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The Fifth Station of the Cross: Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus Carry His Cross:
As they led him away they took hold of a certain Simon, a Cyrenian, who was coming in from the country; and after laying the cross on him, they made him carry it behind Jesus. (Lk 23:26)
In the Lord of the Rings, the Chapter III of Return of the King depicts how Sam Gamgee helped Frodo carry the Ring to Mount Doom. It begins with Sam’s realization of his mission:
“So that was the job I felt I had to do when I started,” thought Sam: “to help Mr. Frodo to the last step and then die with him? Well, if that is the job, then I must do it.”
…But even as hope died in Sam, or seemed to die, it was turned to a new strength. Sam’s plain hobbit-face grew stern, almost grim, as the will hardened in him, and he felt through all his limbs a thrill, as if he was turning into some creature of stone and steel that neither despair nor weariness nor endless miles could subdue.
Mount Doom is the volcano where the One Ring was forged by Sauron himself. Mount Doom is Mount Calvary. On top is the cross–the sign of the most cruel persecution that the Roman Empire devised against its enemies–the slow painful death akin to what the Mouth of Sauron described of to Gandalf before the Black Gates:
“He was dear to you, I see. Or else his errand was one that you did not wish to fail? And now he shall endure the slow torment of years, as long and slow as our arts in the Great Tower can contrive, and never be released, unless maybe when he is changed and broken, so that he may come to you and you shall see what you have done. This shall surely be unless you accept my Lord’s terms.” (Black Gate Opens, Return of the King)
At the end of the crucifixion, the criminals’s feet are broken, killing them.
Frodo is resolved to carry the Ring to Mount Doom in the same way as Christ is resolved to carry the cross to Mount Calvary. Christ prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane:
“My Father, if it is not possible that this cup pass without my drinking it, your will be done!” (Mt 26:42)
Frodo also refused Sam’s offer to carry the Ring in his behalf:
“No, no, Sam. But you must understand. It is my burden, and no one else can bear it. It is too late now, Sam dear. You can’t help me in that way again. I am almost in its power now. I could not give it up, and if you tried to take it I should go mad.”
But neither Frodo nor Christ have the strength to carry their mission. Christ already suffered much before his carrying of the cross: he was scourged and crowned with thorns. And so is Frodo. He was speared by an Orc Captain, stabbed by a Nazgul blade on his shoulder, and bitten by Shelob. But it was the Ring that brought him much pain:
Sam guessed that among all their pains he bore the worst, the growing weight of the Ring, a burden on the body and a torment to his mind. Anxiously Sam had noted how his master’s left hand would often be raised as if to ward off a blow, or to screen his shrinking eyes from a dreadful Eye that sought to look in them. And sometimes his right hand would creep to his breast, clutching, and then slowly, as the will recovered mastery, it would be withdrawn.
So the Roman asked Simon of Cyrene to carry the cross. Sam, in his turn, because he cannot carry the Ring himself, carried Frodo on his back with the Ring on Frodo’s neck:
“Come, Mr. Frodo!” he cried. “I can’t carry it for you, but I can carry you and it as well. So up you get! Come on, Mr. Frodo dear! Sam will give you a ride. Just tell him where to go, and he’ll go.”
As Frodo clung upon his back, arms loosely about his neck, legs clasped firmly under his arms, Sam staggered to his feet; and then to his amazement he felt the burden light. He had feared that he would have barely strength to lift his master alone, and beyond that he had expected to share in the dreadful dragging weight of the accursed Ring. But it was not so. Whether because Frodo was so worn by his long pains, wound of knife, and venomous sting, and sorrow, fear, and homeless wandering, or because some gift of final strength was given to him, Sam lifted Frodo with no more difficulty than if he were carrying a hobbit-child pig-a-back in some romp on the lawns or hayfields of the Shire. He took a deep breath and started off. (Mount Doom, The Return of the King)
The story of the fall of the walls of Orthanc was narrated by Pippin:
I thought that they had been really roused before; but I was wrong. I saw what it was like at last. it was staggering. They roared and boomed and trumpeted, until stones began to crack and fall at the mere noise of them. Merry and I lay on the ground and stuffed our cloaks into our ears. Round and round the rock of Orthanc the Ents went striding and storming like a howling gale, breaking pillars, hurling avalanches of boulders down the shafts, tossip up huge slabs of stone into the air like leaves. The tower was in the middle of a spinning whirlwind. (Two Towers p. 190)
This story recalls the fall of the walls of Jericho. The Lord said to Joshua:
I have delivered Jericho and its king into your power. Have all the soldiers circle the city, marching once around it. Do this for six days, with seven priests carrying ram’s horns ahead of the ark. On the seventh day march around the city seven times, and have the priests blow the horns. When they give a long blast on the ram’s horns and you hear that signal, all the people shall shout aloud. The wall of the city will collapse, and they will be able to make a frontal attack. (Jsh 6:2-5)
The Fellowship of the Ring leaves Rivendell on Christmas day: the Mission of Christ and Frodo to Mount Doom
In the Appendix B of the Return of the King, we learn that the Company of the Ring leaves Rivendell at dusk. The day was December 25, 3018 of the Second Age. Before the company set out, Elrond spoke his last word:
The Ring-bearer is setting out on the Quest to Mount Doom. On him alone is any charge laid; neither to cast away the Ring, nor to deliver it to any servant of the Enemy nor indeed to let any handle it, save members of the Company and the Council, and only then in gravest need. (Fellowship of the Ring, p. 315)
Frodo reached Mt. Doom about three months after on March 25, 3019, the day of the Fall of Sauron and the beginning of the Third Age.
Jesus Christ was born in the world in Dec 25, 1. This is the winter solstice, the darkest day of the year. Jesus, the light of the world, was born to dispel the darkness of sin:
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone…. For a child is born to us, a son is given us; upon his shoulder dominion rests. They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace. His dominion is vast and forever peaceful, From David’s throne, and over his kingdom, which he confirms and sustains By judgment and justice, both now and forever. (Is 9:1-6)
Just as Frodo journeyed to Mount Doom in 3 months, Christ’s journey to Calvary is also characterized by the number 3. Christ lived his hidden life for 3 decades, preached for 3 years, and died at 3:00 p.m. On Frodo’s neck is the One Ring of Sauron. On Christ’s shoulders are the sins of the world: “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” Frodo symbolically died on Mount Doom, an Eagle bore him away, and the Third Age began. Christ died on the cross on Mount Calvary, and on His side flowed blood and water. And so we pray:
You died, Jesus, but the source of life gushed forth for souls
and the ocean of mercy opened up for the whole world.
O Fountain of Life, unfathomable Divine Mercy, envelop the whole world and empty Yourself out upon us.
O Blood and Water, which gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus
as a fountain of mercy for us, I trust in You.
Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One,
Have mercy on us and on the whole world. (3 times)
JESUS, King of mercy, I trust in You!
In the “Long Expected Party” we read:
Bilbo was going to be eleventy-one, 111, a rather curious number, and a very respectable age for a hobbit (the Old Took himself had only reaced 130); and Frodo was going to be thirty three, 33, an important number: the date of his ‘coming of age’. (Fellowship of the Ring, p. 22)
Christ died at the age of 33. Just as Christ carried the cross in his 33rd year, Frodo also carried his cross–the One Ring. Christ was wrapped in linen cloth and placed on the Sepulchre; Bilbo was wrapped in spider silk in Shelob’s lair. The ‘resurrection’ of Frodo ushered the Third Age of Gondor. The Resurrection of Christ ushered the Third Age–the Age of the Gentiles, the Age of the Church.
The number 333 is the symbol of the Holy Trinity. As Our Lady spoke to Fr. Gobbi:
The number 333, indicates the divinity. Lucifer rebels against God through pride, because he wants to put himself above God. 333 is the number which indicates the mystery of God. He who wants to put himself above God bears the sign, 666, and consequently this number indicates the name of Lucifer, Satan, that is to say, of him who sets himself against Christ, of the Antichrist.
What does Bilbo’s 111 years mean? If Lucifer wants to be greater than God and makes his mark as the 666, Bilbo recognizes that he is not a God nor a Wizard nor an Elf Lord nor a King of Gondor but a mere hobbit. So his number is 111. This is the reason why the Ring has no lust for domination that it can amplify, as what happened to the Ring-wraiths. This holds true for Frodo as well, and even Gollum. But the 111 may have another meaning: the One Ring. If the angels praise the Holy Trinity by singing, “Holy, holy, holy”, the lore of the Ring also repeats the ‘One Ring’ thrice:
One Ring to rule then all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them…
The number 111 + 33 = 144, which is one Gross (Fellowship of the Ring, p. 29). The number 144 = 12 x 12. In the Bible, 12 is the number of the sons of Jacob (Israel) and that of the Apostles. The 12 sons of Jacob begot the Israelite nation. The 12 apostles begot the Church. Their sum is 24 = 12 + 12, which is the number of elders around the throne of God (Rev 4:4).
The finding of the sapling of the Eldest of the Trees in the barren slopes is a metaphor for the finding the race of Elendil in the barren wilderness outside of Gondor:
Then Aragorn turned, and there was a stony slope behind him running down from the skirts of the snow; and as he looked he was aware that alone there in the waste a growing thing stood. And he climbed to it, and saw that out of the very edge of the snow there sprang a sapling tee no more than three foot high. Already it had put forth young leaves long and shapely, dark above and silver beneath, and upon its slender crown it bore one small cluster of flowers whose white petals shone like the sunlit snow.
Then Aragorn crid: ‘Ye! Utuvienyes! I have found it! Lo! here is a scion of the Eldest of Trees! But how comes it here? For it is not itself yet seven years old.’
And Gandalf coming looked at it, and said: ‘Verily this is a sapling of the line of Nimloth the fair; and that was a seedling of Galathilion, and that a fruit of Telperion of many names, Eldest of Trees. Who shall say how it comes here in the appointed hour? But this is an ancient hallow, and ere the kings failed or the Tree withered in the court, a fruit must have been set here. For it is said that, though the fruit of the Tree comes seldom to ripeness, yet the life within may then lie sleeping through many long years, and none can foretell the time in which it will awake. remember this. For if ever a fruit ripens, it should be planted, lest the line die out of the world. Here it has lain hidden on the mountain, even as the rade of Elendil lay hidden in the wastes of the North. Yet the line of Nimloth is older far than your line, King Elessar.’ (Return of the King, p. 270)
In a similar way, Prophet Isaiah foretold the coming of the Messiah, the heir of the throne of David, as a shoot from the stump of Jesse:
But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom. The spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, A spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD, and his delight shall be the fear of the LORD. Not by appearance shall he judge, nor by hearsay shall he decide, But he shall judge the poor with justice, and decide aright for the land’s afflicted. He shall strike the ruthless with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked. Justice shall be the band around his waist, and faithfulness a belt upon his hips. (Is 11:1-5)
The Shoot of Jesse is Christ. It is on him that the Holy Spirt rested on the River Jordan. Just as Aragorn traces his kingship to the line of Elendil, so does Christ trace his kingship in the line of David:
Obed became the father of Jesse, Jesse the father of David the king. David became the father of Solomon, whose mother had been the wife of Uriah. Solomon became the father of Rehoboam, ….. Eleazar became the father of Matthan, Matthan the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary. Of her was born Jesus who is called the Messiah.
Thus the total number of generations from Abraham to David is fourteen generations; from David to the Babylonian exile, fourteen generations; from the Babylonian exile to the Messiah, fourteen generations. (Mt 1:1-17)
But unlike Aragorn, Jesus’s true father is not his foster father Joseph, but God the Father Himself. Before Abraham was, Jesus is. “In the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God, the Word was God” (Jn 1:1). Indeed, Jesus posed the following question to the Pharisees:
“What is your opinion about the Messiah? Whose son is he?” They replied, “David’s.” He said to them, “How, then, does David, inspired by the Spirit, call him ‘lord,’ saying: ‘The Lord said to my lord, “Sit at my right hand until I place your enemies under your feet”‘? If David calls him ‘lord,’ how can he be his son?” No one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day on did anyone dare to ask him any more questions. (Mt 22:42-46)
Concerning Radagast the Brown, Gandalf said:
Radagast is, of course, a worthy Wizard, a master of shapes and changes of hue; and he has much lore of herbs and beasts, and birds are especially his friends. (Fellowship of the Ring, p. 288)
This passage reminds us St. Francis of Assisi, who is usually depicted as wearing a brown habit. Francis loves animals. The first Christmas Nativity scene is his invention. He arranged statues of the Holy Family, the Shepherds, and the three Kings as we do today, but complete with real sheep, ox, and ass. He would even talk to animals. He once made a pact with a wolf not the terrorize the village of Gubbio. In return, the villagers will give the wolf food everyday. St. Francis also made a pact with the dogs not to harm the wolf. But of all animals, St. Francis is known for his love for birds. During one of his trek with his companions, there were birds on the trees on both sides of the road. St. Francis asked leave from his companions to preach to his beloved birds. The birds surrounded him and he spoke to them:
My sister birds, you owe much to God, and you must always and in everyplace give praise to Him; for He has given you freedom to wing through the sky and He has clothed you… you neither sow nor reap, and God feeds you and gives you rivers and fountains for your thirst, and mountains and valleys for shelter, and tall trees for your nests. And although you neither know how to spin or weave, God dresses you and your children, for the Creator loves you greatly and He blesses you abundantly. Therefore… always seek to praise God. (Wikipedia)
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.