C.S. Lewis: Transpositions

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Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:12-14

“But who dares claim to be a spiritual man? In the full sense, none of us. And yet we are somehow aware that we approach from above, or from inside, at least some of those Transpositions which embody the Christian life in this world. With whatever sense of unworthiness, with whatever sense of audacity, we must affirm that we know a little of the higher system which is being transposed. In a way the claim we are making is not a very startling one. We are only claiming to know that our apparent devotion, whatever else it may have been, was not simply erotic, or that our apparent desire for Heaven, whatever else it may have been, was not simply a desire for longevity or jewelry or social splendours. Perhaps we have never really attained at all to what St. Paul would describe as spiritual life. But at the very least we know, in some dim and confused way, that we were trying to use natural acts and images and language with a new value, have at least desired a repentance which was not merely prudential and a love which was not self-centred.”

C.S. Lewis in “Transpositions” in Transpositions and Other Addresses (Quebec: Samizdat University Press, 2014) 11.

“Transpositions” is an interesting sermon preached on Whitsunday (a.k.a. Pentecost Sunday) in Mansfield College Chapel, Oxford. It’s contents represents a scholar trying to wrap his mind around the idea of spiritual growth.

Part of what struck me is that the Christian life leads us to humility and selfless love. And it leads us away from the desire for longevity or jewelry or social splendours. In a sense, after reading it, I conclude that we become what we desire.

And yet, we never really arrive because there is so much about this spiritual life we seek that we don’t understand. So, how does this relate to generosity? If we are chasing longevity or jewelry or social splendours, we are running toward emptiness.

Alternatively, if we pursue spiritual things which none of us, including St. Paul, can ever fully grasp, we are headed the right direction. And we move that way by acknowledging our unworthiness. Only then we begin to discover real treasures worth grasping and sharing with others that money can’t buy.