"The realm of Sauron is ended! said Gandalf. 'The Ring-bearer has fulfilled his Quest.' And as the Captains gazed south to the Land of Mordor, it seemed to them that, black against the pall of cloud, there rose a huge shape of shadow, impenetrable, lightning-crowned, filling all the sky. Enormous it reared above the world, and stretched out towards them a vast threatening hand, terrible but impotent; for even as it leaned over them, a great wind took it, and it was all blown away, and passed; and then a hush fell."
'I am glad that you are with me, said Frodo. 'Here at the end of all things, Sam.'
'Yes, I am with you, Master... and you're with me. And the journey's finished. But after coming all that way I don't want to give up yet. It's not like me, somehow, if you understand.'
'Maybe not, Sam,' said Frodo; 'but it's like things are in the world. Hopes fail. An end comes. We have only a little time to wait now. We are lost in ruin and downfall, and there is no escape.'
'Well, Master, we could at least go further from this dangerous place here, from this Crack of Doom, if that's its name. Now couldn't we? Come, Mr. Frodo, let's go down the path at any rate!'
- Return of the King, The Fields of Cormallen
Holy Saturday, the still in-between of such great sorrow and the greatest joy, has always been a quiet mystery to me. Jesus is dead, buried in His tomb. His mother is broken hearted, as are his Apostles and friends. A hush has fallen upon the earliest of Christians, one that they may perceive as the end of all things. And even still today, we might fall into despair.
Yet those who have faith will know: it is finished. Satan's reign has ended!
There is a temptation to despair, yet still in the darkness we find the hope of a coming light instead.
Because those who understood the prophecies and Jesus' own words knew He would rise again. Though doubt and fear must have lingered, in the quiet darkness, he had spoken to encourage them, to assure them of their hope...
"For he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of man will be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him; and when he is killed, after three days he will rise.” - Mark 9:31
He has died, just as he said. And so he will rise, just as he said.
But on this dark Holy Saturday, this hope so hard to hold on to.
"Today a great silence reigns on earth, a great silence and a great stillness. A great stillness because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and has raised up all who have slept since the world began . . . ‘I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be a prisoner in hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead.’ ” (Liturgy of the Hours, Matins for Holy Saturday, From an ancient homily for Holy Saturday)
These passages in Tolkien's Return of the King are woven with this very hope. To despair is to be in a dangerous place. But to take heart, to carry on but a few steps farther, when we seem to be standing before the end of all things... this is the hope we are called to.
And when the morning sun rises tomorrow, we will stand face to face with the most glorious Love, Christ who has conquered death.
Take heart, my friends... The eagles are coming!
This article has been a part of our three-part series on Triduum 2017.
You can read through the whole series here:
- On This Holy Thursday: The Eucharist and Lembas
- On This Good Friday: "I Thirst"
- On This Holy Saturday: Here at the End of All Things