On the Qualities of a Ruler

The Houses of Healing

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All hail the king! (Source)

Aragorn finally enters his own city, the city has longed to rule, the city of kings. Yet he does not enter as we might expect as the victor of a great battle that has saved his people from death and destruction. What can we learn from Strider about the qualities of a ruler?

A ruler is wise and considerate. We who have traveled with the Ranger from the North all these miles have come to understand and trust in his lineage and his capacity; yet the people of Gondor are less informed, less omniscient in their comprehension. Aragorn knows that he returns as from legend, and that there could be doubt about the authenticity of his claim to the kingship. He also suspects rightly that Denethor might be a jealous ruler, and that entering the city triumphantly now could bring about resistance. Aragorn puts unity against the Enemy before his own status or honor; he sets the common good above his own.

A ruler is humble and hard-working. Aragorn takes not the credit of the victory, even though his timely arrival ultimately pushed the Enemy back. He instead recognizes the valiant efforts of the city, and the essential strength of arms of Rohan, and the leadership of the Prince of Dol Amroth, the King of the Mark, and especially the White Rider in all things. All deserve credit; all receive praise. The struggle against the forces of Mordor is a team effort, one where each must play their own part in the greater movement.

A ruler is caring and merciful. Though Aragorn wishes not to enter Minas Tirith at all, Gandalf’s requests cannot be cast aside easily. People lay dying, and the hands of the king may be the only remedy for the Black Breath. So Aragorn comes to the Houses of Healing in secret, healing those he loves most – the steward, the soldier, the hobbit – but not limited himself there. Instead, he goes to the common people, to the rank and file soldier and civilian, and offers his strength and his cures. In it he fulfills the prophecy of his name and coming, and builds good will among the people he one day hopes to lead, but this was not the motivator of his efforts. It was instead love, and recognition that without his presence many might be lost.

Wise, humble, caring: these are stark differences of character from our own rulers today, even if we have more choice and say over who now takes the reigns of power. Yet the example of Aragorn speaks also to each of us, in the places where we must lead. Where can we better orient the efforts of others to the common good, seeking not our own success and glory? As we enter into Holy Week, as we follow Christ into his own city, this is a question worth our consideration.


2016’s Reflection: “On Visiting the Sick
2015’s Reflection: “On the Longings of the Wounded Heart

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