When we fall in love it is good to have a friend to confide in. Faramir has never met Merry before but all his encounters with hobbits have been good ones and so he spends a whole day talking with him about Éowyn. Such a day will not have been a hardship to him but rather a delight. As Merry tells him the story of his ride with Éowyn to the Pelennor Fields the beautiful and mysterious woman that Faramir has just met in the Houses of Healing will take firmer shape in his imagination and when he learns of the moment when she stood between the Lord of the Nazgûl and Théoden’s broken body he will have been awed by her courage but not overawed for he would have done the same thing had he stood there in her place. And let us just mention Merry here also for in telling his story to one as wise and as gentle as Faramir he will have found a wholeness within himself in place of the confusion and sorrow of battle that is a great gift. True listening, as Merry finds in Faramir in this day is something that we rarely meet.
So it is in the days that follow when Éowyn and Faramir meet together and talk long as they walk or sit in the garden that the burden of sorrow that they both carry begins to be lifted from both of them. For Faramir this is his hope; for Éowyn a surprise.
It is the Warden of the house who notices this for being one who takes pleasure in all healing he perceives it when he sees it.
But what kind of healing is this? Is it merely the easing of private pain before the inevitable falling of night? If that is so then there is little difference between the comfort that Éowyn and Faramir give to each other than the stories that we hear of Death Camp guards comforting crying children as they escorted them to their murder in the gas chambers. Of course neither Faramir nor Éowyn wish to do one another harm as the guards did in carrying out their orders but the comfort in both cases would be merely an easing of pain before the same inexorable end.
I would argue that something quite different happens as Faramir and Éowyn talk together. All true encounters with goodness are healing because they connect us with a reality that is deeper than whether we emerge from something in triumph or failure, even than whether we live or die. In encountering true goodness we realise that we have met something that transcends such things and in falling in love we sense that this transcendence is profoundly personal. Goodness, Truth and Beauty are not simply ‘out there’ to be admired but lie within, both within the one who loves and in the beloved, centre to centre, subject to subject. When this happens we may not stop to reflect on it, unless such reflection is our normal practice, but we most certainly feel it. The feeling of wholeness and glorious aliveness that we experience when we fall in love is for most of us the most profound thing that we shall ever know.
Of course many will mistake the experience of falling in love with that to which the experience points, the union that lies beyond all things. Mistaking this they will seek the experience over and over again looking for something that is somehow more true, hoping that the next time they fall in love it will be ‘the real thing’. And some will believe that it is the sexual experience that is so glorious a part of the experience of falling in love that is the best reality that they can know and so will pursue the best of this that they can find. I do not think that this will be Éowyn and Faramir’s experience. Even now in the Houses of Healing they know the healing power of falling in love but I believe that they will continue the difficult yet wonderful journey towards true union that marriage gives us. That is, of course, when they realise that this is what they both really want!
Image by Anke Eismann from anke.edoras-art.de