Ha Jolly Ha

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Forgotten Devotion

My sister recently played me a recording of the chant hymn "Ave Maris Stella." I was struck by the great beauty of the melody and by the fact that it was entirely unfamiliar to me.

In addition to its aesthetic recommendations, the hymn carries Our Lady's promise of protection: "During a riot at Rome, a mob came to the house where St. Bridget lived; a leader talked of burning Bridget alive. She prayed to Our Blessed Lord to know if she should flee to safety and He assured her to stay, saying: 'It doesn't matter if they plot thy death. My power will break the malice of thy enemies: If mine crucified me, it is because I permitted it.' The Blessed Virgin added: 'Sing as a group the Ave Maris Stella and I will guard you from every danger.' [I found that story and a translation of the text here.]

When reading The Lord of the Rings, I always delighted in the power of names, e.g. when Frodo is stabbed on Weathertop, he repels the Nazgul with the cry "Elbereth Gilthoniel!" With what delight, then, do I discover that this aspect of Middlearth is but another reflection of the True Myth.


Anonymous Brian Miles said...

We find another good example as Shelob is bearing down on Frodo and Sam. There Frodo cries: "Aiya Eärendil Elenion Ancalima!" That is, "Hail Eärendil! Brightest of Stars!"

2:07 PM  
Blogger Raindear said...

Quite right!

2:22 PM  
Anonymous Brian Miles said...

Hi Raindear,

It is also a great delight of mine to discover those occasions where Middlearth or Narnia reveal to us the truth about the reality in which we live.

One morning, not long ago (Sunday the 22nd of April to be exact), I was lamenting to God in prayer the unfortunate absence of Elves, Centaurs, Dryads, and other such creatures in my life. It was hard for me. I did not want in any way to diminish His creation, or the myriad and wonderful creatures He has chosen to populate it. But nevertheless, I found myself longing and asking if I might one day be given the opportunity to meet with these fantasy creatures in Heaven.

From there I headed off to Mass, and was quite astonished to hear the following reading from St. John's Apocalypse:

"I looked again and heard the voices of many angels who surrounded the throne and the living creatures and the elders. They were countless in number, and they cried out in a loud voice: 'Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches, wisdom and strength, honor and glory and blessing.' Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, everything in the universe, cry out: 'To the one who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor, glory and might, forever and ever.' The four living creatures answered, 'Amen,' and the elders fell down and worshiped" (Revelation 5:11-14).

In particular, I wondered about the identities of the "living creatures", and those referred to as "every creature in heaven”—which were apparently distinct from those on the earth, or under the earth, or even throughout the universe for that matter. What were they, and why such ambiguous descriptions? I knew that the four Evangelists, and their respective Gospels, had each come to be associated with one of the four living creatures that we meet in Ezekiel 1, but beyond this symbolic association, I could not help but be struck by the fact that here were examples of strange and even fantastic creatures—defying all description—existing in heaven, and apparently very much a part of God's eternal Kingdom.

It certainly set me to wondering. Could this be answer to my prayer? Could this be God confirming a bit of less conspicuous knowledge about the True Myth, which itself had found a clearer expression in the imaginative (sub-created) worlds of Tolkien and Lewis?

In other words, was it too much of a stretch to believe that Elves and Centaurs and Dryads might be among those "living creatures" whom St. John says were "countless in number"?

I don't think so. In any case, I sincerely hope not ;o)

2:18 PM  
Blogger Raindear said...


Of one thing I am certain - whoever we find in Heaven, the assembly there will surely exceed in glory and beauty all the finest conceptions of our feeble imaginations and our participation in that assembly will fulfill every longing.

As Tolkien said:
"Yes! 'wish-fulfilment dreams' we spin to cheat
our timid hearts and ugly Fact defeat!
Whence came the wish, and whence the power to dream,
or some things fair and others ugly deem?"

All of our wishes are rooted in one fundamental desire for God, Who is Infinite Goodness, and when we possess Him, we will pine no longer.

4:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I feel quite left out. It seems like all Traditionalists know everything about The Lord of the Rings, whereas I have never read it; I have a lot of other reading to do. Luckily, my brother has the whole 'set', so hopefully I can read it once I finish The Mystical City of God- if I don't then have too much schoolwork.
Too bad The Lord of the Rings isn't in vogue with those friends of mine who are in to fantasy. It could possibly get them interested in the Faith if someone then pointed out all those Catholic details [not me].

11:59 PM  
Blogger Raindear said...


Yes-Tolkien has become synonymous with Catholic imagination. Except for a few well-executed scenes, I disliked the movies, as I've mentioned before. The books, on the other hand, merit yearly reading. While not explicitly Catholic, a Catholic understanding of reality permeates and informs them.

2:50 PM  

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