When Keith Getty talked about writing music for Christian allegorical dramas, he quipped that all Christians from Belfast want to be C.S. Lewis. I have long appreciated the writings of Lewis. I learned about him from my husband Ray. Ray learned about Lewis when a godly man recommended Mere Christianity while Ray was in graduate school in history at the University of Kentucky. Ray purchased it from the college bookstore and later read the Chronicles of Narnia. He was hooked. Soon I was hooked, too.
I remembered that Lewis was from Northern Ireland, but I had forgotten he was from Belfast. When I looked it up, I was delighted to learn that, while Americans are remembering the fiftieth anniversary of the death of President Kennedy this week, Belfast is celebrating a festival to honor their native son Clive Staples “Jack” Lewis who died the same day as President Kennedy.
Public libraries are hosting readings of each of the Chronicles of Narnia for local schoolchildren. Children have entered artwork in the C.S. Lewis Art Competition. Children from 3 to 6 can attend a clay modeling workshop to make their own Aslan character. Shop owners have hidden Narnia characters in their shops. Lewis enthusiasts can honor and learn about Lewis through theater, film, lectures, and exhibits. I am excited that so many people in Belfast this week are talking about the things of God that Lewis wrote about in his many books.
Hometown folk and visitors to Belfast can take a self-guided trail to see places that Lewis visited and things he saw as a child. The trail begins at Holywood Arches Library where a statue has been erected in Lewis’ honor. “The Searcher” is a life-size wardrobe. Opening the door is C.S. Lewis who is portraying Professor Digory Kirke, a character from The Magician’s Nephew.
Along the trail are:
- Ty-Isa, the home of C.S. Lewis’ paternal grandfather Richard Lewis, who built a beautiful wardrobe and gave it to his son’s family.
- A plaque marking the site of the house where Lewis was born in 1898.
- St. Mark’s Church where Clive Staples Lewis was christened in 1899 by the rector who was his maternal grandfather. Inside are the font used for his christening, a chalice donated by the Lewis family, and the Lewis window which Jack and his younger brother Warren (“Warnie”) gave to the church in honor of their parents. The window depicts three apostles, St. Luke, St. James, and St. Mark. The church is called “The Lion on the Hill;” it publishes a magazine called The Lion. A door handle at the rectory where Jack and Warnie visited their grandfather is shaped like a lion. The church recreated Narnia in one of their halls. It was open to visiting schoolchildren for five days and then to the public on a Saturday. They also planned two Sunday evening events to honor Lewis during the month of November.
- Little Lea, the home the Lewis family moved into in 1905. To Jack the rambling house seemed more like a city than a house.
- Campbell College where Lewis spent a year as a boarding student before continuing his education in England. Here is an ornate gas lamp which some believe was the inspiration for the lamppost in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. On Tuesday evening, the school hosted a Lewis by Lamplight Walk.
Other sites to see in Belfast are:
- A Narnia mural and a C.S. Lewis mural.
- The C.S. Lewis Reading Room at Queen’s University. Its entrance looks like the door of a wardrobe. Inside are carpets and a table decorated with themes from Narnia. Other room decorations are glass engravings of quotes from Lewis.
C.S. Lewis spent more than fifty years in England. The fiftieth anniversary of his death is to be commemorated there tomorrow when a memorial is to be placed in Poet’s Corner at Westminster Abbey during a service of thanksgiving for his life and work. Lewis’ name is to be added to the likes of Geoffrey Chaucer, William Shakespeare, Sir Walter Scott, and American Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. The Abbey and St. Margaret’s Church have scheduled a symposium to look at “the question of how, in the 21st century, his example may be emulated and his legacy continued.”
At homeschool conferences last spring, Notgrass Company gave away antique copies of the Saturday Evening Post. We were surprised when one of the copies we ordered included an article by C.S. Lewis. The December 21-28, 1963, issue included “We Have No ‘Right to Happiness’,” along with an editor’s note telling that this was Lewis’ last work and that he had died before it was published. The article addressed an emerging philosophy that affirmed the right of human beings to sexual happiness; Lewis argued that we have no such right. Oh, that our country had listened.
Through his writings, C.S. Lewis continues to call sinners to the Father who loved them enough to send His Son to die for them and who loved them enough to teach them how to live. We in turn learn from Him how to teach the children He entrusted to us.
Grace to you and peace
from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,
who gave Himself for our sins
so that He might rescue us from this present evil age,
according to the will of our God and Father,
to whom be the glory forevermore. Amen.
Galatians 1:3-5, NASB