Friday, December 30, 2005

Recommended Reading

The Lord of the Rings is of course a fundamentally religious and Catholic
work; unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision. That is
why I have not put in, or have cut out, practically all references to anything
like "religion," to cult or practices, in the imaginary world. For the
religious element is absorbed into the story and the symbolism.--J.R.R.
TolkienLetters 142

This is a story that tells us things we need to know. It cannot
be taken in all at once. It is one of those that we have to grow into;
stories that deal with the way the world is made, and the way the self is
made. These stories are like dreams, but dreams that can be shared by an
entire culture; wholesome dreams that restore a balance to the psyche by turning
our energies and our thoughts toward truth; dreams that resemble an oasis in the
desert. Reading them can be a meditation.--Stratford Caldecott

The Power of the Ring: The Spiritual Vision Behind the Lord of the

Caldecott's book is an interesting thematic/literary analysis of Tolkien's trilogy. He starts by establishing that Tolkien was a Catholic of deep convictions. In fact, Tolkien was orphaned at twelve and raised to maturity by a priest. More interestingly, Tolkien's mother converted to Catholicism before her death and was effectively disinherited by her family. Tolkien himself believed that she had died of poverty.

Not surprisingly, death is one of the common themes in the trilogy and Caldecott goes to great lengths to explore death and Tolkien's spiritual relationship to it. He also investigates the many ways in which Tolkien's theology shines through his work both consciously and unconsciously. In particular, there is a fascinating passage which compares Galadriel to the Madonna.

If you have the time and inclination, this is a book worth reading. The points are a bit strained at times, but the ideas underlying the book are fascinating.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Christmas Wrap Up

(ED: Excerpted from another of my blogs.)

The nicest part of the holiday, though, was our Christmas Eve. We all attended the 5:00 p.m. Mass. My wife was a Eucharistic Minister, both boys were altar servers, and I served as Lector. The Mass was crowded, but comfortable.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Merry Christmas!

The anticipation of Advent is nearly done. In a few hours, in union with Christians around the world, we'll be celebrating the Nativity of Christ.

Wishing you a Happy Holiday surrounded by friends, family, and good food!

Merry Christmas

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Second Week of Advent

Here we are in the Second Week of Advent. Christmas is rushing towards us with frightening speed and our preparations are keeping pace, but just.

Advent is a time of preparation, reflection and penance. Not really a time for celebration. Accordingly, we generally don't put up our decorations until just before Christmas.

We do put our the Advent Wreath, of course. Each night we light the appropriate candles and share a family scripture reading and devotional moment. We also have an Advent Calendar which is a Nativity Scene. The figures are all magnetic and each day we add a new figure to the metal backdrop.There are two other "decorations" that go up early.

Cathy puts up her Department 56 Nativity and I put out my Christmas Village.

In keeping with Tradition, CAC doesn't put the Holy Family in the Nativity until Christmas. So, in a way, this too becomes an Advent symbol -- a place prepared for the coming Christ child.

CAC started collecting pieces about four years ago when the first piece caught her eye and I bought it for her. Over the years, she's been gifted with new pieces until the village has reached its present size. The good folks at Dept. 56 seem to be less than enthused about continuing this particular line, so our version of Bethlehem is probably as big as it will ever be.

My village, on the other hand, is ever changing. It started back in '00 when I went to Lowe's and and found that they had their village pieces on sale for 50% off. (It was only a couple of weeks before Christmas.) I started with a lighthouse, a church, the Parson's house, a coffee shop, a hotel, train station and a flower shop. Each year I've added two or three buildings, but the buildings are selected because they have some connection to us.We have a lot of nautically-themed items -- boat shops, sailing academies, seaside get the idea. We also have a bookstore (with an acting studio on the second floor), an English pub, a Shakespeare-themed inn, and a tea shop.

Part of the fun of the village is recreating it in different ways each year. I typically use between eight and ten buildings and each year the village is unique. This year (as you can see from the pictures above) I chose to go with a landlocked village. It was a departure, but I'm happy with the results.

Sometime during the week before Christmas, the rest of the decorations will go up.