Homily — Pentecost MMVIII May 11, 2008

Homily — Pentecost MMVIII May 11, 2008
[Note: My parish had the second of three special Traditional Latin Masses this Sunday. The additions to the homily for this Mass are indicated in brackets.]

One of the most popular novels of the 20th century is J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. The three volume work was also made into three movies several years ago, which were all in large part faithful to the original books.

While millions of people have enjoyed reading or seeing this fantasy story filled with hobbits, elves, wizards and magical rings, many people are surprised to find out that Tolkien was a very devout Roman Catholic, that he dedicated the work to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and called The Lord of the Rings a “fundamentally religious and Catholic work; unconsciously so at first, but conscious in the revision.”

[Traditional Latin Mass: It also should be noted that Tolkien had a great love for the Traditional Latin Mass, and he lamented many of the Liturgical Reforms being promoted after Vatican II, which he considered to be a dangerous tampering with Tradition (see “The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien,” Houghton Mifflin, 2000, p. 393-395). But I digress from my main topic.]

One of the many amazing things about The Lord of the Rings is that while whole books have been written showing how almost every aspect of the Catholic Faith can be found in the work, in the 1200 plus pages of the Trilogy itself, Tolkien mentions God by name only once, and even then, most people don’t even realize he’s referring to God in the passage.

I bring this up today, not because I’m a huge J.R.R. Tolkien fan (which is certainly the case), but because that one time Tolkien does mention God in his book, it is God the Holy Spirit that he refers to.

But Tolkien doesn’t call Him “God the Holy Spirit” straight out, he instead uses a phrase which beautifully describes God the Holy Spirit: He calls Him “The Secret Fire.”

“I am the Servant of the Secret Fire” says Gandalf to the Balrog down in the Mines of Moria, towards the end of Part I, the Fellowship of the Ring, in case you’re wondering just where in the book or movies it is. After the book was finished, Tolkien was asked what the “Secret Fire” was, and he said It is the Holy Spirit.

“Secret Fire” is a wonderful way to think of the Holy Spirit. From the creation of the world up until the time of Moses, the “Secret Fire” who is the Holy Spirit was kept well hidden in the bosom of the Holy Trinity. But in the Old Testament, every now and then glimpses of the Secret Fire could be partly seen, hidden in the voice of the Old Testament Prophets.

Then, when the fullness of time had come, the Secret Fire came upon the Virgin Mary at the Annunciation, and was then fully seen to be hidden in the Person of Her Son, Jesus. And Jesus the God Man from the moment of His Incarnation became the True and Perfect “Servant of the Secret Fire.”

Throughout Our Lord’s life, this Secret Fire would at times flame out, as Jesus worked miracles and taught with authority and healed the sick and expelled demons.

But at other times the Secret Fire would stay secret, as He did the first 30 years of Jesus’ life, as He did during Jesus’ Passion and Death and Burial.

But at the Resurrection, and even more so at the Ascension, the Secret Fire who is the Holy Spirit was least secret in showing the faithful just what it was fully capable of doing in raising Christ from the dead, and setting Him on the Throne at the Father’s right hand high.

And Today, Fifty Days after Christ’s Resurrection, Jesus sends this very same Secret Fire that He carried in this world, into the heart of every Baptized believer in Him.

And it’s by this tremendous grace of Pentecost that you and I are now “Servants of the Secret Fire,” Servants of the Holy Spirit who now dwells in us the same way He dwelt in Christ.

Throughout His earthly life, Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit, and was totally obedient to the Holy Spirit’s guidance, both in ordinary things and in extraordinary things. And you and I should also be led by the Holy Spirit, and be obedient to His promptings, both in our every day life, and in the exceptional times when we face big trials or decisions.

As we celebrate this Great Feast of Pentecost, which to the Church is on a par with Christmas and Easter, may we ask the Holy Spirit to be that Secret Fire within us whom we serve, who will warm and brighten our hearts and our Church, no matter how cold and dark the world around us may get, and who will also at times flame out of us and out of the Church, to renew the face of the earth.

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