This Sunday, The Blessed Sacrament Is Greater Than the Lord of the Rings
J.R.R. Tolkien, who wrote The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy was a devout Catholic. He told his son in a letter: “I put before you the one great thing to love on earth: the blessed Sacrament. There you will find romance, glory, honor, fidelity and the true way of all your loves on earth, and more than that.”
He had written his books as stories to tell his kids, but it was not literature that he told his son was the greatest thing, but the Blessed Sacrament.
So for the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ (Year A) — celebrating Jesus Christ, really present in the Eucharist in his body, blood, soul and divinity — here are some ways the Eucharist is greater than the Lord of the Rings.
First, the Eucharist brings us to Jesus’ side as he dies for us on the cross.
Tolkien’s novels tells the story of how two Hobbits sought to destroy a ring of power — a great symbol and source of sin in the world — by marching alone into the center of evil, Sauron’s Mount Doom. The Eucharist is the symbol and source of salvation in our world, and it puts us at the side of the one who marched into the center of evil to save us.
St. Paul describes this in Sunday’s first reading. “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?”
The Eucharist is more than the Stations of the Cross or the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary, which help us remember the Passion. The Eucharist offered at Mass is the Passion. “The victim is one and the same, the same now offers through the ministry of priests, who then offered himself on the cross; only the manner of offering is different,” says the Catechism. “In this divine sacrifice which is celebrated in the Mass, the same Christ who offered himself once in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross is contained and is offered in an unbloody manner” (No. 1367).
This puts us each in the place of Sam and Frodo on the precipice of Mount Doom at each Mass, participating in the sacrifice that is necessary to change the future of the world.
Second, the Eucharist echoes the Great Escape of the Israelites from Egypt.
In Lord of the Rings, the people of Rohan participate in a mass Exodus from Edoras, their city, as hordes of enemies approach. This is reminiscent of the Great Exodus of the Israelites: The great journey out of slavery in Egypt across the desert to the Promised Land.
In the first reading, the Lord himself reminds the Israelites of the remarkable features of this particular adventure story: “Do not forget the LORD, your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that place of slavery who guided you through the vast and terrible desert with its saraph serpents and scorpions, its parched and waterless ground; who brought forth water for you from the flinty rock and fed you in the desert with manna, a food unknown to your fathers.”
This is the story of each baptism: leaving slavery to sin and following Jesus Christ to freedom, gaining sustenance from the Eucharist and facing obstacles and pitfalls, “so as to test you by affliction and find out whether or not it was your intention to keep his commandments.”
The Eucharist puts us in that story. In the Gospel, Jesus calls himself “the bread that came down from heaven,” saying, “Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.”
The Eucharist forms us into a “Fellowship of the Host”.
Anyone who has marched in a group — whether in the military, marching band or March for Life — knows the thrill of being united to others, and both disappearing and finding yourself in the group.
The Eucharist is the ultimate instrument of that kind of unity. As St. Paul puts it in the second reading: “Because the loaf of bread is one, we, though many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.”
But at our Mass we are not just one band of brothers in one small part of the world. Corpus Christi is celebrated the world over, from Beijing to Sao Paolo. Our local “Fellowship of the Host” merges with the masses marching against the evils of hell worldwide.
Jesus rallies his troops, saying “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me.”
When we all come forward in line and receive him into our very bodies, we are just like Sam on the side of Mount Doom. We cannot save the world, but we are asked to receive Jesus Christ and carry him out into the world. In the same way Sam tells Frodo: “Come, Mr. Frodo! I can’t carry it for you, but I can carry you.”
We are united to a great leader, but we must dedicate ourselves wholly to the fight. J.R.R. Tolkien taught his son how this works in the Eucharist.
“The only cure for sagging or fainting faith is Communion,” he said. “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.”
So let the adventure begin. God gives us what we need for the journey. We just have to heed the call when he sounds the charge.