Saturday, January 14, 2012

Tolkien on the Liturgy

I've never understood how people can just sit in the pew and not sing. If you don't like the liturgy here, you're going to really be bummed out in heaven. It's one endless Divine Service with an endless liturgy sung by angels and men. Now, I can understand (with sensitivity) the timid in voice, those who are afraid of "how it might sound," but just to sit in silence without as much as a quiver of the lip, or a silent hum-along. That I don't understand. Neither did Tolkien.

Even if you've only spent a short time in Middle-earth it is quite apparent that men and elves, hobbits and wizards, even the trees love to sing. They sing of sorrow and joy, dark days and homely day dreams. All of life is encompassed in song in Middle-earth. Come to think of it, that's the same way it is in the Church. The liturgy envelops sings along with our sorrow and sadness as much as it does our great joy and celebration. Whatever day we might be having, the liturgy gives us a song to sing, filling our lips with the Word of God. The liturgy is what fulfills and consumes all songs (even our very lives) in heaven and on earth, even in Middle-earth.

In a letter to his son, Christopher, Tolkien makes a similar point:

"If you don't do so already, make a habit of the 'praises'. I use them much (in Latin): the Gloria Patri, the Gloria in Excelsis, the Laudate Dominum; the Laudete Pueri Dominum (of which I am specially fond), one of the Sunday psalms; and the Magnificat; also the Litany of Loretto (with the prayer Sub tuum praesidium). If you have these by heart you never need words for joy."

The liturgy not only gives our voice God's Word to sing, but it shapes our lives with the very Word of Christ, the forgiveness of sins and above all, the liturgy points us, leads us and woos us to the Sacrament, from whence all liturgy leads to and flows out of. The road to the Altar goes ever on...even unto the marriage supper of the Lamb.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow. Praise Him all creatures (of earth and Middle-earth) here below. Praise Him above ye heav'nly host. Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

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