Luke 2:34-35

And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary His mother, “Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed.”

J.R.R. Tolkien, a committed Catholic, once described the gospel as a sort of fairy tale.  He did not mean it was fictional, but rather that it shared with great fairy stories the quality he called “eucatastrophe.”  That is, it is a story that, for all its terrible darkness, begins and ends in joy, a joy “poignant as grief, beyond the walls of the world,” a joy like “swords.”  The story of Simeon’s prophecy reflects this.  Mary is told glad and terrible tidings.  Her Son is destined for the fall and rising of many, and a “sword” will pierce though her own soul as well: the horror of her Son’s death.  But the sword is more than that as well.  It is Tolkien’s sword of joy when, beyond all hope, she received Him back in the glory of the Resurrection.

Mark Shea


Mark P. Shea is a popular Catholic writer and speaker. The author of numerous books, his most recent work is The Work of Mercy (Servant) and The Heart of Catholic Prayer (Our Sunday Visitor). Mark contributes numerous articles to many magazines, including his popular column “Connecting the Dots” for the National Catholic Register. Mark is known nationally for his one minute “Words of Encouragement” on Catholic radio. He also maintains the Catholic and Enjoying It blog and regularly blogs for National Catholic Register. He lives in Washington state with his wife, Janet, and their four sons.

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