Arwen | Vessel of Honour

Chalice of the Abbot Suger of Saint-Denis (12th c.)

Meditation of the Day

Hidden within the House of Elrond, hidden in turn within the secret Valley of Rivendell, lives the greatest treasure of Elvendom in the land of exile: Arwen Undómiel (Evenstar), “whom few mortals had yet seen” (Bk2 Ch1). These three potent Marian images are nested within one another, much like the Biblical triad, Land of Promise—City of God—Bride of the Lamb. Frodo first beholds her seated in majesty at Elrond’s table. “Such loveliness in living thing Frodo had never seen before nor imagined in his mind”:

Young she was and yet not so. The braids of her dark hair were touched by no frost; her white arms and clear face were flawless and smooth, and the light of stars was in her bright eyes, grey as a cloudless night; yet queenly she looked, and thought and knowledge were in her glance, as of one who has known many things that the years bring. Above her brow her head was covered with a cap of silver lace netted with small gems, glittering white; but her soft grey raiment had no ornament save a girdle of leaves wrought in silver.

Arwen has the traits of a maiden, despite her great age (2,777 years to be precise!), and the traits of a queen. She is the living, personal embodiment of the ideals that the House of Elrond exists to safeguard. The subdued dignity of her outward appearance manifests the humility that authenticates her wisdom. She draws no attention to herself, yet is deservedly honoured by a seat of her own, in the middle of the table, under a canopy. She comes by her beauty not as a result of winning the genetic lottery, as we say, but as a sign of supernatural election: “in [her] it was said that the likeness of Lúthien had come on earth again.” Her appearance, then, is a sign that world-changing events will unfold in her lifetime—a turning of the ages, or in Christian terms, the “fullness of the time” (Gal. 4:4). There is a sense of consecration in her millennia-long virginity: refusing to marry despite (presumably) no shortage of suitors indicates a strong sense of a unique personal destiny. Like “virgin Israel” (Jer. 31:4), and Mary of Nazareth, she has been keeping herself for the one promised king, who would come to set the captives free. And for him, she is willing to set aside her immortality, like her foremother Lúthien.

Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord (Elizabeth, praising Mary, in Luke 1:45).

Behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed (Mary, concurring, in Luke 1:48).

As with our great Virgin Queen, it is above all Arwen’s faith in Aragorn that elevates her above all other women of her time. She goes on believing, as the years and decades of his mortal life slip by like the sand in an hourglass, despite the extremely low probability of his ever successfully claiming the united throne of Arnor and Gondor (which her father Elrond had set as a requirement for their marriage). One very powerful symbol of her faith is the royal banner that she makes for him in secret, and conveys to him by her brothers in the darkest hour of the War of the Ring. Such is the faith that can move mountains . . . and make a crownless ranger king. She shares fully in his redemptive mission, just as Mary does with Christ’s. Her com-passion unites her to his passion.

Prayer

Tota pulchra es, Maria. 
Et macula originalis non est in Te. 
Tu gloria Ierusalem. 
Tu laetitia Israel. 
Tu honorificentia populi nostri. 
Tu advocata peccatorum. 
O Maria, O Maria. 
Virgo prudentissima. 
Mater clementissima. 
Ora pro nobis. 
Intercede pro nobis. 
Ad Dominum Iesum Christum.
All fair art thou, O Mary.
The original stain is not in thee.
Thou art the glory of Jerusalem.
Thou art the joy of Israel.
Thou art the honour of our people.
Thou art the advocate of sinners.
O Mary, O Mary.
Virgin most prudent.
Mother most clement.
Pray for us.
Intercede for us
to our Lord Jesus Christ.
Tota pulchra es, Maria

Musical Selection

Action Points

  • Spend some time reflecting upon the qualities that made the Blessed Virgin worthy of honour, before the Annunciation (even though her humility made her wonder why Gabriel was greeting her so deferentially). Make a list of concrete ways in which you could show her greater honour—comparable to the honour shown to Arwen in Elrond’s hall.
  • Consider how we give joy and honour to Mary by devoutly reciting short, simple prayers, such as the Hail Mary, the Angelus, and other prayers we have been discovering in our journey to consecration. Resolve to incorporate more of these prayers into your life.

To Go Deeper

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