Model of Consecration: Faramir

Meditation of the Day

In a footnote to a draft letter to an unidentified “Mr Thompson” (Letter 180), Tolkien lets slip the confidence that of all his characters, he identifies most strongly with Faramir: “As far as any character is ‘like me’ it is Faramir – except that I lack what all my characters possess (let the psychoanalysts note!) Courage.” We should expect to see in Faramir, then, the embodiment of the highest religious and moral aspirations that Tolkien, as Sub-creator, wished to communicate through his myth-making and storytelling.

There are several ways in which Faramir is unique among the characters of The Lord of the Rings. The most notable is that of all the great leaders we encounter in the story, he is the only one who experiences no temptation to appropriate the One Ring. “I would not take this thing, if it lay by the highway. Not were Minas Tirith falling in ruin and I alone could save her, so, using the weapon of the Dark Lord for her good and my glory” (Bk4 Ch5). Although even Galadriel and Gandalf, wisest and noblest of the Wise, experience some vulnerability to the Ring’s seductive power, Faramir does not. He is absolutely free of self-seeking. Unlike his brother Boromir, he has no desire for glory, and no love for warfare, although he is a supremely skilled warrior and leader of men. Faramir’s absence of personal ambition is epitomized in his first words to Aragorn, upon awaking from his sickness: “My lord, you called me. I come. What does the king command?” (Bk5 Ch8).

A second distinguishing feature is that Faramir and his men are the only characters who are shown recognizably praying: “Before they ate, Faramir and all his men turned and faced west in a moment of silence. Faramir signed to Frodo and Sam that they should do likewise. ‘So we always do,’ he said, as they sat down: ‘we look towards Númenor that was, and beyond to Elvenhome that is, and to that which is beyond Elvenhome and will ever be'” (Ibid.). Although this Standing Silence is only a simple grace before meals, and comprises no spoken words, it is noteworthy in a work that deliberately omits any reference to overt religious practice. We also observe the same tripartite temporal reference—to what was, what is, and what will be—that characterized Galadriel’s practice of contemplation. Faramir is a pure Númenórean not only in his flesh but in “spirit and truth” (John 4:23).[1]

A third unusual trait in Faramir is that his depth of learning and maturity of judgment have been acquired in a very short time: he is only in his thirty-sixth year, making him younger than all the hobbits in the Fellowship except Pippin. He speaks and acts as a ruler or loremaster with decades of experience, as one who would be welcome in the circle of the Wise. There must be a secret to this exceptional wisdom.

What illuminates all these unique features of Faramir’s character is the Biblical principle that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Prov. 9:10). Here is the secret to his exceptional wisdom: “I understand more than the ancients, / Because I keep Your precepts” (Psalm 119:100). It is his piety and moral integrity that have allowed Wisdom to pervade his mind and heart. We get glimpses of his virtue in various brief remarks he makes to Frodo and Sam: “I would not snare even an orc with a falsehood”; “I do not slay man or beast needlessly, and not gladly even when it is needed. Neither do I talk in vain.” We may conclude that, long before meeting Éowyn, his “woman of valour” (Prov. 31:10), and being the catalyst for her transformation into a radiant icon of the Mother of Christ, Faramir was wedded to Lady Wisdom (see Prov. 3:13-18; 9:1-6).

Prayer

What shall bring me forward in the narrow way, as I live in the world, but the thought and patronage of Mary? What shall seal my senses, shall tranquilize my heart, when sights and sounds of danger are around me but Mary? What shall give me patience and endurance, when I am wearied out with the length of the conflict with evil, with the unceasing necessity of precautions, with the irksomeness of observing them, with the tediousness of their reception, with the strain upon my mind, with my forlorn and cheerless condition, but a loving communion with you!

You will comfort me in my discouragements, solace me in my fatigues, raise me after my falls, reward me for my successes. You will show me your Son, my God and my all. When my spirit within me is excited, or relaxed, or depressed, when it loses its balance, when it is restless and wayward, when it is sick of what it has, and hankers after what it has not, when my eye is solicited with evil and my mortal frame trembles under the shadow of the tempter, what will bring me to myself, to peace and health, but the cool breath of the Immaculate and the fragrance of the Rose of Sharon?

St. John Henry Card. Newman

Musical Selection

Action Points

  • In their encounter with Faramir, Frodo and Sam witness all seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit in operation. It could be a fruitful exercise to pick out the details which reveal each gift, and to ask Our Lady, Spouse of the Holy Spirit, to obtain an increase of them all in us.

To Go Deeper


[1] By tragic contrast, Denethor’s suicide is an act of despair in the theological sense, an apostasy: “No tomb for Denethor and Faramir. No tomb! No long slow sleep of death embalmed. We will burn like heathen kings before ever a ship sailed hither from the West. The West has failed. Go back and burn!”

Éowyn | Mother of the Living, Healer of the Land

Meditation of the Day

Then the heart of Éowyn changed, or else at last she understood it. And suddenly her winter passed, and the sun shone on her. (Bk6 Ch5)

In the presence of the gentle, wise, patient love of Faramir (one who has been as deeply wounded by life and by the Shadow as she has), Éowyn undergoes a miraculous transformation: from despair to hope, from the grim pursuit of death to the joyful service of life, from self-protection to the vulnerability of intimacy, from the prideful desire to be a queen to unconcern about rank. She vows, “I will be a healer, and love all things that grow and are not barren.” Overjoyed, Faramir proposes that they make a home in Ithilien, a once fair garden land that was blighted by its proximity to Mordor. They will be renewers of the land. “All things will grow with joy there, if the White Lady comes.” She has come into the fullness of her spiritual stature (see Eph. 4:13). She will be a human counterpart to Galadriel, and an even more luminous icon of our Blessed Lady than she already was.

All this magnificent potential lay within Éowyn, but as Tolkien suggests, she did not understand her own heart. God had to reveal it to her, through a long, dark tunnel of suffering (shame, rejection, the feeling of being trapped, the soul-and-body-breaking encounter with the Witch-King). If only there could be an easier way, for her and for us! But grace prevailed in her, over the dark temptations, and prepared her to take the risky step of allowing Faramir to see her, with the eyes of love. Her stay in the Houses of Healing (another Marian image!) was the final catalyst. “Now that I have leave to depart, I would remain. For this House has become to me of all dwellings the most blessed” (cf. Luke 1:42).

Our Lady desires to oversee a similar process of inner transformation within each of us: away from the false self, often constructed as a defence against outside threats, and toward the true self, “which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24; cf. Col. 3:10). If we invite her, she will begin to delicately peel back the layers of inauthenticity that we may not even realize are covering our hearts. She will introduce us to her Son, the true Bridegroom of our souls, whose redemptive love is the only remedy that can make us whole.

Prayer

Alma Redemptoris Mater, quae pervia caeli
porta manes, et stella maris, succurre cadenti,
surgere qui curat, populo: tu quae genuisti,
natura mirante, tuum sanctum Genitorem,
Virgo prius ac posterius, Gabrielis ab ore
sumens illud Ave, peccatorum miserere. 
Mother of Christ, hear thou thy people’s cry,
Star of the deep, and Portal of the sky!
Mother of Him who thee from nothing made,
Sinking we strive, and call to thee for aid:
Oh, by that joy which Gabriel brought to thee,
thou Virgin first and last, let us thy mercy see.

Musical Selection

Action Points

  • Invite Mary to be the midwife of your truest self, your deepest spiritual identity. Give her permission to lead you to her Son, whose love will make you a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17), day by day.
  • Find a concrete way of expressing your desire to place yourself resolutely at the service of life.

To Go Deeper