Arwen | Queen of Peace

Meditation of the Day

Sing now, ye people of the Tower of Anor,
for the Realm of Sauron is ended for ever,
and the Dark Tower is thrown down.
Sing and rejoice, ye people of the Tower of Guard,
for your watch hath not been in vain,
and the Black Gate is broken,
and your King hath passed through, and he is victorious.
Sing and be glad, all ye children of the West,
for your King shall come again,
and he shall dwell among you all the days of your life.
And the Tree that was withered shall be renewed,
and he shall plant it in the high places,
and the City shall be blessed.
Sing all ye people! (Bk6 Ch5)

Thus proclaims the eagle sent from the Valar, announcing the Good News to the people of Minas Tirith—the faithful city, the citadel of the saints, a shining image of the Church militant. To sing in praise of God’s mighty deeds is one of the primary duties of God’s holy People on earth. We see the entire people of Gondor responding to the summons with all their might: “And the City was filled again with women and fair children that returned to their homes laden with flowers; and from Dol Amroth came the harpers that harped most skilfully in all the land; and there were players upon viols and upon flutes and upon horns of silver, and clear-voiced singers from the vales of Lebennin” (Bk6 Ch5).

When Queen Arwen comes to the city, she too will join in this triumphant song: “Frodo went to the King as he was sitting with the Queen Arwen by the fountain, and she sang a song of Valinor, while the Tree grew and blossomed” (Bk6 Ch6). One of the central aspects of her role as queen will be to ensure that this song of praise continues to resound through the halls and streets and homes of her realm, even when the time of jubilation is over and the hard work of rebuilding must begin. There is no temple in the city, because the entire city is meant to be a temple, continually celebrating the gift of salvation.

So it is with the ongoing role of Mary in the Church. Like her ancient namesake Miriam, who led the Israelite women in a victory song with timbrels at the Red Sea (Ex. 15:20), our Queen of Peace is a songstress who lets her hymn of praise resound through the successive generations, until her Son comes again:

He has shown strength with His arm;
He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He has put down the mighty from their thrones,
And exalted the lowly.

Luke 1:51-52

As her faithful sons and daughters, consecrated to her, we form a vast choir under her expert direction. Whenever hearts grow cold around us, or inspiration falters, or wisdom dims, or the road ahead seems strewn with obstacles, it will be our task to lift up our voices in her name, for the sake and praise of her Son.

Prayer

Today, the root of Jesse has produced its shoot: she will bring forth a Divine flower for the world…. Today, the Creator of all things, God the Word, composes a new book: a book issuing from the heart of his Father and written by the Holy Spirit, Who is the tongue to God….

O daughter of King David and Mother of God, the universal King; O Divine and living object whose beauty has charmed God the Creator; your whole soul is completely open to God’s action and attentive to God alone.

All your desires are centered only on what merits to be sought and what is worthy of love. You harbour anger only for sin and its author. You will have a life superior to nature – but not for your own sake. For it has not been created for you but has been entirely consecrated to God, who has introduced you into the world to help bring about our salvation in fulfillment of his plan – the Incarnation of his Son and the Divinization of the human race.

Your heart will find nourishment in the words of God, like the tree planted near the living waters of the Spirit, like the tree of life that has yielded its fruit in due time – the incarnate God who is the life of all things.

Your ears will be ever attentive to the Divine words and the sounds of the harp of the Spirit, through whom the Word has come to take on our flesh…. Your nostrils will inhale the fragrance of the Bridegroom, the Divine fragrance with which he scented his humanity.

Your lips will savor the words of God and will rejoice in their Divine sweetness. Your most pure heart, free from all stain, will ever see the God of all purity and will experience ardent desire for Him.

Your womb will be the abode of the one whom no place can contain. Your milk will provide nourishment for God, in the little Infant Jesus…. Your hands will carry God, and your knees will serve as a throne for Him that is more noble than the throne of the Cherubim….

Your feet, led by the light of the Divine Law, will follow him along an undeviating course and guide you to the possession of the Beloved.

You are the temple of the Holy Spirit, the city of the living God, made joyous by abundant flowers, the sacred flowers of divine grace. You are all-beautiful and very close to God, above the Cherubim and higher than the Seraphim, right near God Himself!

St. John Damascene

Musical Selection

Action Points

  • Sing! Sing the song that arises from the depths of your heart, when your spirit perceives that God has won the decisive victory for us against all darkness, that nothing can now separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, that all things work together for good, for those who love God (see Romans 8).

To Go Deeper

Model of Consecration: Aragorn

Meditation of the Day

Even though the Dark Lord has been vanquished, the One Ring and everything constructed with its power have been destroyed, Elessar has been crowned King and has begun his reign in mercy and justice, even still his joy is not complete. He wishes the Companions of the Ring to remain by his side, because the end of their story has not yet come. “I would have you wait a little while longer: for the end of the deeds that you have shared in has not yet come. A day draws near that I have looked for in all the years of my manhood, and when it comes I would have my friends beside me.” (Bk6 Ch5). Even after everything he has gone through to enjoy this moment of glorious triumph, Aragorn the humble Servant-King does not trust in his own worth or in the value of his colossal accomplishments. Even though he has met Elrond’s impossible conditions, he does not take it for granted that his beloved bride will now be his. He submits his desire to the will of heaven, and as Gandalf explains, he “waits for a sign.”

The sign takes the form of a tender young sapling of the White Tree, sprung up unexpectedly from a seed planted centuries earlier. It is growing in a hallow unvisited by anyone since the line of kings failed, but Gandalf the White, messenger of Eru, has led Aragorn there. What was true of his own lineage is true of the Tree that guarantees divine blessing upon his dynasty. “There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, And a Branch shall grow out of his roots” (Isaiah 11:1). “On that day I will raise up the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down, and repair its damages; I will raise up its ruins, and rebuild it as in the days of old” (Amos 9:11). Aragorn is the embodiment of righteous, anointed kingship. Like David, he is a man after God’s own heart (1 Sam. 13:14). It is only because he continually submits his human will to the will of God that he deserves to reign, and to be united to Arwen Evenstar.

Then at last, on the Eve of Midsummer, comes the fulfilment of Aragorn’s desire. “Last came Master Elrond, mighty among Elves and Men, bearing the sceptre of Annúminas, and beside him upon a grey palfrey rode Arwen his daughter, Evenstar of her people. And Frodo when he saw her come glimmering in the evening, with stars on her brow and a sweet fragrance about her, was moved with great wonder, and he said to Gandalf: ‘At last I understand why we have waited! This is the ending. Now not day only shall be beloved, but night too shall be beautiful and blessed and all its fear pass away!’” (Bk6 Ch5).

Consecration to Mary will form in us the same heart that was in Aragorn, a heart that seeks the will of God above the highest honours and riches of this world, a heart that readily puts others above oneself, a heart that is fit to be an instrument for the accomplishment of God’s own purposes in the world.

Prayer

Hail, Mary, Mother of God, venerable treasure of the whole world. You are the lamp that is never extinguished, the crown of virginity, the rule of orthodoxy, the incorruptible temple containing the one whom nothing can contain, the mother and virgin, through whom the one who comes in the Name of the Lord receives in the Gospel the name of “Blessed.”
We salute you, who have borne the immensity of God in your virginal womb. Through you, the Trinity is sanctified. Through you, the Cross is venerated in the whole world. Through you, heaven is filled with joy. Through you, the angels and archangels rejoice.
Through you, demons are sent flying. Through you, the tempter devil is cast out of heaven. Through you, the fallen creature is elevated to heaven.
Through you, the whole universe, possessed by idolatry, has attained the knowledge of the truth. Through you, holy baptism comes to those who believe. Through you, the oil of gladness reaches us.
Through you, churches are established in the whole world. Through you, peoples are led to conversion.
Through you, even more, the only-begotten Son of God has radiated like light upon those who sat in darkness and the shadow of death.
Through you, the prophets have announced their message, and the Apostles have proclaimed salvation to the nations.
Through you, the dead rise, and kings exercise their royalty, by the power of the Holy Trinity.

A father of the Council of Ephesus (431)

Musical Selection

Action Points

  • Identify two or three areas in your life where you might be tempted to rely on your own strength, wisdom, or worthiness. Surrender these areas fully into God’s hands, through the hands of Mary.
  • Beg God to send His people leaders after His own heart, both in civil society and in the Church.

To Go Deeper

Arwen | Long-desired Bride of the Lamb

Meditation of the Day

And Aragorn the King Elessar wedded Arwen Undómiel in the City of the Kings upon the day of Midsummer, and the tale of their long waiting and labours was come to fulfilment. (Bk6 Ch5)

The timing of the royal wedding of Aragorn and Arwen follows the chronology of the end times, as laid out in the final book of the Bible. It is only after the final defeat of evil that the Lamb’s kingdom is fully established and that the earth is ready, is pure enough, for the Bride to come down from heaven to meet Him. As the Catechism teaches, “The kingdom will be fulfilled . . ., not by a historic triumph of the Church through a progressive ascendancy, but only by God’s victory over the final unleashing of evil, which will cause his Bride to come down from heaven” (CCC 677). Although the “marriage of the Lamb” is announced in Rev. 19:6-9, all the superhuman enemies of God (the Beast, the False Prophet, the Devil, Death, and Hades) must first be cast into the lake of fire (Rev. 19:20; 20:10,14—the eruption of Mount Doom fittingly causes rivers of fire to flow), before the Bride descends at last (Rev. 21:2). Like the wedding of Christ and the Church which it symbolizes, the union of Arwen with Aragorn inaugurates a time of pure bliss, unmarred by any further conflict with evil forces.

Undoubtedly, the intensity of the royal couple’s marital bliss will be commensurate with the heavy personal cost that both have borne in the forty years since their betrothal in Cerin Amroth. But the “long waiting and labours” that Aragorn took on to win his bride’s hand, as arduous as they were, even counting his symbolic passage through the realm of the Dead, pale in comparison to what our Saviour underwent out of love for us, His Church, during His Passion. Evoking the “great mystery” of the marital union between God and His people, St. Paul eloquently declares that Christ “loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5:25b-27).

Our Blessed Lady, assumed into heaven, already participates in the final triumph of her divine Son, the triumphant Lamb. She is the prototype of what will be our common inheritance, when the new heaven and new earth are finally revealed (see 1 Pet. 1:4-5). “In the interim just as the Mother of Jesus, glorified in body and soul in heaven, is the image and beginning of the Church as it is to be perfected is the world to come, so too does she shine forth on earth, until the day of the Lord shall come, as a sign of sure hope and solace to the people of God during its sojourn on earth” (Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen gentium 68).

Prayer

PSALM 45 (TLV)

My heart is stirred with a good word.
I speak my verses to the king.
My tongue is the pen of a skillful writer.
You are the most handsome of the sons of men.
Grace pours from your lips.
Therefore God has blessed you forever.
Gird your sword on your thigh, O mighty one,
in your splendor and your majesty.
In your majesty ride victoriously,
on behalf of truth, meekness and justice.
Let your right hand display awesome things.
Your arrows are sharp.
Peoples fall beneath you—
into the heart of the king’s enemies.
Your throne, O God, is forever and ever,
and a scepter of justice is the scepter of Your kingdom.
You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness.
Therefore, God, your God, anointed you with the oil of gladness above your companions.
All your robes have myrrh, aloes, cassia.
From ivory palaces, stringed instruments
make you glad.
Kings’ daughters are among your honored women.
At your right hand stands the queen
in gold of Ophir.
“Listen, O daughter, consider and incline your ear.
Forget your people and your father’s house.
Then the king will desire your beauty.
Honor him, for he is your lord.
A daughter of Tyre comes with a gift.
The richest people will court your favor.”
All glorious is the king’s daughter within the palace—
her gown is interwoven with gold.
She will be led to the king in embroidered garments.
Her virgins, her companions following her, are coming in to you.
They are led in with joy and gladness—
they enter into the palace of the king.
Your sons will take your fathers’ place.
You will make them princes throughout the land.
I will cause your name to be remembered in all generations.
Therefore the nations will praise you forever and ever.

Musical Selection

Action Points

  • Reflect for a few minutes (or longer) upon what it has cost Our Lord to present us to Himself as a pure and holy Bride. What more could He possibly have done to win our love? How our ingratitude and indifference must pain His Heart.

To Go Deeper

  • Read Revelation 21, with a good commentary.

Model of Consecration: Frodo (IV)

This post is dedicated to David Clayton, for showing us The Way of Beauty

Meditation of the Day

Before Frodo departs the Hall of Fire to spend time with Bilbo, his attention is arrested by the intoning of a hymn to Elbereth. He looks back, and notices that Arwen and Aragorn are speaking together. “Arwen turned towards him, and the light of her eyes fell on him from afar and pierced his heart” (Bk2 Ch1). It is no coincidence that this piercing of Frodo’s heart by Evenstar’s inner beauty happens at precisely the moment when she is conversing with her beloved Elfstone, the one who would lay down his mortal life for her, and for whom she would lay down her immortal life. There is nothing that makes divine Love more perfectly visible in this created world than the love of man and woman—made in the image and likeness of God, called to form a one-flesh union.

This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.

Ephesians 5:32

Of course, spousal love is not the only earthly reality that can have this transfixing effect on us. All true art can pierce our hearts. When this happens, everything mundane, as ponderously real as it seemed, is suddenly dispelled as though it were but a bubble. Time is suspended, as we unexpectedly touch the eternal. Everything truly human in us awakens.

But Frodo is not merely beholding Beauty (as he had already done during the feast, seated at Elrond’s table); now he experiences being beheld by Beauty. His innermost self is exposed to a Beauty that has a name, that knows his name. And it is a gaze of love . . . which is both consoling and painful. Arwen gazes at Frodo, as one in whom she perceives the same self-emptying love that animates her and her betrothed; as one without whose voluntary self-offering their nuptial union would be impossible. Their destinies are inextricably linked. There could be no greater expression of the debt of love that Arwen Evenstar feels toward Frodo than her parting gift to him:

‘A gift I will give you. For I am the daughter of Elrond. I shall not go with him now when he departs to the Havens; for mine is the choice of Lúthien, and as she so have I chosen, both the sweet and the bitter. But in my stead you shall go, Ring-bearer, when the time comes, and if you then desire it. If your hurts grieve you still and the memory of your burden is heavy, then you may pass into the West, until all your wounds and weariness are healed.’ (Bk6 Ch6)

Like John the Baptist, the celibate priest Frodo is a “friend of the Bridegroom.” It is fitting that he should pass into the West while Elessar enters into his glorious reign. “He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:29-30).

The Blessed Virgin is God’s masterpiece, the highest expression of uncreated Beauty in a created being; she is no inanimate statue or painting, but a living person who can return our gaze, who knows our name, who loves in us what she first loved in her Son, who desires to reproduce his likeness in us as we invite and allow her to do so. To be consecrated to her is to live under the gaze of Beauty continually. To consecrate something means to set it apart, to withdraw it permanently from profane use so that it may be entirely dedicated to divine service. To consecrate our senses to our Blessed Lady, the perfect created manifestation of uncreated Beauty, requires us to withdraw them from what is deformed and corrupted by evil, and to direct them instead toward “whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely” (Phil. 4:8a).

Prayer

O Domina mea! O Mater mea! tibi me totum offero, atque ut me tibi probem devotum, consecro tibi hodie oculos meos, aures meas, os meum, cor meum, plane me totum. Quoniam itaque tuus sum, O bona Mater, serva me, defende me, ut rem et possessionem tuam.


Invocation in any temptation:
O Domina mea! O Mater mea! memento me esse tuum. Serva me, defende me, ut rem et possessionem.
My Queen! my Mother! I give thee all myself; and to show my devotion to thee, I consecrate to thee this day my eyes, ears, mouth, heart, myself wholly and without reserve. Wherefore, O loving Mother, as I am thine own, keep me, defend me, as thy property and thy own possession.

Invocation in any temptation:
My Queen! my Mother! remember I am thine own.
Keep me, defend me, as thy property, thy own possession.
O Domina mea!

Musical Selection

Action Points

  • Going through our five senses one at a time, let’s consider what it means concretely for us to withdraw them from what is profane and reserve them for the sacred. In our highly visual and overstimulated age, this may mean periodically giving our senses a break from the relentless pummelling we subject them to, from dawn to dusk. In other words, choosing to switch off our screens and finding rest in something that is simply and naturally beautiful. Like a flower, a poem, a piece of music.

To Go Deeper

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