The Last Note

“When King Elessar gave up his life Legolas followed at last the desire of his heart and sailed over Sea.

Here follows one of the last notes in the Red Book

We have heard tell that Legolas took Gimli Gloin’s son with him because of their great friendship, greater than any that has been between Elf and Dwarf. If this is true, then it is strange indeed: that a Dwarf should be willing to leave Middle-earth for any love, or that the Eldar should receive him, or that the Lords of the West should permit it. But it is said that Gimli went also out of desire to see again the beauty of Galadriel; and it may be that she, being might among the Eldar, obtained this grace for him. More cannot be said of this matter.”

Appendix A

On the Impenitent Thief

Mt. Doom

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

Frodo said, ‘But for Gollum, Sam, I could not have destroyed the Ring. The Quest would have been in vain, even at the bitter end. So let us forgive him!'”

And in today’s Scripture we hear:

So they took Jesus, and, carrying the cross himself, he went out to what is called the Place of the Skull, in Hebrew, Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus in the middle.” (John 19: 17-18)

There is much written about the Good Thief, the Penitent Thief, by tradition St. Dismas, who asked for Jesus’s mercy. Much less is written about the Bad Thief, the Impenitent Thief, by some accounts Gestas, who belittles Christ. By all accounts, he is not a decent man: a proven criminal, a murderer, without remorse and without shame. Yet he–as is Judas, as is Caiaphas, as is Pilate–is the Gollum of the Passion: fallen and unreconciled, yet necessary for the Quest’s completion. For all to have come to pass, someone needed to betray Jesus, and accuse him, and condemn him, and mock him upon the Cross. And yet, like Gollum, we are left to wonder: might they have been saved from their wickedness? There were fleeting moments on the road to Mt. Doom where it looked like Smeagol might prevail over his baser nature: what then would have become of the Fellowship? If Judas had rejected the silver; if Caiaphas had calmed his anger; if Pilate had taken the advice of his wife: would their outcomes have been different? If the Impenitent Thief had just said a single sentence different, would he now be with Christ in paradise?

These are deep and disquieting thoughts on a deep and disquieting day. For we consider justice and mercy, free will and fate, salvation and condemnation: all while the world awaits the resolution of all things.


Want to Read More?
Year A: On Carrying and The Costs of Salvation
Year B: On the End of All Things
Year C: For the Sake of Mercy and Compassion

Water

The Land of Shadow

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

The water was cool but not icy, and it had an unpleasant taste, at once bitter and oily, or so they would have said at home. Here it seemed beyond all praise, and beyond fear and prudence. They drank their fill, and Sam replenished his water-bottle. After that Frodo felt easier, and they went on for several miles.”

And in today’s Scripture we hear:

Jesus took a towel and tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin  and began to wash the disciples’ feet  and dry them with the towel around his waist. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him,  ‘Master, are you going to wash my feet?’ Jesus answered and said to him, ‘What I am doing, you do not understand now, but you will understand later.'” (John 13: 4-7)

Sustainer of life. Satisfaction for the thirsty. Beneficial both warm and cold. Cleansing and clean. There from the near beginning of creation. Symbol of hope and salvation throughout history. Sign of baptism.

Water.

We do not understand now how meaningful water is, we who have it in such abundance and access it with such ease. Those who must go without it recognize even the most bitter water is beyond all praise.

Water.

We approach the slopes of Calvary, of Mt. Doom, and what we consider is water. The simple things that keep us going. The timeless things from which spring forth healing, cleansing, and sustenance. The great mysteries of sacrifice and salvation, of baptism and washing, of water and wine.

Water.


Want to Read More?
Year A: On the Lamentations and It Must Go
Year B: On Hell
Year C: On Comforting the Afflicted and Food from Heaven

Slaves of Fear

The Tower of Cirith Ungol

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

Since his return to Mordor, Sauron had found [the tower] useful; for he had few servants but many slaves of fear, and still its chief purpose as of old was to prevent escape from Mordor.”

And in today’s Scripture we hear:

Jesus said, ‘The Son of Man indeed goes, as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed. It would be better for that man if he had never been born.’ Then Judas, his betrayer, said in reply, ‘Surely it is not I, Rabbi?’ He answered, ‘You have said so.’” (Matthew 26: 24-25)

On Spy Wednesday, we begin our long reflection on betrayal. Judas, Peter, the Disciples, the people: all will betray Jesus in some form or fashion over the coming days. These are not servants of darkness but, too often similar to us, slaves of fear–fear that Jesus would do things different than they desired, fear of persecution or rejection, fear of hardship and suffering, fear of the authorities and the powers of the world. By the power of fear, we are often trapped in our sins and weaknesses; the might of darkness does not intimidate the righteous but instead those already ensnared. But we are not forever trapped, for their is mercy, and forgiveness, and reconciliation that can rescue us. Let condemn our past betrayals and strive to stay the course: let us throw off the shackles of fear, and escape the darkness we have previously cast about us.


Want to Read More?
Year A: On Bravery and Aroused by Song
Year B: On Betrayal and Loyalty
Year C: On the Silent Watchers and A Rescue Mission

The Unshakeable Shadow

The Black Gate Opens

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

And from that evening onward the Nazgul came and followed every move of the army. They still flew high and out of sight of all save Legolas, and yet their presence could be felt, as a deepening of shadow and a dimming of the sun; and though the Ringwraiths did not yet stoop low upon their foes and were silent, uttering no cry, the dread of them could not be shaken off.”

And in today’s Scripture we hear:

Reclining at table with his disciples, Jesus was deeply troubled and testified, ‘Amen, amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me.’ The disciples looked at one another, at a loss as to whom he meant.” (John 13: 21-22)

This year has been a year of unshakeable shadow: of deepening and dimming, of darkness and dread. Our great fear has been largely silent and invisible, but it has plagued us, haunting our steps, following our ever move, making its presence known. We have been limited and stymied; we have been forced to hide in our homes, or abandon friends and family, or live in growing anxiety, depression, and hopelessness. The pandemic has been like a hoard of Ringwraiths, ravaging not only our physical bodies and communities but also eating away at our minds and hearts. We are deeply troubled, even with an end now in sight. For we know there are some wounds that cannot be fully healed, and some pains that remain with us forever: as we approach the culmination of our Lenten journey, we must remember the Cross bears both the sorrow and the glory, and that we cannot banish the shadow, only walk as light among it.


Want to Read More?
Year A: On the Eagles’ Coming and ‘Tis Not Our Victory
Year B: For Frodo
Year C: On Deeds Within Measure and To Whatever End

To the Very Brink

The Last Debate

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

At length Aragorn spoke. ‘As I have begun, so I will go on. We come now to the very brink, where hope and despair are akin. To waver is to fall.'”

And in today’s Scripture we hear:

Jesus said, ‘Leave her alone. Let her keep this for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.’ (John 12: 7-8)

We come now to the very brink. The final week–Holy Week. Everything–our entire Lenten pilgrimage, all of salvation history, the entire creation of the Universe–culminates in this week. All our efforts in travel with the Fellowship, defending Rohan and Gondor, uniting the peoples of Middle earth, are meant for this moment. No matter how much or how little we have been able to give to our quest up to now, we have a final chance: for prayer, for fasting, for almsgiving. A final week at the brink to focus and reflect, to prepare for wonders beyond our capacity to imagine, for sorrows deep and joys everlasting. The challenges of the world are always with us, but here at the brink we have this special period with Christ. Let us redouble our efforts and renew our intents: as Holy Week begins, let us not waver, but instead go on.


Want to Read More?
Year A: On the Last Throw of the Dice and In the Face of Endless Darkness
Year B: On the Promise of Men
Year C: On Gulls and Other Birds and The Week Called Holy

Fickleness

The Houses of Healing

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

Aragorn said, ‘This City and realm has rested in the charge of the Stewards for many long years, and I fear that if I enter it unbidden, then doubt and debate may arise, which should not be while this war is fought.'”

And in today’s Scripture we hear:

Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut from the fields. Those preceding Jesus as well as those following kept crying out: ‘Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that is to come! Hosanna in the highest!’” (Mark 11:8-10)

But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release Barabbas for them instead. Pilate again said to them in reply, ‘Then what do you want me to do with the man you call the king of the Jews?’ They shouted again, ‘Crucify him.'” (Mark 15:11-13)

The crowd is fickle: in less than a week they go from welcoming Jesus as the Messiah to calling for Pilate to crucify him. It is no wonder Aragorn approaches with great care his entry into Minas Tirith, concerned that the people might rise and fall with passion and create a greater victory for the Enemy than that won by Strider on the field of battle. We might forgive the crowd, or make excuse for them–they were misled, they were enflamed, they didn’t know better, they were carried away by their emotions. Perhaps. And yet, they were fickle. They did not stay the course; they changed their minds on a whim and without hardly a reason. Fickleness, lukewarmness, inability to stand by one’s beliefs and principles: these are dangerous attributes, especially in these days of the social media mob and the cult of public opinion. Let us strive to reject our fickle ways and embrace the Truth: let us come out of our sleep longing to serve the King.


Want to Read More?
Year A: On the Qualities of a Ruler and The Need for Ritual
Year B: On the Longings of the Wounded Heart
Year C: On Visiting the Sick and The Need for Healing

The Costs of Salvation

Mt. Doom

Descent_AgiaMarina

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

AdobeStock_330289871.0

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