This world is enough
Disclaimer: Narnia and the Pevenies are the creation of C. S. Lewis. I own nothing except the plot.
"Dearest, you and your brother will never return to Narnia!"
Those words repeated themselves again and again in her mind. Words that for Lucy Pevensie were the equivalent of a death sentence.
"Why Aslan?" she thought bitterly. "Why let us come to Narnia in the first place if you're only going to exile us from it? Why should we draw close to this world anyway, it's so ugly and brutal and unmagical compared to Narnia!"
Lucy sighed, looking round disconsolately at the room she was staying in. To her eyes it was drab and unappealing, but she felt little desire to leave it. What was the point? Everything in this world was grey and lifeless and uninspiring compared to the place her soul longed for.
It hadn't been so bad when Edmund and Eustace were with her. She was upset at not being able to go back of course, but at least there were people she could talk about Narnia with. But now Lucy had been left alone in Cambridge with her detestable aunt and uncle, the boys having returned to school. Lucy should have gone back as well, but an outbreak of measles meant her school would be starting term a week late.
With her brother and cousin gone, Lucy had slowly sunk into a depression she felt she might never come out of. She had tried to fight it, reminding herself that Aslan had said he was in this world too, but it hadn't helped much. This world was so drab and grey compared to Narnia it was difficult to imagine Aslan being here at all. It might take her years to discover Aslan's name here and when she did find it, what then? Could anyone in this world inspire the same loyalty and devotion she felt for the Great Lion whose sacrifice had saved her brother and saved all Narnia?
Her bleak thoughts were interrupted when her aunt opened the door.
"There's a telephone call for you!"
"For me?" Lucy replied, wondering who could be calling her.
"That brother of yours." Aunt Alberta sniffed disapprovingly. "Don't be all day on it girl."
"Well it's an incoming call so it's not as though you have to pay for it," Lucy thought in annoyance as she followed her aunt downstairs to the telephone.
"Lucy!" Edmund's voice came back clearly over the line. "How are you?"
"All right I suppose." The tone of misery in her voice gave the lie to that reassurance.
"Well you don't' sound it." Edmund informed her bluntly. "You've been moping about not going back to Narnia, haven't you?"
Lucy sighed, regretting for once how well her brother knew her. "A bit, I suppose."
"Lu, I know it's hard, it's hard for all of us. But being miserable about it won't help."
"It's all very well for you," Lucy replied rather angrily. "You're back at school but I'm stuck here on my own, sitting in my room all day!"
"Well go out," Edmund suggested. "We never really got the chance to look round Cambridge but I'm sure there must be a lot to see."
"I'm not really in the mood for that."
"Lucy, please." Edmund implored her. "I doubt I'll get permission to call you again and I don't want to think of you sitting indoors and being miserable for the next week."
Lucy didn't really want to agree, but at the same time she appreciated her brother's concern.
"All right, I'll ask Aunt Alberta if I can go out after lunch."
"Good!" Edmund replied. "Well I've got to hang up now. Take care of yourself Lu."
"You too, Ed. Bye!" Lucy hung up the receiver carefully. She had wanted to say 'I love you' but that was not the sort of thing you say on the telephone to slightly annoying older brothers.
Aunt Alberta was more than happy to see the back of her niece for an afternoon. So after a meat free lunch that had Lucy longing for venison and wild boar and roasted peacock, she set off into the town.
She wandered through the city for a few hours, trying to work up some enthusiasm over what she saw but it was little use. The Scrubbs lived quite close to the University campus and the college buildings were spectacular, but Lucy was unimpressed. As far as she was concerned, Cair Paravel beat anything this world had to offer in the way of architecture.
It was quite late in the afternoon when she found herself leaning on a bridge over the river Cam, staring moodily at the running water. She was wondering at that moment if she would ever feel happy or carefree again when the slow tolling of a bell penetrated her consciousness. Looking round she discovered the sound came from a building with towers at each corner that after a moments thought she recognised as the famous King's College Chapel. Small groups of people were heading towards it to attend the daily service of Evensong.
Lucy's family were fairly regular churchgoers but like most twelve-year-old girls she found church services rather dreary and uninteresting. She would never have voluntarily gone to a service in the middle of the week, but now she found herself joining the others who entered through the Chapel's great eastern door. It was as though something or someone was calling her.
Once inside, Lucy forgot her depressed mood and gazed round in awe at the Chapel's vast interior. Brilliant sunshine was streaming in through the great stained glass windows and reflecting from the walls, making it appear on first sight as though the building was constructed entirely from light, instead of glass and stone.
The organ was still playing quietly as Lucy took one of the unoccupied chairs in front of the wooden choir screen. A moment later it fell silent and then the choir entered from the western end, singing the introit anthem. It was Ley's Prayer of King Henry VI, but Lucy did not know or need to know what it was called. She sat upright in her chair, drinking in the music, her eyes shining. The ethereal voices of the boy choristers echoed through the Chapel's high arched vaults and seemed to sink deep into her soul, washing away her feelings of hurt and bitterness and leaving her, for the first time since she had left Narnia, at peace.
Lucy had never been to a Sung Evensong before and at first it seemed more like a concert than a church service. Yet all the usual elements of scripture reading and prayer were there and she gave them an attention she had never bothered to in church at home, caught up into the love and worship of God through the beauty of music. The anthem was The heavens are telling the glory of God, part of Haydn's great oratorio The Creation and Lucy listened to it spellbound, experiencing a sense of exultation she had never felt before, except in the presence of Aslan.
After the Blessing and Organ Voluntary, the congregation began to drift towards the door yet Lucy still sat in her chair. The last hour had been one of the most moving experiences of her life but it still somehow felt incomplete, as if there was more to come. Rising from her chair she began to walk in the opposite direction to everyone else, moving towards the Chapel's western end although she didn't really know why. Again it was as though some voice she could not quite hear was calling her.
Passing through the choir screen, she saw several people moving among the wooden choir stalls, snuffing out candles and collecting sheet music, but none of them paid any attention to the twelve-year-old girl walking slowly towards the High Altar.
Behind the altar she saw Rembrant's picture of The Adoration of the Magi and above that the Chapel's great west window. It was dominated by a depiction of Christ hanging dead on the Cross and surrounding that were other scenes from the Passion. One in particular drew Lucy's eye like a magnet.
It was a picture of Christ being nailed to the Cross. A Roman centurion held his hammer high, driving the cruel iron spikes deep into His palms, the battered body arched upwards into a rictus of agony. Lucy had seen many dreadful things, she had seen people literally hacked to pieces in the midst of battle and this simple image should have had little effect on her. Yet she wondered now if she had ever seen anything quite so terrible. The background of the picture was a deep red that glowed angrily in the light of the sun and Lucy could almost feel the unbearable anguish radiating from that tortured body. It suddenly struck her she had seen nothing so horrific since the night Aslan sacrificed himself for Edmund on the Stone Table.
Her breath caught in her throat. It was as thought a blindfold had suddenly fallen from her eyes, revealing what she now realised had been obvious all along. Lucy now knew what Aslan's name was in her own world.
Still reeling from this sudden epiphany, Lucy turned and walked slowly back the way she had come, leaving the Chapel through the eastern door. She realised now that she had stayed out much longer than intended for the light was starting to fade. She turned to the west and then gasped at the sight that met her eyes.
The sun was hanging low and red in the sky, its light streaming through the distant cloud and turning the western horizon into a sea of gold and crimson fire. It was a breathtakingly beautiful scene that a few hours ago Lucy would have distained, claiming there were better sunsets to be seen in Narnia. But now she looked at her own world with new eyes, no longer seeing it as second rate in comparison to Narnia for she knew the same Hand had made them both.
Lucy realised now that her own world could be just as beautiful as Narnia and just as magical as well. The magic might be less obvious but she knew somehow it was still there. It was present in every sunset, in the blossoming of every spring flower, in every new birth. Each world, in its own way, proclaimed the glory of its Maker.
If this world seemed drab and grey at times it was because humans had made it that way. But the same might be said of the Narnian world for Calormen and the culture of the northern giants were hardly ideal societies. Even if this world was worse in some ways that no longer made her despair but gave her a sense of purpose and a calling; a calling to bring, in whatever small way she could, the joy and truth she had found in Narnia into her own world.
Being in England was no longer an exile but an adventure, a quest at the end of which was Aslan's Country. Lucy realised now that the river Aslan had told her she must cross was her own death, but that did not daunt her. She had already seen Aslan conquer death in Narnia and now she knew He had done the same here. She had nothing to fear, for at the end of her adventure in this world she would be reunited with Aslan forever.
"But until then," Lucy thought, "this world is enough."