Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Tolkien, Virtue, Friendship, and yes, Life is Worth Living

I have been plowing my way, rather slowly I must admit, through J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. A few important themes have struck me in this work, as well as in The Hobbit.

One of these is that we are called to be heroic, and go on unexpected journeys now and again. There will be suffering and unknown forests to pass through, but we will be lifted up in triumph at the end. Heroic virtue does not simply mean one did a great deed. It means that one imitated God, and that in one's life, the presence of God is revealed. We are called to exemplify, particularly in the act of  martyrdom, the charity of Christ on the Cross. We must live in union with God's will, and as Father Z says,
"With God’s help we must strive in the concrete details of our lives to avoid faults and even small imperfections, even if we don’t always succeed.  We have to want to succeed and try to succeed and make progress, not giving in to discouragement or, worse, despair, accepting God’s will and going forward with humility."
It's not impossible. If it was, we wouldn't be here. Our lives were given to us, so that we might come into eternal life with God. God became man, so that men might become gods. (I posted about theosis earlier, and it was the topic of Deacon Bob Bryant's homily on Sunday at my parish.)

It takes our will to desire God's will be done to initiate faith and the gift of grace. To exclude one or the other is ancient heresy. This is seen in Scripture, as we must ask in the Lord's Prayer, "Thy will be done." Now, God can give us grace in any way He chooses. But, the usual way for this in the time after the Incarnation is through the sacraments, which are outward signs instituted by Christ of an efficacious and invisible grace given to us by God. There are seven: Baptism, Confession, Confirmation, the Eucharist, Holy Orders, Marriage, and Anointing of the Sick.

Another theme is the value of friendship. Scripture speaks of its importance. John 15:13 says, "Greater hath no love than this, than to give one's life for a friend." Friendship is is rooted in imitating love for God. Love is to will the good of another, and sometimes involves intense pain and suffering, both physical and emotional. I am also reminded by Samwise's assistance of Frodo through Mordor of the statue at Boys' Town, which reads, ""He ain't heavy, Father; he's m' brother."

There will be clashes with the world around us, but the gates of Hell shall not prevail against the Church. (Cue dramatic scene at the gates of Mordor with Aragorn and the mouth of Sauron.) The head of the snake will be stomped on.

Father Z also says this:

"This life may have moments which are dramatic and famous.  It will probably be rather plain and obscure.  But it is not mediocre."
Yes, Plato's cave is a model for seeing God, used throughout Tolkien's work.
It is also worth living, always.  Remember that light shines forth even into the darkest cave, and can touch as at our darkest and most lonely hour. Please, for the love of God, do not despair, for He is there always.

You and I are called to be saints, Let's both become one.

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