“Sing, People Of The Tower Of Anor!”
One of my favorite audio clips, from a collection of recordings of J.R.R. Tolkien reading exerpts from The Lord Of The Rings, is from the chapter in Return Of The King, titled “The Steward And The King.” It is the scene where the great eagle delivers the news to Gondor that their king is victorious over the realm of Sauron:
“And before the Sun had fallen far from the noon out of the East there came a Great Eagle flying, and he bore tidings beyond hope from the Lords of the West, crying:
Sing now, ye people of the Tower of Anor,
for the realm of Sauron is ended for ever,
and the Dark Tower has been thrown down.
Sing and rejoice, ye people of the Tower of Guard,
for your watch hath not been in vain,
and the Black Gate is broken,
and your King hath passed through,
and he is victorious.
Sing and be glad, all ye children of the West,
or your King shall come again,
and he shall dwell among you all the days of your life.
And the Tree that was withered shall be renewed,
and he shall plant it in the high places,
and the City shall be blessed.
Sing all ye people!
And the people sang in all the ways of the City.”
When I hear this read by J.R.R. Tolkien himself on a recording from before the books were published, I feel very moved. I wish I could share it with you, but alas, I am too cheap to upgrade my WordPress account.
The very obvious parallel is to the Hymn of the Resurrection during Paschal Matins:
“Let God arise, and let his enemies be scattered; and let them who hate him flee from before his face.
Today a sacred Pascha is revealed to us. A new and Holy Pascha. A mystical Pascha, a Pascha worthy of veneration. A Pascha which is Christ, the redeemer. A blameless Pascha of the faithful. A Pascha which has opened for us the gates of paradise. A Pascha which sanctifies all the faithful.
As smoke vanisheth so let them vanish away
Come from that scene O women bearers of glad tidings and say to Zion: receive from us the glad tiding of joy of Christ’s resurrection: exult and be glad, and rejoice O Jerusalem, seeing Christ the king who comes forth from the tomb, like a bridegroom in procession.
So the sinners will perish before the face of God, but let the righteous be glad.
The myrrh bearing women at breaking of dawn drew near to the tomb of the life giver. There they found an angel sitting up on the stone, he greeted them with these words: Why do you seek the living among the dead? Why do you morn the incorrupt amid corruption? Go proclaim the glad tidings to his disciples.
This is the day which the Lord hath made! Let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Pascha of beauty! The Pascha of the Lord! A Pascha worthy of all honor has dawned for us! Pascha! Let us embrace each other joyously. Pascha, ransom from affliction! For today as from a bridal chamber Christ has shone forth from the tomb. And filled the women with joy saying: Proclaim the glad tiding to the Apostles!
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit:
Both now and ever and unto ages of ages, Amen.
This is the day of Resurrection! Let us be illumined by the feast! Let us embrace each other! Let us call brothers even those that hate us and forgive all by the resurrection, and so let us cry:
Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs, bestowing life”
This is from the Praises in Tone 5, following Ode 9.
I don’t know about any of you, but after the words, “So let us cry:” followed by the solemn singing to the Paschal Troparion (Christ is Risen), I can’t sing the first few words because it chokes me up. It is such a powerful thought. Embrace one another, and our enemies, proclaiming Christ is Risen.
Far from a fictional set of Black Gates or Dark Tower, our Lord has broken Hades and despoiled it! This is the victory proclaimed by the “great eagle” of the Gospels, Scriptures, Church Fathers, Saints and Holy Tradition and Prayers. This victory we not only celebrate, we participate in it. But first we suffer:
“Yesterday I was buried with thee, O Christ. Today I arise with thee in thy resurrection. Yesterday I was crucified with thee. Glorify me with thee, with thee, O savior, in thy kingdom”
These words have an especially powerful meaning to me since my three daughters had in fact just died “yesterday” with Christ in the waters of Holy Baptism, and been raised again in His Resurrection. Having participated in His Crucifixion, they experienced the Glory of His Kingdom in the Eucharist. This is something they have been waiting for a long time. My younger two daughters would wonder into line for Communion before this, always to be disappointed with the reality that they had to wait. It was a pure joy to finally receive the Holy Body and Blood of Christ with them, instead of retrieving antidiron for them.
But not only was this particularly special because my girls were received into Holy Orthodoxy, I was able to fully participate in Holy Week like never before. This year I really felt the transition from Lent to Holy Week very sharply. It was more solemn, yet brighter. More intense, yet this made it the greater a joy. The participation is not just in a ceremony or ritual, but in the life of the crucified and risen Lord Jesus Christ. I could describe the physical setting of the candles, the low lights, the beauty of our parish singing as one choir, but that does not convey the joy and sorrow that Holy Week worked in me this year.
One of my goals is to help my girls find this joy in holy sorrow that leads to repentance (as St Paul tells us), that they may be able to proclaim the words of the Holy Pascha with the Church, from the heart.
Along with my three girls my parish received in 9 others; 2 whole families and one single man. Wait a joyous Pascha 2013 was for my family and I! So let me end this post with one of my favorite proclamations from the Paschal Matins:
“Rejoice, O Virgin, rejoice; rejoice, O blessed one; rejoice, O glorified one; for thy Son is risen from the tomb on the third day.
O Christ, the perfect, most exalted Passover; O wisdom of god, his word and his power. Grant that we may partake of thee more perfectly, in thy kingdom’s day which setteth not.
The angel cried out to the Lady full of grace: O Pure Virgin rejoice and again I say rejoice; behold thy son is risen from his three days in the tomb.
O Shine, O Shine, O Shine thou new Jerusalem, for the glory of the Lord is dawning upon thee. Exult and be glad O Zion, and O Virgin Theotokos, be radiant in the rising of thy Son.”
Christ Is Risen! Truly He Is Risen!