Resurrection (5)

[Lewis had just addressed his correspondent’s concern for the troubles of the world] Tomorrow [Easter] we shall celebrate the glorious Resurrection of Christ. I shall be remembering you in the Holy Communion. Away with tears and fears and troubles! United in wedlock with the eternal Godhead Itself, our nature ascends into the Heaven of Heaven. So it would be impious to call ourselves “miserable.”  On the contrary, Man is a creature whom the Angels—were they capable of envy—would envy.  Let us lift up our hearts! 

—C.S. Lewis, The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis: Volume II, Letter of March 27, 1948

No fan of hymns…BUT

When I first became a Christian, about fourteen years ago, I thought that I could do it on my own, by retiring to my rooms and reading theology, and wouldn’t go to the churches and Gospel Halls; . . . I disliked very much their hymns which I considered to be fifth-rate poems set to sixth-rate music. But as I went on I saw the merit of it. I came up against different people of quite different outlooks and different education, and then gradually my conceit just began peeling off. I realized that the hymns (which were just sixth-rate music) were, nevertheless, being sung with devotion and benefit by an old saint in elastic-side boots in the opposite pew, and then you realize that you aren’t fit to clean those boots. It gets you out of your solitary conceit.

—C.S. Lewis, “Answers to Questions on Christianity” in God in the Dock:
Essays on Theology and Ethics, 61-62

Mutual Charity

There are two musical situations on which I think we can be confident that a blessing rests. One is where a priest or an organist, himself a man of trained and delicate taste, humbly and charitably sacrifices his own (aesthetically right) desires and gives the people humbler and coarser fare than he would wish, in a belief (even, as it may be, the erroneous belief) that he can thus bring them to God. The other is where the stupid and unmusical layman humbly and patiently, and above all silently, listens to music which he cannot, or cannot fully, appreciate, in the belief that it somehow glorifies God, and that if it does not edify him this must be his own defect. Neither such a High Brow nor such a Low Brow can be far out of the way. To both, Church Music will have been a means of grace; not the music they have liked, but the music they have disliked. They have both offered, sacrificed, their taste in the fullest sense. But where the pride of skill or the virus of emulation and looks with contempt on the unappreciative congregation, or where the unmusical, complacently entrenched in their own ignorance and conservatism, look with the restless and resentful hostility of an inferiority complex on all who would try to improve their taste—there, we may be sure, all that both offer is unblessed and the spirit that moves them is not the Holy Ghost.

These highly general reflections will not, I fear, be of much practical use to any priest or organist in devising a working compromise for a particular church. The most they can hope to do is to suggest that the problem is never a merely musical one. Where both the choir and the congregation are spiritually on the right road no insurmountable difficulties will occur. Discrepancies of taste and capacity will, indeed, provide matter for mutual charity and humility.

—C. S. Lewis, “On Church Music” in Christian Reflections, 96-97

Pleasing God

We must beware of the naïve idea that our music can ‘please’ God as it would please a cultivated human hearer. That is like thinking, under the old Law, that He really needed the blood of bulls and goats. To which an answer came, mine are the cattle upon a thousand hills,’ and ‘if I am hungry, I will not tell thee.’ If God (in that sense) wanted music, He would not tell us. For all our offerings, whether of music or martyrdom, are like the intrinsically worthless present of a child, which a father values indeed, but values only for the intention.

—C.S. Lewis, “On Church Music” in Christian Reflections, 98-99

Tell Them about God

C.S. Lewis once told a young writer: ‘Instead of telling us a thing is “terrible,” describe it so that we’ll be terrified. Don’t say it was a “delight,” make us say “delightful” when we’ve read the description. You see, all those words (“Horrifying,” “wonderful,” “hideous,” “ exquisite”) are only saying to your readers, “Please, will you do my job for me.”’

Lewis complains that authors of gushy and sentimental words are tyrannical because they tell the readers how they must feel rather than letting the subject work on them in the same way it did the author. Sentimental worship leading works in exactly the same way that Lewis describes. With typical comments—‘Isn’t He just wonderful?’ ‘Isn’t it such a blessing?’—the leader tells people how they ought to feel about God instead of telling them about God.

—Tim Keller, “Reformed Worship in the Global City” in Worship by the Book, 209-210 (citing Letters of C.S. Lewis, 271)