Wonder, Joy, and Fear (May 23, 2012)

…Opening To…

Frodo heard a sweet singing running in his mind: a song that seemed to come like a pale light behind a grey rain-curtain, and growing stronger to turn the veil all to silver and glass, until at last it was rolled back, and a far green country opened before him under a swift sunrise. (J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring, Ch. VIII)

…Listening In…

They all gazed at him. His hair was white as snow in the sunshine; and gleaming white was his robe; the eyes under his deep brows were bright, piercing as the rays of the sun; power was in his hand. Between wonder, joy, and fear they stood and found no words to say. At last Aragorn stirred. ‘Gandalf!’ he said. ‘Beyond all hope you return to us in our need! What veil was over my sight? Gandalf!’ (The Two Towers, Bk. 3, Ch. V)

…Filling Up…

The wizard Gandalf died defending the fellowship from the monstrous Balrog while the companions were fleeing from the mines of Moria. The fiend of flame and shadow took one step onto the bridge of Khazad-dûm and Gandalf smote the bridge with his staff. The narrow way collapsed and the Balrog fell, but not before ensnaring Gandalf with its whip and taking the wizard with it. The two fell an impossibly far way down. And that was the last the fellowship saw of Gandalf.

Until the moments before the quotation above, at least. Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli come upon a traveler in the forest. They don’t recognize him at first, and they think he might be the evil wizard Saruman. But no. He is Gandalf, but not the Gandalf they remember. Not exactly. Aragorn wonders how his vision might have been so impaired as not to realize that Gandalf stands before him. The wizard, for his part, looks brand new – dazzling white and brilliant.

Sound familiar? It should because this scene mimics two different parts of the Gospel – the Transfiguration, in which Jesus becomes dazzling radiant before three of his disciples; and the Resurrection, in which the Risen Christ meets many of his followers but they don’t recognize him right away.

Now, I could stop there and just say, “How cool! Tolkien borrowed from the Gospel!” But I should probably say something else. So here it is. Notice what Tolkien says: “Between wonder, joy, and fear they stood and found no words to say.” I can’t think of a better description of how the disciples must have felt when they met the Risen Lord. Heck, I can’t think of a better description of how I feel when I stumble into God’s presence.

There’s wonder because we realize that luminous mystery abounds about us. There’s joy because we realize we are not alone. And there’s fear because we realize we’ll never fully understand the mystery. When we stumble into God’s presence, we find ourselves awash in all three of these states. And we find that we have no words that are deep enough for the experience.

…Praying For…

Dear God, you fill my life with wonder, you shower joy upon me, and you quiet my fears. Help me to proclaim your movement in my life with the words that you set on my heart. In Jesus Christ’s name I pray. Amen.

…Sending Out…

I leave this moment with you, God, knowing that you have gifted me with companions to take the journey with me.

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