If you would like to join C.S. Lewis in one of his Lenten experiences, read on, because I have the perfect suggestion for you.
During Lent, the forty days preceding Easter, many Christians undertake special “disciplines.” This practice is different from the familiar exercise of “giving things up” for the season.
These disciplines often include fasting and devoting more time to reading the Scriptures and inspiring Christian literature.
Two of C.S. Lewis’ letters mention that he was rereading, as part of his Lenten pilgrimage, two ancient classics that have inspired believers for nearly seventeen centuries.
In 1936, he wrote to Dom Bede Griffiths, a regular correspondent who was a Roman Catholic priest.
I re-read St. Augustine’s Confessions during Lent, and found it better than I remember, tho’ still it is the explicitly devotional parts that edify me least.
The following year he wrote the following in a letter to his childhood friend, Arthur Greeves.
I have been progressing all this lent through the first volume of a v[ery] nice edition of St Augustine’s City of God only to find that the other volume has been so wrongly bound that it begins and ends in the middle of sentences. What a tragedy this would once have been!
Lewis’ regard for Augustine lasted throughout his life. In 1961, Lewis responded to a correspondent who asked what books he would recommend to a recent convert. He included Augustine in that list, writing “St. Augustine’s Confessions will give you the record of an earlier adult convert, with many v. great devotional passages intermixed.”
Saint Augustine was a bishop in Hippo Regius, a city in north Africa. Augustine was a brilliant scholar who desperately sought the truth, and intently studied many religions and philosophies before finding Truth in the person of Jesus Christ.
His life is fascinating, in part because he lived during the turbulent era when Rome itself was sacked by the Vandals, who went on to conquer North Africa.
Augustine was a native African, a member of the Christian Berbers, who along with the Romans in the regions were destined to be overrun by Islamic armies.
Augustine was a prolific writer, and due to their spiritual value, many of his works are readily available today.
If you would like to read one of the volumes mentioned by C.S. Lewis, you can download copies of early translations at Internet Archives. Here are the links, with two biographical studies thrown in for good measure.
If you choose to follow C.S. Lewis’ example of reading one of these works for Lent, you will have the added joy of sharing with him a Lenten discipline which he found rewarding.
If you prefer listening to the Confessions, you can download a free Librivox version here.