Thursday, March 8, 2007

What in the World Is a "Eucatastrophe"?

Well, it's not of this world, at any rate -- at least not in its ultimate sense. We have to thank the late author J.R.R. Tolkien for this term, which happens to be my favorite "word" in the English language! Think of a time in a story when everything that can possibly gone wrong has gone wrong and all hope is lost. If you've seen John Boorman's 1981 film version of the Arthurian legend Excalibur, do you remember when King Arthur foolishly and pridefully fights Lancelot and calls on Excalibur's power to help free him from a near fatal wound? Arthur bests Lancelot, but the sword is broken in the process. Even though Arthur repents, nothing can be done, and he tosses the sword aside into the nearby stream. Merlin the wizard, who is looking on, says in despair, "Hope ... is ... lost."

Maybe you've had experiences like that in your life. I know that I have, and they're common to all of us, no matter how great or small the "catastrophes" were. Our life seems to come to a low point ... but then, unexpectedly and without foreshadowing, what may have been our greatest defeat becomes our greatest time of joy. Inexplicably from any human perspective, our failure becomes a triumph. In Excalibur, the Lady of the Lake rises from the water with a totally restored Excalibur. Arthur is afraid, but at Merlin's urging he takes the sword.

That's a "eucatastrophe": when good comes at the darkest possible point in the story. And J.R.R. Tolkien saw the ultimate eucatastrophe as Jesus Christ's resurrection of the dead after his death on the cross for the sins of humanity. The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ provide the hinge point of history for Christians. And the ramifications of that history are being played out throughout time and space even now as history moves toward the day when everything in the universe is under the control of Christ.

In this blog, we're going to look for signs of the eucatastrophe and signs of longing for that eucatastrophe in the culture around us. We're going to do a lot of looking at pop culture to that end: films, books, music, et. al. There will be a lot of discussion of Christian classics as well. Occasionally, news of the day and its impact on our lives may form the basis for discussion. A lot of entries here will consist simply of quotes that I'll leave up for pondering. Sometimes (probably fairly rarely) I'll write a longer piece that concerns something on my heart.

You are free to reflect on these entries in the comments section or just to lurk in the background. And while this blog will come from a Christian perspective, comments from people of any or no faith are welcome at all times!

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