Springtime with Tolkien

Spring time is finally here!  With its arrival, so too come the gentle splendour of apple blossom, the magnificence of creamy magnolia and the simple patchwork of a daisy covered lawn.   You may be startled this month by a blue sky, or caught in silent thought at the playfulness of a morning breeze amongst idle trees.

With all this surrounding beauty our hearts can be drawn to contemplate the wonder of God’s loving care and be refreshed.   In the joy of the simple harmony of beautiful sights, we can find both delight and mystery that awakens the best parts of our nature.

I have been reading Stratford Caldecott’s ‘The Power of the Ring: The Spiritual Vision behind the Lord of the Rings.’   For those who don’t know the author, he, like Tolkien, is a Catholic writer exploring the relationship between truth and beauty.   His new revised book is about Tolkien’s spiritual vision. In it he looks at Tolkien’s faith and his writing in the pursuit of truth as a healing process, which he thinks can help society.

On completing the book in one reading, I thought a few points were worthy of a spring-time meditation.  One that can renew our hearts with gratitude for God’s goodness as creation unfurls around us.

One of the best sentences in the book comes about half-way through.  Trying to grasp the essence of Tolkien’s writings, Caldecott reflects:

“through myth, through poetry, Tolkien has evoked a feeling beyond words that comes from the deepest levels of our nature, a yearning that God has implanted in us. That feeling is a sign that we are called back to the light.”

For Caldecott, this journey back to the light is the singing heart of all Tolkien’s legendarium, a light that guides towards final reconciliation. Interestingly Caldecott makes a link at this point with Tolkien’s devotion to Virgin Mary. He quotes Tolkien as reported by a friend George Sayer:

“I attribute whatever there is of beauty and goodness in my work to the influence of the Holy Mother of God.”

Tolkien saw natural things overflowing with a depth of meaning, sourced in the mind of God, and in his view the Virgin was ‘the most perfect of God’s creatures.’  She was the heart of Tolkien’s spiritual life. The model for showing us how to be receptive to the light of God’s will.  As Caldecott explains:

“But at the feet of Mary the ground is green with grass and bright with flowers … This is the Mary who is ever-present to Tolkien, at the centre of his imagination, mantled by all natural beauty.’

Mary can give a new spring-time to our hearts too. She does this by leading us to the beauty of her Son. The Son for whom the whole of creation is made for, and finds its completion in. We can meet her in the rosary and ask her to pray for us with simple faith and trust.

Let us remember her in this Spring, in the peaceful sunshine and new choruses of birdsong. Let us remember she who ‘is the way the cosmos is joined to God’ and let us in the words of Tolkien:

‘PRAISE THE LORD’ with ‘all mountains and hills, all orchards and forests, all things that creep and birds on the wing.’ (Painting is my own; “Procession of the Maidens” from Jaloh Tungla)

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