A recommendation from J. R. R. Tolkien

It is easy to romanticize religion or religious experience, only to find it all too mundane. On the other hand, one might embrace the mundane and discover something truly romantic. The first is the repeatable romantic experience; high hopes brought low, longings dashed, experiences become hollow. The second is the realist vision: it is in the ordinary one finds Heaven. I think Tolkien, for all his brilliant fantasies of Middle Earth, was at heart a realist who discovered the truly romantic in the mundane. And it is the mundane world of ordinary communion that often has the deepest roots. As Tolkien says below, “The only cure for sagging or fainting faith is Communion.”

The following is a letter Tolkien wrote to his son:

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.

The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter to his son.

He had me at: “Out of the darkness of my life, so much frustrated…” I look forward to meeting him someday.

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