Our Neighbour’s Glory

A friend sent me this quotation today from C.S. Lewis’s Weight of Glory. I am going to pass the blessing on to you.

“It may be possible for each to think too much of his own potential glory hereafter; it is hardly possible for him to think too often or too deeply about that of his neighbour. 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.”

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12 thoughts on “Our Neighbour’s Glory

  1. One of my all-time favorites. It’s been a while since I’ve seen it in that much context. Potent stuff. Helps make clear why the second greatest commandment is like unto the first.

    Not sure if I agree with his comment on the sacrament, though. The church is even more powerfully His body than the bread is. Jesus isn’t in the elements in the same way that He is in the saints.

  2. I love this quote. I remember Nate Wilson quoting it during a talk at Teacher Training, discussing how to teach students to view themselves as characters in a story. And I read it to my 10th graders at the beginning of class, to give them something to think about in their daily interactions with one another. Very beautiful.

  3. I once heard a part of that quote read at the funeral of a 23 year old man. It does really give us good perspective on ourselves, our neighbors and eternity.

  4. Valerie, I’m thinking you could find something in The Screwtape Letters.

    Yeah, letter 11. “flippancy is the best of all…Only a clever human can make a real Joke about virtue, or indeed about anything else; any one of them can be trained to talk as if virtue were funny.” and there’s more but you can find it yourself. 🙂

  5. Beautiful. I can’t help but be struck by the word “hidden.” How different from Hollywood, where glory always seems to be based on outward beauty and strength. If people could understand this hidden glory as opposed to the Hollywood type of glory, I think that they would find it easier to see abortion and euthanasia for the abominations that they are.

  6. Thanks for that reference, Sarah. I am glad Lewis believed that it was possible to laugh in a holy way about holy things (as, indeed, he did himself…Screwtape being a prime illustration thereof). Some people seem to think Ephesians 5:4 forbids all lightheartedness regarding serious matters. I’m not sure if those people were put here to teach me forbearance or to teach me to laugh even more!

  7. “But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendours.”

    What a life changing thing to ponder. I hope I never forget this. Thanks, Mrs. Wilson for sharing!

  8. Timely reminder. I agree with Luma — I should think about this when it comes to family members who are, let’s say, a bit monstrous or uncouth on the outside. It reminds me of so many of Lewis’ images, like the glorious beings in The Great Divorce, or how the cabbie and his wife transformed into King Frank and Queen Helen in The Last Battle. In fact I think that is one of Lewis’ greatest strengths, reminding us that although we see through a glass darkly, we need to look for the glints of bright heavenly light in every day life.

    Again, thank you for passing along this blessing. I am adding it to my prayers.

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