The Great Story

At the end of the seventh and final book in C. S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia, the suggestion is made that our life on earth is only the cover and title-page of the “Great Story” that commences after our death. Consider the infinity of eternity. By comparison, a few days is virtually the same as eighty years. If some finite quantity is added to infinity, the result is not a greater value. Infinity cannot really be added to. To add eighty is the same as to add zero. Likewise, a book’s title-page isn’t really part of the story. Next to the story itself, the title-page is as nothing.

The suggestion, however, is not that our earthly life is meaningless. A book’s cover is still important. It tells us what the book is about. In a similar way, the quality of our earthly life determines the quality of our afterlife. Specifically, it is our earthly relationship with God that determines our eternal relationship with him. Still, it does not take an entire lifetime to form a friendship with God. It takes only as long as a deathbed conversion or the falling of water over the baptismal font. The Holy Innocents, whom Herod killed in his hunt for the infant Jesus, did not need a lifetime of accomplishments in order to become the friends of God.

The stories of our lives are never just biographies, because our lives are never just about us. Another way to say this is that the best biographies are always love stories. If we think of our life as finally defined by death, we cut ourselves off from the “Great Story,” the story of eternal life and the story of God. Only then would earthly life become truly meaningless. In the end, there is only one book: the Book of Life.

But we do not have to wait until death to begin living the “Great Story.” Here Lewis’ analogy falls short. There is a sense in which our earthly life is more than just a book cover. The sanctifying grace through which we share in the divine life on earth is the same grace through which we share in the divine life in glory. We need not wait until heaven to be received into God’s family. We can become adopted children now through Christ. In this way, our earthly lives acquire an eternal orientation and begin to partake in timelessness in a new way. We begin to live the “Great Story” even within our little life-stories.

The real story of our life is the story of our life with God. It is a story that appears in all its clarity within the mind of God, and which will be known to us in heaven. And it is a story that, in some sense, God has already shared with us, even in our earthly perspective, through the life of Jesus. May God give to his friends the grace of perseverance, that the stories of our lives may become eternally great.

Image: Limbourg Brothers, Building in Jerusalem

You May Also Enjoy:

Agnes and Catherine Bl. Raymond of Capua, friend and biographer of St. Catherine of Siena, concludes the middle part of his Life of Catherine with an account of a pilgrimage she made to Montepulciano. “It was revealed to Catherine,” he writes, “that in the Kingdom of Heaven she was to be put on a level with the blessed Sister Agnes of Montepulciano” (who had died about 150 years earlier). So Catherine wanted “to visit that Sister’s relics, in order to enjoy already ...
The Pope Emeritus and Beatitude in the Church In a recent interview, Pope Benedict discusses contemporary viewpoints on God’s justice and mercy. Of special note is what he describes as “a deep double crisis” in the Church today. Modern missionary activity, since the sixteenth century in particular, depended heavily on the idea that people will probably not be saved unless they hear the Gospel and receive it in faith. By the middle of the twentieth century, the Church had come to a deeper ...
Love’s Hatred Some Christians have misgivings about the slogan “Love the sinner; hate the sin.” For them, the slogan seems “judgmental” and, therefore, fundamentally unchristian. I can understand a certain amount of suspicion. We don’t want to turn into fault-finders or to excuse ourselves from dealing with our own faults. But the ideas that the slogan expresses are basically sound, even rather important. And we wouldn’t want to throw out the baby with the bat...
Explanation and Experience A parent will usually allow his children to learn from their own mistakes when it doesn’t involve considerable danger. Trying to tie their shoes when they’ve yet to acquire that skill or attempting to reach a shelf still too high for them teaches children to ask for help. When I was learning to drive, my parents let me take any side road I thought would save time so I’d learn that it wasn’t the fastest way. Experience is a great teacher to many, ...
Br. Alan Piper, O.P.

Written by:

Br. Alan Piper, OP, was born in Lake Charles, Louisiana, and is the oldest of four children. He earned a BA in philosophy and theology from the University of St. Thomas in Houston, Texas, and a PhL from the School of Philosophy at the Catholic University of America. Before entering the order in 2011, he taught at Holy Family Academy in Manchester, New Hampshire. On