St. Holbytla’s Monastery

Reading Tolkien in the Light of Faith

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

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