St. Holbytla’s Monastery

Reading Tolkien in the Light of Faith

Archive for October 2009

Gondor’s custom of looking westward before meals: Gloria Patri and the Salvation History

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The men of Gondor has the following custom before meals:

Before they ate, Faramir and all his men turned and faced west in a moment of silence.  Faramir signed to Frodo and Sam that they should do likewise.

‘So we always do,’ he said, as they sat down: ‘ we look towards Numenor that was, and beyond to Elvenhome that is, and beyond Elvenhome and will ever be.  Have you no such custom at meat?  (Two Towers p. 320)

Was, is, will ever be.  These words recall the prayer Gloria Patri or the Glory Be to the Father:

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever.  Amen.

The Numenorians divide their history only into three ages.  The First Age is the Age of the Elves which ended with the overthrow of Morgoth.  The Second Age is the Age of the Numenorians which ended with the overthrow of Sauron, and the taking of the One Ring.  The Third Age is the War of the Ring which later ended with the destruction of the Ring and the crowning of Aragorn.  Saruman refers to these ages  as the Elder Days, the Middle Days, and the Younger Days.  He said to Gandalf:

The Elder Days are gone.  The Middle Days are passing.  The Younger Days are beginning.  The time of the Elves is over, but our time is at hand: the world of Men, which We must rule.  But we must have power, power to order all things as we will, for that good which only the Wise can see. (Fellowship of the Ring pp. 290-291)

For Catholics, salvation history is also divided into three ages.  The First Age is the Age of God the Father, which is the Old Testament.  The Second Age is the Incarnation of Christ, God the Son, which is told in the Gospels.  The Third Age is the Age of the Holy Spirit and of the Church, starting from the Feast of Pentecost.  This is narrated in the Acts of the Apostles.  The Third Age shall end with the Second Coming of Christ as King who will judge both the living and the dead.

Written by Quirino M. Sugon Jr

October 29, 2009 at 9:38 am

Elvish Lembas and Eucharistic Fasting: the story of Blessed Alexandrina Maria da Costa

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Near the end of their journey to Mt. Doom, Frodo and Sam fed on lembas alone:

The lembas had a virtue without which they would long ago have lain down to die.  It did not satisfy desire, and at times Sam’s mind was filled with the memories of food, and the longing for simple bread and meats.  And yet this waybread of the Elves had a potency that increased as the travellers relied on it alone and did not mingle it with oother foods.  It fed the will, and it gave strength to endure, and to master sinew and limb beyond the measure of mortal kind.

The Elvish lembas is a type or figure for the Holy Eucharist.  After the priest pronounce the consecration of the bread and wine at mass, they cease to be bread and wine.  What appears to be bread and wine are truly the body and blood of Christ.  This mystery is called Transubstantiation, which is described in the Catechism of the Catholic Church as follows:

1376 The Council of Trent summarizes the Catholic faith by declaring: “Because Christ our Redeemer said that it was truly his body that he was offering under the species of bread, it has always been the conviction of the Church of God, and this holy Council now declares again, that by the consecration of the bread and wine there takes place a change of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of his blood. This change the holy Catholic Church has fittingly and properly called transubstantiation.”206

1377 The Eucharistic presence of Christ begins at the moment of the consecration and endures as long as the Eucharistic species subsist. Christ is present whole and entire in each of the species and whole and entire in each of their parts, in such a way that the breaking of the bread does not divide Christ. 2

Because Catholics receive truly the Body and Blood of Christ during Communion, it is fitting that before they receive Christ, they must fast:

For many centuries it was the practise of those who were to receive the Holy Eucharist to fast from midnight.  With the changing cirumstances of modern society, and the advent of evening Masses, Pope Pius XII modified the fast in 1953, stipulating that solid food could be taken up to three hours before communion.  (Baronius Roman missal 1962, p. 101)

In the 1983 Code of Canon Law, the fasting was relaxed to one hour:

Anyone intending to receive the Most Holy Eucharist must abstain from all food and drink (with the sole exception of water and medicine) for at least one hour before Holy Communion. (Baronius Roman Missal 1962, p. 101)

There are saints who ate nothing except the Holy Communion. One of these is Blessed Alexandrina Maria da Costa who was declared blessed last April 25, 2004. Our Lord told her:

“Keep me company in the Blessed Sacrament. I remain in the tabernacle night and day, waiting to give my love and grace to all who would visit me. But so few come. I am so abandoned, so lonely, so offended…. Many…do not believe in my existence; they do not believe that I live in the tabernacle. They curse me. Others believe, but do not love me and do not visit me; they live as if I were not there… You have chosen to love me in the tabernacles where you can contemplate me, not with the eyes of the body, but those of the soul. I am truly present there as in Heaven, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity.”

“You will not take food again on earth. Your food will be my Flesh; your drink will be my Divine Blood

“You are living by the Eucharist alone because I want to prove to the world the power of the Eucharist and the power of my life in souls.” (Unity Publishing)

Blessed Alexandrina died on 13th October 1955, having received nourishment only from Holy Communion for more than thirteen years. This is what the medical report said:

“Her abstinence from solids and liquids was absolute during all that time. We testify also that she retained her weight, and her temperature, breathing, blood pressure, pulse and blood were normal while her mental faculties were constant and lucid and she had not, during these forty days, any natural necessities…The laws of physiology and biochemistry cannot account for the survival of this sick woman…” (Unity publishing)

Written by Quirino M. Sugon Jr

October 21, 2009 at 6:30 am

Galadriel’s three locks of hair and the relics of the saints

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Galadriel asked Gimli what gift he would like to have.  Gimli said none.  But Galadriel insisted.  So Gimli named his gift:

‘There is nothing, Lady Galadriel,’ said Gimli, bowing low and stammering. ‘Nothing, unless it might be– unless it is permitted to ask, nay, to name a single strand of your hair, which surpasses the gold of the earth as the stars surpass the gems of the mine. I do not ask for such a gift. But you commanded me to name my desire.’

The Elves stirred and murmured with astonishment, and Celeborn gazed at the Dwarf in wonder, but the Lady smiled. ‘It is said that the skill of the Dwarves is in their hands rather than in their tongues,’ she said; ‘yet that is not true of Gimli. For none have ever made to me a request so bold and yet so courteous. And how shall I refuse, since I commanded him to speak? But tell me, what would you do with such a gift?’

‘Treasure it, Lady,’ he answered, ‘in memory of your words to me at our first meeting. And if ever I return to the smthies of my home, it shall be set in imperishable crystal to be an heirloom of my house, and a pledge of good will between the Mountain and the Wood until the end of days.’

Three locks of hair encased in an imperishable crystal.  This reminds us of the relics of the saints.

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia,

The word relics comes from the Latin reliquiae (the counterpart of the Greek leipsana) which already before the propagation of Christianity was used in its modern sense, viz., of some object, notably part of the body or clothes, remaining as a memorial of a departed saint.

Catholics treasure relics.  When St. Polycarp of Smyrna died, the people of Smyrna took care of his body:

We took up his bones, which are more valuable than precious stones and finer than refined gold, and laid them in a suitable place, where the Lord will permit us to gather ourselves together, as we are able, in gladness and joy, and to celebrate the birthday of his martyrdom. (Catholic Encyclopedia)

Many relics are encased in crystal, like that used by Gimli for Galadriel’s hair:

A reliquary (also referred to as a shrine or by the French term chasse) is a container for relics. These may be the physical remains of saints, such as bones, pieces of clothing, or some object associated with saints or other religious figures. The authenticity of any given relic is often a matter of debate; for that reason, some churches require documentation of the relic’s provenance.

A philatory is a transparent reliquary designed to contain and exhibit the bones and relics of saints. Another form of reliquary is called a monstrance. This style of reliquary has a viewing portal by which to view the relic contained inside.

The Catholic teaching on the veneration of relics is given by the Council of Trent (Sess. XXV), which enjoins its bishops and pastors to instruct their flock as follows:

The holy bodies of holy martyrs and of others now living with Christ—which bodies were the living members of Christ and ‘the temple of the Holy Ghost’ (1 Corinthians 6:19) and which are by Him to be raised to eternal life and to be glorified are to be venerated by the faithful, for through these [bodies] many benefits are bestowed by God on men, so that they who affirm that veneration and honour are not due to the relics of the saints, or that these and other sacred monuments are uselessly honoured by the faithful, and that the places dedicated to the memories of the saints are in vain visited with the view of obtaining their aid, are wholly to be condemned, as the Church has already long since condemned, and also now condemns them.” (Catholic Encyclopedia)

Written by Quirino M. Sugon Jr

October 11, 2009 at 9:11 am

St. Wenceslaus, Aragorn, and Christ: the Army of the Dead

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Last September 28 is the Feast of the St. Wenceslaus (907-935 A.D.), the Good King Wenceslaus, patron Saint of Bohemia and parts of the Czech Republic.  St. Wenceslaus is the subject of many legends (Wikipedia):

There are many legends about King Wenceslaus. An old one claims a huge army of knights sleep inside Blaník, a mountain in the Czech Republic. The knights will wake and under the command of St. Wenceslaus will help the Motherland when it is in ultimate danger (see also King in the mountain legends).

There is a similar great legend in Prague which says that when the Motherland is in danger or in its darkest times and close to ruin, the equestrian statue of King Wenceslaus in Wenceslaus Square will come to life, raise the army sleeping in Blaník, and upon crossing the Charles Bridge his horse will stumble and trip over a stone, revealing the legendary sword of Bruncvík. With this sword, King Wenceslaus will slay all the enemies of the Czechs, bringing peace and prosperity to the land.

These legends are similar to the summoning of Aragorn of the Army of the Dead, as prophesied by Malbeth the Seer, in the days of Averdui, last king at Fornost (Return of the King, pp. 43-44):

Over the land there lies a long shadow,
westward reaching wings of darkness.
The Tower trembles; to the tombs of kings
doom approaches. The Dead awaken;
for the hour is come for the oathbreakers:
at the Stone of Erech they shall stand again
and hear there a horn in the hills ringing.
Whose shall the horn be? Who shall call them
from the grey twilight, the forgotten people?
The heir of him to whom the oath they swore.
From the North shall he come, need shall drive him;
he shall pass the Door to the Paths of the Dead.

Christ, the King of the Living and of the Dead, also went to the Paths of the Dead and preached the Good News to those who died, awaiting the messiah.  As stated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

632 The frequent New Testament affirmations that Jesus was “raised from the dead” presuppose that the crucified one sojourned in the realm of the dead prior to his resurrection.478 This was the first meaning given in the apostolic preaching to Christ’s descent into hell: that Jesus, like all men, experienced death and in his soul joined the others in the realm of the dead. But he descended there as Savior, proclaiming the Good News to the spirits imprisoned there.

633 Scripture calls the abode of the dead, to which the dead Christ went down, “hell” – Sheol in Hebrew or Hades in Greek – because those who are there are deprived of the vision of God.480 Such is the case for all the dead, whether evil or righteous, while they await the Redeemer: which does not mean that their lot is identical, as Jesus shows through the parable of the poor man Lazarus who was received into “Abraham’s bosom”:481 “It is precisely these holy souls, who awaited their Savior in Abraham’s bosom, whom Christ the Lord delivered when he descended into hell.”482 Jesus did not descend into hell to deliver the damned, nor to destroy the hell of damnation, but to free the just who had gone before him.483

634 “The gospel was preached even to the dead.”484 The descent into hell brings the Gospel message of salvation to complete fulfilment. This is the last phase of Jesus’ messianic mission, a phase which is condensed in time but vast in its real significance: the spread of Christ’s redemptive work to all men of all times and all places, for all who are saved have been made sharers in the redemption.

635 Christ went down into the depths of death so that “the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.”485 Jesus, “the Author of life”, by dying destroyed “him who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and [delivered] all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage.” Henceforth the risen Christ holds “the keys of Death and Hades”, so that “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth.”