, and going lower still into being a corpse, a thing which, if this ascending movement had not begun, would presently have passed out of the organic altogether, and have gone back into the inorganic, as all corpses do. One has a picture of someone going right down and dredging the sea-bottom. One has a picture of a strong man trying to lift a very big, complicated burden. He stoops down and gets himself right under it so that he himself disappears; and then he straightens his back and moves off with the whole thing swaying on his shoulders. Or else one has the picture of a diver, stripping off garment after garment, making himself naked, then flashing for a moment in the air, and then down through the green and warm and sunlit water into the pitch black, cold, freezing water, down into the mud and slime, then up again, his lungs almost bursting, back again to the green and warm and sunlit water, and then at last out into the sunshine, holding in his hand the dripping thing he went down to get. This thing is human nature; but associated with it, all nature, the new universe. That indeed is a point I cannot go into here, because it would take a whole sermon – this connection between human nature and nature in general. It sounds startling, but I believe it can be fully justified.

Now as soon as you have thought of this, this pattern of the huge dive down to the bottom, into the depths of the universe and coming up again into the light, everyone will see at once how that is imitated and echoed by the principles of the natural world; the descent of the seed into the soil, and its rising again in the plants. There are also all sorts of things in our own spiritual life, where a thing has to be killed, and broken, in order that it may then become bright and strong and splendid. The analogy is obvious…

In the natural spring the crocus cannot choose whether it will respond or not. We can. We have the power either of withstanding the spring, and sinking back into the cosmic winter, or of going on into those “high mid-summer pomps” in which the Son of Man already dwells.

In the Incarnation we get, of course, the idea of vicariousness of one person profiting by the earning of another person. In its highest form that is the very center of Christianity. And we also find this same vicariousness to be a characteristic, or, as the musician would put it, a leit-motif of nature. It is a law of the natural universe that no being can exist on its own resources. Everyone, everything, is hopelessly indebted to everyone and everything else. In the universe, as we now see it, this is the source of many of the greatest horrors: all the horrors of carnivorousness, and the worse horrors of the parasites, those horrible animals that live under the skin of other animals, and so on. And yet, suddenly seeing it in the light of the Christian story, one realizes that vicariousness is not in itself bad; that all these animals and insects and horrors are merely that principle of vicariousness twisted in one way. For when you think it out, nearly everything good in nature also comes from vicariousness. After all, the child, both before and after birth, lives on its mother, just as the parasite lives on its host, the one being a horror, the other being the source of almost every natural goodness in the world. It all depends upon what you do with this principle. What is implied by the Incarnation just fits in exactly with what I have seen in nature, and (this is the important point) each time it gives it a new twist. If I accept this supposed missing chapter, the Incarnation, I find it begins to illuminate the whole of the rest of the manuscript. It lights up nature’s pattern…

That is why I think this Grand Miracle is the missing chapter in this novel, the chapter on which the whole plot turns; that is why I believe that God really has dived down into the bottom of creation, and has come up bringing the whole redeemed nature on His shoulders. The miracles that have already happened are, of course, as Scripture so often says, the first fruits of that cosmic summer which is presently coming on. Christ has risen, and so we shall rise. St. Peter for a few seconds walks on the water; and the day will come when there will be a re-made universe, infinitely obedient to the will of glorified and obedient men, when we can do all things, when we shall be those gods that we are described as being in Scripture. To be sure, it feels wintry enough still: but often in the very early spring it feels like that. Two thousand years are only a day or two by this scale. A man really ought to say, “The Resurrection happened two thousand years ago” in the same spirit in which he says, “I saw a crocus yesterday.” Because we know what is coming behind the crocus. The spring comes slowly down this way; but the great thing is that the corner has been turned. There is, of course, this difference that in the natural spring the crocus cannot choose whether it will respond or not. We can. We have the power either of withstanding the spring, and sinking back into the cosmic winter, or of going on into those “high mid-summer pomps” in which our leader, the Son of Man, already dwells, and to which he is calling us. It remains with us to follow or not, to die in this winter, or to go on into that spring and that summer.


From Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas.

Originally extracted from God in the Dock by C. S. Lewis © C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. 1970. Extract reprinted by permission.

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Contributed By C.S. Lewis C. S. Lewis

C. S. Lewis, a British novelist, poet, and Christian apologist, has been called one of the most influential writers of the twentieth century.

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