A VISIT FROM ASLAN
“Oh, there he is again, our little friend. He just keeps coming back.” The voice of the secretary at my school is exceptionally sweet for someone with the vision and hearing of a raptor. “Who? What little friend?” I peered out the glass doors trying to figure out who was this recurring entity. “The cat. Every morning he joins the kids when they come across the road at the crosswalk, and he goes back with them at the end of the day.” Then I spied the cat sniffing the grass around the roots of a gigantic sycamore tree. He was an elegant fellow, festooned with long, ginger-colored fur, his feathery tail unfurled as he jauntily followed some children to the basketball courts. By day three this pertinacious puss had become a campus celebrity. He effectually owned the place. He would wander the playgrounds, saunter into classrooms, or the gym when the opportunity arose. He was a dear young tom. Teachers and students alike could pick him up, flip him onto his back and scratch his tummy without preamble. He purred loudly and nuzzled with pleasure. This cat was the purrfect cat.
The approach of the weekend made the kitty caper a little problematic. He would cross the street apparently to return to the trailer park at the end of the school day. But the office manager at the park had been interviewed about the cat and they knew nothing of his comings and goings or of his people. It appeared that he had been dumped or abandoned. So when Friday afternoon rolled round I became uneasy about just leaving our ginger ragamuffin to the whims of the weather and his own wanderings. Vehicles were filling up the parking lot, the bus loop was teeming with traffic, and cars were whizzing back and forth on the two major streets that frame the campus. I loathed the possibility that this tender-hearted tomcat might meet his end underneath a car or bus, or that he might trek to less hospitable environs, never to be cuddled again. I scooped him up, in the middle of his afternoon preening, his legs stretched out like a ballerina en-pointe, as he licked his tummy, and took him to the office where I told our secretary that the cat would probably not be back on Monday.
Sitting on a couch in the atrium was a little boy who had missed the bus was waiting on his mom to pick him up. He was about seven and his face was wet with tears of distress. I sat down next to him and said, “What name do you think we should give this cat?” The little boy’s sobs were hard and strained and he could not answer. “Well, I think we should call him Aslan.” I took his hand and placed it on the cat’s back and drew it down in a soft stroke. A little smile creased his eyes and popped out his forlorn cheeks. “Do you know why I think we should call him Aslan?” I asked as he wiped his face and shook his head side to side. “Because he keeps coming back!” Aslan is the central heroic character in C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia books. Aslan is the King and Creator of the realm of Narnia and he takes the form of a resplendent lion. Aslan is the Christ figure who, in a not-so-subtle fashion, is resurrected from death in The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. This powerful reference to Christian theology was fully intentional on the part of C.S. Lewis. Aslan leads the Narnians against the forces of evil. He is the epitome of wisdom and royal grandeur. And if Aslan must leave for a time, he always, always returns to protect and inspire his subjects. Monster and Princess are my two other cats, both past their primes, persnickety, and preoccupied with napping. But when Aslan came to my home he melted into its surroundings as if he had always been its sovereign. My cats were mildly put-out, but the interruption in their routines was barely worth noticing. They twitched their noses a bit and returned to their kneading and kibbles. I daily searched the classified ads for notices of a lost kitty that fit Aslan’s description. I called the animal shelter and reported that I was harboring a stray. And for three days I waited with no response and no leads. Aslan had graced us with his loud purring. He had draped himself across every piece of comfy furniture in the place. And, most charming of all, he had bonded with my aged cockatiel. Aslan would stare at the scraggly bird and the bird would stare back, seemingly mesmerized and completely in love.
There was another teacher at my school who had shown an interest in the Christmas kitty. She had no pets and lived alone with her young son. And as much as my family had come to love Aslan, this young, divorced teacher, would grow to love him more. He would be the perfect companion for her. I had my daughter drop the ginger kitty off at the end of the school day and I presented him to this young teacher as she was lining her kids up for dismissal. “Merry Christmas cat!” I announced as I placed him in her arms. Her cheeks were ablush and her eyes were moist as I departed her classroom. Every once in a while a humdrum day hatches out an occasion of wonderment, a moment in which all goodness, love and meaning crystallize in a revelation of truth. This time it came in the form of a stray cat, a guileless feline, who embodied, through his enduring affection, and his given name, the spirit of Christ at Christmastime.
Liam Neeson is the voice of Aslan in the Narnia movies. He was apparently attempting to appease all, and ended up standing for nothing, when he spoke the following regarding the Lion; “If all I knew about The Voyage of the Dawn Treader came from the general press conference I attended after the Premiere in London last week, I would come to a pretty startling conclusion: Aslan is like Christ, but could just as easily be like Buddha or Mohammed.” I would expect more from a nice Irish lad like Neeson, but he does, after all, work in an industry that persecutes Christians and Conservatives as a matter of practice. So I have to credit Disney and 20th Century Fox for bringing the first three Narnia movies to theatres. Of course it all makes financial sense to make some of the best-loved children’s fantasy tales into a theatrical series. Parents and kids alike flock to see these family-friendly, uplifting and timeless stories. And, are you listening Liam, the Christian message is not lost in the movie making.
This time of year has a way of yielding up little treasures; not trinkets in boxes or stockings, but remembrances of why we bustle, and sing, and celebrate Christmas. The persona and spirit of The Lord, Jesus Christ is the essence of these treasures. A treasure may appear in the form of a story penned by a former atheist who became a key, unapologetic Christian author of the 20th century. Such a treasure may be in a little smile that surfaces through the tears and panic of a little boy as he strokes the fur of a contented and comforting kitty. Such a treasure may be the gesture of giving something which one has in abundance to another who lacks, even the company of the world’s best feline sidekick. And the most impressive treasure of all may be in the innocence and trust borne by a stray cat into over 400 human hearts at an elementary school is Colorado.
Aslan, the cat, the lion: abandoned, betrayed, left alone, left for dead, like the Savior. Still Jesus Christ bears a perfect love, an innocent optimism, and a regenerating hope into the hearts of all of God’s children. He is the treasure. And like an adorable orange cat, and an exultant lion King, He too will come back. A message of the light and love of the Living Christ from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints