A couple of years ago I watched all of the Harry Potter movies for the first time. Before then I had only seen the first one, I simply never had a need to watch them. Nonetheless I saw them and loved them. It ended up becoming a little tradition in our dorm and we went through the series again this last year. I liked them so much I started going through the books this summer and bought a shirt (designed by my favorite YouTuber, Olan Rogers) with Harry’s patronus standing resolute on the front. Sure, call me a nerd.
For those who aren’t familiar with the Harry Potter series, a patronus is a type of spell used against joyless, soulless creatures known as Dementors. The idea behind the spell is that the user concentrates all of his or her mental powers on the happiest memory he or she can think of before uttering the words expecto patronum. If preformed correctly, the user’s patronus will emerge in a glowing silver light and protect him or her from the Dementors.
As I’ve read through other mythical stories, there are these little gems that stand out, they seem familiar, even friendly to something deep and hidden inside of me. In Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings it’s Frodo’s lamp – “May it be a light to you in dark places, when all other lights go out.” In Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia it’s the world between worlds, an endless forest with pools that act as gateways to new worlds. And in Harry Potter it’s the patronus.
I love how Lewis thinks of these gems, “The value of myth is that it takes all the things you know and restores to them the rich significance which has been hidden by the veil of familiarity.” These fantastical stories awaken our souls to the true reality, the wonderful and cosmic reality around us. They remind us that hope and love and goodness are not dull and ordinary, but the very treasures of God.
“The Pagan stories are God expressing Himself through the minds of poets, using such images as He found there, while Christianity is God expressing Himself through what we call ‘real things’.” – C.S. Lewis
Our minds are wowed and our hearts drawn to the epic journey of the Fellowship and the tragic story of Harry, but even more so our souls are made complete in the grand story of God-with-us. That same strange familiarity I feel with these myths I also find in the very real presence of God. Instead of words on a page, it’s puffy summer clouds and a slight smile leaking the truest of love and the little shimmer of peace before I slip into sleep which feels so friendly, yet also transcendent. These are the metaphors of God, the sonnets that ooze golden, syrupy joy into any moment as I remember more and more the Epic I play a role in.
Quite thoughtfully, God has given us the gift of story to translate His interwoven poem of grace through the millennia into our here-and-now hearts. The whole of God-of-ancient’s love is being whispered and sung and danced all around us – yes we hear his melody in the stories of the Bible, but his hushed voice can even be heard in a nerdy tale of wizards.
Apparently expecto patronum means “I await a protector” in Latin. Hm, I love that. When all that is soulless and joyless and lacking of light surrounds us, when you lose someone dear or get laid off or can’t remember why your story matters, there isn’t much to do but whisper expecto patronum. I’m waiting for you – the Light. I’m scared and powerless and everything is dark – but I wait in trust.
And our souls can cling to these little, familiar things. Whether it be a couple silly words from the wizarding world, a pleasant memory of being wrapped in love, or a sweet Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest from Jesus, we can attach ourselves to these little gems that feel friendly, yet transcendent.
May they be a light to you in dark places, when all other lights go out.
These are the gems of myth and reality, God’s grace woven through epics and everyday.