“Something Understood”: Sacramental Imagination and the Communion of Saints in the Fantasy of Chesterton, Lewis, and Rowling

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Likewise, in Lewis’s Silver Chair, Jill, Eustace, Puddleglum, and Prince Rilian stumble out of the underworld into a celebration already in progress: the Narnian Great Snow Dance.  Joining this event, they sup with a whole host of Narnian creatures, sharing their recent experiences within this expanded communion of friends.[12] Perhaps this joyful communion-and, for the Narnians and Rilian, reunion-is prefigured by an earlier sharing of the cup.  When the children and Puddleglum release Prince Rilian from his enchantment, together they slay the witch in her green serpent form.  Following this act, Prince Rilian exhorts his new companions, “[C]ome, friends.  Here is some wine left.  Let us refresh ourselves and each pledge his fellows.  After that, to our plans” (162; ch. 12).  We see a glimpse of Eucharistic ritual as, with this invitation, Rilian simultaneously encourages a renewal of the individual and a binding together of the community.

It may be, though, that the clearest example of this communion celebration occurs at the end of Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, which, despite the author’s rather vague spiritual beliefs, is deeply sacramental.  Having fought alongside one another as children and adults, pure-blood wizards and Muggle-borns, magical beasts and humans, the sizable communion of those who have “kept the faith” feasts together in the Hogwarts Castle Great Hall. [13] Usually, this hall is divided among the four school houses, each with its different talents and prejudices, but, this time, Rowling makes clear that there is no division.  All celebrate together as equals, united by their choice of good over evil.  It is perhaps as apt and beautiful a picture as any in literature of the Church Universal as it will appear at the end of all things.

The title of my essay, “something understood,” alludes to the final two words of George Herbert’s “Prayer (I)”, a lovely seventeenth-century poem that concerns the transcendent nature of prayer and Holy Communion, part of the “understanding” shared by communities of faithful Christians.  My hope is that individual believers who are searching for meaning in our increasingly fragmented lives may be encouraged by the examples of communion found in the fiction of Chesterton, Lewis, and Rowling to forego their “Lone Ranger” Christianity and find within the communion of saints hope to endure our present trials in this company of likeminded souls, an earthly representation of the great communion believers will enjoy with the Lamb of God in heaven.

Works Cited

Berger, Peter. Redeeming Laughter: The Comic Dimension of Human Experience. NY: Walter de Gruyter, 1997.

Brown, Harold, et al. “A Statement of Evangelicals and Catholics Together: The Communion of Saints.” First Things 131 (Mar 2003): 26-33.

The Book of Common Prayer <http://Justus.Anglican.org>.

Caldecott, Stratford. “Chesterton’s Strategy for Evangelizing the Culture.” The Chesterton Review 30.3-4 (2004): 329-47.

Chesterton, G. K. The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare. 1908. UK: Wordsworth Editions, 1995.

—. Orthodoxy.  1908. Rpt. San Francisco: Ignatius, 1995.

Granger, John. Looking for God in Harry Potter. n.p.: Tyndale House, 2004.

Griesinger, Emily. “Harry Potter and the ‘Deeper Magic’: Narrating Hope in Children’s Literature.”  Christianity & Literature 51.3 (2002): 455-80.

Jacobs, Alan. “Opportunity Costs: What Does It Profit a Man to Defeat the Dark Lord but Lose His Soul?” Books & Culture 11.6 (2005): 22. HP Lexicon. 20 July 2006. <http://www.hp-lexicon.info/essays/essay-opportunity-costs.html>.

Lewis, C. S. “Imagination and Thought in the Middle Ages.” Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Literature. Ed. Walter Hooper. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1966. 41-63.

-. The Silver Chair. 1953. NY: Collier Books, 1978.

-. “Sometimes Fairy Stories May Say Best What’s to Be Said.” Of Other Worlds.  Ed. Walter Hooper. San Diego: Harcourt Brace, 1966.

-. “The Weight of Glory.” Doxaweb. Ed. Clayton Emmer. 21 Nov. 2008. <www.doxaweb.com/assets/doxa.pdf>.