Many miles into Lent have we journeyed. Many days of Middle-earth have passed. Wonders have we seen and companions met. Struggles we have had, and surprises too. Now we come upon a stronghold, Helm’s Deep, where we might weather for a while those things that have pursued us into our pilgrimage: doubts we had thought we cast aside, sins we had set out to rid ourselves us. They have tracked us to the very gates of the Hornburg, and they may seem very strong and very many.
Yet, we are not alone. We can take stock of what we have experienced thus far and where we must go from here in a place of strength, a place that others in their wisdom have long prepared with provisions and supplies. For us, such a place might be a welcomed rest, or a place of defense, or for a regrouping, or for reflection. And very likely it is a place where we can meet others like us, others who are also taking stock and making preparations.
What are the Helm’s Deeps of our lives? They are the institutions built long ago (or perhaps not so long) that have ever been the keeps among challenges. There is the citadel of the Church, built seemingly long ago in the time of legends, ancient and well-designed. We may not often think to come here, or may find ourselves only seeking it when the Enemy is loose upon our lands, but many over the ages have stored up sustenance and supplies in its inner court.
There is also the deep of community – the clubs, the organizations, the formalized networks to which we belong – that at times may seem to blend into the hills themselves. Yet they are a feature distinguished, separate from our normal homesteads and different from where we have come. The horses we have journeyed the miles of road along we can rest here, and share stories with those who have come from west and east, north and south. Brought together by a common purpose, in the deep of community we may find the kindling of companionship.
There are also the caves of family, and deep friendships, hidden in the mountains. Beautiful and yet mysterious, known and yet so much left to discover, the caves are that last refuge, a place where we might hold out long or find some escape. We are wary, because the Enemy that seeks our doom has long scoped out these lands, and knows of these caves, and may know their weaknesses. Yet we nevertheless can take comfort here, in both the light and the darkness, and though we may need the patience of a dwarfs to bring them to their fullest glory, we hold them as a treasure for our protection.
The journey has been long, and many days and miles lay ahead to Mt. Doom, to Calvary. We cannot linger here at Helm’s Deep for much time: just enough to weather one assault, for one night’s rest, to catch one’s breath. But in this stronghold and all the ancient castles that litter the path ahead we may find defense and good provision. From within them, which the wise have kept secure, we may find the needed moments to take stock of what we had already done, and make preparations for the deeds ahead.