Sunday, March 23, 2008

Happy Easter!

A quick note to wish you all a wonderful and blessed Easter season!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Person of Christ

I'm ready to write now.

I've not written in this space for nearly a year now...since my brother passed last June. In point of fact, other than my weekly podcasts, I've not posted much in any journal. I don't want to overdramatize it. I simply haven't felt I had much to say.

Now, though, I'm drawn back to this space to post a few thoughts about Anne Rice's Christ the Lord: The Road to Cana.

I read the book within days of its release; eager to see if she maintained the high standard she'd set with the previous volume and anxious to see how she'd deal with the life of a more mature Jesus.

The story is set in the months before the Biblical account of Jesus' first miracle. It begins during a rainless winter when the adult Jesus is haunted by dreams of a kinswoman whom he has come to love. He loves her individually and is deeply tempted by the possibility of raising a family. Rice manages to draw us into Jesus' desire without making it in the least salacious. He is very human with very human desires, yet always aware of the role (if not the specifics) that he must play in human affairs.

It is nearly impossible to discuss the book without spoiling the beautiful emotional resonances that result from coming to the events as Rice intended, so I'll keep my comments general.

Most impressively, Rice takes tiny snippets of scripture (such as the Magdalen's first appearance) and spins them into fully-realized scenes with complex characters who have gravity and reality. Nowhere is this more evident than in the voice of the central character.

He reacts to the veniality and hypocrisy of those around Him with love and patience, even when he is taunted with the title "Yeshua the sinless". He recognizes (and so do we also) that these people are well-intentioned in their own way and do not mean the harm they cause. He loves them even as He gently reproves and corrects.

It is this sense of the reality of Jesus which propels the book. As in the earlier volume in the series, we already know what's going to happen. So Rice has wisely created a character study. Most interestingly, the character we end up studying most closely is our own.

The people of Nazareth become mirrors for us and our own time; their prejudices are our prejudices. Their self-righteous evil is ours to own. Their misguided actions reflect so much of our time. Ultimately, it becomes a book about us and our own relationship with the person of Jesus.

Throughout the book -- I cannot emphasize this enough -- Jesus responds with patience and love. The voice she conjures the central figure in the New Testament stayed with me after I closed the book.

At last night's Liturgy of the Passion and Death of our Lord, during the passion reading, I heard in the text the foundations of the voice in the novel. The Savior who patiently answered the charges levelled by by Pilate was real for me in a new and different way. I could imagine how those scenes will read in the eventual novel and, in that imagining, gained a better sense of the terrible duty Jesus may have felt. The full humanity of the moment was very, very real to me.

This, then, is the wonder of Rice's writing. She has taken the Jesus that many people love in the abstract and given them (us?) a way to love him singularly and personally.