Posts Tagged ‘Eucatastrophe’

At the beginning of Fellowship of the Ring, Frodo did not see the end of his journey:  For where am I to go?  And by what shall I steer?  What is to be my quest?  Bilbo went to find a treasure, there and back again; but I go to lose one, and not return, as far as I can see.

Even then, Gandalf pointed out that he did not know what would happen.  Later, Frodo learned from Faramir of Boromir’s death.  Frodo already thought Gandalf was gone — he had seen him fall into the abyss — and so now he considered that in addition to Boromir, likely all of his companions were dead.  Faramir also encouraged him, pointing out a reason to believe that at least some of his companions still lived — who else had prepared Boromir as for a funeral?  Frodo faithfully continued in his quest, to see the destruction of the ring in the fires of Mount Doom.  Then came an unexpected turn, the “eucatastrophe” as J.R.R. Tolkien coined the phrase: in how the ring was destroyed, and especially after that.  Sam and Frodo woke up to see Gandalf, who had returned from the dead.  As Sam exclaimed in a famous line, “Gandalf!  I thought you were dead!  But then I thought I was dead myself.  Is everything sad going to come untrue?”

Likewise, Christ’s followers thought Jesus was dead and gone.  The disciples on the road to Emmaus — they thought He was the one to redeem Israel, but now He’s dead.

The women went to the tomb; “why do you search for the living among the dead?”  Even more so than Gandalf, Jesus had told them it would happen — that He would be killed and then three days later He would rise — but they weren’t listening.  What great joy they then experienced, beyond belief, when they finally saw the risen Christ (ref. Luke 24:41).  The Don Francisco song “The Traveler / Joy” captures that feeling of joy so well —

Some lifted hands toward heaven
And then knelt without a sound
Some just stood and stared at Him
As if rooted to the ground

But I could not contain the joy  That flooded heart and soul
It came rushing out in praises  I had no wish to control!

As J.R.R. Tolkien said so well, in his lecture On Fairy Stories, the gospel is the true story and the great eucatastrophe:

But this story has entered History and the primary world… The Birth of Christ is the eucatastrophe of Man’s history.  The Resurrection is the eucatastrophe of the story of the Incarnation.  This story begins and ends in joy.

A very blessed Good Friday and Easter / Resurrection Sunday to all!

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