Thursday, May 1, 2008

Book Review - Christ the Lord: The Road to Cana

[Jesus speaking to the devil in the desert]

"Those aren't your nations," I said. "The kingdoms of this world aren't yours. They never were."

"Of course they're mine," he said. It was almost a hiss. "I am the ruler of this world and I always have been. I am its Prince."

"No," I said. "None of it belongs to you. It never has."

"Worship me," he said gently, beguilingly, "and I will show you what is mine. I will give you the victory of which your prophets sang."

"The Lord on High is the One whom I worship, and no one else," I said. "You know this, you know it with every lie you speak. And you, you rule nothing and you never have." I pointed. "Look down, yourself on this perspective that is so dear to you. Think of the thousands upon thousands who rise each day and go to sleep without ever thinking evil or doing evil, whose hearts are set upon their wives, their husbands, their fathers and mothers, their children, upon the harvest and the spring rain and the new wine and the new moon. Think of them in every land and every language, think of them as they hunger for the Word of God even where there is no one to give it to them, how they reach out for it, and how they turn from pain and misery and injustice, no matter what you would have them do!"

"Liar!" he said. He spit the word at me.

"Look at them, use your powerful eyes to see them everywhere around you," I said. "Use your powerful ears to hear their cheerful laughter, their natural songs. Look far and wide to find them coming together to celebrate the simple feasts of life from the deepest jungle to the great snowbound heights. What makes you think you rule these people! What, that one may falter, and another stumble, and someone in confusion fail to love as he has striven to do, or that some evil minion of yours can convulse the masses for a month of riot and ruin? Prince of this world!"

"I'd laugh at you if you weren't unspeakable. You're the Prince of the Lie. And this is the lie: that you and the Lord God are equal, locked in combat with one another. That has never been so!"

He was near petrified with fury.

"You stupid, miserable little village prophet!" he said. "They'll laugh you out of Nazareth."

"It is the Lord God who rules," I said, "and He always has. You are nothing, and you have nothing and rule nothing. Not even your minions share with you in your emptiness and in your rage."

He was red faced, and speechless.
If I were to excerpt all the sections that presented new, stirring, and inspiring ways to consider Jesus as fully human and fully God, I would have to include about two-thirds of this book. Time and again I was astounded at Anne Rice's mastery of delicate subtlety in conveying a truth in her meditation of Christ among us as he comes to his ministry.

Some reviewers have mentioned their difficulties with various aspects of events portrays in village life such as a stoning or of Jesus' attraction to a local maiden. However, for me these were believable incidents. Perhaps that is because I was prepared by having read Two From Galilee by Marjorie Holmes long ago in my truth-seeking days. I enjoyed that book, and the sequel as well, but those books contain nothing near the power and insight that Rice has when conveying Jesus to us in everyday life. I especially enjoyed the contrast between his tendency to "hang back," as his relatives termed it, while still being able to love and appreciate the people around him. Even when being chewed out by a fellow villager, Jesus can still appreciate the beauty with which the enraged fellow gesture. This gives us the feeling that he can always find something to love in his fellow man, even when we would not under similar circumstances.

The vivid contrast between "hanging back" and his sudden assertive command after baptism is definite and startling. We see this emerge in the way Jesus speaks with the devil in the desert and then later when he is asserting that the Messiah is working in time to bring God to everyone. One gets a sense that in Jesus' complete trust and willingness to do God's will, that he is becoming fully "himself" and all is becoming clear to him on the journey.

Rice's writing is so masterful that readers may need to remind themselves that these are personal meditations of Jesus' life. She makes remarkably few false steps and these are not a matter of lacking adherence to the truth as much as when her personal meditation may not match step with those of the reader.

It is no secret that I did not enjoy the first book in this series (Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt), as the midrash felt false and forced to me. Therefore, I was stunned but quite pleased to find this book such a personal revelation of inspiration for my own meditations on Jesus. Anne rice has given us a treasure if we use it wisely. Personally I can tell you that it will be going into my regular rotation of meditative reading to provide ongoing food for thought.

I wish I could write as good a review as this book deserves. I cannot. All I can do is to exhort you to read it for yourself. And, of course, to thank Anne Rice for sharing her talent in this area.

Highest recommendation.


Barbara said...

Thanks for the review, Julie. I just picked it up at the library and came home to look for Catholic reviews to decide whether or not I wanted to start it. I enjoyed parts of Out of Egypt (and did not enjoy parts) so I was not sure. I appreciate your review.

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