This is a reprint of 2 devotionals, "The New Christian Year" (1941) and "The Passion of Christ: Being the Gospel Narrative of the Passion with Short Passages Taken from the Saints and Doctors of the Church" (1939), both chosen by Charles Williams, an English poet, novelist, theologian, literary critic, and teacher. Charles Walter Stansby Williams was most often associated with the Inklings (a group of christian writers including J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis), Williams was also cited as a major influence on W.H. Auden's conversion to christianity and he was a peer and friend of T.S. Eliot, Dorothy Sayers and Evelyn Underhill. These devotionals collect writings from throughout the history of christian thought. His choices were novel at the time, referencing Kierkegaard just as his translations were appearing in english print (Williams helped edit the first translations in England) and drawing upon the little known sermons of the poet John Donne.
For each day of the Church year (starting in Advent), quotes will be posted as they appeared in the 1941 edition of "The New Christian Year". They are categorized by the source on the left, so that readers can read more from each author. I will also add links to websites about each source.
During lent the "The New Christian Year" will be supplemented by quotes from "The Passion of the Christ". This text has passages from the Gospel accounts of the passion supplemented by quotes from the "Saints and Doctors of the Church".
We too stand under the Cross, unable to do more than bear witness to the 'Now' of eternity which is ours, to the Day of Jesus Christ, which is no day, but the Day of Days, before and behind and above the days of our life.
In Christ ye are under grace. Comprehending Him, ye are comprehended in His death; with His human body ye are made dead. All human possibilities, including the possibility of religion, have been offered and surrendered to God on Golgotha . . . Golgotha is the end of law and the frontier of religion . . . through the slain body of Christ, we are what we are not.
Our relation to others, even when we name it a relationship of love, is governed by the law that we should render evil for evil. We do not perceive in the other the One—that is, the good which he is not. Rather, we hold him liable for being what he is. . . . This making men liable for what they are is to render to them evil for evil. . . . It is this failure of apprehension which makes of our whole behaviour an inert mass of evil. Among this line of evil we all, without exception, move.
Jesus stands among sinners as a sinner; he sets himself wholly under the judgement under which the world is set; he takes his place where God can be present only in questioning about him; he takes the form of a slave; he moves to the cross and to death; his greatest achievement is a negative achievement. There is no conceivable human possibility of which he did not rid himself. Herein he is recognized as the Christ; for this reason God has exalted him; and consequently he is the light of the Last Things by which all things are illuminated. In him we behold the faithfulness of God in the depths of hell.
We are incompetent to see what is invisible and to comprehend what is incomprehensible. We have no sensible organ wherewith to percieve the miracle. Human experience and human perception end where God begins.
The life of Jesus is perfected obedience to the will of the faithful God. Jesus stands among sinners as a sinner; He sets Himself wholly under the judgment under which the world is set; He takes His place where God can be present only in questioning about Him; He takes the form of a slave; He moves to the cross and to death; His greatest achievement is a negative achievement. He is not a genius endowed with manifest or even occult powers; He is not a hero or leader of men; He is neither poet nor thinker:—My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? Nevertheless, precisely in this negation, He is the fulfillment of every possibility of human progress, as the Prophets and the Law conceive of progress and evolution, because he sacrifices to the incomparably Greater cause there is no conceivable human possibility of which he did not rid Himself. Herein he is recognized as the Christ; for this reason God hath exalted Him; and consequently He is the light of the Last Things by which all men and things are illuminated.
When a man's behaviour, his mission, his exercise of authority, impress us as being of divine authority, what do we really mean? If we take the word 'divine' seriously, we mean that in this man the invisible has become visible, that what he is calls to mind what he is not, that a secret lies above and behind his behaviour, and is hidden as well as illustrated by his conduct. We do not in any case mean that the secret is to be identified with his actions.
Sin is a robbing of God: a robbery which becomes apparent in our arrogant endeavour to cross the line of death by which we are bounded (i. 18, 19); in our drunken blurring of the distance which separates us from God; in our forgetfulness of His invisibility; in our investing of men with the form of God, and of God with the form of man; and in our devotion to some romantic infinity, some 'No-God' of this world, which we have created for ourselves.
To the man under grace, righteousness is not a possibility, but a necessity; not a disposition subject to change, but the inexorable meaning in life; not a condition possessing varying degrees of healthiness, but the condition by which existence is itself determined; not that which he possesses, but that which possesses him. The freedom of the man under grace is founded upon the good pleasure of God, and has no other foundation; it is the freedom of the will of God in men, and freedom of no other kind. Free in God, ye are imprisoned in Him.