These 'Holy Ones' are the Ainur, or Valar, or "...angelic guardians ..." who have been created by Eru before all else [Letters p.387]. They are the 'offspring of his thought'.
First of all, we have One Being, existing before all else; who is eternal, all-powerful, infinite and divine. He is also 'good' and acts with love. His actions and thoughts prove this. He is the One-God of Middle-earth. This is the first major and critical parallel in the mythology with the Judeo-Christian God.
Next, we have the 'thought' of Eru that brings into life the Ainur [angelic powers or Valar]. They are the 'offspring of his thought'. The thought of Eru is efficacious. It is in movement and produces an effect: it creates. It gives life.
For those familiar with Orthodox Catholic teaching, this sense of the thought of Iluvatar having offspring, and the fecundity [fertility] of it, is reflective of Jesus as the Word of God. When God begins to create the world he used the words 'Let there be light'. He uses the verb to be.
St John writes in his Gospel:
"In the beginning was the Word: the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things came into being, not one thing came into being except through him." [John 1:1-3]
Jesus is the Word ol God; the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, co-existing eternally with the Father from the beginning. Through Jesus, everything has been made. Every person has been brought into being by the Father, through Jesus and in the Spirit.
In French the expression for the Word ol God is Le Verb de Dieu, which in English translates closer to The Verb ol God. And as we know, a verb is a doing word. It produces an effect. Everything has been brought into being by the Verb of God, when the Father said 'Be'.
We have all existed in the thought of the Father since eternity, existing from the beginning. And it is through the Verb [Word] of God, Jesus, the great 'I AM' who IS, that we are all brought into being at the particular moment [in time and space] of our conception. The angels are the same as they have also been created through Jesus and owe their existence to Him. Jesus, the Word of God is efficacious, not just in creating but also in saving.
So there is a similar theme of thought existing with Tolkien's God of Middle-earth and our own Triune God. Gods Thought is one with His Word and His Will. There is no disunion.
Regarding the Ainur [Valar], Tolkien continues:
"And he [Eru] spoke to them, profunding to them themes of music; and they sang only each alone, or but a few together, while the rest hearkened; for each comprehended only that part of the mind of Iluvatar from which he came, and in the understanding of their brethren they grew but slowly. Yet ever as they listened they came to deeper understanding, and increased in unison and harmony."
"And it came to pass that Iluvatar called together all the Ainur and declared to them a mighty theme, unfolding to them things greater and more wonderful than he had yet revealed; and the glory of its beginning and the splendour of its end amazed the Ainur, so that they bowed before Iluvatar and were silent." [Sil p.3]
So Eru begins to reveal to the Valar his glory and majesty, but he does this is the form of musical themes. The Music ol Iluvatar is basically the term of his thought, but put into Music. The Music is like his Word. The Music [Word] of Eru. It is not an exact reflection as will be shown a little further on but it has similar characteristics.
"...In this Music the World has begun..." [Sil p.15]
"Through him [the Word] all things came into being..." [John 1:1-3]
The Valar, like the angels in Heaven adoring God, bow towards Eru in a gesture of worship and reverence in awe of the Great Plan they have seen and understood in the music. Each Vala understood only a part at first, but as they listened more intently they began to 'see' the overall plan in relation to others. This is another major parallel to the Judeo-Christian God and
His plan being shown to the angels in Heaven and the profound adoration and worship they give Him in response.
Eru then invites the Valar to contribute to this music themselves. In fact he wills it.
"Then Iluvatar said to them: 'Of the theme that I have declared to you, I will now that ye make in harmony together a Great Music. And since I have kindled you with the Flame Imperishable, ye shall show forth your powers in adorning this theme, each with his own thought and devices, if he will. But I will sit and hearken, and be glad that through you great beauty has been wakened into song.' "
"Then the voices of the Ainur, like unto harps and flutes, and pipes and trumpets, and viols and organs, and like unto countless choirs singing with words, began to fashion the theme of Iluvatar to a great music; and a sound arose of endless interchanging melodies woven in harmony that passed beyond hearing into the depths and into the heights, and the places of the dwelling of Iluvatar were filled to overflowing, and the music and the echo of the music went out into the void, and it was not void."
"Never since have the Ainur made any music like to this music, though it has been said that a greater still shall be made before Iluvatar by the choirs of the Ainur and the Children of Iluvatar after the end of days. Then the themes of Iluvatar shall be played aright, and take Being in the moment of their utterance, for all shall then understand fully his intent in the part, and each shall know the comprehension of each, and Iluvatar shall give to their thoughts the Secret Fire, being well pleased." [Sil p.4]
And from the second account of Creation:
"...In this Music the World has begun; for Iluvatar made visible the song of the Ainur, and they beheld it as a light in the darkness. And many among them became enamoured of its beauty, and of its history which they saw beginning and unfolding as in a vision. Therefore Iluvatar gave to their vision, Being, and set it amid the Void, and the Secret Fire was sent to burn at the heart of the World, and it was called Ea." [Sil p.15]
This is where there is a marked difference in Tolkien's mythology and Christian understanding of creation. In the Catholic understanding, the angels had no part in the creation of the world.
The world was brought into Being solely by the Love of the Trinity: the Father willed it through Jesus and in the Spirit. There is a continual movement of love in the Holy Trinity: the Father loves the Son and the Son loves the Father. This love between them is a person, the Spirit. And this perpetual movement of love overflows so that God wants to create and share His Life with other beings. Therefore he creates rational creatures to freely love Him. It is the same in Christian marriage which is a reflection of the Trinity, but also a reflection of Christ, the Bridegroom, and the Church, the Bride.
In Tolkien's mythology Eru invites the Valar to contribute to the Music [which will form the world] and this then will go out into the Void and it will be Void no longer. Eru gives Being from the Music, that has it source in him, but that the Valar have also contributed to.
So the angelic powers have a limited role to play in helping with the creation of Arda [the created world]. BUT, their role is partial and derivative; and more importantly, they have no part in the creation of the Children of Middle-earth: i.e. the free rational creatures, Elves and Men. As Tolkien points out:
"They [the Valar] shared in it's making - but only on the same terms as we make a work of art or story. The realization of it; the gift to it of a created reality of the same grade as their own, was the act of the One God." [Letters p.235-236]
"For the Children of Iluvatar were conceived by him alone [Iluvatar]; and they came with the third theme [of music], and were not in the theme which Iluvatar propounded at the beginning, and none of the Ainur [Valar] had part in their making." [Sil p.7]
"Elves and Men were called the 'Children of God', because they were, so to speak, a private addition to the Design, by the Creator, and one in which the Valar had no part " [Letter p.285]
Referring to the Children of Iluvatar [Elves and Men] Tolkien again mentions:
"For help they [the children] may call on a Vala [like Elbereth], as a Catholic might on a Saint, though no doubt knowing in theory as well as he, that the power of the Vala was limited and derivative."
That is, the Valar could help in the creation of the world and subsequently help the peoples in that world; but this participation and aid always found its source, power and authority in the One God who granted them the ability to do so.
Therefore, their participation in the primary-creation is sub-creative, like making a work of art, as Tolkien stated. Eru is the sole Creator, and the Valar, through a gift and invitation of Eru, become sub-creators. And their succour for the peoples of Middle-earth, who were created solely by Eru*, is something granted to them by Eru [Iluvatar]
* - The dwarves are an exception - see below.
While this difference between Tolkien's mythology and Christianity is critical, it is not at odds with the natural moral laws in our own universe as it is love which gives this gift of sub-creation to the angels [Valar]. Our own God has given us the ability to pro-create [share in creation], but there are always moral guidelines for this, and it is always the Lord who gives life, while we participate in a natural way. So, in co-operating with the Will of Eru, the Valar fulfil the Divine Plan. But it always must be within the Will of Eru that the Valar may enter into the operation of the created world and aid it.
"But now Iluvatar sat and hearkened, and for a great while it seemed good to him, for in the music there were no flaws."
"The Lord looked on his creation and saw that it was good." [Gen 1:1 -1 -31]
Eru looks upon His Plan [in the music] and sees the beauty and majesty of it. This aspect of Eru revealing himself and his plans through music is extremely beautiful and poetic; but also metaphysical.
Metaphysics is the philosophical science of the most universal principles that hold true of everything that is. It is the study of the principles of being. It looks in behind the natural sphere to discover what truly holds being in Being. And in Middle-earth, everything owes its being to Eru and to the Music of Eru. And in our world the source of Being and Reality is Our God [Father, Son and Holy Spirit], the source of all life.
Melkor was the greatest of the Ainur [Valar] and to him were gifted the greatest gifts of Eru.
"To Melkor among the Ainur had been given the greatest gifts of power and knowledge, and he had a share in all the gifts of his brethren. He had gone often more alone into the void places seeking the Imperishable Flame; for desire grew hot within him to bring into Being things of his own, and it seemed to him that Iluvatar took no thought for the Void, and he was impatient of its emptiness."
"But as the theme progressed, it came into the heart of Melkor to interweave matters of his own imagining that were not in accord with the theme of Iluvatar, for he sought therein to increase the power and glory of the part assigned to himself." [Sil p.4]
Melkor, very much like Lucifer who was the greatest of the Archangels in Heaven, begins to invert reality and put his thoughts and imaginings, and even himself above Eru. He introduces themes that are not in accord with the mind and will of Eru. He seeks the Flame in the void but ends up preferring it to Iluvatar. He prefers the darkness and emptiness and wishes to fill it with his own imaginings and desires. He desires to create beings on his own accord and make himself into a 'god'. He becomes full of his own self-importance and pride.
Of Melkor, Tolkien continues to write:
"Yet he found not the Fire, for it was with Iluvatar. But being alone he had begun to conceive thoughts of his own unlike those of his brethren." [Sil p.4]
This is the beginning of the Fall for Melkor, who will eventually become known as Morgoth just as Lucifer became known as Satan. He begins to resent Eru for having created him and does not reference reality in Eru but in himself [the sin of relativism].
"From splendour he [Melkor] fell through arrogance to contempt for all things save himself, a spirit wasteful and pitiless. Understanding he turned to subtlety in perverting to his own will all that he would use, until he became a liar without shame." [Sil p.23]
Melkor then begins to effect all of the other Music about him. He implicates the melodies of those about him in his own discord and glory. Now, this is where the Music also reflects Creation [which the Music forms in a vision].
"He [Melkor] began with the desire of Light, but when he could not possess it for himself alone, he descended through fire and wrath into a great burning, down into Darkness." Lucifer means Light. Melkor originally had a good desire for Light, but desired to possess it for his own. [Sil p.23]
In the Catholic understanding of creation and the subsequent Fall from Grace, tradition affirms that Lucifer, after beholding the majesty and beauty of God's plan of creation for Man, resented that Man would have such friendship with God.
Lucifer, being pure spirit, could not understand why God would dirty himself with matter. And when he was cast out of Heaven he desired to implicate God's creation, and or course, Man, in his own fall and perversion. He wanted to show God that He made a mistake in lowering himself to deal in the things of matter; and that Man should not have such favour.
[When we use the term Man, it is referring to man and woman]
So Lucifer tempts man and desires to destroy him out of jealousy and hate. Man, through his free will, chooses to follow the temptation and separates himself from God. Satan, causing man to turn away from God was also tempting God himself, 'Look they hate you, hate them back!".
But of course the Wisdom, Mind and Love of God is infinitely greater than Lucifer, and this is why God saves us Himself. At Easter the Church sings 'O happy fault, O necessary sin of Adam that has given us such a Redeemer'. The Good Lord, in His infinite Wisdom, saw what was to come, and put in place a plan to save His children even before they fall.
Why didn't He just stop the fall before it happened?
Because if He had done that he would have interfered with our lree will and Love won't do that. Freedom is a prerequisite of Love. There are those who will freely hate God and there are those who will freely love him; God won't interfere with our freedom. But He will use all things to bless His children, including our lall, and He will continually call and plead with us to come to Him for fulfilment and life and salvation.
Melkor, in sowing discord in the Music [which will ultimately be used by Eru to bring the world into Being] wishes to implicate the creation to follow, in his own fall and disunion with Eru. He wishes to pervert everything in his own disorder.
His strives with Iluvatar for the mastery while the Music plays out. The Music of Iluvatar is:
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