Her Name is Elanor

The Gray Havens

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

Frodo thought for a moment. ‘Well, Sam, what about elanor, the sun-star, you remember the little golden flower in the grass of Lothlórien?’
‘You’re right again, Mr. Frodo!’ said Sam delighted. ‘That’s what I wanted.'”

And in today’s Scripture we hear:

This is the day the LORD has made; let us be glad and rejoice in it.” (Psalm 118: 24)

Sam doesn’t mention Rosie until on the very slopes of Mt. Doom. Like Aragorn’s love for Arwen, so little is directly said about her that upon our first read we may not realize how important this personal love is Sam. Rosie is his hidden motivator, the desire to “save the Shire” made concrete. But not made complete until the birth of their daughter Elanor. She is the culmination of all the secret loves of Sam: his love for Rosie, his love for the Shire, his love for the memory of Lothlórien and the beauty of Galadriel and the joy of things that grow–even his love for Frodo. In Rosie and then in Elanor, we better understand the entirety of Sam’s journey, what helped preserve his hope even in the darkest of hours. We all have our secret loves that drove us on our pilgrimage this Lent: as our journey concludes, let us rejoice in them, and be glad that we might obtain all that we wanted.


Want to Read More?
Year A: For the Purposes of Remembrance and The Sea Calls Us Home
Year B: On What Lies Beyond the Circles of This World
Year C: On the Simple Rewards of a Good Life and Sailing to Valinor

The Very Last Stroke

The Scouring of the Shire

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

‘And the very last end of the War, I hope,’ said Merry.
‘I hope so,’ said Frodo and sighed. ‘The very last stroke. But to think that it should fall here, at the very door of Bag End! Among all my hopes and fears at least I never expected that.'”

And in today’s Scripture we hear:

The disciples of Jesus recounted what had taken place along the way, and how they had come to recognize him in the breaking of bread.” (Luke 24: 35)

Though the conflict between good and evil is cosmic, the battles are often closer to home. Though there might be wars waged between great armies and societies, great struggles between justice and injustice that consume generations, nevertheless, the very last stroke is always dealt with in the soul. In the ordinary and the simple, the common and the mundane–the breaking of the bread, a meeting on the road–does God work His most extraordinary graces. When all is said and done, the end of the War is when our hearts have finally made their choice: when we become like Frodo or Saruman, people of mercy or hatred.


Want to Read More?
Year A: On the Care and Concern for All Creation and Amazed at the Change
Year B: On the Things that Really Matter
Year C: On Bearing Wrongs Patiently and Home

We Didn’t Understand

Homeward Bound

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

Butterbur said, ‘You see, we’re not used to such troubles; and the Rangers have all gone away, folk tell me. I don’t think we’ve rightly understood till now what they did for us.'”

And in today’s Scripture we hear:

And Jesus said to them, ‘Oh, how foolish you are! How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?’ Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them what referred to him in all the Scriptures.” (Luke 24: 25-27)

We become used to things; we assume that nothing can change, that things will continue, that structures that protect us, grow us, and define us don’t need care. But we are often blind: we don’t understand how fragile the world is, how much is presumed, and how radical the Divine plan can be. We go about destroying the institutions that shape us, upending the traditions that oriented us, undermining the rituals that sustain us: and then we wonder why the floor slips out from underneath us. For too long we have spoken ill of the Rangers in our midst who do so much to preserve what we love; when they are gone, what troubles should arise?


Want to Read More?
Year A: On the People Who Did Not Make the Journey and Neither Abandoned Nor Alone
Year B: On Returning Home
Year C: On Ills That Linger and The Easter Journey

Not Been Idle

Many Partings

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

Treebeard said, ‘I knew that you were coming, but I have been at work up the valley; there is much still to be done. But you have not been idle either away in the south and the east, I hear; and all that I hear is good, very good.'”

And in today’s Scripture we hear:

Those who accepted [Peter’s] message were baptized, and about three thousand persons were added that day. (Acts 2:41)

The work of good has not been idle. Sacrifices unseen and efforts untold have rippled across the fabric of our lives, bearing fruit in their turn. Every act of this our Lenten pilgrimage–every moment of prayer, however fleeting; every act of giving, however small; every fast, however little–has been like pebbles cascading down the mountain side. One person renewed here; a few thousand added that day. There is much still to be done, much hurt to heal and much life to restore in our broken world, but we have not been idle, and what good we have done has been good, very good.

Past Reflections
Year A: On Gifts and Chance Encounters
Year B: On the Long Defeat
Year C: On Burying the Dead and Comradeship and Serious Joy

Be Not Afraid

The Steward and the King

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

Faramir said, ‘The reason of my waking mind tells me that great evil has befallen and we stand at the end of days. But my heart says nay; and all my limbs are light, and a hope and joy are come to me that no reason can deny.'”

And in today’s Scripture we hear:

Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid.'” (Matthew 28:10)

Do not be afraid. There is perhaps no line uttered more often in Scripture than this (save perhaps some formulation of “someone begot so and so”). It is so simple and common that we can look past it, elide it from our thoughts and minds. And yet, it is a remarkable phrase. Do not be afraid: though all reason and rationale would suggest ruin and suffering and evil. Do not be afraid: though all our actions seem vain and futile and meaningless. Do not be afraid: though great powers and authorities and wills might strive against us. We may not understand; we may not see the light; yet we are called to hope and joy and lightness that no reason can deny. With Easter glory, we reject the fear that would consume us; let us not be afraid.


Want to Read More?
Year A: On the Secret Fire That Kindles the Heart and The Power of Proclamation
Year B: On the Need for Justice and Mercy
Year C: On Willingly Laying Down One’s Office and Restoration

The True Nature of the Shadow

The Field of Cormallen

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

And as the Captains gazed south to the Land of Mordor, it seemed to them that, black against the pall of cloud, there rose a huge shape of shadow, impenetrable, lightning-crowned, filling all the sky. Enormous it reared above the world, and stretched out towards them a vast threating hand, terrible but impotent: for even as it leaned over them, a great wind took it, and it was all blown away, and passed, and then a hush fell.”

And in today’s liturgy we hear:

Death and life have contended in that combat stupendous: The Prince of life, who died, reigns immortal.” (Victimae paschali laudes)

All our journey, we have been plagued by the Shadow, dogged by the Darkness, pressed upon by the Enemy. Fierce it seemed, and dangerous, and deadly–and it was–and yet, now, on Easter, with the Ring destroyed and the Tomb Empty, we see the true nature of the darkness. Enormous, yes, and threatening, and terrible–but ultimately impotent, powerless, without form or substance. Death has been defeated and the darkness has passed; the mask of the Evil One has been blown off and his true, imploding spirit reveal. The shadow has passed, and now we bask in the Easter light. Rejoice, for the victory has been won!


Want to Read More?
Year A: On Relics and Celebrating in the Middle of the Journey
Year B: On Glory
Year C: On Hearing the Story Told and The Unexpected Victory

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