• Devin O'Donnell

The Weight of Glory

In his masterful essay, "The Weight of Glory," C. S. Lewis introduces an idea that restructured the theology of many modern Christians, especially for evangelicals whose metaphysics is often more secular than medieval or classical. Here is the kernel of his idea:

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. It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilization—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit— immortal horrors or everlasting splendours. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously—no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption. And our charity must be a real and costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinner—no mere tolerance or indulgence which parodies love as flippancy parodies merriment. Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbour is the holiest object presented to your senses. If he is your Christian neighbour he is holy in almost the same way, for in him also Christ vere latitat—the glorifier and the glorified, Glory Himself, is truly hidden.

This idea is given narrative and imaginative flesh in Lewis' The Great Divorce. After our mortal life on earth, Lewis imagines a heavenly country in which we might journey further up and further in to the "mountains" of Heaven. Here in this country, "the grass did not bend under their feet: even the dew drops were not disturbed." A traveller through this country exclaims, "I could see the grass not only between my feet but through them. I also was a phantom." In another scene, we see someone sneak into this country and try to steal apples:

The wind seemed to be rising. I saw the Ghost wring its hands and put its thumb into its mouth cruelly pinched, I doubt not, between two stems of the lilies when the breeze swayed them. Then came a real gust. The branches of the Tree began to toss. A moment later and half a dozen apples had fallen round the Ghost and on it. He gave a sharp cry, but suddenly checked it. I thought the weight of the golden fruit where it had fallen on him would have disabled him: and certainly, for a few minutes, he was unable to rise. He lay whimpering, nursing his wounds. But soon he was at work again. I could see him feverishly trying to fill his pockets with the apples. Of course it was useless. One could see how his ambitions were gradually forced down. He gave up the idea of a pocketful: two would have to do. He gave up the idea of two, he would take one, the largest. He gave up that hope. He was not looking for the smallest one. He was trying to find if there was one small enough to carry.

The amazing thing was that he succeeded. When I remembered what the leaf had felt like when I tried to lift it, I could hardly help admiring this unhappy creature when I saw him rise staggering to his feet actually holding the smallest of the apples in his hands. He was lame from his hurts, and the weight bent him double. Yet even so, inch bv inch, still availing himself of every scrap of cover, he set out on his via dolorosa to the bus, carrying his torture.

Whence comes this idea? Doubtless Lewis got this from contemplating the activities of Christ on the earth after his Resurrection. Each element in the gospels suggests something significant about the nature of Christ's resurrected body, that it was more substantive, not less.

Agenda for this Monday:

  1. Prayer

  2. Begin the Great Ideas Reading Guide for this week

  3. Historia:

  4. Continue reading Herodotus (studying Cyrus)

  5. Hermeneutica:

  6. John 20 study & the "Weight of Glory"

  7. Work a bit more on studying Christ's post-resurrection actions

  8. Literae:

  9. Finish Book X of The Odyssey.


  1. Be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect. Pray, that you may not stumble.

  2. Complete your Great Ideas Reading Guide for this week

  3. 5 Commonplaces and 1 memorized for Friday.


Consider Caravaggio's depiction of Thomas' incredulity.

CARAVAGGIO The Incredulity of Saint Thomas 1601-02 Oil on canvas, Schloss Sanssouci, Potsdam

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