We come to it alas: the breaking of our pilgrimage. “I will not say: do not weep; for not all tears are an evil.” Sixty days have we reflected: over a thousand pages have we read. We have traveled long roads between the Shire and Mt. Doom, there and back again. We have mused upon many matters: joy and sorrow, golden hair and golden flowers, mushrooms and oliphants, great kings, great rings, and simple hobbit courage. We have passed through ashes and alms, fasting and Fridays, prayer and penance, Cross and Easter. And now, it ends.
How can we conclude such a journey? About what has this ultimately been? In part, we have each engaged this text from our own place and person; yet in part we have taken this pilgrimage together. Woven through the pages of this text and these reflections are threads of the things that really matter, the highest things: the good, the true, the beautiful, and the need to defend them lest we lose them. At its core, The Lord of the Rings is about the final question: the struggle with life, death, and immortality. It is a story about the passing of wonderful things, about the changing of the world. That is why it has been so fitting to wander the paths of Middle-earth this Lent: for as C.S. Lewis so aptly noted, “Here are beauties which pierce like swords or burn like cold iron. Here is a book which will break your heart.”
Indeed, each time I return to Tolkien’s tale, I am moved in its telling: and I have been humbled to be able to share that passion and love which each of you these past sixty days in these reading and reflections. No words can appropriately express my gratitude for all of your support in helping me to realize this long-desired dream. And though each of you has helped turn the wheels of my heart in small and secret ways, I express particular gratitude for my parents’ encouragement – especially my father, who first introduced me to The Lord of the Rings when he read them aloud to me almost fifteen years ago – and my fiancee’s enduring support. I am truly blest.
In the joy of Easter, we bid farewell to this our great endeavor. And yet this is only the beginning of the journey, for Tolkien’s pages are rich in their depths and demand a return. I invite you to make this an annual tradition of yours, and on the Reading Plan section of this site you can download for yourself a copy of the 2016 Lord of the Rings Lenten Reading Plan. Until then, I bid you all a very fond farewell: for then shall I say, “Well, I’m back.”