Democracy of the Dead – CS Lewis

G.K. Chesterton once said that “Tradition means giving a vote to most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead…Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about. All democrats object to men being disqualified by the accident of birth; tradition objects to their being disqualified by the accident of death. Democracy tells us not to neglect a good man’s opinion, even if he is our groom; tradition asks us not to neglect a good man’s opinion, even if he is our father.”  

To honor that sentiment and to stave off an easy chronological snobbery, today’s post comes straight from the mouths (or pens) of men and women who have died in the faith.

From CS LewisTHAT HIDEOUS STRENGTH

Cross by George Wharton James[Mark] left the Bristol feeling, as he would have said, a different man.  Indeed he was a different man.  From now onwards till the moment of final decision should meet him, the different men in him appeared with startling rapidity and each seemed very complete while it lasted.  Thus, skidding violently from one side to the other, his youth approached the moment at which he would begin to be a person…

There were no moral considerations at this moment in Marks’ mind.  He looked back on his life not with shame, but with a kind of disgust at its dreariness.  He saw himself as a little boy in short trousers, hidden in the shrubbery beside the paling, to overhear Myrtle’s conversation with Pamela, and trying to ignore the fact that it was not at all interesting when overheard.  He saw himself making believe that he enjoyed those Sunday afternoons with the athletic heroes of Grip while all the time (as he now saw) he was almost homesick for one of the old walks with Pearson – Pearson whom he had taken such pains to leave behind.  He saw himself in his teens laboriously reading rubbishy grown-up novels and drinking beer when he really enjoyed John Buchan and stone ginger.  The hours that he had spent learning the very slang of each new circle that attracted him, the perpetual assumption of interest in things he found dull and of knowledge he did not possess, the almost heroic sacrifice of nearly every person and thing he actually enjoyed, the miserable attempt to pretend that one could enjoy Grip, or the Progressive Element, or the N.I.C.E. – all this came over him with a kind of heart-break.  When had he ever done what he wanted?  mixed with the people whom he liked?  Or even eaten and drunk what took his fancy?  The concentrated insipidity of it all filled him with self-pity.

In his normal condition, explanations that laid on impersonal forces outside himself the responsibility for all this life of dust and broken bottles would have occurred at once to his mind and been at once accepted.  It would have been “the system” or “an inferiority complex” due to his parents, or the peculiarities of the age.  None of these things occurred to him now.  His “scientific” outlook had never been a real philosophy believed with blood and heart.  It had lived only in his brain, and was a part of that public self which was now falling off himHe was aware, without even having to think of it, that it was he himself – nothing else in the whole universe – that had chosen the dust and broken bottles, the heap of old tin cans, the dry and choking places.  

 

Democracy of the Dead – Evelyn Underhill

G.K. Chesterton once said that “Tradition means giving a vote to most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead…Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about. All democrats object to men being disqualified by the accident of birth; tradition objects to their being disqualified by the accident of death. Democracy tells us not to neglect a good man’s opinion, even if he is our groom; tradition asks us not to neglect a good man’s opinion, even if he is our father.”  

To honor that sentiment and to stave off an easy chronological snobbery, today’s post comes straight from the mouths (or pens) of men and women who have died in the faith.

From Evelyn Underhill‘s THE SPIRITUAL LIFE

Cross by George Wharton JamesSo those who imagine that they are called to contemplation because they are attracted by contemplation, when the common duties of existence steadily block this path, do well to realize that our own feelings and preferences are very poor guides when it comes to the robust realities and stern demands of the Spirit.

St. Paul did not want to be an apostle to the Gentiles.  He wanted to be a clever and appreciated young Jewish scholar, and kicked against the pricks.  St. Ambrose and St. Augustine did not want to be overworked and worried bishops.  Nothing was farther from their intention.  St. Cuthbert wanted the solitude and freedom of his heritage on the Farne; but he did not often get there.  St. Francis Xavier’s preference was for an ordered life close to his beloved master, St. Ignatius.  At a few hours’ notice he was sent out to be the Apostle of the Indies and never returned to Europe again.  Henry Martyn, the fragile and exquisite scholar, was compelled to sacrifice the intellectual life to which he was so perfectly fitted for the missionary life to which he felt he was decisively called.

In all these, a power beyond themselves decided the direction of life.  Yet in all we recognize not frustration, but the highest of all types of achievement.  Things like this – and they are constantly happening – gradually convince us that the overruling reality of life is the Will and Choice of a Spirit acting not in a mechanical but in a living and personal way; and that the spiritual life does not consist in mere individual betterment, or assiduous attention to one’s own soul, but in a free and unconditional response to that Spirit’s pressure and call, whatever the cost may be.

Democracy of the Dead – Gregory of Nyssa

G.K. Chesterton once said that “Tradition means giving a vote to most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead…Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about. All democrats object to men being disqualified by the accident of birth; tradition objects to their being disqualified by the accident of death. Democracy tells us not to neglect a good man’s opinion, even if he is our groom; tradition asks us not to neglect a good man’s opinion, even if he is our father.”  

To honor that sentiment and to stave off an easy chronological snobbery, today’s post comes straight from the mouths (or pens) of men and women who have died in the faith.

From Gregory of Nyssa

Cross by George Wharton JamesOur good Master, Jesus Christ, bestowed on us a partnership in his revered name, so that we get our name from no other person connected with us, and if one happens to be rich and well-born or of lowly origin and poor, or if one has some distinction from his business or position, all such conditions are of no avail because the one authoritative name for those believing in him is that of Christian.

…As this astute perceiver of particular goods says, “Do you seek a proof of the Christ who speaks in me? and “It is now no longer I that live but Christ lives in me.”

This man knew the significance of the name of Christ for us, saying that Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God.  And he called him peace, and light inaccessible in whom God dwells, and sanctification and redemption and great high priest and Passover, and a propitiation” of souls, “the brightness of glory and image of substance,” and “maker of the world, and spiritual food, and spiritual drink and spiritual rock, waterfoundation of faith, and cornerstone and image of the invisible God, and great God, and head of the body of the Church, and the firstborn of every creature, firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep, firstborn from the dead, firstborn among many brothers and mediator between God and humanity, and only begotten Son and crowned with glory and honor, and lord of glory and beginning of being speaking thus of him who is the beginning, king of justice and king of peace and ineffable king of all, having the power of the kingdom, and many other such things that are not easily enumerated.

When all of these phrases are put next to each other, each one of the terms makes its own contribution to a revelation of what is signified by being named after Christ, and each provides for us a certain emphasis.  To the extent that we take these concepts into our souls, they are all indications of the unspeakable greatness of the gift for us. However, since the rank of kingship underlies all worth and power and rule, by this title the royal power of Christ is authoritatively and primarily indicated (for the anointing of kingship, as we learn in the historical books, comes first), and all the force of the other titles depends on that of royalty.  For this reason, the person who knows the separate elements included under it also knows the power encompassing these elements. 

But it is the kingship itself that declares what that title of Christ means.  Therefore, since, thanks to our good Master, we are sharers of the greatest and the most divine and the first of names, those honored by the name of Christ being called Christians, it is necessary that there be seen in us also all of the connotations of this name, so that the title be not a misnomer in our case but that our life be a testimony of it.  Being something does not result from being called something.  The underlying nature, whatever it happens to be, is discovered through the meaning attached to the name.

Democracy of the Dead – Hannah Hurnard

G.K. Chesterton once said that “Tradition means giving a vote to most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead…Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about. All democrats object to men being disqualified by the accident of birth; tradition objects to their being disqualified by the accident of death. Democracy tells us not to neglect a good man’s opinion, even if he is our groom; tradition asks us not to neglect a good man’s opinion, even if he is our father.”  

To honor that sentiment and to stave off an easy chronological snobbery, today’s post comes straight from the mouths (or pens) of men and women who have died in the faith.

From Hannah Hurnard‘s HINDS FEET ON HIGH PLACES

Cross by George Wharton James“Much-Afraid trembled a little, partly at the tone of his voice and partly because she was still Much-Afraid by nature and was already trying to picture what the Forests of Danger and Tribulation would be like.  That always had a disastrous effect upon her, but she answered penitently, ‘No – I know that you are not a man who would lie to me; I know that you will make good what you have said.

“’Then,’ said the Shepherd, speaking very gently again, ‘I am going to lead you through danger and tribulation, Much-Afraid, but you need not be the last bit afraid, for I shall be with you.  Even if I lead you through the Valley of the Shadow itself you need not fear, for my rod and my staff will comfort you.’

Then he added, ‘Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day; nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday.  Though a thousand fall at thy side, and ten thousand at they right hand, it shall not come nigh thee…For I will cover thee with my feathers, and under my wings shalt thou trust’ (Psa. 91:4-7).  The gentleness of his voice as he said these things was indescribable.

Then Much-Afraid knelt at his feet and built yet another altar and said, ‘Yea, though I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me.”  Then, because she found that even as she spoke her teeth were chattering with fright and her hands had gone quite clammy, she looked up into his face and added, ‘For thou art not a man that thou shouldest lie, nor the Son of man that thou shouldest repent.  Hast thou said, and shalt thou not do it?  And hast thou spoken and shalt thou not make it good?’

Then the Shepherd smiled more comfortingly than ever before, laid both hands on her head and said, “Be strong, yea, be strong and fear not.”  Then he continued, “Much-Afraid, don’t ever allow yourself to begin trying to picture what it will be like.  Believe me, when you get to the places which you dread you will find that they are as different as possible from what you have imagined, just as was the case when you were actually ascending the precipice.

I must warn you that I see your enemies lurking among the trees ahead, and if you ever let Craven Fear begin painting a picture on the screen of your imagination, you will walk with fear and trembling and agony, where no fear is.”  When he had said this, he picked up another stone from the place where she was kneeling, and gave it to her to put with the other memorial stones.  Then he went his way, and Much-Afraid and her companions started on the path which led up through the forests.”

Democracy of the Dead – Gregory of Nazianzus

G.K. Chesterton once said that “Tradition means giving a vote to most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead…Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about. All democrats object to men being disqualified by the accident of birth; tradition objects to their being disqualified by the accident of death. Democracy tells us not to neglect a good man’s opinion, even if he is our groom; tradition asks us not to neglect a good man’s opinion, even if he is our father.”  

To honor that sentiment and to stave off an easy chronological snobbery, today’s post comes straight from the mouths (or pens) of men and women who have died in the faith.

A Prayer from Gregory of Nazianzus

I am spent, O my Christ, breath of my life. 

Cross by George Wharton JamesPerpetual stress and surge, in league together, make long, O long, this life, this business of living.

Grappling with foes within and foes without, my soul has lost its beauty, blurred your image.

Did ever oak such buffeting from winds or ship receive from waves as I do now?  Labor to labor, task succeeds to task…friendship has bowed and illness wasted me…Do not forsake me, my Strength, I beseech you.

When the storms beat hard I may have betrayed you, but let me return to you now.

–Gregory of Nazianzus.

Democracy of the Dead – Dorothy Sayers

G.K. Chesterton once said that “Tradition means giving a vote to most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead…Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about. All democrats object to men being disqualified by the accident of birth; tradition objects to their being disqualified by the accident of death. Democracy tells us not to neglect a good man’s opinion, even if he is our groom; tradition asks us not to neglect a good man’s opinion, even if he is our father.”  

To honor that sentiment and to stave off an easy chronological snobbery, today’s post comes straight from the mouths (or pens) of men and women who have died in the faith.

From Dorothy SayersCREED OR CHAOS

The problem of sin and evil is, as everybody knows, one which all religions have to face, especially those that postulate an all-good and all-powerful God.  “If,” we say readily, “God is holy and omnipotent, He would interfere and stop all this kind of thing” – meaning by “this kind of thing” wars, persecutions, cruelty, Hitlerism, Bolshevism, or whatever large issue happens to be distressing our minds at the ever large issue happens to be distressing our minds at the time.  But let us be quite sure that we have really considered the problem in all its aspects.

Cross by George Wharton James“Why doesn’t God smite this dictator dead?” is a question a little remote from us.  Why, madam, did He not strike you dumb and imbecile before you uttered that baseless and unkind slander the day before yesterday?  Or me, before I behaved with such cruel lack of consideration to that well-meaning friend?  And why, sir, did He not cause your hand to rot off at the wrist before you signed your name to that dirty little bit of financial trickery?

You did not quite mean that?  But why not?  Your misdeeds and mine are nonetheless repellent because our opportunities for doing damage are less spectacular than those of some other people.  Do you suggest that your doings and mine are too trivial for God to bother about?  That cuts both ways; for, in that case, it would make precious little difference to His creation if He wiped us both out tomorrow…

The Church, at any rate, says that man’s will is free, and that evil is the price we pay for knowledge, particularly the kind of knowledge which we call self-consciousness.  It follows that we can, by God’s grace, do something about the pattern.  Moreover, God Himself, says the Church, is doing something about it – with our cooperation, if we choose, in despite of us if we refuse to cooperate – but always, steadily, working the pattern out…

The Church asserts that there is a Mind which made the universe, that He made it because He is the sort of Mind that takes pleasure in creation, and that if we want to know what the Mind of the Creator is, we must look at Christ.  In him we shall discover a Mind that loved His own creation so completely that He became part of it, suffered with and for it, and made it a sharer in His own glory and a fellow worker with Himself in the working out of his own design for it…We find God continually at work turning evil into good.