St. Holbytla’s Monastery

Reading Tolkien in the Light of Faith

Posts Tagged ‘Gandalf

Sam Gamgee and Simon of Cyrene: the Journey to Mount Doom

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Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry the cross

Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry the cross

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)


Written by Quirino M. Sugon Jr

March 26, 2013 at 11:33 am

The line of Nimloth the Fair and the Shoot of Jesse

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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)

Written by Quirino M. Sugon Jr

November 30, 2009 at 2:39 am

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

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 shoulder wound of Frodo and Christ

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It is related in the annals of Clairvaux that St. Bernard asked our Lord which was His greatest unrecorded suffering, and Our Lord answered:

I had on My Shoulder, while I bore My Cross on the Way of Sorrows, a grievous Wound, which was more painful than the others, and which is not recorded by men. Honor this wound with thy devotion, and I will grant thee whatsoever thou dost ask through its virtue and merit. And in regard to all those who shall venerate this Wound, I will remit to them all their venial sins, and will no longer remember their mortal sins. (Catholic Online)

Frodo also has a shoulder wound–the wound inflicted by the Witch-King’s blade in Weathertop (6 October 3018):

At that moment Frodo threw himself forward on the ground and he heard himself crying out loud: O Elbereth! Gilthoniel!  At the same time he struck at the feet of his enemy.  A shrill cry rang out in the night; and he felt a pain like a dart of poisoned ice pierce his left shoulder. (Fellowship of the Ring p. 221)

Even a year after, on the 6th of October, as Frodo and company passed through the Ford of Bruinen where the Ringwraiths were washed away by the flood, his pain recurred:

‘Are you in pain, Frodo?’ said Gandalf quietly as he rode by Frodo’s side.

“Well, yes I am,’ said Frodo. ‘It is my shoulder.  The wound aches, and the memory of darkness is heavy on me.  It was a year ago today.’

‘Alas there are some wounds that cannot wholly be cured,’ said Gandalf.

Written by Quirino M. Sugon Jr

July 17, 2009 at 2:57 am