TO DON GIOVANNI CALABRIA, who had sent Lewis the Litany of Humility composed by Cardinal Merry del Val: On the danger of being too aware of global worries and of forgetting to help Christ in the people close at hand; on the dignity to which God raises human beings when they receive Holy Communion; and on Lewis’s besetting temptations against humility.
27 March 1948
I was glad to receive your letter—so full (as is your wont) of Charity.
Everywhere things are troubling and uneasy—wars and rumours of war: perhaps not the final hour but certainly times most evil.
Nevertheless, the Apostle again and again bids us ‘Rejoice’ [Philippians 4:4].
Nature herself bids us do so, the very face of the earth being now renewed, after its own manner, at the start of Spring.
I believe that the men of this age (and among them you Father, and myself) think too much about the state of nations and the situation of the world. Does not the author of The Imitation warn us against involving ourselves too much with such things?
We are not kings, we are not senators. Let us beware lest, while we torture ourselves in vain about the state of Europe, we neglect either Verona or Oxford.
In the poor man who knocks at my door, in my ailing mother, in the young man who seeks my advice, the Lord Himself is present: therefore let us wash His feet.
I have always believed that Voltaire, infidel though he was, thought aright in that admonition of his to cultivate your own garden: likewise William Dunbar (the Scottish poet who flourished in the 15th century) when he said
Man, please thy Maker and be merry;
This whole world rate we at a penny!
Tomorrow we shall celebrate the glorious Resurrection of Christ. I shall be remembering you in the Holy Communion. Away with tears and fears and troubles! United in wedlock with the eternal Godhead Itself, our nature ascends into the Heaven of Heavens. So it would be impious to call ourselves ‘miserable’. On the contrary, Man is a creature whom the Angels—were they capable of envy—would envy. Let us lift up our hearts! ‘At some future time perhaps even these things it will be a joy to recall.’ [Virgil, Aeneid, I, 203]
For the Litany composed by Cardinal Merry many thanks. You did not know, did you, that all the temptations against which he pours forth these prayers I have long been exceeding conscious of? [From the longing to be thought well of, deliver me, Jesus, . . . from the fear of being rejected, deliver me, Jesus, . . .] Touché, you pink me!
Let us pray for each other always. Farewell.
From The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume II
Compiled in Yours, Jack