Model of Consecration: Frodo (I)

Meditation of the Day

In order to prepare ourselves well for consecration to Our Lady, it is not enough to grow in our knowledge of her beauty, titles, privileges, and other perfections. We must give serious thought to how we will personally respond to what we learn of her during these thirty-three days. To paraphrase Jesus’s teaching in the gospel (Matt. 7:21), it is not enough to say “My Lady! My Lady!” to benefit from her maternal protection and intercession. We need to make real changes in how we live, to reflect our new awareness. That is why, as we traverse Middle-earth, we will be stopping not only to contemplate the characters, places, and powers that give us deeper insight into who Mary is for us, but also to examine how other characters in the story respond to who she is for them.

Our first model of consecration is Frodo Baggins, the Ringbearer, the one whom divine Providence has ordained to carry out the most perilous enterprise of all: to take the Ring, the Dark Lord’s greatest weapon, into the very heart of his kingdom, and cast it into the fire of Mount Doom, where it was forged ages ago. Frodo’s own “doom” will involve a long way of the cross; and so, more than any other character, we can see revealed in Frodo the traits of the Man of Sorrows, the Lamb who takes away the sins of the world. (For more insight on how various characters in LOTR reflect the three offices of Christ—Priest, Prophet, and King—, see the work by Ryken in the “To Go Deeper” section below.)

Frodo responds to the encounter with the Elbereth-invoking Elves in a manner that shows not only that he is polite and respectful, but that he is eager to learn as much as he can from them. He begins by greeting them in Quenya, their ancient speech (the equivalent of Latin in Middle-earth): “A star shines on the hour of our meeting.” He is far from fluent, but he makes every effort to use what he knows of their tongue to speak to his hosts and to understand what they are saying. He shows genuine humility and trust by asking for advice; and he is rewarded with the title “Elf-friend.” When Gildor, the leader of the company, learns that Frodo and his friends are being hunted by the Black Riders, he invokes a blessing upon him: “May Elbereth protect you!” And indeed, in very critical encounters with the powers of darkness later on (Weathertop, the Ford of Bruinen, Cirith Ungol), he will be able to call upon her name and enjoy the benefits of her protection.

Let’s transpose this response into Christian terms. Like our own great High Priest, Jesus, Frodo begins his ministry in total humility, by putting himself at the school of Mary. He does more than treat her name as a magical talisman: he exhibits the virtues of heart and mind that show his sincerity in desiring to enjoy her friendship, by befriending and learning from her greatest friends, the Elves, the holy ones who reverence her and live by her light. By becoming an Elf-friend, that is, a saint-friend, he becomes a Mary-friend.

If all this Christian symbolism, woven deeply into the fabric of what you may have thought was just one more work of modern fantasy fiction, gives you reason to think that Tolkien was a literary genius as well as a profound Catholic thinker, you are not alone! There is no doubt that Tolkien was a creative genius, and the secret of his genius lay in the conformity of his mind to the divine mind. If we admire the creative genius of a Tolkien, how much more should we admire the genius of the God who inspired him! He is the Author, not just of a work of fiction, but of the true Story: the great history of our world and the even greater history of its salvation, which enfolds the mystery of our own lives. If Tolkien, using the gifts that God gave him, was able to write such a brilliant story, how much more brilliant should we find the story of our own lives, the one that God is writing right now? If we understand how magnificently good He is, and how unimaginably wise, we can only entrust ourselves without reserve into His all-powerful hands. We can only conclude, with Julian of Norwich, the great 14th-century English woman mystic, that despite the devastation caused by sin, “all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well” (Revelations 27:8-11.209).

Prayer

O Jesus, living in Mary,
come and live in your servants,
in the spirit of holiness,
in the fullness of your power,
in the perfection of your ways,
in the truth of your virtues,
in the communion of your mysteries.
Rule over every adverse power,
in your Spirit,
for the glory of the Father. Amen.

– Jean-Jacques Olier, S.S. (1608-1657)

Musical Selection

Marian antiphon from the Liturgy of the Hours, Night Prayer (Compline)

Action Points

  • One of the best ways to put ourselves at the school of Mary is to befriend those who loved her the most on earth. Pick one or two saints who are renowned in the Church for their devotion to the Blessed Virgin, and humbly seek to learn as much as you can from them.
  • Make an act of trust that if you do your best, with the help of God’s grace, to become a Mary-friend, she will reward you with her presence and protection when you need them the most.
  • Learn some Marian prayers or chants in their original language, and incorporate them into your prayer life.

To Go Deeper

Elbereth | Queen of Heaven

Meditation of the Day

The very first vision of Mary that we encounter, as we retrace the journey of the central characters in The Lord of the Rings, occurs as Frodo, Sam, and Pippin are being hunted by what they know only as a Black Rider—who (they will eventually learn) is one of the Nine Ringwraiths, the most fearsome servants of Sauron, the Dark Lord. They are in the gravest peril they could possibly be in Middle-earth, short of encountering the Enemy himself. They are saved by an unexpected, providential meeting with a group of Elves, who are on their way westward through the Shire, but when they hear of the hobbits’ plight they agree to take them into their company for the night. Very significantly, it is when Frodo hears them speaking the name of Elbereth that he recognizes them as High Elves, the most holy of the peoples of Middle-earth: “‘These are High Elves! They spoke the name of Elbereth!’ said Frodo in amazement.”

In Tolkien’s mythos, Elbereth (star-queen) is one of the names of Varda (the exalted), one of the benevolent Powers of the world. As her name indicates, she rules the stars. Gilthoniel means “star-kindler.” Much later in the story, the narrator explains: “Varda is the name of that Lady whom the Elves in these lands of exile name Elbereth” (Bk2 Ch8). Analogously, in Catholic liturgy and piety, the Virgin Mary is reverenced under many titles. She is frequently invoked as “Our Lady” and “Queen of Heaven.” One of the most well-known Marian hymns, the Salve Regina, calls upon her to show us her Son “after this our exile.” Like the Elves, we Christians do not consider ourselves to have a permanent home here below. We are on pilgrimage through a land of shadows, dangers, and suffering. But we have a bright beacon shining down upon us as a sign of hope that we will one day reach our homeland safely. And it is good for us to sing in praise of her beauty, especially when evil threatens to overtake us.

The Elves, too, sing a hymn to Elbereth in the woods of the Shire, out of sheer joy at her loveliness, manifested in the stars that shine overhead:

Snow-white! Snow-white! O Lady clear! 
O Queen beyond the Western Seas! 
O Light to us that wander here 
Amid the world of woven trees! 
Gilthoniel! O Elbereth! 
Clear are thy eyes and bright thy breath! 
Snow-white! Snow-white! We sing to thee 
In a far land beyond the Sea.

Prayer

AVE REGINA CAELORUM

Ave, Regina cælorum,
Ave, Domina Angelorum:
Salve radix, salve, Porta,
Ex qua mundo lux est orta:
Gaude Virgo gloriosa,
Super omnes speciosa,
Vale, o valde decora,
Et pro nobis Christum exora.
Hail! O Queen of heav’n enthron’d!
Hail! by angels mistress own’d!
Root of Jesse, Gate of morn,
Whence the world’s true Light was born.
Glorious Virgin! joy to thee,
Loveliest whom in heaven they see.
Fairest thou where all are fair!
Plead with Christ our sins to spare.
Marian antiphon from the Liturgy of the Hours, Night Prayer (Compline)

Musical Selection

Action Points

  • When the troubles and evils of this life press in on us, the temptation is to narrow our vision, to “look down” and to turn in upon ourselves. Instead, we can choose to “look up,” to gaze in awe and wonder at our heavenly homeland and its glorious inhabitants. Praise is one of the purest forms of devotion because it is gratuitous. Today, let’s look for an opportunity to express our admiration for our heavenly Queen’s beauty.
  • There is a vast treasury of hymns and poems to Our Lady in our heritage. We can look up one that we are not familiar with, and make it our own.
  • Like the Elves, we can use the sight of natural beauty to remind us of the Blessed Land where our Queen awaits us, beyond the bounds of time and space.

To Go Deeper

The Journey Begins

patrick-fore-74TufExdP3Y-unsplash

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door,” he used to say. “You step into the Road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to.” — Bilbo Baggins, speaking to his nephew and heir Frodo (The Lord of the Rings, Bk1 Ch3).

I’m inviting you, whoever you are and wherever you find yourself in this darkening world, to join me on an itinerary you may never have taken before: a 33-day journey toward the Heart of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, as Sacred Scripture and Tradition present her to us, and as she is reflected through the lens of one of the greatest masterpieces of imaginative fiction in the English language, The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien.

Tolkien once declared in a letter to a priest friend who had read an advance copy of his novel, had been struck by its deep religious symbolism, and had picked up, in particular, on the Marian overtones of its depiction of Galadriel, one of its most powerful female characters: “it is on Our Lady [that] all my own small perception of beauty both in majesty and simplicity is founded” (Letter 142 to Fr. Robert Murray, SJ, 1953).

We will be finding our way through Middle-Earth, and encountering various characters, places, and powers, in roughly the same sequence that Frodo, Sam, and the other members of the Fellowship of the Ring encountered them; always asking ourselves, “What vision are we being given by the author here (whether consciously or unconsciously) of the Mother of God? How are we being shown how to grow in love and devotion for her, so as to be more quickly and easily plunged into the depths of the Mystery of God?”

If you come with an open heart, I can guarantee that this will not be a “There and Back Again” quest like Bilbo’s in The Hobbit, but more like the Quest of the Ring: a journey of losing in order to find, a journey of leaving behind the safe and familiar in order to become something greater than you, or anyone else in your life, could have imagined. Just like what happened to the members of the Fellowship.

I hope that you choose to use these daily posts as a path to consecrating yourself to Jesus through the Heart of his Blessed Mother, which is a life-changing practice embraced by millions of other Christians past and present. Each post will contain:

  • a meditation inspired by The Lord of the Rings;
  • a prayer (traditional or newly composed);
  • a link to a musical piece, ancient or modern;
  • some action points to consider implementing in your daily walk with Christ;
  • some suggested references to help you go deeper.

You don’t have to begin on any particular date, but I will be timing the posts to coincide with the 33 days preceding May 31, the ordinary date of the Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary (in the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite) even though this year the feast will be superseded by the Solemnity of Pentecost—not an unhappy concurrence, since she is the Spouse of the Holy Spirit! What a glorious day to make or renew our consecration!

The month of May is traditionally a month dedicated to honoring Our Lady, through the prayer of the Holy Rosary and various devotional customs. Pope Francis just released a Letter for the Month of May, which contains two special prayers to be added to the rosary to obtain help in overcoming the unprecedented affliction we are under from the coronavirus pandemic.

Let us keep one another close in prayer, as we journey. Time to grab our walking sticks!


If this blog has blessed you, please mention it to your friends, share testimonies on social media, and… Become a Patron!

You can also Join the Facebook Group: Tolkien Marian Consecration 2020.