We have seen the true Light ; we have received the heavenly Spirit ; we have found the true Faith, in worshipping the indivisible Trinity ; for He hath saved us. Alleluia.
Happy Pentecost! It is one (liturgical) year since I was received into the Church Outside Russia and I am elated. I had planned on returning to Colchester, to the church of St John of Shanghai, but I am always short of money these days so I had to shelve that pious idea. Nonetheless, I'd like to share this reflection with you on the theme of this new blog.
When I was trying to find a suitable URL for this blog, one that wasn't already taken, I wanted something both succinct and memorable. Having completed roughly half of a series on the old Spanish Rite, I had in mind the ancient lucernarium ceremony at Evensong and then I remembered Frodo's first night in Rivendell. After the feast in the House of Elrond the guests went into the Hall of Fire for songs and tales. It's a chapter ("Many Meetings") in The Lord of the Rings full of symbolism and resonance, of light and memory, of merrymaking and solemnity. I have always thought of Rivendell as a monastery, keeping in memory the high traditions and true faith elsewhere forgotten. Not for naught, I think, did Tolkien call Elrond's House the "last homely house east of the Sea," that is outside Eden, in the world of finite things.
I'm not the only Orthodox to make this connexion. Deacon Aaron Taylor of the Church Outside Russia wrote in 2012 a very interesting article comparing Rivendell to the Holy Mountain, according to Elder Porphyrios' account of his first vigil in the Kyriakon. I encourage you to read it.
Of course, there is no ceremonial kindling of lamps (that I know of) in Rivendell. There is no discernible liturgical tradition anywhere in Middle-earth, except, perhaps, Faramir's custom before dinner of turning West towards Númenor. Devotion and piety seem to be indistinguishable from merrymaking and the tradition of sagas and poems. Even so, we do read that the company went into the Hall of Fire in the House of Elrond "in due order," and that the Elves would go on singing songs of the Blessed Realm far into the night. I'll conclude this poor reflection with Tolkien's own words:
"They got up and withdrew quietly into the shadows, and made for the doors. Sam they left behind, fast asleep still with a smile on his face. In spite of his delight in Bilbo's company Frodo felt a tug of regret as they passed out of the Hall of Fire. Even as they stepped over the threshold a single clear voice rose in song.
"A Elbereth Gilthoniel,
silivren penna míriel
o menel aglar elenath!
o galadhremmin ennorath,
Fanuilos, le linnathon
nef aear, sí nef aearon!"
The Lord of the Rings, Book II, Chapter I.
With its theme of light and exile, it's obviously a vesperal hymn in the O Gladsome Light tradition.