Lewis’s Cosmic Trilogy: Perelandra and the Cosmic Christ Event

David Russell Mosley

St John Chrysostom’s Day 2014
The Edge of Elfland
Hudson, New Hampshire

Dear Friends and Family,

In Lewis’s Perelandra, we get much less of the angelic. Perelandra, or Venus as we know it, is at the point of decision where Tellus before it had failed. Two rational creatures, in the shape––but not in any of the standard hues––of humanity, have evolved from a rather fishier biological background and have been separated. The woman, along with first meeting Ransom who has been sent there to aid the planet ward off the attacks of Satan, meets the tempter. This time, the tempter takes on the body of Dr Weston from Out of the Silent Planet. The book is made up primarily of these three characters: the Perelandrian Eve, Ransom, and the possessed Weston. Ransom and Weston thus battle not only for the Lady’s soul, but, in a way, for the whole planet. There are many interesting facets of this book. It can be read as a kind of suppositional commentary on Genesis 2 and 3. What fascinates me about it, however, is the cosmic level.

Lewis gives us a cosmos where the planets are ruled and governed by angelic beings, as I discussed in my last letter. Yet while Oyarsa was an ever present character, though unseen at first (and then only seen dimly when present), the eldila are unseen and mostly unknown on Perelandra (we later discover that at least the oyarsa of Perelandra is present, but more on that in a moment). What intrigues me is the way Lewis’s cosmos is connected. Too often, both in our real discussions of whether any potentially existent extraterrestrial beings or their depiction in science fiction focuses on the purely localised nature of the Christ event. We either assume that the extra terrestials would be damned by nature, in need of salvation, or at the very least, unaffected by what happened on Earth. Lewis challenges this. In Out of the Silent Planet, we have a world that is populated before humanity’s Fall, but during the angelic rebellion. Malacandra is thus peopled with creatures of varying shapes and sizes. Perelandra, however, gives us human shaped creatures. In fact, Ransom learns from the lady that there will be no more hrossa, no more sorns from here on out all rational creatures will come in the shape of a human. Why? Because Christ became human. While humanity’s fall did not cause the Fall of the entire Cosmos, it affected how the Cosmos would develop.

Earth becomes a step in the Cosmic dance that is tending toward the Beatific Vision. Both its Fall and its Redemption effect the direction of the rest of Cosmos. For a while, I was concerned about this. It seemed almost to make the Cross (and even the Incarnation) merely a reaction. The Oyarsa of Malacandra even tells Ransom that because Adam and Eve fell at this same point of decision, something greater (namely the Incarnation) happened there. Therefore, on Perelandra, what didn’t happen on Earth happened there instead. However, I was wrong to think this a reactionary view. By reactionary, I mean that God was surprised by the Fall and replied with the Incarnation, that is, plan A failed and so now it is time for plan B. Instead, however, Lewis gives us a cosmos where the Fall is not necessary, but is used to play an integral role in the development of the entire cosmos. It is the means by which the Son’s becoming human is, in some ways facilitated, but it is not a reaction, it is an eternal plan. It is necessary for the Son to become incarnate for all rational creatures, all ensouled creatures, are intended for deification, for the beatific vision. Thus, in Lewis’s cosmic vision, this is done on Earth, in part to combat the Fall, but in full to bring about the deification of all hanu (ensouled, rational creatures). It is for this reason, the Lord and Lady of Venus are human shaped yet green. It is for this reason there will be no more creatures like those seen on Malacandra. The Fall may have facilitated a need for incarnation, for we could not have been fittingly redeemed without it (not that we absolutely could not have been redeemed without it, but that is a letter for another day), but it is not the only reason for it. Rather, it’s ultimate purpose is to return the entire Cosmos, that is all of Creation, to God in deification. Christ’s becoming human has shaped the course of history, both tellurian and Cosmic.

In these first two books, Lewis’s Cosmic focus is extraterrestial. When I write about That Hideous Strength, we will see how Lewis takes this Cosmic understanding of the Universe and applies to the life lived on Earth. Until then, I remain,

Sincerely yours,
David

Advertisements

The Importance of the 12 Days of Christmas

David Russell Mosley

Русский: Рождество Христово (икона в Храме)

Русский: Рождество Христово (икона в Храме) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

23 December 2013
On the Edge of Elfland
Beeston, Nottinghamshire

Dear Friends and Family,

Christmas is nearly upon us. Tomorrow evening, as we have our supper, however meagre or magnificent, the celebration of the Nativity begins. For most of us, it has probably already begun to some extent. We’ve probably indulged in a few Christmas songs; our churches have put on carol services. Everything is building up to the next day, the 25 of December, perhaps the only day in the Western Calendar (both secular and sacred) that still firmly has a name rather than a date. Wednesday morning will dawn, we’ll open presents, go to church (if it’s safe or if they’re holding services), perhaps we’ll sing carols, give hugs, we’ll laugh, in short, we’ll feast. And then, Christmas is over. Boxing Day, St Stephen’s Day in the Church Calendar, will come and perhaps we can find it in us to extend the festivities to this day, but by the 27, St John’s Day, Christmas is quite firmly over, isn’t it?

Actually, in the Church Calendar, there really are 12 days of Christmas. Depending on how you count it the twelve days run  from the 24 of December to the 5 of January. Either way, Christmas is more than a day or two, it is, in fact, a liturgical season. We are meant to extend both our celebrations and solemnities (particularly during Holy Innocents on the 28 which commemorates the children put to death by Herod). Christmas is meant to be much more than its feast day.

Think of what a change this could make in how you think of Christmas. Christmas parties can continue for twelve days. Christmas carols can be sung with gusto, especially if you’ve generally fasted from them during Advent. The reality of the Incarnation can continue to be at the forefront of our minds. Perhaps, if we in the West, were to take more seriously the twelve days of Christmas we might even begin to think about the larger implications of the Incarnation beyond the crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension of Christ. As I’ve written to you before, I work on the topic of deification. At the heart of this primarily Eastern doctrine is the Incarnation, God becoming human so that humans might become God. Maybe if we took Christmas a little more seriously, people like me wouldn’t need to convince Western Christians of the truth and beauty of deification, or as it is called in the East, theosis.

Christmas has always been my favourite time of year. The music, the movies, the weather (in the Northern hemisphere anyway), the carols, the services, Father Christmas, all come together for me to show forth the magic of Christianity. Beyond all of this, however, is the reality that our God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), the Creator of everything and yet Uncreated, became a creature  in the Son without ceasing to be Creator. He became a creature in order to lift us up, to make us like himself, to make us gods, to make us sons through the Incarnation, the gift of his Spirit, and the sacraments. This is what Christmas means, this is why we celebrate it for 12 days and not just one.

Sincerely yours,
David Russell Mosley

Fasting while Waiting: Advent

David Russell Mosley

 

English: Advent wreath, First Advent Sunday

English: Advent wreath, First Advent Sunday (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

26 November 2013
On the Edge of Elfland
Beeston, Nottinghamshire

Dear Friends and Family,

For those of us in the West, the season of Advent is nearly upon us. In just a few days time our Christian year begins again. I’ve always found it interesting that our New Year begins with waiting. We begin by putting ourselves in the shoes of the Israelites after the exile, awaiting this promised branch of Jesse. We put ourselves in Mary’s shoes, awaiting the nativity of the Son of Man and Son of God. But we also remind ourselves of our own situation; our own waiting for the Lord’s return. We begin each year waiting. Waiting for Christmas, certainly, as we recapitulate the waiting that has gone on before us waiting for the birth of Christ; but also waiting for his coming again.

There are two seasons of waiting, in a sense, in the Christian Year. The first is Advent, but the second is Lent, that waiting for the resurrection. When we celebrate Lent, however, we fast, reminding ourselves that the light has gone out of the world and that we depend on that light for our sustenance. It was traditional, however, to also fast in Advent. In fact, the Eastern Orthodox Church celebrates Advent for forty days prior to Christmas for that very reason. In the West, however, as well, it was traditional to fast during the four weeks and a bit, usually, that precedes the celebration of the Nativity.

With that in mind, I want to encourage you to fast this Advent. Traditionally, one would have fasted from meats, sweets, etc. during Advent, but as often happens with Lent, this may be a time to fast from other things as well (the internet, social media, Christmas music, Christmas movies, etc.). This Advent I’ll be giving up watching TV on my own. I often fill the silent moments in my life with TV shows and phone games, so I’m going to use Advent as an opportunity to remove some of the distractions in my life and remind myself that God often speaks in the silences.

Have you ever fasted during Advent? If so, from what? How did you find it? Let me know.

 

 

Sincerely yours,
David Russell Mosley

Celebrating Christ the King

David Russell Mosley

Christ the King - Pantocrator - Kuznetsov 01

Christ the King – Pantocrator – Kuznetsov 01 (Photo credit: Waiting For The Word)

Christ the King
24 November 2013
On the Edge of Elfland
Beeston, Nottinghamshire

Dear Friends and Family,

Today we celebrate something truly countercultural and transformational. Today we celebrate Christ as King. It is a fitting way to end this season of Ordinary Time before Advent begins the following Sunday.  Today we remember who it is who upholds the heavens and the earth. Who it is who reigns on high. The one to whom all glory and power and authority has been given.

As you worship today, remember who it is you worship. Jesus is more than the carpenter’s son, though he was that. Jesus is more than a first century Palestinian Jew, though he was that. He was certainly more than a simple moral teacher who’s teachings got him into trouble. He is King. Not just of the Jews or of Israel (though he is that as a descendent of David), he is the King. He is the one from whom our whole notion of kingship derives. He is God; he is man. He both without confusion, and he chose to become the latter without ever ceasing to be the former. This is the one who saves, he rules over us. Worship him with fear and trembling, and joy and gladness.

The Collect for the Day (from Common Worship):

Eternal Father,
whose Son Jesus Christ ascended to the throne of heave that he might rule over all things as Lord and King:
keep the Church in the unity of the Spirit
and in the bond of peace,
and bring the whole created order to worship at his feet:
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and forever.
Amen.

The Collect for the Week (from Common Worship):

Stir up, O Lord,
the wills of your faithful people:
that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works,
may by you be plenteously rewarded;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.

Sincerely yours,
David Russell Mosley

Baking Bread and the Body of Christ

David Russell Mosley

 

30 October 2013
On the Edge of Elfland
Beeston, Nottinghamshire

Dear Friends and Family,

Today I want to talk to you about something very theological; something so very theological that it often goes right over our heads. Today, I want to talk to you about baking bread.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a letter about Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and the River Cottage Fruit-share project. In that post I focused on the necessity of having a better connection with where our food comes from because this is a better connection with Creation, of which we are a part. Baking bread, in some ways, takes this a step further. While currently I do not bake bread from wheat I’ve grown and ground myself (nor always from organic or locally sourced wheat, though I hope to someday), baking bread is perhaps an essential part of the Christian life.

Bread makes up half of one of the most important events in Christianity. It represents the oneness (as well as diversity) of the Church, which is also to say it represents and becomes for us the body of Christ in the Eucharist. Now, whatever theology of the Eucharist to which you ascribe––I’m personally somewhere between consubstantiation and transubstantiation (that is, I believe Christ is really present, but don’t want to get enmeshed in talking about how)––the Bread still stands for the body of Christ. This means, to some extent, every loaf of bread participates in the Eucharistic bread. Every loaf of bread we eat should remind us of the Loaf in the Lord’s Supper (just as every glass of wine we drink participates in the Cup of the Blood of Christ). To this end, then, baking bread can remind us of the Eucharist which is our thanksgiving for the body and blood of Christ.

Baking bread is a relatively cheap and easy enterprise. The recipe I’m going to give you is from James Morton’s book Brilliant Bread. 17612890 This is a great recipe for beginners, such as myself, and results is delicious and healthy bread. This is just a plain white loaf, so it could be a bit healthier, but believe me, it is infinitely better for you than most store-bought sliced loaves.

Bake Time: 3-3 ½ hours; Time in Kitchen 10-15 minutes.

Ingredients:
500g Strong White Flour (Bread flour)
10g of Salt
7g or 1 sachet of yeast
350g (a little over 11 ounces) of tepid water

In a large bowl add your dry ingredients. Morton recommends rubbing in your salt on one side and your yeast on the other as yeast deactivates salt.

Then add your water and mix until a cohesive dough is formed. I recommend holding on to the bowl with one hand and mixing with the other. It goes quickly and leaves you a clean hand.

Cover with a damp tea towel and rest for 30-40 minutes.

After its rested, wet the fingers of one hand and slide them between the bowl and the dough. Take a portion of the dough and fold it back in on itself. Turn slightly and continue this until you’ve knocked all the air out.

Cover with a damp tea towel and rest for a full hour or until doubled in size.

On a lightly floured surface turn out your dough to begin shaping. Begin by pressing your hand firmly on half the dough while stretching the other half out with the other hand and then folding it back in on it self. Turn slightly and continue until the dough feels tighter. Then turn the dough over and begin shaping into a ball. Do this by cupping each hand and bringing them together under your loaf turning slightly. This helps remove the seam on the bottom. Do this until the seam is gone and the dough is in a nice ball.

Put the dough on a well floured surface to rest for an hour. Also, using a serrated knife or razor blade make a few deep slashes in the bread to allow to expand while baking. During this time prep your oven. Put a baking sheet or rock in the oven and make sure your bread will have plenty of room to rise.

At about forty minutes into your dough’s final rest, pre-heat your oven and baking sheet to 210˚C.

After the oven has had about 20 minutes to pre-heat, put in your dough to bake for about forty minutes or until a nice golden brown.

Once its done, take your loaf out of the oven and let cool before digging in.

IMG_0793

A whole-meal bread I made last week.

And now you have a perfectly good loaf of bread. I find a loaf lasts my wife and I around 4-7 days. The flour costs around 80 pence and, if you just make plain white bread with it, should get you three loaves (considerably cheaper than store-bought). All you need is a few cheap ingredients, and about 3 hours at home (not all of which must be spent in the kitchen) in order to make your own loaf. Give it a try, and reflect on the one Loaf that is, for us, the body of Christ.

 

Sincerely yours,
David Russell Mosley

 

‘Being Reconciled’ by John Milbank: Mini Book Review

David Russell Mosley

 

 

Festival of King Oswald
5 August 2013
Beeston, Nottinghamshire

Dear Friends and Family,

Here is review I wrote a few weeks ago after my second reading of John Milbank’s Being Reconciled. I hope you enjoy.

863197

This is my second reading of Milbank’s Being Reconciled and I must say I’m glad I read it again. While even after the first reading I determined that this was Milbank’s most comprehensible book, at least that I’ve tackled thus far, I still found more that I understood better this time around. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wishes to gain some insight into the theology of John Milbank but does not yet have the fortitude to brave Theology and Social Theory.

I will give fair warning that there are, for me, a few areas where I simply disagree with John. The main one, and only one I will deal with in this review, comes in chapter 4 ‘Incarnation: the sovereign victim’. Here John is juxtaposing the views of Thomas Aquinas and John Duns Scotus on the purpose of the incarnation. For Aquinas, it is about forgiveness, but a forgiveness that does more than forgive, but exceeds that and gives also the chance for deification, though Milbank argues that is the possibility of deification that makes the incarnation possible. Scotus, on the other hand, sees the incarnation as the ontological completion of creation. This is based in Scotus’s understanding of univocity of being where Christ is not the fulness, necessarily, but is beyond what humanity is. My own view, and I believe that of the Fathers, is somewhere in between. The Incarnation cannot be a reaction to our sin or related only to the divine foreknowledge of the Fall. Nor, however, is it purely Christ completing creation as a human who is, by nature of also being divine, is simply better than all other humans. For me, if deification has always been the telos for creation, then the means by which this is accomplished must include the Incarnation. God must become man in order for man to become God.

This aside, however, John’s understanding of the crucifixion, the telos of Creation and the necessity for a liturgical understanding of the time, the state, education, etc., makes this book one most definitely worth reading.

 

Sincerely yours,
David Russell Mosley

Easter: He is Risen

English: Icon of the Resurrection

English: Icon of the Resurrection (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dear Friends and Family,

Today we celebrate the risen Christ. Let us remember the victory we have in Jesus. Death is defeated. Not only are our sins forgiven, but we are being made new; not only  are we being made new, but Christ is saying to us, “I say you are gods.” Let us celebrate the new reality that Christus Victor brings.

Yours,
David

An Easter Prayer and Response

Death is swallowed up in victory.
Where, O death, is your sting?
Christ is risen from the dead,
the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.
Death is swallowed up in victory.
The trumpet will sound
and the dead shall be raised.
Where, O death, is your sting?
We shall not all sleep,
but we shall be changed.
Death is swallowed up in victory.
Where, O death, is your sting?

John 20:1-18

English Standard Version Anglicised (ESVUK)

20 Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going towards the tomb. Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10 Then the disciples went back to their homes.

11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. 12 And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14 Having said this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16 Jesus said to her,“Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher).17 Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her.