The Last Debate
We come to it at last: the final throw, the ultimate risk, the finale par excellence. Everything that has been done up to this point has led to this moment, where one side will be victorious, and the other beaten down into crushing defeat. All the plotting and planning in both camps boil down to this one last hurrah, before the Black Gates, on the fields where once this same battle was engaged before.
Except it is not the same, for the conditions of victory are different this time. For Gandalf, Aragorn, and the forces that they lead, strength of arms will not be enough. It matters not if they triumph against the forces of Mordor; in fact, by their own capacity it is impossible for them to do so. They are instead the bait, the distraction, the feint to draw off the Enemy and fix his eye on them, instead of the Ringbearer. Truly, this gambit is a last throw of the dice, for the outcome on which it rests will be outside their power to control.
They dice may come up sixes, and good things come again. They may live to see the Ring destroyed, Sauron overcome, and realms of men renewed. The dice may instead come up snake eyes, and they witness instead the total victory of darkness. Or, and perhaps most likely of all, they will perish before the dice are fully settled, sacrificing their lives to buy Frodo and Sam the time they need for their own last draw of the deck. Yet, as the counselors of the Last Debate conclude, in this they would rest in peace, knowing that their fall gave every opportunity for those the defend to continue to thrive.
We Lenten pilgrims now set off on our own final march: we have held our Last Debate, and in Holy Week we follow the footsteps of the apostle through Jerusalem, to the end set before us, to whatever end. The victory that we achieved on Palm Sunday – the crowds thronging to welcome us into the holy city – now, like the glory of the Pelennor Fields, seems fleeting. The forces that opposed us are undaunted, and they seek to ensnare us, entrap up, catch us in our words and deeds. And our leader, like Aragorn, seems to willing walk into that trap, heedless of the danger that lurks there. We may, like the disciples, feel uneasy; we may doubt the wisdom of such reckless confrontation. Yet, we place our bets on this one last throw of the dice, this one last chance of the divine to set things aright and renew us with love and grace.
Yet, there is this one difference between the men of Gondor and the Body of Christ: for we have seen the final victory already in faith. The dice are loaded in our favor, and though the roll may not land as we would have desired it, nevertheless, its outcome is all that we truly needed.