C.S. Lewis is one of the most celebrated Christian writers and thinkers in modern times. His literary gift extended his philosophical genius into almost every kind of written scope- children’s books, science fiction, morality lessons, personal narratives, apologetics, theology, counseling, and more. Lewis’ most prized construct was the narrative allegory, exampled most brilliantly in his most well known work of the Narnian Chronicles. Because he is such a master of language, one rarely reads Lewis simply and directly on a given topic. Rather, even his shorter works often speak about the thing obliquely, as a better method of communicating powerful points (drawing on the readers imagination to fill in the powerful truths). While the gift of allegory is at play in poignant manner in his famous sermon, The Weight of Glory, it is his contrasting forthrightness that makes the paper take shape so quickly it stands out as, arguably, Lewis’s most brilliant short work, and what I consider the best sermon recorded since the New Testament preaching of Peter and Paul.
The Weight of Glory is nothing less than an essay on what it means to be truly human, what rewards are truly in store of those of aiming at “heaven” and what God intends by creating us in the first place. As tall an order as this seems, Lewis accomplishes this in just 10 pages of some of the finest English writing ever composed. Lewis begins by outlining the nature of love and desire. He moves to comprehending our desires, God’s wishes, and his commendation on us at “glory”. He concludes by circumspection back to love, but this time as a union of both our desires and God’s, founding us centrally in the great belief that we can please God and that God loves us.
What is astounding about Lewis is that he arrives in so many of his works at such great theological conclusions, without primarily taking the route of theology to explain them. Allegory, philosophy and logic are the language here, but Lewis uses them to make points only now being made by some Biblical researchers and scholars. Primarily, in this work, Lewis comes to the powerful conclusion that humanity is weighted down by the image and glory of God to an extent rarely considered orthodox by his Biblical scholar contemporaries. Lewis explores with us the nature of our desiring God and his nature to give us immense desires, and then grant them through His love.
So great is the immense attribution of God’s favor on us, Lewis contends we must revise our understanding of the glory set upon us from the creator. In this revision, we find ourselves moored to the profound love of God and enraptured by a favor of God so great it has no match within creation.
There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilisations—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendours.
Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbour is the holiest object presented to your senses.
But the profound truth we encounter on the road to this glorious discovery is that we are foundationally loved of, and pleasing to, God. In the context of the thread of human desire (for something we call heaven) and God-ordained glory that Lewis draws together for us, the treatise culminates into a richly relational understanding of God and our place with him. We find, most surprisingly, that his promise of glory and heaven meets with our deepest desires not only of him, but in him. This is said best, of course, by Lewis himself:
The promise of glory is the promise, almost incredible and only possible by the work of Christ, that some of us, that any of us who really chooses, shall actually survive that examination, shall find approval, shall please God. To please God…to be a real ingredient in the divine happiness…to be loved by God, not merely pitied, but delighted in as an artist delights in his work or a son—it seems impossible, a weight or burden of glory which our thoughts can hardly sustain. But so it is.
The Weight of Glory examines our deepest longings and, in its final sentences, places them soundly on the hope of utter delight and joy in a life founded in God’s love and acceptance. We are his, and we can live like it- for the good of ourselves and the betterment of our neighbor.
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Review by Kim Gentes
Lewis, C. S. “Weight of Glory (Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis)”. (New York, NY: HarperCollins, 1949), Pg. 46
Ibid., Pg 46
Ibid., Pg 38-39