Happy Hobbit Day!

Mae govannen, my readers!

Happy Hobbit Day! Today – third year’s the charm – I have finally managed to publish a blog post in honor of Bilbo and Frodo’s double birthday on September 22. So, without further ado …

Happy birthday, Bilbo and Frodo Baggins!

I didn’t realize until just a few years ago that a lot of LotR “passionists” out there take Hobbit Day very seriously! I know it might be a little late, but here are links to a few websites that have recipes for each of the seven square Hobbit meals a day. Yes, that’s right – a complete Hobbit course! I’ve looked at all of these and they are great! Even if it’s a little late to celebrate Hobbit Day this year with seven Hobbit meals, I think that every now and then its a good thing to have a Hobbit meal or two, just to cheer up your day ūüôā

http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2013/12/09/249827551/elevenses-and-then-some-how-to-prepare-a-feast-fit-for-a-hobbit

http://lotrscrapbook.bookloaf.net/other/recipes.html#top

https://www.teawithtolkien.com/blog/2017/8/13/hobbit-party-planning-second-breakfast-more

There are some tried and true ways of celebrating Hobbit Day. Each year I make a cake. One year it was a hobbit-hole cake. Last year it was a pumpkin-pecan sheet cake. This year it is a pumpkin spice layer cake. When I bake I listen to the LotR soundtrack. I also read¬†The Fellowship of the Ring in the afternoon. Our family has a tradition of doing a double-feature movie night. We all watch the Veggie Tales¬†Lord of the Beans together, and after the littles go to bed I watch The Fellowship of the Ring: Extended Edition with my brother. As an aside, if you haven’t seen¬†Lord of the Beans,¬†you haven’t truly lived. It is clever and very funny, and those of us who have read the books and/or seen the movies will catch all the subtle references instantly. It’s a great movie and definitely worth a watch!

Happy Hobbit Day to all Ringers, and to any folk just passing by. ūüôā

Cheers, Hobbits! Happy birthday, Bilbo and Frodo Baggins! May the fur on your feet never fall off!

Keep an eye out for more posts coming soon!

In Pace Christi,

Pippin of the Shire

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Faith, Hope, and Charity – the 3 Geographical Virtues

Mae govannen, readers!

Yes, two posts in less than two months! *Gasp!* (See, miracles still happen.) Peculiar title, isn’t it? Today’s post is actually not entirely my own genius. I was talking with a friend the other day and after our conversation, he came to me with this idea and he asked me to share it here. I thought it was truly brilliant. You can comment below and let me know what you think, and I will tell him.

This post is about a few of the most important places in Middle-earth and how they are reflections of the three theological virtues – faith, hope, and charity.

One last note: My friend, being less grammatically inclined than I, has asked me to make whatever punctual or grammatical corrections are necessary. There will be a few slight changes in these areas from the original work. Otherwise, his words are in quotations and my comments and additional notes are not.

On to the post!

“Rohan is the virtue of Faith. The Rohirrim have faith in their king during the hard times in the War of the Third Age. They have faith because they trust in each other, knowing that they will have each other’s support. They have faith knowing that they can do what needs to be done and that they will do it together with a good man at their head, for an even greater goal.”

This greater goal is the salvation of Middle-Earth. The Rohirrim place great trust in each other, as brothers- and comrades-in-arms. Each man has complete confidence that he and his companions will fight with courage and honor to the end, and never abandon a warrior in need. Each man knows that he can rely on the others. These warriors have the courage and confidence to believe that together they will prevail against the enemy in the East. They are united in faith, a shield against the darkness of Mordor. Led by Eomer, the Rohirrim are a fierce torch of faith, marching against Sauron in the defense of Middle-Earth.

We are the warriors on this earth, fighting the darkness of Satan. We are the “rebellion”, the group cast out from our own people for refusing to follow the corrupt rule of a society of death. But the Rohirrim are faithful to their country, faithful to their cause, and faithful to each other. If anything, they bind more closely together through their trials and battles. They refuse to give in to the falsehood that “all is well”, for all is not well. Sauron is coming, and he intends to destroy all that is good. The Rohirrim know this and they do not hesitate to come to arms in the defense of the lands and peoples of Middle-earth. The Rohirrim are a stubborn, hardy, courageous people. Because of their faith in each other and in their leader, Eomer – the Pope – they stand firm, almost defiantly, against the evils of Mordor. They hold true to what they know is right. They fight with faith.

“Gondor is the virtue of hope, for the people of Gondor continue to keep hope alive. Because their steward Denethor succumbs to despair, Boromir, Faramir, and all the people of Gondor begin to lose hope as well. The soldiers are weary of fighting and very few men are left to reinforce the depleted army. However, they rally to the king of Gondor in the hour of need, when their doom approaches from all directions. The people look to Aragorn, son of Arathorn, as their lasting hope, as the Catholic Church looks to Jesus Christ for salvation. The hope of the citizens and soldiers of Gondor keeps the White City alive, just as the virtue of hope helps us to keep sight of Heaven.”
Gondor is on the very border between darkness and light. The people of Gondor are the first battle line, the first defense within sight of the dark mountains of Mordor. As Sauron’s strength grows, they witness the evil of his power and his destruction, stretching out like a shadow from the Dark Tower. The people of Gondor have been fighting the longest … but too long have they lived under the looming shadow of evil. The smog and corruption of Mordor is creeping up to their very gates. They are besieged by darkness, trapped in their own great city. The men are weary, stretched to their limits, and every day fewer come back. Hope seems to be fading quickly. Then Denethor the steward, in his pride, finally succumbs to despair. He abandons his people in their hour of need. All seems lost.

But their king has come: Aragorn, son of Arathorn, true King of Gondor and its last, true hope. He has the aid of Boromir, who fought nobly and, though tempted, gave his life in defense of the hobbits and died honorably; he has the aid of Faramir in his post in the wilderness; and the help of the people of Gondor. With courage and vigilance, Aragorn battles the darkness and keeps the flame of hope alive, and he inspires his people to do the same. The White City is a small, bright beacon, burning against the vast darkness and evil of Mordor. Small, yes – but hope is still alive. The King has returned, and he will not abandon his people nor lead them to the darkness of despair. Through their hope, the people of Gondor keep the White City alive, and they prevail.

Christ our Lord has suffered torment and death, has given His Body and shed His Blood, to redeem us. This is our true hope. Our beacon of hope, no matter how seemingly small or insignificant, is enormous. It is enormous because it is there. No matter how tiny it may seem, a small candle practically swallowed in the darkness, it is still there. That is all that matters. And as long as it exists, it can grow brighter. Christ is our light, our beacon, our hope. “… and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it …” ¬†Hope springs eternal.

“And fittingly the Shire is charity. The serenity of the meadows, the forests, and the fields have a peaceful air about them, as God has. We can turn to Him with any of our troubles and He will welcome us with open arms. The Shire’s peaceful ponds, hills, and homes are a welcoming sight for those who find themselves there. Who knows? Heaven may be just as the Shire is – a home at the end of our journey. It is easy to become fond of the Little People, once you have a mind for their ways. At the end of the War of the Ring the Shire is overcome by “Sharky” – the fallen wizard Saruman. Merry, Pippin, Frodo, and Sam return to a Shire that is slowly being destroyed. They find that they have lost their fields and forests, their old roads, their homes, and even some of their dear friends to the evil that has ensnared the Shire. If we let our charity slip away, as all the Hobbits let Saruman destroy the heart of the Shire, we lose our home. We lose the people, the places, and the things that could have helped us. ¬†Another point to make here is about the killing of Saruman. Evil knows no compassion, and the wicked and selfish deeds of the evil catch up to them in the end. Wormtongue attacks Saruman and kills him. The consequences of the merciless, selfish deeds that Saruman committed finally return to him through Wormtongue. Through trials the Hobbits retake the Shire and through labor they regain the beauty of the home that they remember and love. Showing charity in our lives in each situation will increase our love of God, love of neighbor and the love of what we can do to make our souls and the souls of others better.”

The Shire is charity – the completion and fruit of all other virtues. Charity is the eternal virtue of Heaven, our true end, the aim of all our labors. To have charity of heart is literally to “bring Heaven to earth”. Saruman in his selfishness opposes charity. He knows no compassion. His servants are loyal out of fear, and they loathe and hate their master even as they obey him. Wormtongue seizes his opportunity to end Saruman, who pays a heavy price for his selfish ambition. Selfishness (self-love) is the antithesis of charity (love of God, love of others). Through Saruman’s selfishness the Shire was corrupted; through our own selfishness, the “Shire” of charity in our hearts is corrupted. We need courage, faith and hope to fight against corruption and repair the damage done to our souls through our selfishness. The Hobbits, unaware and then afraid of Saruman, do nothing to oppose him until Frodo and company return. They rally the other Hobbits and together, as a united force, they overthrow Saruman’s hold in the Shire. We are called to do the same.

This world is not a safe place; like Middle-Earth, we suffer from the threat of darkness. Every day there seems less cause for hope, less reason to hold the faith. It is in these desperate times that the virtues of faith, hope, and charity are needed the most. We are called to have the faith of the Rohirrim, those brave warriors who together faced death fearlessly. We need to keep alive the hope of Gondor, the White City, the last beacon in the east, burning bright in the darkness. But most importantly – “A true warrior does not fight because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.” (G.K. Chesterton) In all our battles, we must remember and keep in our hearts the love and longing for the Shire – Heaven, our true home. It is from and also for this ultimate goal that we draw strength; this charity is the beginning and the end, the seed and the fruit of our labors. We are called to keep it alive and well-defended from corruption.

The Lord of the Rings¬†may be a mere “work of fiction”, but in many ways it is more real and more profound than almost any other literary work. Tolkien understood the underlying truth of the invisible battles that we wage every day. This truth was woven into his life’s work. We and our world have more in common with Middle-Earth and its peoples, than with any other book – Harry Potter, Percy Jackson … the world in LotR is more real to us than any of these, because it touches more profoundly on the truth beneath the outward appearances, the soul that we cannot see with mortal eyes.

I know this may have been a terribly long post, but I hope it was worth the read.

Namarie, readers – may the faith, hope, and charity of Middle-Earth grow in us and spread to others. Pro gloria Dei!

In Pace Christi,

Pippin of the Shire

Note

Mae govannen! I am sure that some of you are aware that in the spelling of the elvish words and phrases I neglected to add their accent marks. (Yes, it bothers me, too.) Unfortunately I am not very tech-savvy and have yet to figure out how to add the accent marks. However I am aware of the problem and I offer my apologies. Hopefully I will figure it out within the next few posts.

Hannon le, mellon-ni – thank you for understanding!

~Pippin of the Shire

Light of Earendil – Bright Morning Star

Mae govannen, my readers! Happy August!

Today’s blog post is about our holy Mother the Blessed Virgin Mary, and her parallels in¬†The Lord of the Rings. I had intended to post this way back in May, the month of Our Lady, in her honor. (“I’m very sorry, my dear Frodo … I was delayed.”) But here we are! – so without further ado:

“A Elbereth Gilthoniel

o menel palan-diriel,

le nallon si di-nguruthos!

A tiro nin, Fanuilos!”

“O Elbereth Starkindler from heaven gazing-afar, to thee I cry now in the shadow of death. O look towards me, Everwhite.”

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Above, both the elvish poem and its translation are from Peter Kreeft’s¬†The¬†Philosophy of Tolkien.¬†I had the high fortune of receiving this book¬†for Christmas 2016, and it is quite possibly the best book on Tolkien and LotR that I have ever read. (Hereafter abbreviated as PT.) It is incredible and very inspiring. I highly recommend it.

The elvish poem above is spoken by Samwise Gamgee, as he challenges the monstrous spider Shelob after she has stabbed Frodo. Who is Elbereth? And why is Sam calling upon her aid? Elbereth is a title for “Varda, Lady of the Stars” (The Silmarillion, p. 26). Varda is a queen of the Valar. The Valar are great spirits who chose to “put on the raiment of the World” and enter Middle-Earth to labor in it and create the vision of beauty that they desired it to become. In¬†The Silmarillion, Tolkien describes Varda: “Too great is her beauty to be declared in the words of Men or of Elves; for the light of Iluvatar lives still in her face. In light is her power and her joy.” The elves, Tolkien says, “call upon her name out of the shadows of Middle-Earth.”¬†(The Silmarillion, p. 26.)¬†The elves honor Varda as the Lady of the Stars, and they devote many songs and poems to her.

This description bears a striking resemblance to the Blessed Mother. Indeed, in Chapter 3 of¬†PT, Kreeft quotes one of Tolkien’s letters about how the invocations to Elbereth, as well as the elven lady Galadriel, are reflections of the Catholic devotion to Mary, the Mother of God.

Quick crash course in theology: Catholics do not worship the Blessed Virgin Mary. Worship belongs to God alone. Catholics honor Mary in a special way because she is the Queen of Heaven and Earth and by free choice became the Mother of our Savior Jesus Christ. The honor we give to her is called¬†hyperveneration. Our Lady has the singular privilege of being the only created human being who is completely free from the stain of Original Sin since the moment of her conception – the Immaculate Conception. She was given this privilege in view of the merits of her Divine Son. “God accepted in advance the Blood of Our Lord as the price of Mary’s redemption. Christ’s Blood redeemed Mary ahead of time by preserving her from all sin.” (Baltimore Catechism, p. 37.)

Lady Varda is a parallel of the Blessed Virgin Mary in many ways. In LotR, Lady Varda is “Lady of the Stars” and queen of the heavens. These are Catholic titles that we bestow on Mary. Similarly, “the light of Iluvatar still shines” in Varda; that divine light is still within her. Our Blessed Mother shines with the light of God’s grace in her, bright and immaculate because she was conceived without sin.

There is a clear connection between the invocation to Elbereth and the Hail Mary prayer. “Pray for us now and at the hour of our death.” — “to thee I cry now in the shadow of death.” We stand with Frodo in “the shadow of death”, and we send up our plea to the “Lady Everwhite” – Our Blessed Mother.

Galadriel, also, is a reflection of Mother Mary. Galadriel is the elven lady who gives Frodo the Phial of Galadriel – filled with the light of Earendil, the elves’ most beloved star. She foresees that Frodo and Sam will need this on their journey, and she could not have seen truer. Without the Phial, Frodo and Sam would never have made it through Mordor. They would have lost their way and their courage, many times over, without the Light. Truly, without both the light of the Phial and the plea to Elbereth together, Sam and Frodo would not have made it out of Shelob’s lair alive. It is through Earendil’s light and Elbereth’s grace that Frodo and Sam are able to survive and find their way through the darkness of Mordor.

“In light is her power and her joy.” Our Lady reflects the glory of God her Creator. She is like a beacon of divine light, guiding us on the path towards Heaven, our true home. Here I add a quote from St. Josemaria Escriva: “… when we feel temptations of the flesh, we should run to the side of Our Mother in Heaven … She will defend us and lead us to the light.”

Sam does not realize the meaning of the elvish words he is inspired to speak – he only knows that they give him courage, and the Phial of Galadriel shines far brighter in his hand. He suddenly receives the strength and the light to drive Shelob away.

Shelob is still here. The monsters are still in this world, still attacking us, trying to destroy us. They come in many forms: pride, anger, selfishness, sensuality, despair. These are the forces of darkness. But this is not cause for despair. Our Lady, a true Mother, intercedes for us constantly in the court of Heaven. She will gladly give us the “light of Earendil” as soon as we ask. A loving mother dreads to see her children hurt or scared and does whatever she can to heal them and help them. How much more so, then, does our Immaculate Mother desire God to pour out gifts and graces upon us! How much more does she seek to heal us, to help us, to guide us!

Our Lady is Queen, Mother, Friend, Confidante, and Warrior – yes, warrior, for she too faced and fought temptation. She understands our struggles; our trials. “I shall put enmity between your seed and her seed; you shall strike at him, and he shall crush your head with his heel.” Our Lady has been battling against the Devil since the moment she entered this world, and even now, at this very moment in Heaven, she continues to intercede and aid those still fighting on earth. Ask the Blessed Mother for her grace and she will never fail you; there is nothing that will prevent her from coming to your aid. She brings us the Light and the Hope of God – our Mediatrix between Heaven and earth. She stands as a pillar of light – a beacon to fight off the monsters, to guide us through the treacherous paths of a fallen world, and to bring us to our true goal.

I end now with a prayer that was written by a dear friend of mine. May you pray it often; may it serve you well.

“Mary most clean, Mary most pure, Mary most holy – pray for me, protect me, and guide me.”

God’s blessings on you all. May the Blessed Virgin Mary never cease to intercede for you.

Namarie!

In Pace Christi,

Pippin of the Shire

Daily Mortifications and the One Ring

Mae govannen, readers!

This may seem like an odd title for a post, and a little unusual – not the more obvious sort of Catholic content that you would read about in¬†The Lord of the Rings. But … I was reading¬†The Fellowship of the Ring (which makes this what – the eighth time I’ve started that book?) and a specific¬†passage stuck out. Before I quote the passage, though, I want to mention St. Josemar√≠a Escriv√°.

St. Josemar√≠a was one of the great saints of the 2oth century and the founder of Opus Dei, which is a personal prelature of the Catholic Church. Perhaps some of you have heard of him before ūüėČ Among the many books that he wrote,¬†The Way, Furrow, The Forge¬†is an exceptional spiritual read. (I highly recommend it.) In¬†The Way, St. Josemar√≠a has a chapter¬†devoted to mortifications. A mortification is denying yourself¬†something perfectly good – dessert, for example, or maybe seconds at meals. The aim¬†is to become the master of your body, instead of vice versa, so that when the time comes and you are tempted to fall into sin, you have built up the strength to say ‘No’. Mortifications have incredible spiritual benefit, and St. Josemar√≠a always stressed its importance in a healthy spiritual life. So, here is the passage from¬†The Fellowship that struck me. In it, Frodo and Gandalf are sitting in Bag End, discussing the Ring’s history.

” ‘But why not destroy it, as you say should have been done long ago?’ cried Frodo again. ‘If you had warned me, or even sent me a message, I would have done away with it.’

‘Would you? How would you do that? Have you ever tried?’

‘No. But I suppose one could hammer it or melt it.’

‘Try!’ said Gandalf. ‘Try now!’

“Frodo drew the Ring out of his pocket again and looked at it. It now appeared plain and smooth, without mark or device that he could see. The gold looked very fair and pure, and Frodo thought how rich and beautiful was its colour, how perfect was its roundness. It was an admirable thing and altogether precious. When he took it out he had intended to fling it from him into the very hottest part of the fire. But he found now that he could not do so, not without a great struggle. He weighed the Ring in his hand, hesitating, and forcing himself to remember all that Gandalf had told him; and then with an effort of will he made a movement, as if to cast it away – but he found that he had put it back in his pocket.”

–¬†The Fellowship of the Ring, Book I, Chapter 2

This is an example of¬†what can often happen when we are faced with temptations and we haven’t previously made many (or any) mortifications. It becomes very difficult to renounce the desire to do whatever it is we are tempted to do. I think that we can easily assume, “Oh, I won’t worry about that. I could spot a temptation like that from a mile away, and besides, I’m strong enough to resist it.” What a lot of people don’t fully realize is that first of all, the devil can be very persuasive and the sins to which he tempts us¬†appear very attractive; and secondly, if they haven’t really (or ever) practiced saying ‘no’ and building up their self-control in little things, it is incredibly difficult – almost impossible – to say ‘no’ to something bigger. Frodo thinks at first that it will be very easy for him to try to damage the Ring – he has just heard its dark and terrible history and he is filled with fear to know that it is in his possession. He would do anything to get rid of it in any way he could. But when he pulls the Ring out of his pocket and looks at it, he sees how beautiful it is and how perfectly it is made … and he begins to hesitate – it truly is a magnificent piece of craftsmanship … and he wonders … and all of a sudden he is struggling very hard just to throw it a few feet away from him. He tries to recall everything that Gandalf has told him about it, and he does make a legitimate effort to get rid of it, but suddenly … he can’t; he has put it back in his pocket. It’s almost impossible to say ‘no’ to a temptation, but with God’s grace, we can make mortifications, and thus say ‘no’ to sin.

Now, I realize that making mortifications sounds totally unappealing. Well … (surprise, surprise) it kind of is. I mean, giving up ice cream on the night your family finally gets those 3 awesome flavors of ice cream that you normally never get? Like, who the heck does that!?¬†Sooo not cool. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure¬†that mortifications are a uniquely Catholic thing. Why would anyone¬†deliberately choose to give up something that is¬†intrinsically good?? It doesn’t make sense. Not the world’s sense, anyway. We don’t make sense to the world, because we’re crazy – crazy for the love of God. Your biggest motivation for making any mortification, big or small, should be for the love of God. As Catholics, we are (we should be) constantly striving to love God more and more. Remember, a mortification is a tool to help you resist¬†temptations to sin. Sin is horribly offensive to God – we cannot even fathom how much He suffered because of our sins, because we didn’t love Him enough to say ‘no’ to sin. So, because we have that desire to love Our Lord, we willingly choose to give up something good, in order to teach ourselves how to give up something bad. It’s crazy – and it works.

There is one incredibly important thing to remember about mortifications – if you don’t ask for God’s grace, and constantly ask Him to help you love Him more, you won’t be able to make any kind of mortification. To give up something perfectly reasonable and good is completely contrary to our “normal” way of thinking and behaving. You need to have a pretty solid motivation to successfully push against that. The only motivation big enough is our love for an infinitely loving, merciful, and perfect Person. Since we’re imperfect people, we have an imperfect love of God, so the motivation sometimes isn’t big enough. You have to constantly ask for God’s grace.

So, if you’ve already been doing these mortifications, kudos! St. Francis de Sales says that the devil always stands a little more in awe of the people who¬†can sacrifice like that. Pretty cool, right? If you haven’t been making mortifications yet, you can start right away. Step 1: pray to Our Lord for His grace and that He might increase your love¬†for Him. Step 2: repeat step 1. I’m not going to lie. Mortifications are tough. Sometimes you might just have to repeat over and over again, “Sacred Heart of Jesus, increase my love for Thee”. And then grit your teeth and buckle down to it. But it is¬†totally worth it, I promise!

Mortifications can be anything really – for example, giving up ice cream completely on the night that everyone else has some. You may not be able¬†to do that yet, and that’s fine. Just have one¬†flavor of ice cream instead of two, or have only half as much as you’d want, or skip the whipped cream. Then you can gradually work up to having no ice cream at all. Or when you’re driving, you might leave the radio off for the first five minutes in the car. This will pertain more to people who like to listen to the radio. Or – here’s a really great one! – turn the shower water on as cold as you can stand, and say a Hail Mary for holy purity. (Then you can turn it on as hot as you’d like.) Things like that. They don’t have to be huge – but they do have to be a sacrifice. Remember when you¬†were a little kid and Mom told everyone¬†to pick something to offer up for Lent and everyone was like, “I offer up my homework and green beans for Lent”? This does not qualify.

It’s going to be tough, but God’s grace is an incredibly potent supernatural “weapon”. You will not regret making these mortifications. Remember – you make mortifications because you love Our Lord, you want to love Him more, and you want to avoid offending Him.

The whole reason we do this is because we’re crazy for the love of God. He is¬†the beginning and the end, and we should live our lives as if¬†He is the¬†ultimate reason why we do anything.

Have courage! He is with you!

Nam√°ri√ę, dear readers!

In Pace Christi,

Pippin of the Shire

Sauron and Satan

Mae govannen, my readers!

Ok, first off, I owe you all a huge apology for not having posted since December 2015. Chaos … chaos happened … (I hope at least some of you know this feeling …) Since my last post, my computer has been inflicting upon me malfunctions of alarming frequency and increasing complication, much to my chagrin. Finally it kicked the bucket sometime in August 2016. I’ve only just managed to find myself a new computer, as well as the time to post.

Also, Merry Christmas and a happy and blessed New Year to all!

And lastly, the news that will (hopefully) bring great joy to the Tolkien community … I have OFFICIALLY FINISHED reading¬†The Lord of the Rings! I finished¬†The Return of the King on Thursday, December 29, 2016, sometime around 10:30 P.M. (I include this information for posterity, of course, in hopes that it will be a day fondly remembered.)

So yes. Chaos in 2016. BUT – I did come up with about five pretty solid inspirations for posts! So look forward to a lot of posts during the next few weeks! ūüôā I am very excited to post the copious inspiration I have received in the past 13 months.

So, to begin this post I have a Bible passage that was in the Gospel one Sunday back in 2016:

‘Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. He fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was hungry. The tempter approached and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves of bread.” ‘

We’ve all heard this passage, but what made it stand out for me was something that the priest pointed out in his homily.

Most of us assume (well, I sure did) that the devil is talking to Our Lord with a sort of cunning rhetoric when he says to Him, “If you are the Son of God”. However, Father noted that this is probably not the case. Satan really doesn’t know if Christ is God’s Son. He is really probing Our Lord and testing Him in order to find out Who He is. The devil is a fallen angel. Angels do have an elevated being, and hence know much more than humans. However, they don’t know everything.

Our priest (who is, incidentally, a big Tolkien fan) described it as similar to the Eye of Sauron. Sauron’s power is rapidly growing and his Eye¬†is able to see distant countries. He can, on occasion, perceive the minds of others, as he did with Denethor and Saruman the wizard. However, Sauron does not know everything. He does¬†not know the location of the Ring or who possesses it¬†-the one thing vital to his total dominance over Middle-Earth. This is why he is searching for it so desperately, sending out Black Riders and scouring the countries. In¬†The Return of the King, he is practically scrabbling to find it in order to strike the fatal blow to Gondor and all of Middle-Earth.

But ultimately, in the end, he fails. Sauron may be powerful, but he is not all-knowing. He somehow, almost unbelievably, almost pathetically¬†fails to perceive two small, exhausted Hobbits, one of whom possesses the Ring. They survive attack by Shelob and capture by an¬†orc company, trekking across¬†many miles of his barren and terrible country. And somehow, they do the impossible. Somehow they manage to cross Sauron’s home turf with the Ring, avoid all¬†detection, scale Mount Doom, and destroy It.

Sauron and Satan may possess incredible power – power almost beyond what we can imagine. But they do not know everything.

Frodo is a sort of figure of Christ. Both climbed a mountain of death. Both faced their own destruction, and both embraced it. No doubt the devil was reeling with triumph when the tortured Christ breathed His last breath on the Cross on Calvary. But the devil¬†did not know everything. Christ made His Church the¬†promise that “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it”. He knew that His death would give us life everlasting. Satan knew much, but in the passage above he did not know if Christ was the Son of God. He did not know that Calvary would bring salvation to all men. And his power was broken by Christ on the Cross.

The spiritual war is already won. God has triumphed. His victory, paradoxically, came on Good Friday, the Crucifixion, the “utter defeat” of good. Our own individual spiritual battles, however, are still being¬†fought. In the decisions we make each day, we ultimately choose whose side we want to be on: God in His victory, or Satan in his true defeat. The decision to ally ourselves with Our Lord in His impossible battle will seem really absurd in this world, and sometimes even literally insane. To that I will only answer:¬†it was never about this world.¬†By our decisions in this world we decide where we will spend the world of eternity. Which world are we fighting for?

I end with a line from G. K. Chesterton, that estimable and admirable writer; these words were the last he spoke before he passed into eternity. He said that the choice is clear. There is light and there is darkness, and everyone must choose his part.

Nam√°ri√ę, dear readers! Again, I wish you a blessed Christmas season and new year of 2017!

In Pace Christi,

Pippin of the Shire

 

The World is All Grown Strange

Mae govannen, dear readers!

Pippin of the Shire here. To begin with, I am horribly ashamed of myself. We did not post on September 22nd – Bilbo and Frodo’s double birthday. May shame be upon our heads until next year, when we will redeem ourselves. I know that Max has been very busy lately. As for me, we spent half of September preparing for a new arrival in the family, and all of October (plus half of November) settling the whole family after the arrival. I bow before you and humbly beg¬†your pardon. Manquenty√ę avatyalda. I ask your forgiveness!

Now, to turn to other matters (namely, the blog post). I am now again halfway through¬†The Two Towers, and I came across a profound passage. It occurs during the conversation between Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas, and √Čomer, a¬†Horse-lord of Rohan. I quote the passage here (√Čomer is speaking at first):

” ‘It is hard to be sure of anything among so many marvels. The world is¬†all grown strange. Elf and Dwarf in company walk in our daily fields; and folk speak with the Lady of the Wood and yet live; and the Sword comes back to war that was broken in the long ages ere the fathers of our fathers rode into the Mark! How shall a man judge what to do in such times?’

‘As he has ever judged,’ said Aragorn. ‘Good and ill have not changed since yesteryear; nor are they one thing among Elves and Dwarves and another among Men. It is a man’s part to discern them, as much as in the Golden Wood [Lothl√≥rien] as in his own house.’ ”

Tolkien’s message here could not be any clearer. I’m afraid there’s really not much I can to do embellish upon this point, but I will try.

The world has all grown strange. Horrific sins are being committed without qualm or hesitation Рin fact they are mostly encouraged, supported, and (not in a few cases) forced. Human organs are being sold Рorgans belonging to living, breathing, innocent human beings who have a soul from the moment of conception. Cold-blooded murder is committed multiple times each day, murder of the innocent who cannot defend themselves. Those in power who do not know how to use it, are quick to condemn the natural and God-given rights of every human being if those rights threaten their goals for control. And countless people make excuses to quiet their consciences and hide their guilt, afraid of what they will see if they really start looking Рthe truth that there is a right and a wrong, and that they disregarded that truth.

Right and wrong are absolute. There is good in this world and there is evil as well, and just because some¬†try to paint over this truth does not make it any less true than it is. I’m sure most of you have heard this quote before, but I have seen several signs and stickers with the line, “A lie is a lie, even if everybody¬†believes it. The truth is the truth, even if nobody believes it.”¬†This is a fundamental truth. Good and evil exist as surely as God does.¬†Good and evil have existed since the first sin of Lucifer, and good and evil still exist, and they¬†will continue to do so¬†for eternity.

What is good and just and honorable remains so, whether you are in a king’s court or in your own home. What is naturally¬†evil or morally evil will remain so, regardless of where you are or who you are with. The world has forgotten such an absolute standard. Everything is relative now – whatever “feels right” is the thing to do, and whatever “feels wrong” or what people¬†don’t feel like doing, becomes what is “wrong”. Rationalization is a nationwide calamity. Making excuses to explain poor judgement or rash decisions, or to quiet feelings of guilt, is a habit of second nature. Small wonder the world is where it is today – if we don’t have an absolute, universal standard to stand¬†with unconditionally, then of course the state of the world will rapidly descend into chaos. And really, where else is¬†the world expected to be?

All is not lost. √Čomer asks, ” ‘How shall a man judge what to do in such times?’ ” And Aragorn replies, ” ‘As he ever has judged. Good and ill have not changed since yesteryear [.]’ ” In good times and in bad, in life¬†and in death, when there is much hope or little, where there are many soldiers of Christ or few – we shall judge as we have ever judged: in the way that God commands.

As long as we hold to our Faith, hope is not lost. All that is good and truly right will not die away, as long as we hold to that standard – the eternal, universal standard that God gave man at the beginning of time, and the standard that will exist for all time. Good and ill have not changed since yesteryear. They remain the same. They were always the same, and they will always remain so.

The height¬†that we are called to, as warriors of Christ and heirs of heaven, is eternal and universal. This calling will not be easy. Whoever expects it to is gravely mistaken. Yes, the world has all grown strange. It is even now nigh impossible¬†to discern moral right from wrong. But there¬†is a¬†standard, regardless of what the rest of the world tells us or tries to force us to believe. We all know it, even those who try to drown their guilt in excuses and rationalizations. God’s all-encompassing¬†moral code is engraved in the soul of every human being. It is up to us to hold to it.

Nam√°ri√ę!

In Pace Christi,

~~Pippin of the Shire~~