The Valley of Rivendell | Place of Refuge, Hiding Place

This post and the following are dedicated to Sarah de Nordwall, a bard with a bard school.
(The best email to reach Sarah on at present is bardschool@gmail.com.)

Meditation of the Day

In The Tale of Years we learn that the refuge and stronghold of Imladris, or Rivendell in the Common Speech, was founded by the Lord Elrond Half-elven in the year 1697 of the Third Age, after the forging of the One Ring, as Sauron and his forces had overrun Eregion and were threatening all of Eriador. It is there that the remnant of the High Elves and their culture, as well as the potent symbols of the fallen kingdoms of Men (shards of Narsil, heirlooms of Arnor, Ring of Barahir), would be safely preserved for the thousands of years before the War of the Ring and the final defeat of the Dark Lord.

A valley is a naturally feminine symbol. The Valley of Imladris becomes the cradle of life and hope for the future of Middle-earth. It is there that the oral and written tradition of Elves and Men, reaching back to the Elder Days, is preserved intact for future generations. It is there that “Estel,” the future King of Arnor and Gondor, is brought up, hidden from the world. It is there also that his future bride and queen, Arwen Undómiel, is born and raised. It is there that Frodo, the Ringbearer, finds sanctuary after his narrow escape from the Nazgûl; there he is healed of his dreadful wound. It is there that the Fellowship of the Ring is formed, to assist him in fulfilling his desperate Quest. It is there that the Sword-that-was-broken is reforged as Andúril, Flame of the West,[1] “for Aragorn son of Arathorn was going to war upon the marches of Mordor.”

This Valley is, in a sense, suspended between heaven and earth. It is a place where the Divine can break into the tragic course of history and set it on a brand new course. It is a womb ripe for the overshadowing of the Secret Fire. It cooperates with God in bringing a holy seed to blossom. It is itself so holy that its waters rise up in anger when anything unholy tries to enter:

The foremost of the black horses had almost set foot upon the shore. At that moment there came a roaring and a rushing: a noise of loud waters rolling many stones. Dimly Frodo saw the river below him rise, and down along its course there came a plumed cavalry of waves. White flames seemed to Frodo to flicker on their crests, and he half fancied that he saw amid the water white riders upon white horses with frothing manes. The three Riders that were still in the midst of the Ford were overwhelmed: they disappeared, buried suddenly under angry foam. Those that were behind drew back in dismay (LOTR, Bk1 Ch12).

In every way, then, the Valley of Rivendell resembles Mary, the Immaculate Conception whom no foe has ever penetrated, the Place of Refuge for all that is good and holy, the Hiding Place of the future Redeemer and his Bride, the sanctuary of hope for the cleansing and renewing of the world. Her Heart is a place where the wounds inflicted by sin and evil can be healed. She is both a Virgin who protects innocence and a Mother who bears life for the sake of God.

Woman may be likened to the flower, which is fixed between Heaven and earth; she is like the earth in her bearing of life; she is like Heaven in her aspirations to blossom upward to the Divine. The mark of man is initiative, but the mark of woman is cooperation. Man talks about freedom; woman about sympathy, love, sacrifice. Man cooperates with nature; woman cooperates with God. Man was called to till the earth, to “rule over the earth”; woman to be the bearer of a life that comes from God. The hidden wish of every woman in history, the secret desire of every feminine heart, is fulfilled in that instant when Mary says: “Fiat”—“Be it done unto me according to thy word.”

Ven. Fulton J. Sheen, The World’s First Love, Ch. 6 “The Virgin Mother”

Alan Lee, the great artist and consummate Tolkien illustrator, confided in one of the “making of” segments of Peter Jackson’s film adaptation of LOTR that he would like to retire in Rivendell, as he helped to depict it therein. What Tolkien fan would not wholeheartedly second that sentiment? What not all Tolkien fans may realize, and therefore need us to tell them, is that Rivendell exists in the primary world. It is not a utopia, a figment of our collective imagination. This restored Eden is accessible. The path to it is hidden from unbelieving eyes, it is true, but for those who are reborn through water and the Holy Spirit, the path is always open. This is the path that we tread on our journey to consecration.

We don’t have to travel to a particular destination to find our Rivendell. “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (Rom. 10:8). When enemies pursue and threaten us, we can look them in the face as Frodo did at the Ford, and confidently declare, “I take refuge in Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word and Wisdom of God.” “I take refuge in the Heart of Mary, His most pure Mother.”

Prayer

Sancta Maria, succurre miseris, iuva pusillanimes, refove flebiles, ora pro populo, interveni pro clero, intercede pro devoto femineo sexu: sentiant omnes tuum iuvamen, quicumque celebrant tuam sanctam commemorationem. Amen.

Holy Mary, succor the miserable, help the fainthearted, comfort the sorrowful, pray for thy people, plead for the clergy, intercede for all women consecrated to God; may all who keep thy holy commemoration feel now thy help and protection. (Partial Indulgence)

Musical Selection

Action Points

  • How has the Virgin Mother already manifested herself as a Place of Refuge, as a cradle of life and hope in your life? Be sure to find a simple, creative way to thank her today.
  • In what ways are you still in need of a place to hide, to heal, to be renewed in hope and wisdom? Simply ask our blessed Lady to be all those things for you, to shelter you in the refuge of her Immaculate Heart.
  • Are there flesh-and-blood people in your life who have been a Rivendell to you, a “safe place”? Take time today to thank God for them, and if possible, thank them.

To Go Deeper

  • Ven. Fulton J. Sheen, The World’s First Love, Ch. 6 “The Virgin Mother” (ebook available on formed.org). This is one of the most beautiful commentaries on the Annunciation that I have ever read.

[1] Consider how the device traced upon the Andúril’s blade (“seven stars set between the crescent Moon and the rayed Sun”) connects with the promise of God about the Davidic dynasty in Psalm 89: “Once I have sworn by My holiness; I will not lie to David: His seed shall endure forever, And his throne as the sun before Me; It shall be established forever like the moon, Even like the faithful witness in the sky.” See also Psalm 72:5.