It is incredible for me to reflect on all that has passed and transpired since I first put (digital) ink to (digital) paper on this reflection series back in the spring of 2015. The Lenten read of The Lord of the Rings dates back even earlier: to 2014 on paper, to years beyond that in my mind. I read over the sentences and thoughts I transcribed back at the start of 2015, of 2016, even this year, and it is strange how things have changed. In 2015, I was a young unmarried teaching in San Jose in a world reeling from economic crisis with political strife building. In 2017, I am an older, married research in Washington DC in a world struggling with political chaos and an uncertain future.
Yet, for all these, much has remained the same: the desire for pilgrimage; the longing for the good, true, and beautiful; the recognition of the value of tradition, ritual, and the wisdom of path times; the long defeat. At the core, the most foundational and lasting fact is my appreciation for The Lord of the Rings and my conviction that reading it – especially during Lent – can bring out meaningful insight and deep reflection. Three years in, we have traveled with Frodo and the Fellowship through all three gospel cycles; we have gone there and back again with over 180 reflections; and on over 6,000 instances has a fellow traveler paused to consider the quest for Mt. Doom here.
What, then, is the ultimate message of “A Lent of the Lord of the Rings” this year? The same message it has always been: that there are good things in this world, and they are worth fighting for, and though the victory has already been won for us, sometimes we must sacrifice the things we love so that others may have them in due time. In is the gospel, the eucatastrophe, the mingling of Cross and Ring, Mt. Doom and Calvary. But, as I scan over the individual reflections of the past year, I think there is something slightly different, for in topic and in word there has been a heavy emphasis on strongholds. Woven through this year’s journey was a growing sense that things were growing more tenuous and more dangerous, and that though the world could not be abandoned, fortified places – Rivendell, Lothlorien, Helm’s Deep, Minas Tirith – were needed where we could find rest, succor, and wisdom for the long roads ahead. We recognized that we could not linger forever in these islands amidst the storm, but nevertheless we treasured them.
I do not know what that rightly means for the days ahead. Nevertheless, I hope that you, dear reader, dear companion, dear fellow pilgrim, have enjoys these past days of stories and musings. I especially wish to thank those who contributed their own reflections, as well as my wife, who had to put up with my early risings and audiobook listenings. This is an annual journey, and I encourage you to download the reading plan for 2018 so you have it ready to go for next February 5th. May the blessings of elves, men, and all free folk go with you, until our next meeting.