For those of you who, traditionally, celebrate New Year on Lady Day (as I have done secretly since I first read The Lord of the Rings) I wish you all the temporal and spiritual blessings in the Lord and of St Mary on the feast of the Annunciation. O Mary most beautiful of whom was born Christ the Saviour, what praise could one say more?
J.R.R Tolkien said somewhere (I have looked everywhere in vain but can't for the life of me remember where - I had thought to find the reference in his lecture On Translating Beowulf but alack...) that the Saxons believed the 25th March to be the actual date of Our Lord's Crucifixion. Accordingly the 25th March was the date of the destruction of the Ring and the beginning of the New Year in Gondor. As Gandalf said: ''But in Gondor the New Year will always now begin upon the twenty-fifth of March when Sauron fell, and when you were brought out of the fire to the King.'' The Lord of the Rings is, you see, a fundamentally religious and Catholic (though not Romish) work. Were it a Romish work I'm sure the New Year would begin on the 1st January.
Reading Tolkien is very moving for me, and the familiarity I now have with his work has not made this grow stale over the years - the first time I read him I felt as though the very hand of God had entered into me and stirred my soul, and I realized certain new facets of joy, pain and devotion which I have found nowhere else, even in Classical literature. People sometimes scoff at fantasy literature because they think it is escapist, or it isn't real. You couldn't be more wrong. C.S Lewis once said that myths were lies, albeit breathed through silver. Tolkien gainsaid the man with an emphatic no they are not! and then explained that myths arose from our sub-creative faculties (derived from the Creator) which, although they contain errors, ultimately tributary to the glory of God because they are a means of expressing certain Truths of faith which would otherwise go unexpressed. Tolkien, unlike Lewis, was averse to allegory and thought it an abuse to smuggle theology into his literature, and he is the better author for it in my opinion. Narnia and all that contains theological barbs directed at the Catholic Church, whereas The Lord of the Rings, having no explicit religion (rather religion in Tolkien is akin to a kind of monotheistic world of ''natural theology'', as it were) contains such quotes as: ''Good and ill have not changed since yesteryear; nor are they one thing among Elves and Dwarves and another among Men,'' and: ''Authority is not given to you, Steward of Gondor, to order the hour of your death and only the heathen kings, under the domination of the Dark Power, did thus, slaying themselves in pride and despair, murdering their kin to ease their own death.''
I had a point when I began the composition of this post...oh yes! I am moved with unaccustomed joy by good Liturgy in almost the same way that I am so moved by Tolkien. You see Liturgy is an art form, the supreme art form, since Christ is the artist. The most moved I ever was by Liturgy (or even, conceivably, in the course of my life) was on Palm Sunday two years ago, when I witnessed it for the first time in the Old Roman Rite (of a rather late vintage); it was during the chanting of the Passion, which is the proper context of the Word (clothed about with Tradition - it is a Protestant error that all men are priests akin to the priests of the Church with a direct link to God through their own finite judgement of the Word) that I choked (specifically at the words tunc exspuerunt in faciem eius, et colaphis eum ceciderunt, alii autem palmas in faciem eius dederunt) and perceived then more clearly than ever I had done hitherto the fundamental truths of faith - and something more than that. I would say that before was mere intellectual assent to the teachings of the Church. Afterwards was something else. I was receptive to a kind of power of Liturgy, as something humanly done under the guidance of the Holy Ghost, to move you out into regions of blessedness where one emotion is indistinguishable from another. I expect this is why we cry sometimes when we are happy - at least I have done. If anyone from my old parish is reading this - Palm Sunday is the best thing you have ever done.
There are moral aspects to fidelity to Tradition which go unsaid too often. I despise the wholesale mutilation of Liturgy for ''pastoral expediency'' - garbling certain ceremonies or omitting whole prayers or tampering with the Kalendar because people might think Liturgy is too long, or dull, or they won't understand it. Such a disposition is misguided and aliturgical. I expect this is why I am angered so much by the attempts made at Liturgy by Traddies, Anglo-Catholics and their ilk - they aren't me. This is not to say that I know everything but I do conceive of myself as one of probably a handful of people in this world who is truly liturgical. Would that I were in a position to say: Do as I say (because I know more than you) and nobody gets hurt!
Anyway, Happy Lady Day (what's left of it)! I have been ill in bed all week and my only treat today was this month's Vogue and a glass of Pink Lemonade to accompany.