Surprised by Belfast: Significant Sites in the Life of C.S. Lewis, Part III, St. Mark's Church, Holywood Road - page4

 


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From the Fall 2016 issue of Knowing & Doing:  

Surprised by Belfast: Significant Sites in the Life
of C.S. Lewis, Part III, St. Mark's Church, Holywood Road

by Sandy Smith
Author of C.S. Lewis and the Island of His Birth

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  The inclusion of an image of St. Mark in the window in his namesake church is not surprising. But I note that the church icon for St. Mark, the lion, is also closely associated with the symbol for Venice, the city traditionally noted as the saint’s final resting place. In the window commissioned by Lewis, the artist has wrapped around the shoulders of St. Mark the image of a winged lion. The other lion motif on the old rectory door has already been described above. These images evident in the church traditionally known as the Lion on the Hill had formed an enduring place in Lewis’s mind long before he wrote about some of them. It is little wonder that when Lewis wrote the Narnian Chronicles, the lion should come bounding in, as he put it, and pull the whole story together. These images, planted in his mind during his early days in Belfast, reappear in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
  What reason can be advanced for the inclusion of an image of St. Luke in the window? Lewis gives us no direct explanation, but there is a clue in the fact that St. Luke is described in the Gospels as a physician. In describing the events of 1908 regarding his mother’s illness and death, Lewis says that the family lost her gradually—to morphine, to the illness, and to the medics. His concluding childhood memories of Flora were of her being attended to more and more by the doctors and nurses and less and less by the family. The image of St. Luke (the doctor) is therefore a fitting image of these memories. In the window, the winged ox is wrapped around the shoulders of St. Luke, indicating service to mankind. The images of the small buildings that fill the periphery of the window are not images of local Irish architecture. They are more Italian in appearance. They, with St. Luke, may serve as a fitting memorial to his mother, whose name was Florence and who spent childhood years in Italy.
  In a letter to Arthur Greeves dated August 17, 1933, Lewis describes the visit by himself and Warnie to Belfast for the specific purpose of enabling Warnie to see the newly installed window in St. Mark’s: “We…then went down Circular Rd to St. Mark’s to see the window which W. (Warnie) had never seen. He was delighted with it.”4
  Each time I visit St. Mark’s Church in East Belfast with a touring group, I mention two observations apropos to Lewis’s life and writing.
  First, his privileged birth and Christian upbringing did not make him a disciple of Jesus. He was brought up in a Christian environment, where he learned the truth of Scripture and was introduced to the sacraments of the church. He was christened in St. Mark’s and confirmed as a teenager. Yet he came to reject Christianity and adopted for a time an aggressively atheistic worldview. Years later he learned that the path of Christian pilgrimage was entered not through privilege or religious observance but through personal commitment via Him who said, “I am the door” (John 10:9).

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