Meditation of the Day
Rescuing Frodo from the Tower of Cirith Ungol and its baleful, vulture-headed stone Watchers, Sam twice makes use of the Phial of Galadriel, and we notice again how its power corresponds to the virtue of the bearer:
Sam drew out the elven-glass of Galadriel again. As if to do honour to his hardihood, and to grace with splendour his faithful brown hobbit-hand that had done such deeds, the phial blazed forth suddenly, so that all the shadowy court was lit with a dazzling radiance like lightning; but it remained steady and did not pass. (Bk6 Ch1)
Frodo and Sam then invoke the name of Elbereth in a quasi-liturgical manner, with a versicle and response in Quenya (“Elven-Latin”), and “the will of the Watchers was broken with a suddenness like the snapping of a cord.” Just as had happened in their defeat of the previously unvanquished Shelob, the two feeble hobbits triumph over hopelessly superior evil forces by relying on their heavenly Lady, their earthly Lady, and the Lady (or Ladies’) Gift.
Sam’s Marian spirit is also manifested in the inspired song (cf. Eph. 5:19) that he sings alone in the tower, “moved by what thought in his heart he could not tell.” It is a song of hope that refuses to be conquered, even when objectively all seems lost. Sam proclaims that “above all shadows rides the Sun / and Stars for ever dwell: I will not say the Day is done, nor bid the Stars farewell” (Bk6 Ch1). In Christian terms, we would say that in these and similar instances, Our Lady is intervening to sustain her child’s flagging spirit—the very kind of fruit that results from cultivating a genuine relationship with her. We also learn from the example of Sam and Frodo that Mary does expect her children to do what lies in their power, to exert whatever effort of will (great or small) they can put forward, with the help of grace.
|Flos Carmeli, vitis florigera,|
Splendor cæli, virgo puerpera, singularis.
Mater mitis sed viri nescia
Carmelitis esto propitia, stella maris.
Radix Iesse germinans flosculum
Hic adesse me tibi servulum patiaris.
Inter spinas quæ crescis lilium
Serva puras mentes fragilium tutelaris.
Armatura fortis pugnantium
Furunt bella tende præsidium scapularis.
Per incerta prudens consilium
Per adversa iuge solatium largiaris.
Mater dulcis Carmeli domina,
plebem tuam reple lætitia qua bearis.
Paradisi clavis et ianua,
Fac nos duci quo, Mater, gloria coronaris.
|Flower of Carmel, tall vine blossom laden;|
Splendor of heaven, childbearing yet maiden.
None equals thee.
Mother so tender, who no man didst know,
On Carmel’s children Thy favours bestow. Star of the Sea.
Strong stem of Jesse, who bore one bright flower,
Be ever near us and guard us each hour, who serve thee here.
Purest of lilies, that flowers among thorns,
Bring help to the true heart that in weakness turns and trusts in thee.
Strongest of armour, we trust in thy might:
Under thy mantle, hard press’d in the fight, we call to thee.
Our way uncertain, surrounded by foes,
Unfailing counsel you give to those who turn to thee.
O gentle Mother who in Carmel reigns,
Share with your servants that gladness you gained and now enjoy.
Hail, Gate of Heaven, with glory now crowned,
Bring us to safety where thy Son is found, true joy to see. Amen.
- Are there areas of my life where I have allowed myself to be cowed into submission by implacable and seemingly invincible foes? What would happen if I renewed my confidence in Mary’s power to do what I cannot, to bring me where I could never go on my own?
- Consider the simplicity of the means that Frodo and Sam employ: a brief invocation, a couple of stanzas of a song. Have I perhaps made devotion to Mary more complicated in my mind than it needs to be? . . .