Eucatastrophe

I consider “eucatastrophe” to be one of the most beautiful words in the English language. However, you aren’t likely to find it in the dictionary. Eucatastrophe is a word invented by J.R.R. Tolkien. He described it as the element that all good fairy stories had. Eucatastrophe takes the word catastrophe and adds the Greek prefix “eu”, meaning good. A eucatastrophe is a sudden overwhelming good turn of events. It comes when all hope is lost and evil appears to have won the day. Lord of the Rings fans will immediately recognize examples of this in his books. The Rohirrim charging onto Pelanaor Fields as the first circle of Minas Tirith is in flames, Aragorn and the undead army arriving in the Corsairs of Umbar, the ring melting in the fires of Mount Doom as Aragorn and company battle at the Black Gate.

All good stories have a eucatastrophe. Tolkien believed the incarnation to be the eucatastrophe of human history and Jesus’ resurrection the eucatastrophe of the incarnation. Christians in non-liturgical churches tend to lose sight of what a miracle the incarnation is. We celebrate Jesus coming to earth so that he could die for our sins, when Christmas is primarily about Jesus coming to earth, not just as God, but God in-fleshed. The Creator becomes creature. He walks the dirt we walk and feels the pains only human beings can feel. He proves there is hope for the human race and every created thing by becoming human. He proves that it is possible to live free of sin in a kind of life only seen before in the Garden of Eden (though greater than Eden I believe). It is the beginning of the end for sin, God’s D-Day against Satan, the first great salvo of which is a baby’s cry in a barn in Bethlehem.

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