Eucatastrophe

J.R.R. Tolkien first coined the term ‘eucatastrophe’ to refer to the sudden turn of events at the end of a story which result in the protagonist‘s well-being. He formed the word by affixing the Greek prefix eu, meaning good, to catastrophe, the word traditionally used in classically-inspired literary criticism to refer to the “unraveling” or conclusion of a drama’s plot. For Tolkien, the term appears to have had a thematic meaning that went beyond its implied meaning in terms of form. In his definition as outlined in his 1947 essay On Fairy-Stories, eucatastrophe is a fundamental part of his conception of mythopoeia. Though Tolkien’s interest is in myth, it is also connected to the gospels; Tolkien calls the Incarnation the eucatastrophe of “human history” and the Resurrection the eucatastrophe of the Incarnation.’ From here.

If by ‘Incarnation’ we mean the whole action of the Incarnate Son, then I agree. Forsyth speaks of grace as ‘Nature’s destiny.’ For while ‘nature cannot of itself culminate in grace, at least it was not put there without regard to grace. Grace is Nature’s destiny’ Apart from grace, nature becomes abstruse, unreal and inhuman. Apart from nature, the physical stuff of the world too dust-bound to satisfy metaphysical enquiry, grace tends to despair and absurdity. ‘Nature, if not the mother, is the matrix of Grace.’ But that grace is bloodied, despised and rejected, crushed for the iniquities of, and laden with punishment for, those who hide their faces from it. Grace is never an abstract thing. Nor is it cheap.

Grace is a man groaning on a cross, dying on a ‘bitter tree,’ not only for his friends but also for those who would wish him and his Father dead. Grace is a person redeeming in holy love. Grace is God in his eucatastrophic action in the face of Nature’s catastrophe. Grace is God taking seriously the scandalous nature of sin’s offence, and himself going down into the experience of nothingness and dread, into hell, into death, into the furnace of his own wrath, into the radical depths of its wound, in order to save. There can be no higher gift. Moreover, such grace alone satisfies the human (and divine) conscience, which requires not merely an explanation of the Cross, but its revelation. This grace alone, the grace of the initiating Father, carries humanity home and brings peace to the human spirit.

3 comments

  1. “Forsyth speaks of grace as ‘Nature’s destiny.”

    Is this not true of Aquinas as well?

    Btw, your website layout is nigh on perfect!

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  2. I’m not familiar enough with Aquinas to comment on that, though it does sound in unity with his thinking. Glad you like the layout of the site. Hope you find the content encouraging too. :-)

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  3. From Thomas Aquinas: Theologian of the Christian Life – Nicholas Healy

    “He says frequently, “grace perfects nature”, where ‘perfects’ has the further onnotation of completing what God begun in creation (ST 1.8 ad 2; 1/2.3.8). Humans thus have a supernatural final end, one that, because it is supernatural, is beyond the capabilities of our natures to attain… Thus reality and our place within it cannot be properly understood without some knowledge of divine activity and our supernatural goal.” p. 13.

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