“There peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. the beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of that forsaken land, and hope returned to him, for like shaft clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty forever its reach.”
The little hobbits are at the worst part of the journey upon which the fate of the world depends. It is at this point that Sam realises that the power of evil is but a small and passing thing. So they struggle on through the land of shadow and eventually achieve the goal for which they were called and sent.
I give you the quotation for two reasons. First, as encouragement to Christians who are sent on the task of bearing witness to Christ in a world of sin and evil. . Secondly, I want us to think of the vision, faith and fortitude which give human beings the strength to do God’s will.
This vision inspired Sam to do the Thing which he is called to do. It gave him faith in his calling. He could never have summoned up the strength to go on if light and high beauty had not smitten his heart. But there was need for a more sustaining gift. This was the waybread which the elves had given him. Somehow, through things which he could touch, and taste, the light and high beauty fortified him against all that was evil.
The Apostles were given the most direct vision of the truth of the Gospel. The vision is a gift from God in the words of the master himself – “Blessed art thou Simon Bar-Jonah, flesh and blood has not revealed this to thee but my Father in heaven …” I am Jesus whom thou persecutest”. The gift of Christ inspires faith, faith that leads to martyrdom.
Peter and Paul are our fathers: from them we catch the flame of the resurrection. But if the world is no less wicked than in the days of Nero, we are certainly more aware of the wickedness. There are the concentration camps, the wars, the starvation. Nearer home and there are the murders, rapes and abuses that we read about every day. There is our own sinfulness. We are children of the resurrection but sometimes the darkness so presses upon us that vision fades and faith fails.
This is the time for waybread, for those signs of the Incarnation which tell us that the Lord is here, his Spirit is with us. Here is the gift of fortitude. Look up, the shadow is a small and passing thing, there is light and high beauty forever beyond its reach. “In the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”
John Gribben is a member of the Community of the Resurrection