The Great Weapon Of Satan And God

From "Miracles" by C. S. Lewis, 1898-1963

On the one hand, death is the triumph of Satan, the punishment of the Fall and the last enemy. Christ shed tears at the grave of Lazarus and sweated blood in Gethsemane: the life of lives that was in him detested this penal obscenity, not less than we do but more. On the other hand, only he who loses his life will save it. We are baptised into the death of Christ and it is the remedy for the Fall. Death is, in fact, what some modern people call ‘ambivalent’. It is Satan’s great weapon and also God’s great weapon: it is holy and unholy, our supreme disgrace and our only hope, the thing Christ came to conquer and the means by which he conquered.

Humanity must embrace death freely, submit to it with total humility, drink it to the dregs and so convert it into that mystical death which is the secret of life. But only a man who did not need to have been a man at all unless he had chosen, only one who served in our sad regiment as a volunteer, yet also only one who was perfectly a man, could perform this perfect dying; and thus (which way you put it is unimportant) either defeat death or redeem it. He tasted death on behalf of all others. He is the representative "die-er" of the universe and, for that very reason, the resurrection and the life. Or conversely, because he truly lives, he truly dies, for that is the very pattern of reality. Because the higher can descend into the lower he who from all eternity has been incessantly plunging himself in the blessed death of self-surrender to the Father can also most fully descend into the horrible and (for us) involuntary death of the body. Because vicariousness is the very idiom of the reality he has created, his death can become ours. The whole miracle, far from denying what we already know of reality, writes the comment which makes that crabbed text plain: or rather, proves itself to be the text on which nature was only the commentary. In science we have been reading only the notes to a poem; in Christianity, we find the poem itself.

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