Tuesday, 30 March 2021

Poems for Holy Week 2021:
2, CS Lewis, ‘Evensong’

The lion on the rectory door in Dundela, Belfast, that inspired CS Lewis … Aslan’s name is the Turkish word for lion (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Tuesday 30 March 2021

Reading: John 12: 20-36.

Each evening in Holy Week this year, once again, I am reading a poem to help our reflections.

My choice of a poem this evening is ‘Evensong’ by the Belfast-born writer, CS Lewis (1893-1963). He is known worldwide for his popular and scholarly works that include literary criticism, children’s literature, fantasy literature and essays, as well as his works in theology and as a Christian apologist. His great works include Mere Christianity, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Screwtape Letters, The Four Loves, and Surprised by Joy.

At the age of 32, through the influence of JRR Tolkien, Hugo Dyson and other friends, Lewis returned to the Anglicanism of his birth: ‘In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England.’

He died on 22 November 1963 came a week before his 65th birthday – and on the same day that President John F Kennedy was assassinated.

The Eagle and Child in Saint Giles’, the pub in Oxford where CS Lewis and the Inklings met on Tuesday mornings in 1939 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Evensong, by CS Lewis

Now that night is creeping
O’er our travail’d senses,
To Thy care unsleeping
We commit our sleep.
Nature for a season
Conquers our defences,
But th’eternal Reason
Watch and ward will keep.

All the soul we render
Back to Thee completely,
Trusting Thou wilt tend her
Through the deathlike hours,
And all night remake her
To Thy likeness sweetly,
Then with dawn awake her
And give back her powers.

Slumber’s less uncertain
Brother soon will bind us
– Darker falls the curtain,
Stifling-close ’tis drawn:
But amidst that prison
Still Thy voice can find us,
And, as Thou hast risen,
Raise us in Thy dawn.

John 12: 20-36 (NRSVA):

20 Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. 21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus.’ 22 Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 23 Jesus answered them, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honour.

27 ‘Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say – “Father, save me from this hour”? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name.’ Then a voice came from heaven, ‘I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.’ 29 The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, ‘An angel has spoken to him.’ 30 Jesus answered, ‘This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. 31 Now is the judgement of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.’ 33 He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die. 34 The crowd answered him, ‘We have heard from the law that the Messiah remains for ever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?’ 35 Jesus said to them, ‘The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you. If you walk in the darkness, you do not know where you are going. 36 While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light.’

After Jesus had said this, he departed and hid from them.

The Collect of the Day:

O God,
who by the passion of your blessed Son made
an instrument of shameful death
to be for us the means of life:
Grant us so to glory in the cross of Christ,
that we may gladly suffer pain and loss
for the sake of your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ;
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

The Lenten Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God,
you hate nothing that you have made
and forgive the sins of all those who are penitent:
Create and make in us new and contrite hearts
that we, worthily lamenting our sins
and acknowledging our wretchedness,
may receive from you, the God of all mercy,
perfect remission and forgiveness;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Communion vessels presented by CS Lewis’s father, Arthur Lewis, to Saint Mark’s Church, Dundela, the Belfast church where CS Lewis was baptised (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Continued tomorrow: Walter Brueggemann, ‘Marked by Ashes’

Yesterday’s poem, Christina Rossetti, ‘Lent’



Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

Material from the Book of Common Prayer is copyright © 2004, Representative Body of the Church of Ireland.

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