Once there were four children whose names were Peter, Susan, Edmond, and Lucy… (C.S. Lewis)
A simple beginning. And yet, from the outset Lewis is already setting the stage for the grand drama to follow. Being one of the best read men of many generations, he displays expert craftsmanship in blending together Christian theology along with the myths of the far east, the legends of his own isle, and the wonders of the far north. Though Lewis claimed that he did not begin the Chronicles of Narnia with the intention of creating a book of children’s theology, the effect of a lifetime’s worth of writing on the subject for adults seems to have profoundly influenced even his subconscious.
Where we begin to delve further into the ancient kingdom is by examining some of the key players. In them we see elements of the past, but also perhaps something of ourselves.
Peter is by far the most obvious. The oldest child shares the name of the first leader of the Christian church, who was a close friend and disciple of Christ himself. In the story we find him gifted with a shield and sword, reminding us of the “armor of God” in Ephesians 6, where the shield is faith and the sword is the word of God. Even better, like the “rock” himself, Peter Pevensie also has a difficult time believing in the miraculous and in himself.
Susan, the second oldest child, is less obvious. I often wondered at his particular name choice. However, on further examination, her biblical name means “lily,” which should remind us of the one called the great lily herself, mother Mary. She is given a horn that will always summon help, which symbolizes the prayers of the faithful. She, too, is skeptical of the miraculous, however, she does choose to follow Aslan, even to the very end.
Lucy, the youngest, is probably my favorite. Though I had the chance to play Susan in school, Lucy is far more central to Lewis’ story. Her name means light and it is she, close as she is to remembering the wonders of God visible to children, that can first see the light through the wardrobe. She is precocious, clever, loyal, and willing to do everything she can to help others, even risking her own life. She is gifted with a special nectar that can cure any ailment, much like the gift of healing given to the early followers of Christ. She, too, follows Aslan to the very end, and like the women in the gospels, she and her sister are also the first to see when the King returns.
If Peter, Susan, and Lucy represent the three disciples closest to Christ – Peter, Andrew, and John (the beloved disciple), respectively – then who is Edmond? There really are two options and likely both are correct. The first is that he is Judas. This is a scandalous notion, on many counts, because it would mean that Aslan willingly gives up his life for the very one who betrayed him. This is something the Christian Church has never been comfortable with and yet, it is a fascinating question. Could Jesus forgive his own betrayer? Those of us who study his words closely would likely argue, well, yes, since he was consistently telling us to forgive and pray for and love our enemies. So Judas is a believable option.
The other, which is also likely true, is that Edmond is us. He is you and me, with all of our failures and opportunities. Remember, that though he falls exceedingly short for much of the story, he too will join the King in the great battle and serve very well. In the beginning, Edmond is often overlooked and likes to make things difficult for his siblings. He wants to have things his way and he is willing to even give up his friends to accomplish this. And it is for he that Aslan offers up sacrifice… Yes, Edmond may be Judas, but he is also each one of us.
These four names join the stage and the play begins. Remember that while Narnia may simply be named for a fertile river valley in Italy (real place – google it), the deep magic is very real. It is something far more ancient than even the oldest people of God – because it is the essence of who God is. In our entering the realm of Narnia we come into contact with not only who we are, fallen creatures, but also who God wishes us to become.
How? We come through the church, or as the Pevensie’s did, through a room in Professor Kirke’s home. Yes, Kirk is the celtic and norse word for church. Which begs the question: what is the wardrobe in this setting? It is a doorway to be sure, but could it be something more? I would hazard an opinion that the wardrobe is the scriptures. They are where we first come into contact with the deep magic and the place through which we grow in our knowledge and relationship with God.
Knowing all of this, thanks to our many scholarly sources, what shall we do with these many details? By agreeing to come on this journey, we have acknowledged that however jaded we have become in our lifetime, we are willing to suspend our disbelief. We are willing to open ourselves up to not only learning, but also perhaps seeing all things in a new light.
The deep magic through which all came into being is all around us. For God is constantly at work in the creation. Wherever you come from or whatever you have done, you are welcomed into this place of wonder that you, too, might learn that for which you were made. But keep your eyes open – for with Lewis, and God for that matter, things are rarely what they appear to be and surprises wait around every corner.