An End That’s Not the End

So we conclude another year of the Lent of the Lord of the Rings.

And yet, it doesn’t feel like an end. For we are still in the midst of the crisis that arose during our journey, the great shadow that arose anew that has forced us into our homes to weather the storm. This is a time that we do not know when will end…and so its hard to think about an end.

But, in a sense, that’s what human life is all about: ends that aren’t actually ends, until the end at last. For we revisit Lent each year – and with it, Middle earth – because we dwell in both linear and circular time. Each year we have need of renewal, of pilgrimage, of another adventure. Each year, we find ourselves in some sort of crisis, however personal or global in scale.

And so, because this an end, I say thank you for joining me yet again on the road to Mt. Doom. But also, because this is not the end, I say I look forward to seeing you all next year, for another season of a Lent of the Lord of the Rings.

The Sea Calls Us Home

The Grey Havens


A swift sunrise (Source)

In today’s Lord of the Rings passage we read:

And the ship went out into the High Sea and passed on into the West, until at last on a night of rain Frodo smelled a sweet fragrance on the air and heard the sound of singing that came over the water. And then it seemed to him that as in his dream in the house of Bombadil, the grey rain-curtain turned all to silver glass and was rolled back, and he beheld white shores and beyond them a far green country under a swift sunrise.”

And in today’s Scripture readings we hear:

When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he tucked in his garment, for he was lightly clad, and jumped into the sea. The other disciples came in the boat, for they were not far from shore, only about a hundred yards, dragging the net with the fish. […] And Jesus said to them, ‘Come, have breakfast.’” (John 21:7-8, 12)

The Sea! The Sea! The Sea calls us home. In its depths its keeps the mysteries of creation: for the Spirit moved over the boundless seas at the beginning of time. In its breadth it holds the humility of powerlessness: there are things happening in the world that we cannot control, cannot understand. And in its expanse it holds the promise of something beyond: an unknown horizon, a far green country, a new shore where He awaits us with a sustenance beyond the circles of this world.

Past Reflections
Year A: For the Purposes of Remembrance
Year B: On What Lies Beyond the Circles of This World
Year C: On the Simple Rewards of a Good Life

Amazed at the Change

The Scouring of the Shire


Returning to “ordinary” life (Source)

In today’s Lord of the Rings passage we read:

‘Bless me!’ It’s Master Merry, to be sure, all dressed up for fighting!’ said old Hob. ‘Why, they said you was dead!'”

And in today’s Scripture readings we hear:

As the crippled man who had been cured clung to Peter and John, all the people hurried in amazement toward them in the portico called “Solomon’s Portico.” When Peter saw this, he addressed the people, ‘You children of Israel, why are you amazed at this, and why do you look so intently at us as if we had made him walk by our own power or piety?'” (Acts 3:11-12)

If we have been intentional in our Lenten pilgrimage–in prayer, in fasting, in alms-giving, in renewal–then we have returned to our “normal” lives this Easter season changed. And this year, after all the stay-at-home orders are rescinded and people return to their daily activities, people may be shocked to find us changed. We may not act the way we once did–we may be more patient or more focused, less prone to gossip or to excess, kinder or more considerate. They may be amazed at what they see. And such amazement provides us the opportunity to scour our own society and stir up the spirit of our comrades’ hearts: by pointing to the greater power that has allowed for this transformation.

Past Reflections
Year A: On the Care and Concern for All Creation
Year B: On the Things that Really Matter
Year C: On Bearing Wrongs Patiently

Neither Abandoned Nor Alone

Homeward Bound


Road to Emmaus (Source)

In today’s Lord of the Rings passage we read:

‘I am with you at present,’ said Gandalf, ‘but soon I shall not be. I am not coming to the Shire. You must settle its affairs yourselves; that is what you have been trained for.'”

And in today’s Scripture readings we hear:

And it happened that, while he was with them at table, Jesus took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight.” (Luke 24: 30-31)

Christ is risen, but He can feel not really “here.” He seems to have vanished from our sight; he no longer walks with us and engages with us as he did with the disciples in Galilee in those years leading up to his Passion. We might think we have been abandoned; we might feel the pains of being alone. And yet, we are not: for He is still with us. We are asked to settle the affairs of our times, for it is what the Gospel and the Church, our teachings and our habits, have trained us for. Through those actions, we come to understand Christ’s enduring presence–in a new manner–in our world.

Past Reflections
Year A: On the People Who Did Not Make the Journey
Year B: On Returning Home
Year C: On Ills That Linger

Chance Encounters

Many Partings


Jesus and Mary at the Tomb (Source)

In today’s Lord of the Rings passage we read:

As they came out again into the open country at sundown they overtook an old man leaning on a staff, and he was clothed in rags of grey or dirty white, and at his heels went another beggar, slouching and whining.
‘Well, Saruman!” said Gandalf. ‘Where are you going?'”

And in today’s Scripture readings we hear:

Mary Magdalene stayed outside the tomb weeping. […] She turned around and saw Jesus there, but did not know it was Jesus.’” (John 20: 11, 14)

We don’t always get the chance, and quite frequently, we aren’t afford a second one. The moment passes, and our paths never cross again. The opportunity fades, and we never get to say what we meant to say, do what we meant to do, be what we meant to be. We miss a chance for forgiveness; we miss a chance for love. But yet, sometimes we are blessed with the chance, however, unexpected, however fleeting. In those moments, may we have the humility of Mary to guide us, and reject the pride of Saruman.

Past Reflections
Year A: On Gifts
Year B: On the Long Defeat
Year C: On Burying the Dead

The Power of Proclamation

The Steward and the King


Let is be known (source)

In today’s Lord of the Rings passage we read:

Then Faramir stood up and spoke in a clear voice: ‘Men of Gondor, hear now the Steward of this Realm! Behold! one has come to claim the kingship again at last.'”

And in today’s Scripture readings we hear:

On the day of Pentecost, Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice, and proclaimed: ‘You who are Jews, indeed all of you staying in Jerusalem.
Let this be known to you, and listen to my words.'” (Acts 2:14)

It is not enough for something to be known; important things must be proclaimed. To proclaim is to actively not only inform but also to bring into being: only one with the authority to see the order or message through has the capacity to proclaim. That combination–of authority, of order, or action–instills a proclamation with great power to claim disparate attention and move hearts. And that is why we are called to proclaim the news of the risen Christ: for we have been given the authority by He Himself, who has reordered the world, and through the Gospel message, nothing will ever be the same.

Past Reflections
Year A: On the Secret Fire That Kindles the Heart
Year B: On the Need for Justice and Mercy
Year C: On Willingly Laying Down One’s Office

Celebrating in Middle of the Journey

The Field of Cormallen


We have the victory; what’s left is the clean-up. (Source)

In today’s Lord of the Rings passage we read:

The weary rested and the hurt were healed. For some had laboured and fought much with the remnants of the Easterlings and the Southrons.”

And in today’s Scripture readings we hear:

This man God raised on the third day and granted that he be visible, not to all the people, but to us, the witnesses chosen by God in advance, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commissioned us to preach to the people and testify that he is the one appointed by God as judge of the living and the dead.” (Acts 10:40-42)

Our pilgrimage has reached it destination; our quest has achieved its goal. The Ring has been tossed into Mt. Doom; Christ has died and risen again. The great movements of the world have occurred, and all things are now renewed in goodness. There is much celebration to be had! Yet, even though the war has been won, the battles are not over. There are remnants of evil that need to be subdued. We still live in a world besieged by sin, and one more than ever this year seemingly unwell. It can seem weird to celebrate now, when so much there is yet to be done. But we must celebrate, for we need to acknowledge the good that has been achieved and the rewards that have been won: salvation and eternal life, that ultimately put all else into perspective.

Past Reflections
Year A: On Relics
Year B: On Glory
Year C: On Hearing the Story Told

The Costs of Salvation

Mt. Doom


With the body of Christ (Source)

In today’s Lord of the Rings passage we read:

In all that ruin of the world for the moment Sam felt only joy, great joy. The burden was gone. His master had been saved; he was himself again, he was free. And then Sam caught sight of the maimed and bleeding hand.”

And in today’s Scripture readings we hear:

See, my servant shall prosper, he shall be raised high and greatly exalted. Even as many were amazed at him–so marred was his look beyond human semblance and his appearance beyond that of the sons of man– so shall he startle many nations.”(Isaiah 52:13-15)

The success of the quest–to Mt. Doom, to Golgotha–is not without its costs. The wounds from the journey–a maimed hand, a pieced side, a crown of thorns, a broken body–mar beyond human semblance. Yet, this is the cost of salvation, of freedom from sin and evil. And we have not had to bear them, like Frodo has, because another has carried those costs for us: the greatest servant, the Son of Man. And therefore our joy is great, like Sam’s joy, but even more so: for we look upon the face and body of the Christ, bloody and destroyed this day, and see that we can yet become ourselves again.

Past Reflections
Year A: On Carrying
Year B: On the End of All Things
Year C: For the Sake of Mercy

It Must Go

The Land of Shadow


Passover (Source)

In today’s Lord of the Rings passage we read:

Frodo said, ‘I am tired, weary, I haven’t a hope left. But I have to go on trying to get to the Mountain, as long as I can move. The Ring is enough. This extra weight is killing me. It must go.’”

And in today’s Scripture readings we hear:

This is how you are to eat the meal: with your loins girt, sandals on your feet and your staff in hand, you shall eat like those who are in flight. It is the Passover of the LORD.” (Exodus 12:11)

Remove the extra weight. Eliminate whatever isn’t necessary. Give away excess material goods. Cast aside anxieties and unfounded worries. Do not carry the weight of the world, for the weight of our own sin is greater enough. We are in flight: we are striving for the mountain. The only yoke we need is the yoke of Christ: for when we embrace it by rejecting our sinfulness, we find that it is light and easy.

Past Reflections
Year A: On the Lamentations
Year B: On Hell
Year C: On Comforting the Afflicted