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

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All paths seemingly lead to despair as Harry Potter and his two closest friends sit in the drab tent they have been living in for several weeks, continually on the run from servants of the evil Lord Voldemort.  Harry’s primary mission-to destroy Voldemort and his power over the wizarding world-seems impossible as he, Ron, and Hermione feel more alone than ever.  Suddenly, they hear familiar voices on the radio, voices that belong to “those friends of Harry Potter’s who are suffering for their allegiance” (Deathly Hallows 441; ch. 22).  Harry’s former teacher announces that they are “all with [Harry] in spirit” (441), while two of Harry’s old school chums weave humor into their reports on the wizarding world’s resistance to Voldemort’s evil regime.  Finally, the voices of these newly-recovered friends on the radio sign off with “Keep each other safe.  Keep faith” (444).  Harry and his two companions are elated.  Nothing could have boosted morale so much as learning that they are not alone in their fight, that others are with them, encouraging them even from afar.  This community of the faithful[1] is essential for Harry to complete his mission of saving the wizarding world in the final installment of the series, Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows (2007).

Participation in just such a communion of saints is part of a sacramental understanding of the world.  Although a sacramental approach to literature can be somewhat elusive to define, for this essay it means paying attention to sacramental images and themes found in the story, such as those related to baptism and to the bread and cup of the Eucharist, as well as to the community of faith participating in these sacraments, for the “Other,” my neighbor, “in Christianity becomes a sacrament of God” (Caldecott 339).  Or, as C. S. Lewis explains it, “Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbour is the holiest object presented to your senses,” particularly if he is a Christian and thereby possesses the glory of Christ (“Weight” 9). In her article on the sacramental imagination in George MacDonald, Heather Ward concludes that “we can regard Christian fantasy-writing as the outcome of an imagination that works in sacramental terms, seeing the material world as participant in, and mediator of, the divine” (26).  However, a sacramental vision need not reduce imagery to allegory.  Instead, it sees opportunities for lessons, for seeing “the divine” in things, while at the same time valuing elements of a story as part of that story.  We simply see sacred imagery in a vaguely recognizable but largely unfamiliar context, causing us to absorb that imagery more readily than if, as Lewis explains, it were part of a Sunday School lesson (“Sometimes Fairy Stories” 37).

As we might expect, such a sacramental experience can be found in the literary works of the so-called “Oxford Christians” (Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Charles Williams) and of those included within the extended borders of this group, such as Dorothy Sayers, G. K. Chesterton, and George MacDonald.[2] As many have already demonstrated,[3] J. K. Rowling is writing in this English tradition.  More specifically, some have situated Rowling, along with the Inklings and Chesterton before her, within a Christian literary tradition rooted in “a sacramental view of the universe” that comes from High Church theology and practice, particularly within the Anglican and Roman Catholic traditions (McVeigh 200).

We may therefore see glimpses of sacramental truths in these authors.  One such glimpse reveals imagery and themes related to the communion of saints in Chesterton’s The Man Who Was Thursday, Lewis’s The Silver Chair, and Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.  In particular, the main characters in these stories discover that they are surrounded by communities of the faithful who boost their morale, offer spiritual encouragement through levity, provide accountability, and shoulder their burdens.  Read sacramentally, the representations of communion in these fantasy works are signs pointing us, the readers, to the Thing Itself,[4] to what The Book of Common Prayer calls “the blessed company of all faithful people,” that is, the Church Universal (339).


“Two are better than one. . . : If one falls down, his friend can help him up.  But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10)[5]

“Will you join me?  Will you take the risk?” (Syme to the Professor in The Man Who Was Thursday 63; ch. 8)

To begin with, being part of a communion boosts an individual’s morale simply through the knowledge that he or she is not alone.  In Chesterton’s The Man Who Was Thursday (1908), he demonstrates the “horror” of isolation (65; ch. 8).  Gabriel Syme, who is Chesterton’s protagonist in this fantastical and allegorical work, faces off against an entire council of anarchists led by the imposing man known as Sunday.  Gradually, however, Syme discovers that each one of his supposed enemies is actually a friend in the fight against evil.

In fact, after Syme learns that Professor de Worms, the anarchist council member who has been chasing him, is a fellow policeman, he experiences a “sense of new comradeship and comfort” (65).  As other members of the anarchist council are exposed as policemen, the communion grows, and so does their morale. Dr. Bull, for instance, responds excitedly when he discovers that Syme and the Professor are on his side: “‘It is jolly to get some pals,’ he said.  ‘I’ve been half dead with the jumps, being quite alone.  I nearly flung my arms round Gogol [the first police spy revealed on the council] and embraced him, which would have been imprudent'” (77; ch. 9).  Later, when the six police detectives head for a confrontation of the anarchist leader Sunday, Chesterton describes their solidarity in military terms: “the battalion of the reunited six marched stolidly towards the hotel in Leicester Square” (118; ch. 13).  No longer alone, each policeman feels the strength and courage that being part of a communion provides.

Although the moments are perhaps more subdued, we can also see how communion boosts morale in Lewis’s The Silver Chair (1953).  In this story, two children, Jill and Eustace, are called by Aslan into Narnia to seek the lost Prince Rilian, held captive by an evil witch.  In their journey beyond the borders of Narnia, the children are aided by Puddleglum, the pessimistic marshwiggle who becomes their guide.

During their dark and arduous underground journey, Jill finds her companions to be a comfort as they encourage her to crawl through tight spaces under the frightening weight of earth above.  “I can’t go in there, I can’t! I can’t! I won’t,” insists Jill.  “Steady, Pole,” says Puddleglum.  “Those big fellows wouldn’t be crawling in there if it didn’t get wider later on.  And there’s one thing about this underground work, we shan’t get any rain.”  Eustace then follows Puddleglum’s appeal to common sense and optimism with a practical solution to allay Jill’s fears: “You go first, Puddleglum, and I’ll come after her.”  “That’s right,” agrees Puddleglum as he prepares to crawl.  “You keep a grip of my heels, Pole, and Scrubb will hold on to yours.  Then we’ll all be comfortable” (124-25; ch. 10).  While Jill may not be exactly comfortable, but she does find the strength to undergo the suffocating journey through the encouragement of her companions.  Huddled close to Puddleglum and Eustace as they glide across the underground lake, Jill can at least take comfort in knowing that she is not alone (128).

At particularly dark points in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Harry likewise receives encouragement from the communion of those wizards committed to fighting against evil.  One powerful example is when Harry discovers messages of support graffitied by unknown wizards at Godric’s Hollow, Harry’s birthplace:

Good luck, Harry, wherever you are.

If you read this, Harry, we’re all behind you!

Long live Harry Potter. (333; ch. 17)

Harry “beams” at the encouraging messages, pronouncing them “brilliant” (333).  Other encouragement from the larger communion can be seen in their friend Neville’s first-hand accounts of the Hogwarts rebellion against the Dark Lord’s tyrannic rule.  “The thing is,” remarks Neville, “it helps when people stand up to [Voldemort’s followers], it gives everyone hope.  I used to notice that when you did it, Harry” (574; ch. 29).  Neville’s own courage and his accounts of other students’ bravery in the face of harsh punishments and bodily injury are further reminders that Harry, Hermione, and Ron are not alone in their mission.

Being part of a communion of saints not only boosts morale, but, as Rowling demonstrates, it gives us hope.  Chesterton perhaps puts it best when he writes that “there are no words to express the abyss between isolation and having one ally.  It may be conceded to the mathematicians that four is twice two.  But two is not twice one; two is two thousand times one” (Man Who Was Thursday 65; ch. 8).


“A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” (Proverbs 17:22)

“A characteristic of the great saints is their power of levity.  Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly.” (Chesterton, Orthodoxy 127)

Second, being part of a communion of saints is beneficial in that it offers spiritual encouragement and a perspective of levity.  Humor ministers to the spirit, “lifting” us up and encouraging transcendence of our current circumstances.

The Man Who Was Thursday is quite possibly Chesterton at his comical best, particularly through his main character, Gabriel Syme.  Syme’s humor is often brought out in relation to others, sharing with those willing to accept the “vein of humour” (10; ch. 2) a perspective of levity in regards to their present circumstances.  For instance, in part to lighten the mood as three of the undercover policemen travel to France to confront the Marquis, a supposed anarchist, Syme works up a nonsensical “catechism” of questions and answers for the upcoming confrontation, in order, as he explains, to break the ice between himself and the man he wishes to kill (82-83; ch. 10):

Before taking off his hat, I shall say, “The Marquis de Saint Eustache, I believe.”  He will say, “The celebrated Mr Syme, I presume.”  He will say in the most exquisite French, “How are you?”  I shall reply in the most exquisite Cockney, “Oh, just the Syme.”

Syme’s companions, however, have not “accept[ed] the vein of humour” (10; ch. 2) and are not amused.  “But it was a lovely catechism,” Syme defends himself.  “. . . It has only forty-three questions and answers, and some of the Marquis’s answers are wonderfully witty.  I like to be just to my enemy” (82; ch. 10).  Syme is being rather silly, of course, but is this perhaps an extension of the blessing of humor in the hopes that he and his adversary (as well as his companions) may find communion in levity?  At the very least, for Syme, humor has provided momentary relief as well as courage in the face of a daunting task.

Like the Christian sacraments, which are visible signs of invisible grace, humor can function as a means of grace.[6] “Any joke,” explains Peter Berger, “can provoke” what he calls “redeeming laughter,” which “can be redeeming in the sense of making life easier to bear, at least briefly” (205). This is the immediate blessing of levity.

Yet, for those who view levity by means of a sacramental imagination, it has a greater effect.  It reminds us of the bigger picture of life.  Humor, says Ralph Wood, is “a deep gladness of soul that does not blink the reality of evil and tragedy, but interprets them in the light of a higher and deeper comedy” (Comedy 4).

Belonging to the communion of saints leads to a perspective of levity that results in moments of transcendence for Chesterton’s Gabriel Syme.  For instance, Syme’s levity when being chased by Professor de Worms is a result of encouragement granted to him by a cross at the top of St. Paul’s Cathedral.  “It seemed a symbol of human faith and valour,” writes Chesterton, “that while the skies were darkening that high place of the earth was bright” (56; ch. 7).  The church is a reminder for Syme of the faithful few rallied around the Cross.  As part of this communion of saints, Syme can have the courage to face his enemy, and so he waits “for him as St. George waited for the dragon” (56).  Instead of viewing the oncoming paralytic Professor as a nightmare, Syme now sees him as a figure in a nursery rhyme, yells “Catch me if you can,” and initiates an “outrageous chase” through the streets of London (56-57).[7] Reminded of the blessed company to which he belongs, Syme can make light of his fears and catch a glimpse of the divine comedy.

Humor transcends the everyday, the ordinary, much like the Communion sacrament, which transcends ordinary bread and wine, pointing beyond them to “the Thing Itself,” to Christ’s sacrifice of body and blood on the cross.  Just as the sacraments transcend our everyday reality to provide a glimpse of an eternal reality, humor also transcends our everyday life to provide a glimpse of an eternal perspective.  The sacrament is a reminder, to Christians at least, that the levity we experience temporarily will one day be experienced for eternity.  It gives us hope.

The opposite of levity, of course, is gravity, and that attitude or perspective is what “weighs down” the trio in Lewis’s The Silver Chair.  Because they cannot get along with each other, the threesome experience almost no levity to help them transcend the hardships of their journey through winter weather and rocky terrain.  This gravity of pride, or, as Chesterton would say (Orthodoxy 128), taking themselves too seriously, makes the children and Puddleglum vulnerable to temptation.  Thus, the children leave their straight and narrow path for the comforts of Harfang, the giants’ castle.  Even Puddleglum is not immune, succumbing to the temptation of excessive drink, numbing his discernment and essentially rendering himself useless in protecting and guiding the children during their initial encounter with the giants.  Rather than encouraging each other, helping each other to endure their present struggles and follow Aslan’s instructions, the threesome has, to use Chesterton’s phrasing, “‘settle[d] down’ into a sort of selfish seriousness” (Orthodoxy 128), and their mission has taken a troubling detour.

We learn from the examples in The Man Who Was Thursday and The Silver Chair that levity in communion offers spiritual encouragement and is essential for successful completion of our Aslan-given mission in life.  However, levity in communion can also have a sacramental function, lifting us beyond our current situation to catch a glimpse of the divine comedy that is our future hope.


“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” (Hebrews 10:24)

“Harry, this isn’t a game, this isn’t practice!  This is the real thing, and Dumbledore left you very clear instructions: Find and destroy the Horcruxes! . . . [F]orget the Deathly Hallows, we can’t afford to get sidetracked-” (Hermione in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows 433; ch. 22)

Third, participation in the communion of saints results in members holding each other accountable to develop godly character and accomplish their God-given tasks.  Lewis’s Silver Chair is valuable for its particular portrayal of accountability within communion, for in The Silver Chair we discover a group that is by no means perfect.  Jill is a fledgling believer, and she and Eustace receive their mission with reluctance.  Aslan communicates this mission-the four instructions she must follow–to Jill alone: “These are the Signs by which I will guide you in your quest. . . ,” says Aslan. “[R]emember, remember, remember the Signs. And whatever strange things may happen to you, let nothing turn your mind from following the Signs” (19, 21; ch. 2).  These instructions include greeting Eustace’s old friend Caspian, journeying to the ruined city of the giants, obeying the ancient writing they find on a stone there, and recognizing Prince Rilian by his invocation of Aslan.  Yet, for the children, disagreements and bad attitudes take precedence over remembering the Signs.  Eustace and Jill’s initial squabbling continues in their relationship with Puddleglum, whose exaggerated pessimism often rubs the children the wrong way.  “O bother his ideas!” exclaims Eustace to Jill at one point along the journey.  “He’s always expecting the worst, and he’s always wrong” (78; ch. 6).  Both Eustace and Jill are guilty of focusing on their selfish desires rather than on community and their mission, and their disregard for Puddleglum’s leadership of the group results in a loss of focus, such as a failure to heed Aslan’s directions.

The Silver Chair reveals a very important lesson, however: the faithful can mend disunity and regain communion through confession, forgiveness, and accountability.  Once the children and Puddleglum realize where their selfish neglect of shared purpose has led them, they repent:

“It’s my fault,” [Jill] said in despairing tones.  “I’d given up repeating the Signs every night.  If I’d been thinking about them I could have seen it was the city [of the giants], even in all that snow. . . . I’ve spoiled everything ever since you brought me here.” (102, 103-4; ch. 8)

Jill does not have to bear the responsibility for the failure alone, however.  The other members of her community share in the blame: “I’m worse,” declares Puddleglum after Jill’s confession.  “I did see, or nearly. . . . Didn’t try hard enough, though” (102).  Eustace immediately follows, and his use of the pronoun “we” binds the group together: “The truth is we were so jolly keen on getting to [Harfang castle] that we weren’t bothering about anything else. . . . We must just own up.  We’ve only four Signs to go by, and we’ve muffed the first three” (103; ch. 8).  All members of the community have failed to put forth sufficient effort to remember Aslan’s instructions and to hold each other accountable to follow through with their mission.  From this point forward, though, they concentrate on getting out of their present situation as prisoners of the giants and returning as best they can to following the Signs.

In such a way, Lewis’s Silver Chair reminds us that Christian communities have to work to stay unified and focused during the tough times of distraction, separation, and temptation.


“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galations 6:2)

“The communion of saints is the whole family of God, the living and the dead, those whom we love and those whom we hurt, bound together in Christ by sacrament, prayer, and praise.” (Book of Common Prayer Catechism)

The final benefit of participation in the communio sanctorum might be the most obvious: communion provides practical help for an individual as companions shoulder some of his or her burdens.  In the case of Harry Potter, the “saints” who surround him are the faithful few who believe in the late Headmaster Albus Dumbledore’s discernment, in Harry’s ability to succeed in overcoming Voldemort, and in fighting for good against evil, even if the battle seems doomed.

Early in Deathly Hallows, the trio of Harry, Ron, and Hermione share the responsibility of strategizing how they will find Voldemort’s Horcruxes to destroy them.  When they work together to obtain one of these evil bits of Voldemort’s soul contained in a heavy locket, the trio lessens Harry’s burden by taking turns wearing the locket, with its accompanying spirit of discouragement, around their necks.  What an effective “speaking picture,” to use Sir Philip Sidney’s term,[8] of believers carrying each other’s burdens, as St. Paul exhorts us to do in Galations chapter 6![9] As Lewis states, “The load, or weight, or burden of my neighbour’s glory should be laid daily on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken” (“Weight” 9).  Ron and Hermione humbly seek Harry’s good above their own in periodically providing him a respite from the demoralizing and physically uncomfortable locket.  They are more interested in his-and the mission’s-success than in their own comfort, although this sacrifice does not come without a price.

There is “something understood” between Harry and his two closest friends in that they are unified in purpose, although not always in how to accomplish that purpose.  Throughout the series’ seven books, the trio has their share of disagreements, but they have also learned to compromise, to trust each other, and to hold each other accountable.  Harry may want to take on his mission alone, but Hermione and Ron will not let him.  They know that he needs their assistance (e.g., Deathly Hallows 96-99), yet this final mission of hunting down and destroying Voldmort’s Horcruxes before the trio themselves are hunted down and destroyed takes its toll on Harry’s friends, leading to Ron’s desertion and Hermione’s despair.  The torn communion is only repaired when Ron returns in humility and repentance.

Hinted at in earlier books of the series, but not fully seen until this final installment, we find that Harry’s communion of the faithful extends beyond those living to include those who have passed on, the martyrs who have sacrificed themselves in fighting for good over evil.  This extension of the communion beyond the living is consistent with traditional Christianity, as the project of Evangelicals and Catholics Together (ECT) recently reiterated: “in the early Church and through the patristic era, the phrase communio sanctorum had primary reference to this enduring bond between the faithful on earth and the faithful who had gone before, especially those whose witness was crowned with martyrdom” (Brown et al. 31).  In Harry’s courageous and sacrificial walk toward his doom near the end of Deathly Hallows, Harry is aided by such revered, martyred saints: his father, mother, godfather Sirius, former teacher Lupin, and beloved Headmaster, Albus Dumbledore. “You’ve been so brave,” encourages his mother.  “You’ll stay with me?” asks a frightened Harry of these beloved martyrs as he enters the forest where Voldemort awaits.  “Until the very end,” replies Harry’s father.  We are told that “their presence was his courage, and the reason he was able to keep putting one foot in front of the other” (699-700; ch. 34).  In fact, this powerful image of Harry drawing strength in communion with these loved ones as he walks toward what seems certain death, but is ultimately eucatastrophe,[10] may remind Lewisians of Aslan’s similar walk with Susan and Lucy toward the Stone Table before his execution at the hands of the White Witch.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows reminds Christians that we have to be willing to allow others to come alongside us, to shoulder our burdens, and to use their talents to help us complete our mission in life, which is to become more like Christ and to advance the kingdom of God.


“For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body-whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free-and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.” (I Corinthians 12:13)

“[A] moment later such cheering and shouting, such jumps and reels of joy, such hand-shakings and kissings and embracings of everybody by everybody else broke out that tears came into Jill’s eyes.  Their quest had been worth all the pains it cost.” (Silver Chair 199; ch. 15)

Rather appropriately, all three of these books end with celebration or communion without division, drinking the cup together or feasting in a way reminiscent of the Lord’s Supper and ultimately prefiguring, as perhaps every celebration does, the wedding feast in Revelation of the Lamb and the Church, His Bride.

The feast that concludes Chesterton’s Man Who Was Thursday is a bittersweet celebration of Gabriel Syme and the other five policemen with Sunday, the supposed anarchist leader they have been chasing.  The six policemen are dressed festively, each in garments representing one day of the Genesis Creation account, while lively masqueraders dance around the garden.  A “roar of enthusiasm rose from the carnival,” writes Chesterton, as each man sits down in a throne-like chair (138; ch. 15), with the celebration feast shortly to come.[11] “Let us,” entreats Sunday, “remain together a little, we who have loved each other so sadly, and have fought so long[,] . . . brothers in arms” (139).  At various points in the story, these seven men have striven mistakenly against each other, but with a common purpose: to fight for what is good and right against the nihilism of anarchy.  Here at the enigmatic end of the seemingly fruitless chase is the opportunity for these men of diverse personality to commune with each other and to represent in their individual attire a complete Creation.

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>.

McLaren, Scott. “A Problem of Morality: Sacramentalism in the Early Novels of Charles Williams.” Renascence 56.2 (2004): 109-127.

McVeigh, Dan. “Is Harry Potter Christian?” Renascence 54.3 (2002): 197-214.

“Mugglenet and The Leaky Cauldron Interview Joanne Kathleen Rowling.” 16 July 2005. Edinburgh, Scotland. <http://www.mugglenet.com/jkrinterview2.shtml>.

O’Hara, David, and Matthew Dickerson. From Homer to Harry Potter.  Brazos, 2006.

Rowling, J. K. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. NY: Scholastic, 2007.

Tolkien, J. R. R. “On Fairy-Stories.” The Tolkien Reader. NY: Ballantine, 1966. 33-99.

Ward, Heather. “Earth’s Crammed with Heaven: Fantasy and Sacramental Imagination in George MacDonald.” The Chesterton Review 27.1-2 (2001): 25-37.

Wood, Ralph. The Comedy of Redemption. Notre Dame, Indiana: U of Notre Dame P, 1988.

Yaggi, Miranda Maney. “Harry Potter‘s Heritage: Tolkien as Rowling’s Patronus Against the Critics.” TOPIC: The Washington & Jefferson College Review 54 (Fall 2004): 33-45.

[1] In fact, Ron’s brothers early in the novel label themselves “saint-like” and the “holey” ones after George suffers the loss of his ear in a battle, leaving a hole in his head (74; ch. 5).  Utilizing “saint” humor, the identical twins Fred and George Weasley embody in miniature a communion of saints, almost sharing one body, relying on humor to transcend their hardships and scars.  In this sense, all of Harry’s friends qualify as the “holey” ones, since few, if any, escape wounding.

[2] For sacramental readings of Williams and MacDonald, see McLaren and Ward, respectively.

[3] For example, see John Granger, Emily Griesinger, Alan Jacobs, Dan McVeigh, O’Hara and Dickerson (esp. 227-51), and Miranda Yaggi for comparisons of Rowling’s stories to the fantasy works of Lewis and Tolkien.  Rowling herself has admitted a fondness for Sayers’ mystery novels and the influence of Sayers’ ideas on the “detective” elements of the Harry Potter stories (“Mugglenet”).

[4] In the Geneva Bible (1550) the commentary on John 6:48 (“I am the bread of life”) reads, “The true use of Sacraments, is to ascend from them to the thing itself, that is to Christ: by the partaking of whom only, we get everlasting life.”

[5] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture citations come from the New International Version.

[6] According to The Book of Common Prayer catechism, “The sacraments are outward and visible signs of inward and spiritual grace, given by Christ as sure and certain means by which we receive that grace.” Whether the Holy Communion elements themselves bestow a blessing for the Christian, or whether the participant’s obedience in the ritual and reflection on the person of Christ bring the blessing, partaking of the Eucharistic sacrament allows one to experience God’s grace, both individually and as part of a community of faith.

[7] Syme turning this nightmarish chase into a childish game as a result of courage inspired by Christian communion is not unlike a scene in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, where, after being accompanied by his deceased loved ones as he walks toward his presumed death, Harry has been so strengthened by this communion that he looks at Voldemort waiting with his hands folded over his wand and thinks “absurdly of a child counting in a game of hide-and-seek” (702; ch. 34).  “[A]lways be comic in a tragedy,” states Chesterton’s Syme.  “What the deuce else can you do?” (71; ch. 9).

[8] According to Sidney’s Defense of Poesy, literature has the obligation to teach as well as to delight, but it does so through images, through powerful moments inherent in the story that he terms “speaking pictures.”

[9] “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.  If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself” (Gal. 6:2-3).

[10] Tolkien explains the importance of this escape from death and turn toward consolation in fantasy stories in his essay “On Fairy-Stories.”

[11] In his essay “Imagination and Thought in the Middle Ages,” Lewis compares the harmonious movement of the medieval spheres to “a picture of a girl dancing and playing the tambourine; a picture of gaiety, almost of frolic” (60).  Compare Lewis’s description of this cosmic harmony with the festive atmosphere at the conclusion of Chesterton’s Man Who Was Thursday.  “The motions of the universe,” Lewis continues, “are to be conceived . . . as a dance, a festival, a symphony, a ritual, a carnival, or all these in one.  They are the unimpeded movement of the most perfect impulse towards the most perfect Object” (60; my emphasis).

[12] Lewis himself depicts a truly cosmic celebration, a fuller representation of the Narnian Snow Dance, in the “Great Dance” at the end of his novel Perelandra.

[13] A “Muggle” in the Harry Potter world means a person who does not possess the ability to do magic.  “Muggle-borns” are therefore wizards whose parents and other family are Muggles.

We learn from the Harry Potter series that there is strength in diversity of communion-in diversity of ideas and talents.  Indeed, we might recall such passages as I Corinthians 11-12 and Galations 3:27-29, where the Apostle Paul demonstrates God’s ideal of diversity without division within the Body of Christ.