The Last Word: Orthodoxy, And The Lord Of The Rings

“Gilbert Keith Chesterton is one of the most sparkling and effervescent figures in the great Catholic tradition. A physically large man with an even larger intellect and imagination, he embodied the wealth and capaciousness of Catholicism. If one is ever tempted to see Catholic Christianity as something cramped, crabby, and puritanical, he should read even one paragraph of Chesterton.”

Taken from Catholicism: The Pivotal Players documentary series.

I recently finished the Word on Fire Classics edition of G.K Chesterton’s Orthodoxy, for the very first time. And what better way to sum it up than with a quote of Bishop Barron’s from the foreword. “Reading Chesterton is a bit like opening a bottle of champagne: intoxicating, sparkling, and rare.” As I came to the closing statements of this book, I truly came to understand that. Chesterton leads us by the hand through a witty and charming countryside, detouring through Elfland, and closing at the end of the infinite ocean.

Orthodoxy is a book about everything. It’s primarily a reaction to his book Heretics, 1905, after which he was accused of having no philosophy of his own to propose, but it’s also a dashing riposte against the dangers of materialism and pure logic, and a shining banner for the truths and “both/ands” of the Catholic faith. “Christianity got over the difficulty of combining furious opposites, by keeping them both, and keeping them both furious.” One finds himself lost in the choppy waters of Chesterton’s analogies, but they go to prove his ideas all the more vividly. He speaks to the romantic within us, which as he is quick to reaffirm, is one who’s “soul sang for joy, like a bird in spring.”

I find it difficult to try and summarize this book in any way more than a general idea of what it gives. Perhaps that is not what one should say in a “literary journal,” but one look at any paragraph of Chesterton’s work would prove my point.

The second book I’d like to feature in this journal is J.R.R. Tolkien’s masterpiece. The Lord Of The Rings. I recently finished the book for the sixth time, if I remember correctly, but it was much more like a first read, as I’ve only really been reading The Silmarillion for the past two years or so. I read it as a “buddy read” with two friends from online Book Club, in which we discussed chapters and ideas together, which led to a very rich and flavorsome read through, one which I thoroughly enjoyed.

But now, about the book itself. “Aragorn threw back his cloak. The elven-sheath glittered as he grasped it, and the bright blade of Andúril shone like a sudden flame as he swept it out. ‘Elendil!’ he cried. ‘I am Aragorn son of Arathorn, and am called Elessar, the Elfstone, Dúnadan, the heir of Isildur Elendil’s son of Gondor. Here is the Sword that was Broken and is forged again! Will you aid me or thwart me? Choose swiftly!’ Gimli and Legolas looked at their companion in amazement, for they had not seen him in this mood before. He seemed to have grown in stature while Éomer had shrunk; and in his living face they caught a brief vision of the power and majesty of the kings of stone.”

“For a moment it seemed to the eyes of Legolas that a white flame flickered on the brows of Aragorn like a shining crown. Éomer stepped back and a look of awe was in his face. He cast down his proud eyes. ‘These are indeed strange days,’ he muttered. ‘Dreams and legends spring to life out of the grass.”

The Lord of the Rings is truly a monumental piece of art. It’s a sprawling swathe of imagination, chock full of chivalry, courage, friendship, suffering, and noble pursuit of virtue. It’s a work of art which simultaneously praises the most humble gardener, the most valiant warrior, and the most thoughtful wizard. It’s a living testament to the prevailing goodness, the light which is found when the shadow passes. It’s a book which never ceases to draw forth from me delight, sorrow, and awe for the beauty of words, a book which I shall never stop enjoying and admiring. One which I am so very glad and thankful for having the privilege to read.

P.S: I realize now that I can’t call this a literary journal. It’s barely 800 words and only consists of rambling recommendations. I shall continue it nevertheless, under the banner of a “monthly book bulletin.”

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