I have said before that I am a disillusioned optimist. I keep believing that there is an answer and a fix to all the mess. I can’t help myself. And I have found answers, and when I do, like in Out of the Silent Planet, I hitch my wagon to the horse from whose mouth it came. Every time. I can’t help myself. Then the horse stumbles – how could he not? C.S. Lewis did not become an Orthodox Christian, but I so wanted someone in the western tradition to speak Orthodox, and I think he comes close many times because Orthodoxy is the language we were all meant to speak and lies in potential in all of us. What is not Orthodox is foreign, and sometimes we develop foreign habits. In Perelandra, Lewis shows his Protestantism in that he believes that Christ was incarnated because of the Fall, instead of the Orthodox belief that Christ’s intention in creation was to join with us in the Incarnation from the beginning and would have happened without the Fall. So on Perelandra when the unfallen Green Lady and the King get married, it is seen as a less great thing than what happened on earth as a result of the Fall.
Then Ransom’s sacrifice is seen as an unmeritorious act I assume because of the Protestant creed of Glory to God Alone. But this causes him confusion when he sees the King’s face who is created in the image of “Maleldil”.
“You might ask how it was possible to look upon it and not to commit idolatry, not to mistake it for that of which it was the likeness. For the resemblance was, in its own fashion, infinite, so that almost you could wonder at finding no sorrows in his brow and no wounds in his hands and feet. Yet there was no danger of mistaking, not one moment of confusion, no least sally of the will towards forbidden reverence. Where likeness was greatest, mistake was least possible.”
He continues to struggle with idolatry when he talks about man-made images,
“A clever wax-work can be made so like a man that for a moment it deceives us: the great portrait which is far more deeply like him does not. Plaster images of the Holy One may before now have drawn to themselves the adoration they were meant to arouse for the reality. But here, where His live image, like Him within and without, made by His own bare hands out of the depth of divine artistry, His masterpiece of self-portraiture coming forth from His workshop to delight all worlds, walked and spoke before Ransom’s eyes, it could never be taken for more than an image. Nay, the very beauty of it lay in the certainty that it was a copy, like and not the same, an echo, a rhyme, an exquisite reverberation of the uncreated music prolonged in a created medium.”
His iconoclasm is showing, but he knows that there is something to marvel at in humanity. It is so hard when converting from Protestantism to be able to make peace between the Creator and the created. We have been so conditioned to believe that it is a sin to appreciate the greatness of creation. Proper veneration has become foreign. We are more afraid of committing idolatry than to venerate man’s intended end, and that which represents and communicates those who have accomplished deification, or theosis – icons.
But it is because of Christ’s and the Saint’s union with God that venerating them is not idolatry. God is in them, unseparated, unmixed, distinct, and undivided. To venerate the Saints is to worship God and His intention in Incarnation. Perelandra is full of What Would Jesus Do? Instead of God filling His Saints so that they can reach their potential – deification. Lewis presents a copy, but not the real thing.
Back to disillusioned optimism, less than perfect people can still impart improvements to where we are at present, so I’ll not give up on Professor Lewis. And I’ll not give up on Father John Romanides who has also let me down with this unsubstantiated ad hominem on page 90 of Patristic Theology, “If we use the criteria of the Apostle Paul and the Church Fathers such as St. Symeon the New Theologian regarding who is truly a theologian, we will see that contemporary modern Orthodox theology, under the influence of Russian theology, is not Patristic theology, but a distortion of Patristic theology, because it is written by people who do not have the above-mentioned spiritual prerequisites [that they be in theosis].” This is all he says about Russian “theologians”. I’m very disappointed and now will have to force myself to finish this book as I did with Perelandra.
I struggle with disillusionment a lot, but I know I can’t keep retreating forever from the less than perfect. Part of it is dealing with being offended and learning to forgive and have a humble attitude about how much I fail myself and require patience and forgiveness from others. But also I have read that love requires perfection, so it is ok to notice when something is not perfect and to bring it to attention when it is presented as the truth. We are easily deceived and must fight it in ourselves and others. Father John Romanides is motivating me to seek theosis through purification and illumination by prayer and repentance, so I will keep reading him even though he must be one of those ethnocentric Greek Orthodox. It just takes some of the fun out of it is all.