Ascensiontide Novena: Day 5

[Tolkien was Catholic, not Anglican. So the extent to which his works are part of the “treasure to be shared,” referenced in Anglicanorum coetibus is debatable. Tolkien was, however, so deeply read in English literature and spirituality that he certainly represents the deepest roots of English spirituality in general (which is, I think, part of what the selectors of readings for this novena want to provide). As for intentionally seeking liturgical celebrations presided over by “snuffling or gabbling” priests, etc., I have my doubts as to whether this is an exercise I would recommend. It was and is easy enough simply to find oneself in such circumstances—in which case the opportunity to grow in charity abounds—without having to seek them out.]

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. By the divine paradox, that which ends life, and demands the surrender of all, and yet by the taste – or foretaste – of which alone can what you seek in your earthly relationships (love, faithfulness, joy) be maintained, or take on that complexion of reality, of eternal endurance, which every man’s heart desires.

The only cure for sagging or fainting faith is Communion. Though always itself, perfect and complete and inviolate, the Blessed Sacrament does not operate completely and once for all in any of us. Like the act of Faith it must be continuous and grow by exercise. Frequency is of the highest effect. Seven times a week is more nourishing than seven times at intervals.

Also I can recommend this as an exercise (alas! only too easy to find opportunity for): make your communion in circumstances that affront your taste. Choose a snuffling or gabbling priest or a proud and vulgar friar; and a church full of the usual bourgeois crowd, ill-behaved children – from those who yell to those products of Catholic schools who the moment the tabernacle is opened sit back and yawn – open necked and dirty youths, women in trousers and often with hair both unkempt and uncovered. Go to communion with them (and pray for them). It will be just the same (or better than that) as a mass said beautifully by a visibly holy man, and shared by a few devout and decorous people. It could not be worse than the mess of the feeding of the Five Thousand – after which our Lord propounded the feeding that was to come.

J R R Tolkien (1892 – 1973) letter to his sons English writer, poet, philologist, and university professor


O God, make the door of this church wide enough to receive all who need human love and fellowship, and a heavenly Father’s care;

and narrow enough to shut out all envy, pride and hate.

Make its threshold smooth enough to be no stumbling block to children, nor to straying feet,

but rugged enough to turn back the tempter’s power:

make it a gateway to thine eternal kingdom. Amen.

Thomas Ken (1637–1711) English cleric who was considered the most eminent of the English non-juring bishops, and one of the fathers of modern English hymnology

[The image is from the Abingdon Apocalypse, 13th century]

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