EUCATASTROPHE

          In the homily for Palm Sunday I referenced the idea of J.R.R. Tolkien that a word is needed to counter-balance “ordinary” catastrophe.  This latter word is typically used to describe a turn (often sudden and unpredicted) for the worst.  Tolkien decided to invent “eucatastrophe” as a turn for the best.  The prefix “eu” is Greek for good (we see it in words like “euphoria,” a sense of good feeling, or “euphemism,” a “good” replacement for a crude or rude expression.

           Rather than inflicting my two-sentence summary on you again, I thought it would be fitting to let Professor Tolkien himself speak about the Joy of Easter:

          The particular quality of the “joy” in successful Fantasy can thus be explained as a sudden glimpse of the underlying reality or truth.  It is not only a “consolation” for the sorrow of this world, but a satisfaction, and an answer to that question, “Is it true?”

          I would venture to say that approaching the Christian Story from this direction, it has long been my feeling (a joyous feeling) that …[t]he Gospels contain a fairy-story, or a story of a larger kind which embraces all the essence of fairy-stories.  They contain many marvels—peculiarly artistic, beautiful, and moving:  “mythical” in their perfect, self-contained significance; and among the marvels is the greatest and most complete conceivable eucatastrophe.  But this story has entered History…  The Birth of Christ is the eucatastrophe of Man’s history.  The Resurrection is the eucatastrophe of the story of the Incarnation.  This story begins and ends in joy.  It has pre-eminently the “inner consistency of reality.”  There is no tale ever told that men would rather find was true, and none which so many skeptical men have accepted as true on its own merits.  For the Art of it has the supremely convincing tone of Primary Art, that is, of Creation.  To reject it leads either to sadness or wrath.

          It is not difficult to imagine the peculiar excitement and joy that one would feel, if any specially beautiful fairy-story were found to be “primarily” true…  The Christian joy, the Gloria, is of the same kind; but it is pre-eminently…high and joyous.  But this story is supreme; and it is true.

          But in God’s kingdom the presence of the greatest does not suppress the small.  Redeemed Man is still man.  Story, fantasy, still go on, and should go on.  The Evangelium has not abrogated legends; it has hallowed them, especially the “happy ending.”  The Christian has still to work, with mind as well as body, to suffer, hope, and die; but he may now perceive that all his bents and faculties have a purpose, which can be redeemed.

        On this note, I wish everyone a Blessed Easter, a Joyous Eucatastrophe:  “He is risen as He said.”  He brings mercy and forgiveness, love and mission, healing and joy.  It’s all true, after all:  “the end” is not “the End.”  In Him is our hope and our promise.  And to that, let the people say “Hallelujah and Amen!”