The Eye and the Star

“There [Sauron] took up again his great Ring in Barad-dur,
and dwelt there, dark and silent, until he wrought himself a new guise,
an image of malice and hatred made visible;
and the Eye of Sauron the Terrible few could endure.”

-J.R.R. Tolkien, The Silmarillion

In The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien tells the story of the Dark Lord Sauron, who creates the One Ring to rule them all. In the eyeofsauronbattle to overthrow this darkness, Sauron loses his physical form, coming to remain as a spiritual presence, awaiting the time when he can regain his body, in order that he might once again rule over Middle-Earth. Sauron is said to have a quasi-omnipotence, which is described metaphorically as the Eye of Sauron, for all people could feel his presence, remaining fearful of the lengthy sight of this Dark Lord. In his film adaptations, Peter Jackson decided to present this presence as a literal eye, gigantic and flaming. All people who experience his presence are overcome with this fear, as they are always watched by this all-perceiving eye.

In contrast, there is the light that comes from the Star oearendil-starf Eärendil. This light of this star is said to have come from a Silmaril, which represents the might and beauty of the Valar in Middle-Earth. The Silmarils came from the Two Trees of Valinor, from which came all light at one time. This star is what led the ancestors of the Númenóreans to their lands. The Star of Eärendil is a guiding light of the heavens. It is the light of Eärendil that guarded Frodo on his journey to Mordor. The people of Middle-Earth can ponder of this guiding light, as a reminder from the great ancestors of Middle-Earth, leading them to follow the ways of the Valar, just as Eärendil.

As I ponder these two images, I cannot help but notice a stark contrast. In the Eye of Sauron, a dark fear comes upon an individual, feeling as though they have been violated by all that is evil and fallen. However, at the same time, Sauron’s Eye might seem like a comfort, for they can be seen as they are before this eye. Why try to battle it? Why try to move against this great Power? The Eye becomes a symbol of the futility of fighting. That is how Sauron gains his sympathizers: through fear and false consolation.

On the other side, there is a bright light in the heavens. This light does not impose itself on the beholder, but it does shine so brightly in the sky, so as to prevent the light from any other star. The light bids the viewer to seek its guidance, though does not violate. Although the star’s light is brighter than any other, finding its source in might and beauty, there is no softer yet more beautiful light to behold. We can all look to this great light in the sky, guided just as the Valar lead all to the might and beauty of Ilúvatar – of God.

These two images are not completely unrelated. Morgoth and his greatest servant, Sauron, truly love to take that which is good and corrupt it for their own perverted purposes. They take the good, the true, and the beautiful, turning them into the evil, the lie, and the ugly. This ugliness is more than just a simple physical unattractiveness, however. Sauron takes this beauty, forming an ugliness that penetrates to its very being. Thus, Sauron has taken this unimposing, beautiful guiding light of Eärendil’s Star and imposes his all-seeing presence as an Eye. This Eye penetrates all it sees, piercing to the very center of their being, violating all it sees. People submit to this power because they feel powerless in its sight, even though this power is a mere Shadow. Sauron’s power is commonly referred to as a Shadow, revealing that it possesses no true presence or power that can overcome our beings, without its permission.

Though seemingly distant in the land of Middle-Earth, we should not be completely unfamiliar with these images. (I discuss the following with the recognition that the images are not perfect, due to Tolkien’s aversion to allegory.) Being a good Catholic, Tolkien was quite familiar with the beauty of the Blessed Sacrament, especially as perceived in the monstrance:

monstrance


“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 upon earth.”

We look to this soft, unimposing light as the source of all beauty. The angels worship before this light, for all might and beauty come from this light. We look to this light for guidance, but it does not penetrate us without our permission. If we allow it in, we can always count on it to guide us in the right direction. This light and beauty comes from God above, and so we can know that we are led by the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

On the opposite side, we see the imposing light that is the culture of death. In some ways, we see this as the culture that praises abortion or euthanasia. In reality, our entire culture is one of death. They put to death anyone with differing opinions. They put to death any kind of systems of morality, relying completely on what ‘feels’ right. This culture burns among us, imposing itself on all people. It penetrates our beings, feeling as though we can do nothing in response to defend ourselves. Resistance seems futile. Thus, many people give up, for they feel entirely violated, unable to do anything but give in to the darkness, throwing away all that they once held dear. However, we know that this apparent light is merely a Shadow, being a corruption of that which is good. It penetrates us, but we feel we have no other choice. We can seek out the Blessed Sacrament, and allow it to peer into us and to purify us – something beyond the capabilities of this Culture. While this Culture imposes itself upon us, ‘monstrance’ comes from the word meaning ‘to show.’ We are shown True Light and Beauty and given the choice to peer upon it, rather than being violated by this dark culture.

We look to the Culture to save us, but nothing can save us but God alone. May we look the Star of Eärendil, known in this world as the Blessed Sacrament. May we always look to this guiding light to save and protect us from this passing Shadow. May we rely on the Good, the True, and the Beautiful, which comes from the True Light of the Blessed Sacrament, and not the Shadowy Culture of Death.

“When we adore, we plug into infinite dynamism and power.
Adoration is more powerful for construction
than nuclear bombs are for destruction.”

-Peter Kreeft

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The Good Worth Fighting For

“When I despair, I remember that all through history
the way of truth and love have always won.
There have been tyrants and murderers,
and for a time, they can seem invincible,
but in the end, they always fall. Think of it–always.”

-Mahatma Gandhi

I’m sure that most people have heard about the acts of terror in Paris, Kenya, Baghdad, and Beirut, in addition to the disasters of Mexico and Japan. It can be very easy to lose hope, to despair, to become overcome with hatred. We can cower in fear. We can view these times of tragedy as an excuse to go to war or to discriminate against different groups. We can toss around blame and displace anger from one group to another.

But we cannot let that happen. Dictionary.com defines terrorism as “the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce.” If we do what I mentioned above, we let them win. They want us to be scared. They want us to respond with violence, so that they themselves could be justified in their use of violence. By allowing ourselves to fall into despair and hatred, we give terrorists the power that they desire. We are letting them get exactly what they want. I feel like it would be fairly universal desire to keep power away from terrorists; we don’t want them to win. We have the power to keep them from winning. Yes, they might continue in their violent and horrific acts, and we must seek to stop that, but as Gandhi said in the above quote, there have always been tyrants and murderers, but they are always defeated by truth and love.

The Shadow, darkness, evil – whatever you call it – does not have power to defeat the good. There is good in this world. No matter how dark the world gets, the light will never be extinguished. As long as we continue to hold onto the light and the good that is still present in this world, darkness will never have chance. We must hold true to the words of our dear Samwise Gamgee: there is good in this world, and it’s worth fighting for! That doesn’t necessarily mean taking up arms and going to battle for the good. But it does mean holding on to hope, truth, beauty, love, for the sake of the good. Things will happen in our lives that will make us fall into darkness. But we must continue to fight the good fight, to keep the light alive in ourselves and in the world. We must do what we can to keep good forever in this world. Terrorists may steal, and slaughter, and destroy, but they cannot take away the light and hope that is within us. Only we can rid ourselves of that.

Additionally, I read a story (below) about a woman who was out having a good time during one of the attacks. She had to lay on the ground for a long time,

acting like she was dead, in order to not be killed. She witnessed the deaths of many that night. And yet, what did she think about? She thought about her loved ones, hoping that someday she will see them again. She thought about all the good from her life. She thought about and appreciated all of the good. So many people sought to help in seemingly minor ways, but those ways were the biggest helps of all. They helped the woman see that there is still good in this world. We can easily get bogged down by every horrific act done in this world. There are a lot, so good luck with that. Or we can allow ourselves to be encouraged by the evil to live even more for the good. The rampant evil in the world is evidence for our need to continually fight for the good. Maybe someone else will do it. But no one can fill your place in this world. No one can replace the good that you are called to do, the good that you can and should be doing in this world. Evil evermore encourages us to do and to hold onto the good, but that’s only if we allow it to do just that.

“There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tower
high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while.
The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land,
and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold,
the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing:
there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.”

-Samwise Gamgee, The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King

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Domine, Non Sum Dignus

“Lord, I am not worthy
that you should enter under my roof,
but only say the word,
and my soul shall be healed.”

-Roman Missal

For Roman Catholics, these words should sound very familiar. Except for a few altered words, we have said these words at every Mass for our whole lives. The Church calls for a “full and active participation by all the people [as] the aim to be considered before all else” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 14). Full and active participation means saying the words, doing the actions, praying the prayers, and meaning what we say, do, and pray. No, that’s not always easy, but we are called to constantly make that effort for full and active participation. What’s the point if we are not going to devote every fiber of our being to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass? The Eucharist is called the “fount and apex of the whole Christian life” (Lumen Gentium, 11). [The normal language we hear is ‘source and summit,’ but, in the original document, ‘fount and apex’ was used, and I like the sound of that better.] The Eucharist is that from which the Christian life flows and that which it seeks. Does it not deserve our entire selves?

So once again I say: we have heard and said basically these words for most of our lives. HortonHow often have we actually stepped back to actually think about what we are saying? We are standing before the Lord, the God of the Universe, celebrating the earthly liturgy that reflects that heavenly liturgy. Maybe it’s just me, but maybe we should mean what we say. God knows the very depths of our souls. He knows when we tell the truth and when we lie. He knows how much we invest of ourselves into what we do. So should we not give a little thought to what we say and do? Even more so, should we not give a little (or a lot) more thought to what we say and do to God? It seems to me that the obvious answer would indeed be ‘YES!’

How much do you give thought to the words we say at Mass, or the words you say in prayer? I don’t intend to make any sort of judgment about you, but think about it: you can be your own judge, for only you (and God) know what you think in your prayer. Sometimes we can seem to lie to ourselves when we make our prayers to God. We convince ourselves that we can lie to God. Like I said above, He knows man’s heart – ‘the innermost or central part of anything.’ There’s nothing about us that God does not know. He created us, for crying out loud! We can lie to ourselves as much as we want, but that won’t have any effect on the Creator of Heaven and Earth. With that in mind, it seems like one should have a desire to reject any tendency to lie to oneself. In the grand scheme of things, we’re doing nothing but harming ourselves and our relationship with the One for which we were created.

That is something that we should indeed desire to keep in mind as we go forward to celebrate the Solemnity of Corpus Christi tomorrow. We celebrate the Body of Christ. That term does indeed refer to several things, including the Church and the Blessed Sacrament. On tomorrow’s Solemnity, the Church seeks to specifically call to mind the importance of the Eucharist in her life and mission. Now, the Mass is indeed important. I repeat, it is IMPORTANT! I still don’t think that adequately states the importance of the Mass. Christians through the centuries have spoken on the centrality and importance of the Mass, coming up with far better words than I ever could:

St. John Chrysostom: “When the Eucharist is being celebrated, the sanctuary is filled with countless angels who adore the divine victim immolated on the altar.”

St. John Vianney: “If we really understood the Mass, we would die of joy.”

St. Thomas Aquinas: “The celebration of Holy Mass is as valuable as the death of Jesus on the cross.”

So many more saints have spoken on the greatness of the Mass and the immensity of the implications of this prayer of the Church. With that in mind, shouldn’t it strike us even more necessary to believe every word we speak within the context of the Mass???

The above were all thoughts that everyone should keep in mind. The following is a matter of my own personal preference that I would like to present for consideration.

When I say the words ‘Lord I am not worthy,’ I can’t help but take those to heart. We are about to receive the God of the Universe into our bodies. An intimate connection that is merely a foretaste of the heavenly communion we look forward to experiencing. We are sinful human beings. We could not deserve Christ’s gift of His Body,St. Pio Receiving Communion but He desires to give it to us anyway. Christ’s gracious gift calls for a humble reaction. What are my hands that they should be able to place the Eucharist upon my tongue? The priest is said to be In persona Christi. By allowing the priest himself to place the host on our tongue, we are allowing Christ to feed us Himself with Himself. I don’t want to claim to have the ability to grant myself that Gift. Why do we kneel in prayer? It’s a sign of humility, a sign of our smallness, a sign of our recognition of the One greater than us. That is why I kneel to receive the Eucharist on my tongue. I don’t have any desire to be noticed or to give off the holier-than-thou impression. (I actually hate when I get attention, especially for receiving communion.) I desire to be as humble in my reception of Christ’s Body as I know how. It was the tradition for centuries to receive on the tongue whilst kneeling. I don’t expect everyone to revert back to that, but I do desire for everyone to consciously think about that which they are receiving in the Most Blessed Sacrament.

‘O Sacrament most holy, O Sacrament divine, all praise and all thanksgiving be every moment thine.’

On this Solemnity of Corpus Christi, I encourage you to step back and reflect on how you approach the Blessed Sacrament. The Lord humbled Himself to die on a Cross and grant the Church His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity to receive. I call you on to think about your reception of that Gift. Maybe you think you should receive on the knees. Maybe you think you should begin receiving on the tongue. Or maybe you think you should just be more conscious about how you receive the Lord into your body. Whatever it is, I encourage you to seek to receive the Eucharist more humbly, more thankfully, and more consciously.

““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.”

-J.R.R. Tolkien

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Mawwiage…That Bwessed Awwangement

“There is nothing nobler or more admirable
than when two people who see eye to eye
keep house as man and wife,
confounding their enemies
and delighting their friends.”

-Homer

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to be a groomsman in my brother’s wedding. I’ve been to weddings before. I’ve participated in several, including serving some. I’ve had a few cousins get married, but this was the first time I had really been so close to the bride and groom. I can’t say I’m very close to my brother, but I did grow up with him, so I guess you could say I’ve known him all my life. So when I stood at the foot of the sanctuary last Saturday and watched as my brother gave himself in Marriage, and I couldn’t help but be hit by the immense reality of this great sacrament.

To the person who does not really understand Marriage, the wedding ceremony might seem a little odd to them. Here are two people saying that they will be with each other for the rest of their lives. Sometimes they will be crying. Their friends and family are crying. Wait… Is it a happy or sad occasion?? There is nothing sad about giving oneself entirely to another person. On the contrary, those who cry are struck by the beauty of the ceremony.

This man and this woman have been commissioned by the Lord. They are called to give themselves totally, faithfully, fruitfully, and freely to the other and for the sake of the other. They are called to lead their spouse and their children to heaven. This is integral to marriage: it is for the sake of the other. They are called to sacrifice their own wills, their own desires for the other’s sake. The vocation of marriage is supposed to be that icon of the love of Christ and the Church. There is a reason why it is called giving oneself in marriage: Marriage is a pure gift of self.

The all-too-controversial excerpt from Ephesians 5 expresses just that. However, the beginning of that excerpt seems to be skipped over: “Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ” (I. 5:21). That must be understood: both are called to be subordinate to each other. Different but EqualBut, when wives are called to be subordinate to their husbands, they are not called to degrade themselves. Subordination does not offend one’s dignity, but reveals a certain humility. When husbands are called to love their wives as their own bodies, it further reveals this difference in roles. If the husband and the wife had the same roles in marriage, it would be just like having two heads, or two bodies. That doesn’t really work. Just as Christ laid down His life for His spouse, the Church, a husband is called to lay down his life for his spouse. Husband and wife are called to make sacrifices for the other, but in different ways. The sacrament of Marriage reveals how man and woman are truly different, but also equal.

As I said above, marriage consists of man and woman giving completely of themselves for the sake of the other. It is a sacrament of sacrificial love. All people are called to die to themselves everyday. The married couple possesses a more specific calling in this manner: they are called to die to themselves in service of the other. Holy Orders and Marriage are referred to as the Sacraments at the Service of Communion – for the salvation of others. Marriage is ultimately intended for the other’s sake. Love is defined by St. Thomas Aquinas as willing the good of the beloved. By giving oneself to their spouse, husband and wife indeed will the other’s good by seeking to bring them to Heaven.

When it comes toChrist on the Cross marriage, it can be easy to get caught up in the ceremony, the tradition, the ritual, and the idea of love. However, marriage is obviously so much more than that. A man and a woman are joined together in order that they may lead each other to Heaven. Don’t get me wrong: there is merit in ceremony and tradition. However, those are only means to an end: bringing together the two called to Marriage, in order for them to begin their lives together in sacrificial love. A true marriage cannot lack sacrifice. The lover seeks to sacrifice for their beloved without counting the cost.

To my brother and my new sister-in-law, and to all those embarking on the journey of marriage, I pray that your lifelong companionship may be filled with love and sacrifice, that you may truly be each other’s guides to the Heavenly Kingdom.

“Lord, teach me to be generous.
Teach me to serve as you deserve,
to give and not to count the cost,
to fight and not to heed the wounds,
to toil and not to seek for rest,
to labor and not to ask for reward,
save that of knowing I am doing your will.”

-‘Prayer for Generosity,’ St. Ignatius of Loyola

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March for Life

“The care of human life and happiness,
and not their destruction,
is the first and only object of good government.”

-Thomas Jefferson

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Today marks the 41st anniversary of the Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision. This court decision made the abortion of an unborn child legal and available throughout the entire United States. This year, just like every year, hundreds of thousands of us march from the National Mall to the Supreme Court Building. We travel hundreds, thousands of miles just to march in Washington, DC.

Now, we don’t do this because we love to walk half a mile an hour through DC. We don’t do it because we enjoy the outdoors in single digit weather. We don’t/shouldn’t do it because we have fun hanging out with our friends on a day out of school. We march to pay our respects to those children murdered, slaughtered in this war against the unborn. We do it to show the mothers and fathers who chose to abort their children that we are there for them. We march to show politicians that we will not stop until abortion is made illegal. We are the voices for those who can’t speak for themselves.

Science tells us that human life truly begins at conception. That must be accepted. When we accept that, no one can rightly say that people have the right to choose. Murder is murder. We don’t say that people have the right to choose when it comes to any other person. If the fetus is a human life, abortion is murder. That life must be preserved and cherished from conception to natural death. We should be doing everything we can to protect that life. As Jefferson said, the object of the government is the care of human life, not the destruction. The government must seek to protect the human person as much as possible. Abortion, the death penalty, unjust war: these all present a threat to human life. The government has a responsibility to do all that it can to protect that human life. When we call ourselves Pro-Life, we can’t just mean that we are against abortion. Being truly Pro-Life means seeking to protect all life.

On this day of the March for Life, yes, our main object remains the protection of the unborn, seeking abortion to be outlawed as the murder that it is. Life is truly a beautiful thing. It is the government’s job and our responsibility to do whatever possible in protecting that which is most precious to us: the human life. Being Pro-Life means all life. Our immediate goal is making abortion illegal. We can’t stand for this slaughter any longer. That is why we march. We march to let people know that we will not stand for this destruction of life any longer. We march for life today. Let us be heard. We will not stop until our voices are truly heard.

“I have a dogmatic certainty:
God is in every person’s life.
God is in everyone’s life.
Even if the life of a person has been a disaster,
even if it is destroyed by vices, drugs, or anything else –
God is in this person’s life.
You can – you must – try to seek God in every human life.”

-Pope Francis

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