Thursday, February 22, 2007


Yesterday was Ash Wednesday. So, I shall suspend my exploration of the great collection of Dover Publications, and spend some time with GKC in thinking about Lent, and about the Passion of Jesus Christ.

So many people mention GKC as a focus for conversion. (What a GREAT Latin word, which means "hearth", the brilliant and warm centre of the home!) In this time, even those of us who were baptised as babies must turn and be converted again, and the starting point of such conversion must be prayer.

It was for GKC. One of the most moving of all the letters collected by Maisie Ward in her 1943 biography is that from Maurice Baring, himself a convert, in which Baring states:
I have hardly ever entered a church without putting up a candle to Our Lady or to St. Joseph or St. Anthony for you. And both this year and last year in Lent I made a Novena for you. I know of many other people, better people far than I, who did the same. Many Masses were said for you and prayers all over England and Scotland in centres of Holiness. I will show you some day a letter from some Nuns on the subject. A great friend of mine one of the greatest saints I have known, Sister Mary Annunciation of the Convent Orphanage, Upper Norwood, used always to pray for you.
[Aug 25, 1922; quoted in Ward, Gilbert Keith Chesterton 475, emphasis added]
From this same year we may cite one of GKC's short stories, in which he selects the crayon of Lent to render one of his splendid scenes:

As the sunset clouds were heavy with a purple which typifies the rich tragedy of Lent, so on this evening passion seemed to weigh on him with something of the power of doom. ... as he gazed upwards for an instant, from the place where he had fallen, he saw above the black forest and against the vivid violet clouds, something strangely suitable to that tragic purple recalling the traditions of Lent. It was a great face between outstretched gigantic arms; the face upon a large wooden crucifix. The figure was carved in the round but very much in the rough, in a rude archaic style, and was probably an old outpost of Latin Christianity in that labyrinth of religious frontiers.
["The Tower of Treason" in CW14:300]
But let us not simply note the use of colour. Let us recall what it is we are about to recall, as we set forth on the road to Calvary:
...the life of Jesus went as swift and straight as a thunderbolt. It was above all things dramatic; it did above all things consist in doing something that had to be done. It emphatically would not have been done if Jesus had walked about the world for ever doing nothing except tell the truth. And even the external movement of it must not be described as a wandering in the sense of forgetting that it was a journey. This is where it was a fulfilment of the myths rather than of the philosophies; it is a journey with a goal and an object, like Jason going to find the Golden Fleece, or Hercules the golden apples of the Hesperides. The gold that he was seeking was death. The primary thing that he was going to do was to die. [Mt 16:21, Lk 12:49-50] He was going to do other things equally definite and objective; we might almost say equally external and material. But from first to last the most definite fact is that he is going to die.
[GKC, The Everlasting Man CW2:339]
Note: If you are seeking some appropriate Chesterton texts for this time, I would recommend a careful reading of the above-excerpted chapter, "The Strangest Story in the World". And let's remember to pray for those who are converting.

This column provided by Dr. Thursday--with gratitude.

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