31 March 2010

Without a City Wall

Mrs Alexander's hymnographical ditties are easily derided, and they're certainly dated. But as we sing There is a green hill far away without a City wall I am reminded of one of the Passion sermons of S Leo the Great (I recommend all them as Passiontide readings) in which he reminds us that the Lord was not sacrificed in the one great place of the covenanted sacrifices ordained by the Father, in his Temple at Jerusalem. As that invariably readable scholar from the Orthodox Jewish tradition, Jacob Neusner, has reminded us, the 'cleansing of the Temple' can only have had one theological meaning: the supersession of the Torah sacrifices. S Leo argues that that Cross on that hill without that city wall is the Ara Mundi, the Altar of the World, of the Cosmos, where the dear Lord was crucified who died to save us all. 'All' has a flavour of Gentile-as-well-as-Jew, a point made by the Canon Romanus when it mentions the sacrifices of Righteous Abel and of Abraham our Patriarch. But I cannot help wondering if it extends to include not only the pneumatic powers but also whatever is found throughout Creation. I don't quite know how that fits in with C S Lewis's interplanetary literature, but I do keep hearing in my mind's ear Marlowe's Faustus' cry of jealous despair: See how the Blood of Christ streams through the firmament.

1 comment:

TerryB said...


I seem to recall that C S Lewis wrote in one of his occasional essays that, were we to discover spirits (pneumatics?) other than ourselves, we would have to inquire whether they were first fallen, before we could discover whether they stood in necessity of Christ's redemption.

The one sort of non-human spirit our tradition informs us of, are the Angels, of whom the Almighty says in Milton's Paradise Lost, "Freely they stood who stood, and fell who fell." Thus, at least in Milton's eyes, they do no require redemption, although they too participate in and benefit from the acts of redemption.

I am sure Lewis would be loth to make an argument that tends toward the diminishment of a cosmic soteriology, but perhaps what we gain -- a lesson in humility, and the example of rational obedience -- is just as important?