Silmarils, shadows, and sacraments

After a third stab at it, the reading of Tolkien’s Silmarillion progresses on, even though it be very dry at times. It keeps moving because once on at least every page, there is some foreshadowing of both good and ill. Strife between brothers offers warnings of further strife and also opportunity for healing and self-sacrifice. Tales of victory carry with them foreboding of future battle.

In many ways, we see the elves sought to remake their favorite memories from their unstained days with the gods, the Valar. On middle earth they make copies of their favorite gardens, towers, ships, and magic of the elder days. Even the magic jewels themselves, of which the tale is named after, were essentially copies of the two light-giving trees of blessed realm. It is like the world within a world in Narnia, near the end of the final book. Further up and further in you find the same world, only more real. The one you thought you knew was an image.

It seems to me that we are the same sort of folk, in the same situation. The temple of Israel was a shadow, remade by human hands with relatively perishable materials – a copy of the wonderful and worshipful throne room in the heavenly realm. The Lord’s Table is like a slight imitation of the perfect table of fellowship between God and his people. If these two are images, then the place where we break bread must be an imitation of something heavenly, just like the temple, and not just a re-creation of what happend between Jesus and the twelve in the upper room. That too was still here on earth. There is a wedding feast in dreams that has yet to materialize, though He has promised it.

Nothing is really sacrificed in the heavenly temple. The sacrifices we made in our copy were shadows, bought down to our level and to be done away with as time progressed. It is still progressing. It seems to me that the notion that the Lord’s Table is a re-sacrifice misses the point. A memorial, yes, but not a RE-anything. Nevertheless, I do not believe the Lord will damn any of us for treating it as such. I imagine him just rolling his eyes and then loving and dwelling with us anyway. Now we see as in a glass darkly, then, later, we shall see face to face and we will cast off our childhood and be a mature and marriageable bride. We will discover that he has grown us up from the ground for just this purpose.

Briefly, on marraige and parenting

It seems that, generally, by the time you really learn something, it’s too late to make use of the knowledge. By the time you figure out how to parent, your first kid is already screwed up. By the time you figure out what work you love to do, your career path is already established elsewhere.

The “starter marriage” is an attempt to take preemptive action from this realization, but ends up being a band-aid applied to the gaping wound of our difficulty and inability to mature from boys and girls into men and women – men and women worth being married to anyway.

Many have said, “Ah ha! I’ve got it.” Since I know I’ll be not good at being a parent, I’ll fix that by just not having any kids.” Though this is the just path for some, no doubt, for many this idea is even worse than the “starter marriage”. Now you are set on a stable trajectory of non-growth. You can easily be cemented in the comfortable fantasy land that is the American middle-class, rich in hobbies and entertainment.

Marriage teaches us to love. Children teach us to love. They are harrowing instructors, to be sure, but the very best and most effective. Some cannot withstand their force. (Count me among them many days.) This is why the church needs to preach grace even harder and clearer than ever. Nearly all feel, at times, as though they cannot withstand the reshaping. Christ’s resurrection is sufficient for even this.