St. Holbytla’s Monastery

Reading Tolkien in the Light of Faith

Archive for August 2009

Sacrament of Penance: Confession of Pippin to Gandalf

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The Sacrament of Penance has three parts: (1) Contrition, (2) Confession of Sins, and (3) Satisfaction.  These three parts are found in the confession of Pippin, with Gandalf acting as a priest. (Two Towers pp. 219-220)

First, the penitent will say, “Bless me Father, for I have sinned.”   In the case of Pippin, he said, “Gandalf! Forgive me!”

Second, the priest will not forgive the penitent unless he confesses his sins in number and kind.  As Gandalf said to Pippin, “Forgive you?… Tell me first what you have done!”  So Pippin confesses his sins: “I, I took the ball and looked at it… and saw things that frightened me.  And I wanted to go away, but I couldn’t.  And then he came and questioned me; and he looked at me, and, and, that is all I remember.”

To determine whether the sin is mortal, three parameters are used:

  1. Serious matter
  2. Knowledge or firm belief that the act is seriously wrong prior to committing the act
  3. Full consent of the will

(Check the Guide to Confession in Angelfire.)  So to determine whether Pippin committed mortal sin, Gandalf asked probing questions: “Thant won’t do…. What did you see, and what did you say… Speak!”  And Pippin recounted what he see and heard.  And finally he said, “I don’t remember anything else.”

Third, the priest will make his judgement on the gravity of the sin.  As Gandalf said to Pippin, “All right!… Say no more! You have taken no harm.  there is no lie in your eyes, as I feared.”

After this, the priest will give his advice.  In the case of Gandalf, he said: “Lie there and rest, if you can, Pippin!… Trust me.  If you feel an itch in your palms again, tell me of it!  Such things can be cured.  but anyway, my dear hobbit, don’t put a lump of rock under my elbow again!  Now, I will leave you two together for a while.”

When Gandalf and Pippin rode Shadowfax from Orthanc towards Minas Tirith, Gandalf gave Pippin a short lecture on sin and conscience.  Pippin said, “I wish I had known all this before… I had no notion of what I was doing.”  And Gandalf replied, “Oh yes, you had… You knew you were behaving wrongly and foolishly; and you told yourself so, though you did not listen.  I did not tell you all this before, because it is only by musing on all that has happened that I have at last understood, even as we ride together.  But if I had spoken sooner, it would not have lessened your desire, or made it easier to resist.  On the contrary!  No, the burned hand teaches best.  After that advice about fire goes to the heart.”


Written by Quirino M. Sugon Jr

August 29, 2009 at 12:02 pm

The Stone of Erech at the Ionosphere Building of Manila Observatory

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I am staying at the Ionosphere buiding of the Manila Observatory for more than a year now.  The building looks like a block of brick on the sea of grass.  The windows are squares and the doors rectangles.  It is stuffy inside for all the windows are closed.  It smelled like the Great Smials of Michel Delving when I first came here.  The old hobbit who lived here was Fr. Victor Badillo, S.J.  But since he is past 80 and physically weak, though his mind is still sharp, and spends his time at the Jesuit Infirmary of the Ateneo de Manila University, I was asked to man the place in his stead.  I just arrived from the infirmary; I visited him there for a few minutes to tell him about what happenned to his old computer files.  He is glad that somebody is taking care of his files.  Today marks the first time that a bond is established between us, that of a teacher and a student.  I still have much to learn from the old hobbit.  I promised to visit him several times during the week at about 2:00 in the afternoon.

Beside the ionosphere building is a giant black sphere (picture here).  It looks black because of algae and dust.  But it is actually white: it is made of fiber glass.  The sphere reminds me of the spherical mushrooms around here with the size of a fist.  They look like white balls at first, then they die and turn black.

Many are wondering what is inside this black sphere.  In its old glory, the black sphere houses some instruments for knowing the portents of heavens, something like the Stones of Seeing of Orthanc.  But there are no one to operate these machines or fix them.  The Numenorians are already gone.  There used to be many Spanish Jesuits here in 1870’s until the American Jesuits replaced them in 1900’s.  They all came from over the sea.  Tall as the sea kings of old they are.  But today only two American Jesuits are left: Fr. Skelsky, S.J. the experimentalist, and Fr. McNamara, S.J. the theoretical physicist.  As Saruman said: “The Elder days are gone.  The Middle days are passing.  The Younger days are beginning.”

There is nothing inside the black sphere of death, but old equipments awaiting to see the light of the sun.  Like Aragorn I say: “Keep your hoards and secrets hidden in the Accursed Years!”  But frankly, I am also curious to see what is inside.  Like Pippin with an itch to get a peek at the Stone of Orthanc, I waited for the time for the little door to open.  But it is always closed.

Whenever someone asks me what that black sphere is, I simply tell them it is the “black sphere of death.”  But if he speaks Tolkien, I shall say: It is the Stone of Erech.  And I shall recount the tale of the lost years:

Long had the terror of the Dead lain upon that hill and upon the empty fields about it.  For upon the top stood a black stone, round as a great globe, the height of a man, though its half was buried in the ground.  Unearthly it looked, as though it had fallen from the sky, as some believed; but those who remembered still the lore of Westernesse told that it had been brought out of the ruin of Numenor and there set by Isildur at his landing.  None of the people of the valley dared to approach it, nor would they dwell near; for they said that it was a trysting place of the Shadow-men and there they would gather in times of fear, thronging round the Stone and whispering. (Return of the King, p.  53)

Then I shall cry out: “Oathbreakers, why have ye come?”  And the proper response?  “To fulfil our oath and have peace.”

Written by Quirino M. Sugon Jr

August 21, 2009 at 8:15 am