Monday, May 01, 2006
A brief reflection inspired by C.S. Lewis' understanding of language and metaphor
My thinking, indeed my whole theological method, has been driven lately by the idea of metaphor. As C.S. Lewis argued in his essay Bluspels and Flalansferes all language is incurably metaphorical, even that language intended by its speaker to be straightfoward and objective. It is just such an observation that led Lewis to believe that the more intentional we are in our use of metaphor the more meaningful our language is. Hence the poet speaks more meaningfully than the philosopher.
If I may borrow this observation, I would suggest that the liturgist speaks more meaningfully than the theologian. Both have their place in the church, but the discipline of theology involves the employment of reason to discern truth in the attempt to achieve objectivity. In doing this the successful theologian must attempt to minimize metaphor for the sake of simplicity in the hope of attaining clarity. On the other hand the Church through its liturgy, with its intentional use of metaphor, attempts to incarnate multiple levels of meaning that can never be completely comprehended or totally exhausted by reason. Simplicity is not the goal, nor is it ever the goal, of true incarnational worship. The Church through its anamnesis, or "effectual reenactment," of the story of redemption (the "true myth" of God using Lewis' meaning here) taps into a reality that cannot be detected by the senses or by empirical investigation -- all the more indicative of the importance of metaphor to en-flesh the truth of God. For this reason the Catholic priority of prayer over creed is essentially correct: the rule of prayer (lex orandi) is indeed the rule of belief (lex credendi).
Until next time.