This post is dedicated to the memory of all victims of racial discrimination, past and present.
Meditation of the Day
Scene 1: Moria
Journeys through the underworld are an archetypal trope of mythical storytelling across cultures, but few narratives in classical mythology can rival “The Bridge of Khazad-dûm” for sheer dramatic intensity. While we do not encounter any direct Marian symbolism in this chapter, we do witness a spectacular example of what Our Lady most desires to produce in her sons and daughters: the cruciform, self-sacrificial love of her Son, represented here by the Grey Pilgrim. Gandalf embraces his downfall with quiet acceptance; he knows that there is no other way to save his companions except to go down with the Balrog. And so he makes his last stand on the bridge, alone facing the Darkness. We witness his unforgettably bold and defiant declaration of his inner identity: “‘I am a servant of the Secret Fire [the Holy Spirit], wielder of the flame of Anor [the Sun]. You cannot pass. The dark fire will not avail you, flame of Udûn [Hell]. Go back to the Shadow! You cannot pass’” (Bk2 Ch5). Would that all God’s servants had such a crystal clear perception of their identity in Christ! With Mary’s help, we can acquire it; and then we need never quail when the powers of darkness force a showdown. Even if they should drag us down into the Pit with them, we can trust in the power of God to raise us up to life again.
Scene 2: Lothlórien
After their narrow escape from the East Gate of Moria, the survivors are understandably overwhelmed by the trauma of losing their beloved leader. To be bereft of his wisdom and power, so soon in their quest, calls everything into question, and breeds despair. If the greatest among them has already fallen, how can the rest possibly succeed? “What hope have we without you?” cries Aragorn as they grieve. This crisis of hope tests the resolve and the character of every member of the Fellowship. They are vulnerable to temptation. Although Aragorn steps into the gap and takes up the mantle of leadership, the future of their company is very much in jeopardy.
It is in this precarious state that they enter the Golden Wood, a land protected by powerful enchantment, where time elapses differently than in the rest of the world. The Lady of this land is the most unmistakably Marian character in the entire epic: Galadriel, daughter of Finarfin, one of the most powerful Elves ever to have graced Middle-earth. Her realm would seem to be the safest place for the Fellowship to recover from the demise of Gandalf. Instead, however, they are met with suspicion—a tragic consequence of the disunity introduced by evil among the noblest and wisest of peoples. Even when their identities are disclosed, and the high rank of Aragorn and Legolas alone should have gained them unrestricted acceptance, the ugly reality of racial prejudice makes their Silvan-elf escort demand that Gimli the Dwarf be blindfolded, and “guarded” by Aragorn and Legolas.
Upon learning of the encounter with the Balrog in Moria, even Celeborn, Galadriel’s husband, begins to regret having allowed the party to enter his land, and does not hesitate to call into question Gandalf’s wisdom. Yet this sets the scene for Galadriel to manifest the depths of her own wisdom, and the universality of her compassion. She defends Gimli’s desire to see the halls of his fathers, and uses place names in Khuzdul, the Dwarves’ secret (and Semitic-sounding) language. “And the Dwarf, hearing the names given in his own ancient tongue, looked up and met her eyes; and it seemed to him that he looked suddenly into the heart of an enemy and saw there love and understanding. Wonder came into his face, and then he smiled in answer” (Bk2 Ch7). Instantly, the wall which ancestral racial hatred erected comes tumbling down—much like the wall between Jews and Gentiles that Saint Paul mentions as having been overcome by the death of Christ (Eph. 2:14). In Galadriel, we are given a vision of Mary as the Mother of All Peoples, who fulfills the destiny of Zion announced in Psalm 87.
Christ’s command to love everyone without distinction, even one’s enemies, to imitate God Himself who “makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good” (Matt. 5:45), is undoubtedly one of the most difficult teachings in the Gospel. Truly, “with men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible” (Mark 10:27). Experiencing the universal compassion of Mary, Mother of All Peoples, allows us to look into the heart of an enemy and see a fellow human being, a brother or sister.
i. Most Holy Virgin, I venerate thee with my whole heart above all angels and saints in Paradise, as the Daughter of the Eternal Father, and I consecrate to thee my soul with all its powers.
Hail Mary . . .
ii. Most holy Virgin, I venerate thee with my whole heart above all angels and saints in Paradise, as the Mother of the Only-begotten Son, and I consecrate to thee my body with all its senses.
Hail Mary . . .
iii. Most Holy Virgin, I venerate thee with my whole heart above all angels and saints in Paradise, as the Spouse of the Holy Ghost, and I consecrate to thee my heart and all its affections, praying thee to obtain for me from the ever-blessed Trinity all that is necessary for my salvation.
Hail Mary . . .
- If there are specific persons or groups of persons whom I have placed on the other side of a dividing wall of suspicion or enmity, I can beg Our Blessed Lady, Mother of All Peoples, this day to look upon them with her eyes, since they too are her children.
- Contemplate the image miraculously imprinted upon St. Juan Diego’s tilma, of the Virgin Mother as a mestiza, a woman of mixed European and Aztec descent; acclaim her as a sign of hope for healing and reconciliation among “all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues” (Rev. 7:9).