Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year! and some more Luthien

All right, this is really crazy. Two recent posts relating to the Tale of Beren and Luthien, one in the works, and now this! But I really couldn't help it. Since reading the Philosopher at Large's elucidation of it, the Lay of Leithian has become for me a sort of touchstone for right thinking about love. And I have been thinking about love quite a lot.

Anyhow, I just happened to read a quote from Mother Mary Francis, P.C.C. (whose book, A Right to be Merry, I recently finished) that speaks of the contemplative vocation in this wise:

Consecrated spousal love pertains to the core of the heart, and it can make suffering demands, demands in their turn made desirable just because of love. It is a blessed circle and expressed in the ring circling the Poor Clare’s finger. The ring bears the outline of a heart. And of a cross. Spouseship is, in the end, the most beautiful expression of power, the unleashing of such love and willingness to suffer the lot of the Bridegroom as alone makes for the triumph of womanhood in whatever vocation.

--from Forth and Abroad, by Mother Mary Francis, PCC.
Found at

I found the paragraph rather difficult, especially the two sentences I italicized above. "Suffering demands" doesn't make syntactical sense to me even yet, though I think I understand what she means; but love as a "beautiful expression of power" is strange enough conceptually. So I began to look for a concrete application to make sense of it with, and the first thing that popped into my head fitted so well that I thought I would share it; Luthien's words to Beren when she catches up to him, as he is about to cross the plain to the Dark Lord's fastness without her:

Not thus do those of elven race
forsake the love that they embrace!
A love is mine, as great a power
as thine, to shake the gate and tower
of death with challenge weak and frail
that yet endures, and will not fail
nor yield,
unvanquished were it hurled
beneath the foundations of the world.
Beloved fool! escape to seek
from such pursuit; in might so weak
to trust not, thinking it well to save
from love thy loved, who welcomes grave
and torment sooner than in guard
of kind intent to languish, barred,
wingless and helpless him to aid
for whose support her love was made!'

--"The Lay of Leithian," lines 3346-3361. From The Lays
of Beleriand,
by J.R.R. Tolkien.

I think the correspondences between the italicized lines are fairly self-explanatory, but the implications of those correspondences are something I'll have to think and write about in more detail, and after some sleep. So that's all for now.

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