The Victorious Godhead: Good Friday, the Annunciation, and the Inklings
This year, a marvelous event happened that will not occur again for decades: Good Friday and the Feast of the Annunciation fell on the same day. In the Roman Church, unfortunately, Annunciation has been moved to April fourth, instead. But, in the Eastern Churches, both feasts were celebrated simultaneously. The effect was marvelous, for on one beautiful and inconceivable day, the beginning and end of the salvation story was brought to mind at once.
Many people think of Christmas as the beginning of the salvation story, for it is the day that Christ was born. But since life begins with conception, Christ came into the world when Mary accepted the message of the angel Gabriel. Thus, it is with the Annunciation that the work of our salvation begins.
All during the services of Holy Thursday, the vigil of the Annunciation, and Good Friday, the prayers alternated between describing the wonder and fear of Gabriel as he delivered his message and the wonder and fear of all angels as they witnessed their Lord nailed to a cross. But even then, even then, not all hope is lost. Small mentions are made, mere rumors in the breeze, of Christ’s glorious Resurrection on the third day; it was for this that God deigned to be made flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary, the Theotokos, God-bearer.
But there is another momentous event on March twenty-fifth every year; for on that day, on the three thousand and nineteenth year of the Third Age of Middle-Earth, Orodruin was burning. Gollum in his lustful joy had fallen over the brink of the Crack of Doom, still clutching the One Ring, and in this most unusual and unforeseen way was the Ring destroyed, and Sauron finally defeated. And so there are three table-turning events on this day.
In C. S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy, Earth is referred to as the domain of the Evil One. Surely, Lewis was being more than allegorical here, for most of humankind’s history, Earth has been enslaved by Satan. But when the Son of God became incarnate in the womb of the Theotokos, that in itself was a grievous blow to Satan. No longer was all of Earth the property of Death.
When Death worked through the Sanhedrin to have Christ handed over to death, it did not know what it was doing. In his Paschal sermon, Saint John Chrysostom says,
“Hell took a body, and discovered God.
It took earth, and encountered Heaven.
It took what it saw, and was overcome by what it did not see.
O death, where is thy sting?
O Hell, where is thy victory?
Christ is Risen, and you, o death, are annihilated!
Christ is Risen, and the evil ones are cast down!
Christ is Risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is Risen, and life is liberated!”
This is certainly the most climactic of the three events, for in it, the entire working of Death was reversed, and it is no longer something to be feared; for the just, it is the gateway to everlasting life.
The third event, the destruction of the Ring, is nearly as climactic, for the great enemy of all Free Peoples, Sauron, was utterly undone. For him, there was no return, but he was forced to join his tutor in evil, Morgoth, in the Void, and there remained to the end of days. He, like Death, became only a shadow of the menace that was.
Yet there is one recurrent theme in all these events that ties them together in a way: Death and Evil are passing, momentary things. No matter how strong they may seem, Life, Light, Love, Truth, Beauty, and Goodness are forever stronger, for they come from the victorious Triune Godhead.