In Need of a Savior

The central mystery for which we prepare in this season is that of the arrival of the Savior. God in human form, Jesus alone is capable of redeeming our race. By his qualifications of both full divinity and full humanity, Christ alone has the capacity to bridge the chasm between our fallen nature and our Creator’s undimmed holiness.

To some extent, though, we can ask: Why do we need a savior? What is the nature of our fall? What is it about “sin” that prevents us so completely from approaching the Father?

These days, it is increasingly difficult to grasp the nature of sin and its effects. In order to communicate in some fashion what we lose through sin and the lengths necessary to remedy our separation from God, some imagery can be helpful.

I am a very fickle reader, and I don’t claim to be a huge consumer of great literature, but generally there is something about good fiction that I find can be illuminating about our own nature. This fascination is always fed and strengthened by the writings of J. R. R. Tolkien, whose imagery betrays his deeply Catholic faith. My principle reason for even mentioning this is the way his third-most popular novel, The Silmarillion, speaks to our human predicament.

While famously anti-allegory in reference to his own, most famous works (The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings), elements of the origin story of his “elves” can be rather instructive on the points in question.

The elves were created to live without death and were invited to the “Undying Lands” where all the immortal creatures had their home. As they were endowed with such skills and arts, the elves delighted in the creation of beautiful things — works of skill and creativity — and living in peace and harmony with the world. Their greatest creations mingled with the work of the other, higher beings of that place and so grew in beauty and renown among all of their kind.

As is typical of evil, some beings of that place were envious and, indeed, offended by the happiness the elves enjoyed amongst the immortal beings. Those evil forces, through cunning and treachery, debased and defiled the most prized and beautiful of the elves’ artifacts and stole them.

In their anger at the treachery, but also in their love for their own works, many of the elves committed acts of violence and treachery of their own, devising a means to escape the Undying Lands to pursue the treasures that were taken from them. In so doing, however, they destroyed the trust of their immortal allies and their means of return. From that time on, those who left, and their offspring with them, were banned from returning, despite their persistent desire to answer the burning call of their people to dwell with the highest powers.

We are very much like these elves: created out of nothing, invited to an eternity with God, called to share the blessings of God’s all-sufficient care forever, but duped by the abuse of our own genius to chase after those illusory prizes of our own devising. Having jilted our greatest lover, we separated ourselves from that love, so generously offered.

This is the nature of our fallen human state, and for us, the state into which we are born. Without an act of mercy, we are consigned to our inconstant passions, and because of our limitations as creatures, we are lacking any capacity to regain that lost, promised land.

Yet, our call is no less. Our desire for that “forever love” only God can legitimately offer is written throughout our history and only thinly veiled by the constant proclivity to attach to something, to cling to addiction, and to mistake our earthly loves as comparable or sufficient to satisfy that longing.

Finally, just as those elves in Tolkien’s fiction, it took the mercy of the scorned Lover of Souls to reforge a path to His love.

Jesus is that path.

Jesus is the way.

Jesus is the truth that sets us free from our misguided affections.

Jesus alone is the life that holds us forever in the presence of God.

Incidentally, if you’re interested in a breathtaking interpretation of the creation of the world, do read the first chapter of The Silmarillion. Tolkien can be an “acquired taste” (meaning some just don’t enjoy the genre), with a multiplicity of names and unfamiliar terms, but the first chapter is especially rewarding to any music lover.

David Dunst

Music Director

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