Friday, March 21, 2008

Good. Friday.

I got back from my vacation 10 days ago, but a three-day business trip and other stuff going on have made the catching-up process a bit slow. I'm almost there.

Today is Good Friday. I have nothing brilliant to say about it, but there are plenty of others who do. I plan to "celebrate" tonight by attending a (verbatim) presentation of the Gospel of John.

Today is also J.S. Bach's birthday. If you didn't get a chance to read my December post about how Bach masterfully fuses Christmas and Good Friday in one grand choral movement, you can do so here.

Finally for today, a book recommendation.

I had always thought of Anne Rice as the odd lady who wrote vampire stories and lived in a haunted-looking house in New Orleans. I listened to one of her vampire books on tape several years ago, after which I had no desire to listen to (or read) anything more by her.

In 1998, Anne Rice returned to the Catholic Church, in which she was raised but left at age 18, and she subsequently dedicated her life to the Lord and to writing only for Him. Out of that have come, so far, two novels about Jesus, one in 2005 and the other this year. After I encounted a positive review or two of this year's release, I decided to pick up the "series." And I'm glad I did.

Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt is written as if Jesus, Himself, is telling the story of His childhood from age 7 to 8. I doubt that any human could ever write an "autobiography" of Jesus that gets everything right, but Rice has crafted a compelling treatment. She has done her research, and better than anything else I've read, she conveys a feel for what normal, daily life was like in those times. I found the book worshipful but not pretentious, and consistently emotionally moving. I can't tell you how many times I teared up or even had to stop reading so I could ponder the wonderful insights.

This book reminds me of C.S. Lewis's Narnia series. Both are "supposals," asking what things might have been like. Lewis puts it this way: "What might Christ become like if there really were a world like Narnia, and He chose to be incarnate and die and rise again in that world as He actually has done in ours?" Rice explains what she's doing as follows:

This book seeks to present a realistic fictional portrait of Our Lord in Time. It is rooted in the faith that the Creator of the Universe became human in the person of Jesus Christ and "dwelt among us." The magnificent mystery of the Incarnation is accepted and affirmed as fact. Scripture is the inspiration for the emotions and powers of the Child Jesus as they were envisioned here. History as well as the gospels is the source for this picture of a world in which Our Lord might have lived, as a little boy, in war and in peace, from day to day.

Another way in which Christ the Lord and Narnia are similar is that (for me at least) both present engaging stories that sneak up on you and whack you upside the head - emotionally, that is. Often in Narnia, for example, I'm overwhelmed by the insight into God's character as revealed in the Aslan character. In Out of Egypt, I was often struck by the immediacy of Scripture in the lives of the characters - the beauty or urgency of the Psalms, the humor of Jonah, the declarations of God's presence with His people. I saw with new eyes the challenges Joseph and Mary would have faced raising the child Jesus. And more.

A roommate I had a long time ago used to ask often, "When did Jesus know He was God?" In this book, Rice begins to posit a plausible answer.

Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt may not be great literature, as literature professors define it. Some of the sentences are clunky or needlessly cryptic. It's not Shakespeare or Dostoevsky. But for me, it is the best kind of literature: something that teaches me, that leads me to God, and makes me want to know Him better and worship Him more purely.

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