My heart in hiding stirred for a bird,– the achieve of, the mastery of the thing!
-Gerard Manley Hopkins
I think everyone is a little bit scared of being alone in the dark.
The travels of Caspian the Navigator have brought him and his companions to the Dark Island where dreams come true. Dreams. Not daydreams. Every wretched phantasm your subconscious spits out in sleep walks on the Dark Island with you as you seek in vain the blissful escape of waking in a cold sweat to discover it was only a dream. Turning to flee this evil darkness, the crew begins to panic as, stroke after stroke, their oars seem to get them nowhere.
In the fighting top, the crow’s nest, high above the deck, sits Lucy, not wanting to remain alone, but fearful that approaching her brother or friends on the deck would only make her worst dreams come true. Seeing the darkness before them and all around, she returns to the habit she had developed throughout her time in Narnia: she puts her trust in Aslan, and she prays. Almost without thinking, she leans on Him who she knows will never fail her.
Almost at once, a white spot appears in the darkness: an albatross, shining with its own light. All the sailors see it, and it brings hope to their fearful hearts. For Lucy, though, sitting in the crow’s nest and casting her thoughts on high, the hope is greater. Her heart leaps as the albatross circles the ship, for she hears it whisper in a voice she knows too well to mistake, “Courage, dear heart.” Then it leads them into the freedom of pure daylight.
For Lucy in this scene from C.S. Lewis’ The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Aslan brings light to dark places, where all other lights have gone out. For us, Jesus Christ is the morning star that never sets, bringing hope in the midst of darkness, succor in the midst of suffering, and strength in the midst of trial. He offers this gracious hope to all who will receive it, ordinarily through baptism. For those who respond to Him in the small things and turn to Him throughout life, building a habit of prayerful trust, it becomes easy, almost second nature, to turn to Him in the darkness. When all other lights go out, they know that they can turn to His light. They are sure that He will never fail them, for they have come to know Him and love Him in whom they place their hope.
Such a soul can better recognize God’s grace when it comes. The knowledge of His aid, itself a grace, lifts the heart more than would the grace without recognition of its source. As Lucy hears the voice of Aslan stir her to courage, so the pure soul who loves the Lord and who lifts her gaze to Him throughout life will hear Christ’s call to encouragement all the more. It is He—and He alone—who leads her from the darkness of death to the light of life.
With Christ as our light, we need never fear the dark.
Photo by Br. Joseph Graziano, O.P.