Model of Consecration: Frodo (V)

Meditation of the Day

Frodo’s free decision to accept the Lady Galadriel’s invitation to look in her Mirror is a choice to adopt a contemplative stance, like hers. For him it functions as a rite of passage into the prophetic realm. Although he may have initially preferred to be given more straightforward advice about what he should do, he trusts in her deeper wisdom, and joins her in gazing upon “things that were, things that are, and things that yet may be.” His contemplation is not immediately gratifying, since he has only partial awareness of the meaning of the images that are revealed to him. Among other prophetic visions, he is shown Gandalf, whom he dearly loves and has been elegizing, but with no way of knowing for certain that it is he. Then the visions shift from the hopeful-yet-ambiguous to the horrific, as he beholds the Eye of Sauron and knows that it is searching high and low for him. Galadriel’s response suggests that whatever Frodo may think of his own wisdom, his experience with the Mirror reveals that he belongs to the most elevated circle—those who can be trusted with knowledge of the highest secrets. “Your sight is grown keener,” she tells him. “You have perceived my thought more clearly than many that are accounted wise.” Moreover, he is able to see her ring, Nenya, which Sam cannot.

Those who are unfamiliar with the true nature of prayer may imagine that it is a pleasant, restful respite from the demands of life in this world, a form of daydreaming or escapism. In actuality, prayer is a dangerous voyage into the heart of reality, which includes the cosmic conflict between light and darkness, order and chaos, good and evil.[1] Like Frodo, those who dare to enter the prophetic realm will not remain unscathed. They need a wise, compassionate mentor to guide them through the perils of this adventure, to assist them in the delicate task of interpreting the images, words, and other symbols that will be uncovered. Mary, Queen of Prophets, Contemplative Warrior, is prepared to mentor us in this manner, if we will put our trust in her.

Prayer

O beloved Mother,
you know the ways of holiness and love so well,
teach us to often raise our minds and hearts to the Trinity,
fixing our respectful and affectionate attention on the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

And since you guide us along the path to eternal life,
stay close to us poor pilgrims, open your arms to us,
turn your merciful eyes towards us, bring your clarity to us, cover us with your sweetness,
take us into light and love and always help us go a step further and higher into the splendours of heaven.

May our peace remain undisturbed and may the thought of God be always on our minds.
May every new minute take us deeper into the depths of your venerable mystery until the day that our fully radiant souls, illuminated by the divine union, will see all things in the eternal Love and Unity.

Ven. Marthe Robin (1902-1981)

Musical Selection

Action Points

  • Identify the top obstacles that stand between you and a life of deeper prayer; then specifically entrust each one to Our Blessed Lady’s wise and gentle guidance.

To Go Deeper


[1] “Prayer is both a gift of grace and a determined response on our part. It always presupposes effort. The great figures of prayer of the Old Covenant before Christ, as well as the Mother of God, the saints, and he himself, all teach us this: prayer is a battle. Against whom? Against ourselves and against the wiles of the tempter who does all he can to turn man away from prayer, away from union with God. We pray as we live, because we live as we pray. If we do not want to act habitually according to the Spirit of Christ, neither can we pray habitually in his name. The ‘spiritual battle’ of the Christian’s new life is inseparable from the battle of prayer” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, par. 2725).

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

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