Sunday, August 18, 2013

Gandalf and Christ: Setting fire on earth and hearts

Pentecost by Duccio di Buoninsegna (1308) (from Wikipedia)
A.  Christ

In today's Gospel, Christ said: "I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!" (Lk 12:49).  During Pentecost, Christ fulfilled His wish:
When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together.2 And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were.3 Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them.4 And they were all filled with the holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim. (Acts 2:1-4)
When the apostles received the Holy Spirit, their hearts were set on fire for the Gospel.  They left the Upper Room where they hid out of fear of the Jews, and proclaimed Christ at the housetops.  The apostles found courage.  Courage or fortitude is one of the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit::
1808 Fortitude is the moral virtue that ensures firmness in difficulties and constancy in the pursuit of the good. It strengthens the resolve to resist temptations and to overcome obstacles in the moral life. The virtue of fortitude enables one to conquer fear, even fear of death, and to face trials and persecutions. It disposes one even to renounce and sacrifice his life in defense of a just cause. "The Lord is my strength and my song."70 "In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." 71 (Catechism of the Catholic Church)
B.  Gandalf

In the Lord of the Rings, Gandalf wore Narya the Great, the Ring of Fire, and the "stone set upon it was red as fire" (The Grey Havens, LotR, p. 1030).  It is this Fire that Gandalf spoke about when he faced the Balrog at the Bridge of Khazad-dum:
I am the servant of the Secret Fire, wielder of the flame of Anor. You cannot pass.  The dark fire will not avail you, flame of Udun. Go back to the Shadow!  You cannot pass. (The Bridge of Khazad-dum, LotR, p. 330)
Gandalf on top of a burning tree
Gandalf on top of a burning tree (from mardecortesbaja)
Gandalf showed the scorching power of his Fire when he first journeyed with Bilbo and the Dwarves in The Hobbit:
[Gandalf] gathered the huge pine-cones from the branches of the tree.  Then he set one alight with bright blue fire, and threw it whizzing down among the circle of the wolves...Then another came and another, one in blue flames, one in red, another in green.  They burst on the ground in the middleof the circle and went off in coloured sparks and smoke.  (The Hobbit, LotR, p. 103)
Gandalf's fire waxes at noon when the sun is at its brightest.  So the Black Riders attacked him at night:
I galloped to Weathertop like a gale, and I reached  it before sundown on my second day from Bree--and they were there before me.  They drew away from me, for they felt the coming of my anger and they dared not face it while the Sun was in the sky.  But they closed round at night, and I was besieged on the hill-top, in the old ring of Amon Sul.  I was hard put to it indeed: such light and flame cannot have been seen on Weathertop since the war-beacons of old. (The Council of Elrond, LotR, p. 264)
But during the siege of Gondor, Gandalf's fire is something else.  It is something invisible, yet palpable to the heart: it is the fire of presence which kindles courage: "Wherever he came men's hearts would lift again, and the winged shadows pass from memory" (The Siege of Gondor, LotR, p. 824).  This reminds us of the experience of the disciples on the road to Emmaus from Calvary where all their hopes died with Christ on the cross. But after meeting Christ unknowingly on the road and breaking bread with Him, they said to each other:
Were not our hearts burning [within us] while he spoke to us on the way and opened the scriptures to us? (Lk 24:32)
New Beginning, New Hope: Words of Pope Francis Holy Week Through Pentecost
New Beginning, New Hope: Words of Pope Francis Holy Week Through Pentecost
Gifts of the Holy Spirit: Denis the Carthusian Translated from the original Latin by Íde M. Ní Riain
Gifts of the Holy Spirit: Denis the Carthusian Translated from the original Latin by Íde M. Ní Riain
Gandalf - The Lord of the Rings Statue
Gandalf - The Lord of the Rings Statue
Understanding The Lord of the Rings: The Best of Tolkien Criticism
Understanding The Lord of the Rings: The Best of Tolkien Criticism
Lord of the Rings LOTR Gandalf on Shadowfax Horse Statue Sideshow Collectibles
Lord of the Rings LOTR Gandalf on Shadowfax Horse Statue Sideshow Collectibles