Thursday, August 21, 2008

J.R.R Tolkien & Eucharistic Theology

I've become more fascinated with C.S. Lewis and J.R.R Tolkien and in particular their theology of the gospel and myth, etc. But I started to read the other day a bunch of quotes from Tolkien about the Eucharist and how it was basically the centre of his faith (as Christ should be).

These quotes are from a letter of Tolkien to his son who was struggling with his Catholic faith.

"I have suffered grievously in my life from stupid, tired, dimmed, and even bad priests; but I now know enough about myself to be aware that I should not leave the Church (which for me would mean leaving the allegiance of Our Lord) for any such reasons: I should leave because I did not believe, and should not believe any more, even if I had never met any one in orders who was not both wise and saintly. I should deny the Blessed Sacrament, that is: call Our Lord a fraud to His face.... I find it for myself difficult to believe that anyone who has ever been to Communion, even once, with at least right intention, can ever again reject Him without grave blame. (however, He alone knows each unique soul and its circumstances.) The only cure for sagging or fainting faith is communion. Though always Itself, perfect and complete and inviolate, the Blessed Sacrament does not operate completely and once for all in any of us. Like the act of Faith it must be continuous and grow by excercise. Frequency is of the highest effect. Seven times a week is more nourishing than seven times at intervals"

later in the letter Tolkien makes these claims about Protestantism:

"I myself am convinced by the Petrine claims, nor looking around the world does there seem much doubt which (if Christianity is true) is the True Church, the temple of the Spirit dying but living, corrupt but holy, self-reforming and rearising. But for me that Church of which the Pope is the acknowledged head on earth has as chief claim that it is the one that has (and still does) ever defended the Blessed Sacrament, and given it most honour, and put it (as Christ plainly intended) in the prime place. 'Feed my sheep' was His last charge to St Peter; and since His words are always first to be understood literally, I suppose them to refer primarily to the Bread of Life. It was against this that the W. European revolt (or Reformation) was really launched – 'the blasphemous fable of the Mass' – and faith/works a mere red herring."

These are some strong words but I think it's so fascinating how Communion meant so much to Tolkien, at all the tough times, it was what kept him there. I once read that Tolkien was furious with C.S. Lewis for not including a reference to the Eucharist in the Narnia books. Tolkien said to Lewis that any attempt to tell Christ's passion narritive without mentioning the institution of the Lord's Supper, was a failed attempt.

"Out of the darkness of my life, so much frustrated, I put before you the one great thing to love on earth: the Blessed Sacrament ... There you will find romance, glory, honour fidelity, and the true way of all your loves on earth, and more than that: Death by the divine paradox, that which ends life, and demands the surrender of all, and yet by the taste (or foretaste) of which alone can what you seek in your earthly relationships (love, faithfulness, joy) be maintained, or take on that complexion of reality, of eternal endurance, which every man's heart desires...:"

Finally Tolkien writes:

"I fell in love with the Blessed Sacrament from the beginning – and by the mercy of God never have fallen out again: but alas! I indeed did not live up to it. I brought you all up [his children] ill and talked to you too little. Out of wickedness and sloth I almost ceased to practise my religion...I failed as a father. Now I pray for you all, unceasingly, that the Healer (the Hælend as the Saviour was usually called in Old English) shall heal my defects, and that none of you shall ever cease to cry Benedictus qui venit in nomme Domini. [Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord] (from the Psalms and the Triumphal entry, and the Mass)"

Tolkien attended Mass every morning (as a child) and helped out as an altar boy and later as a server, he was raised by a Catholic priest.

"...happy are those who are called to his supper..." - Liturgy of the Eucharist (Novus Ordo)

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