Men shall die after a time within Middle-earth and it is a gift.
While the Elves are of a higher nature than men within Middle-earth, men have received from Iluvatar, a "...higher if un-revealed destiny..." outside of Middle-earth [Letters p.286]. Their future outside the circles of the world has not been revealed by Iluvatar. This future outside the world that is higher than the Elves is like Man receiving a higher destiny than the Angels in our world.
Why is mans future magnanimity greater than that of the angels? Because we can, through free will, make a gift of sacrificial love through our bodily flesh. Martyrs do this, as do those who suffer and offer it up in love for the redemption of the world. Any act of love which sacrifices [denies selfishness] is also enveloped in this [cf. Mother Teresa].
Why can we do this? Because Jesus, the Word made Flesh, making a gift of Himself in body and soul, but broken on the Cross, has raised our co-offering of suffering with His to a Divine Level [Col 1:24]. It becomes a prayer. Many unfortunately never hear or understand this beautiful Truth of Christian suffering. Angels cannot do this.
Though of course our future life has been revealed by God through Jesus and in the Church, but as for the fullness of it:
"Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor the heart of man conceived of the riches which God has prepared for those who love Him." [1 Cor 2:9]
God's mysteries are deeper than we can fully perceive, though we can know certain things about them.
In Tolkien's mythology Death is an original gift for Men. It is through Death that men will receive their higher destiny. Now this is very interesting.
This the same for the Christian understanding of death in the bodily sense.
Many mistakenly think that Tolkien's death gift for men at the beginning is different from the Christian understanding but it is not.
If you haven't read the page First and Last Things , please do so as it gives a fuller account of the original gifts Man had in the Garden of Eden from a Catholic perspective.
Catholic understanding is that original Unfallen Man [women and men] was immortal, but his life would still end after a time on earth and he would be assumed body and soul into Heaven. But this original gift of life ending naturally is not the classical understanding of death as related to Death resulting from Original Sin. Originally, they would 'fall asleep' if you like, when the time was right. They would make an act of trust in the Creator and request to come to Him. They would be assumed into Heaven and their life would end on earth.
In a letter from 1958 Tolkien describes how the original death for Men in Middle-earth is much the same as for original unfallen Man on earth.
"It was also the Elvish [& uncorrupted Numenorean] view that a 'good' Man would or should die voluntarily by surrender with trust before being compelled [as Aragorn did]. This may have been the nature of unfallen man; though compulsion would not threaten him; he would desire and ask to be allowed to 'go on' to a higher state. The Assumption of Mary, the only unfallen person, may be regarded..." like this. [Letters p.286 footnote]
Thus, the original gift of death was to trust and surrender to Eru when the time was right. The Men of Middle-earth originally had this gift. However, corruption from darkness [Melkor and Sauron] caused a disintegration of this gift and men became afraid of it. They feared and rejected it.
Men of Middle-earth, through their original gift, will enter into their higher destiny.
1. It is the same as Christian understanding because through death a Christian will come Face to Face with God and receive his/her higher calling: eternal union with the Saviour and Creator. Originally we didn't really die but fell asleep to meet God
2. It is also the same because now, for Christians, latter death resulting from original sin has been vanquished by Christ through the Resurrection. The Lord has raised death to a new level. It no longer has its sting, and is in fact a way back to God, like it originally was.
Now what is interesting:
• is that Tolkien is showing that the original gift was a blessing.
• but he is also showing that a thing that often seems like a curse to us, namely death from original sin, can also be used as a way of greater good: Resurrection. God is gift. He donates everything to His Children. God is Father and he provides through all things. In the Garden of Eden we betrayed our trust in God the Father. The Fatherhood of God as been denied and spat at.
Tolkien describes how Melkor twists the Truth about Death for men and uses it to cause fear.
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