The evening of March 25th found me and six others in the home of my associate pastor, celebrating the Feast of the Annunciation around a long and laden banqueting table. However, like good hobbits, we were also celebrating the destruction of the Ring of Power and hailing the Gondorian New Year—that day when Sauron the Great met his doom and when Frodo and Sam were “brought out of the fire to the King.” The food was rich, but the conversation was sublime.
“ . . . [W]e continue to clamour for those very qualities we are rendering impossible. You can hardly open a periodical without coming across the statement that what our civilization needs is more ‘drive,’ or dynamism, or self-sacrifice, or ‘creativity.’ In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.”
“Despair is for those who see the end beyond all doubt,” Gandalf cautions the men, elves, and dwarves (and hobbits) who have gathered to discuss Mordor’s activity and the revelation of the One Ring. While Sauron gathers orcs and evil men to himself, in a stroke of fortune they hold the Enemy’s great Weapon. The gathering is divided between two possible strategies: they will either use the Ring’s power to conquer the Dark Lord, or they will destroy it in Mount Doom’s fire.
I am reading Ovid’s Metamorphoses all the way through, beginning to end, for the first time this summer. I have read bits and pieces, and I have looked up certain stories or references in order to become familiar with them, but I’ve never read the whole thing. Being the extrovert that I am, I didn’t want to read it alone, so I started a Facebook group for the sole purpose of roping friends and strangers into reading it along with me.
“How can I more precisely express truth and beauty in my writing?” asked the young traveler, sitting by the rocky entrance of a cave, high on the east side of Mount Athos (prosopopoeia).
“Two loves, then, have made two cities. Love of self, even to the point of contempt for God, made the earthly city, and love of God, even to the point of contempt for self, made the heavenly city. Thus the former glories in itself, and the latter glories in the Lord. The former seeks its glory from men, but the latter finds its highest glory in God, the witness of our conscience.” (City of God, Book XIV)
That’s it, people. It is summer. Finally. We are done with the school year!
Facebook is full of last day of school pics and videos of kids jumping into the pool for the first time this season. Grills have had the spring pollen dusted off and are being put to perpetual use. Burgers, chlorine, cut grass, and sunscreen are now the scents of summertime. There are parties and graduation ceremonies, and countless homeschool moms have collapsed onto the floor, saying, “We did it.”
Technology dominates our lives. Most of us walk about carrying supercomputers with more processing power than NASA had for the Apollo 11 mission. These labor-saving devices promise freedom, but we are more enslaved than ever. Eliminating communication barriers means that we may be interrupted at any moment by a call or text. Constantly dinging notifications (real or imagined!) trigger a Pavlovian response to glance at our screen. The time saved by our devices is quickly devoured as we consume the hours on social media trivialities.
Our replacements have arrived at the front. They have come to relieve us. We have fought, valiant and unceasing, till we no longer remember a world without fighting. But we are not finished. We must prepare these new soldiers to take over our posts, to hold the line, to push forward against the Enemy. And yet, one glance at the blush of their youth and naiveté reveals that our most dire struggle will be with them. They are not ready, and we are nearly spent. Should we not tremble for the future darkness into which we send them, ready or not?
Our scene is a high school acting class in late November. Twenty-nine students sit at their desks, all watching a thirtieth who walks up to the front of the room to rehearse a monologue. She is to recite a two-minute passage from Wuthering Heights. The part has been well researched: the actress has a good grasp on the plot of the book and the monologue’s place within the story. She understands the action of the scene and she sympathizes with her character emotionally. Everyone in the room is excited, as the actress has some talent and has been fun to watch in previous scenes.