Sunday, March 31, 2013

Transfixed

Yet I believe beyond believing
that life can spring from death,
that growth can flower from our grieving,
that we can catch our breath
and turn transfixed by faith.

~ William Gay ~


Sun Shining Through Lace Curtains Onto the Hardwood Floor
(photo taken 15 September 2011)

~ Some books I like to reread each year around Easter ~

Fifth Business
Robertson Davies

A wise aging priest discusses the need for a role model: "My own idea is that when [Christ] comes again it will be to continue his ministry as an old man. I am an old man and my life has been spent as a soldier of Christ, and I tell you that the older I grow the less Christ's teaching says to me. I am sometimes very conscious that I am following the path of a leader who died when He was less than half as old as I am now. I see and feel things He never saw or felt. I know things He seems never to have known. Everybody wants a Christ for himself and those who think like him. Very well, am I at fault for wanting a Christ who will show me how to be an old man?* All Christ's teaching is put forward with the dogmatism, the certainty, and the strength of youth: I need something that takes account of the accretion of experience, the sense of paradox and ambiguity that comes with years!" (164.)

* Or how to be a woman of any age!

The Secret Life of Bees
Sue Monk Kidd
[Also mentioned in 2003]

So similar to what Davies says about the need for an old Christ: "I wish you could've seen the Daughters of Mary the first time they laid eyes on [the Black Madonna]. You know why? Because when they looked at her, it occurred to them for the first time in their lives that what's divine can come in dark skin. You see, everybody needs a God who looks like them" (141).

For years now, I've been saying that Jesus needed a twin sister; and Kidd has incorporated this own personal heresy of mine into her novel: "I could read her thought: If Jesus' mother is black, how come we only know about the white Mary? This would like women finding out Jesus had had a twin sister who'd gotten half God's genes but none of the glory" (53).

The Last Temptation of Christ
Nikos Kazantzakis
[See previous posts: 2007 & "Let Them All In"]

His somewhat unconventional Jesus insists that he is "son of man, I tell you, not son of God. . . I shall stand up and proclaim the truth!"

The Apostle Paul replies in anger: "True or false -- what do I care! It 's enough if the world is saved. . . . What is 'truth'? What is 'falsehood'? Whatever gives us wings, whatever produces great works and great souls and lifts us . . . above the earth -- that is true. Whatever clips off our wings -- that is false. . . . I create the truth, create it out of obstinacy and longing and faith." (477)

In an excellent closing note, P. A. Bien, writes that Kazantzakis "was not primarily interested in reinterpreting Christ or in disagreeing with, or reforming, the Church. He wanted rather, to lift Christ out of the Church altogether . . . The measure with which the reader of this book feels (perhaps for the first time) the full poignancy of the Passion will be the measure of the author's success" While I feel no doubt of this novel's success, it is actually another novel which, in my opinion, renders the Passion most poignantly, and that is . . .

The Master and Margarita
Mikhail Bulgakov
[See also "Illusion of Control"]

Bulgakov treats not only the Passion of Christ, but also

~ the Passion of the Master, whose novel about Pontius Pilate is rejected by the critics and lands him in the mental asylum but is later read by both Jesus and Pilate, himself;

~ and the Passion of Margarita, whose quest for happiness leads her to Satan's ball and the final realization that "the world is built on" forgiveness, complete forgiveness;

~ and the Passion of Pontius Pilate, who commands the prisoner Yeshua to "swear by your life since it is hanging by a thread."

Yeshua responds calmly: "You do not think, do you, Hegemon, that you hung it there? . . . If you do, you are very much mistaken."

Pilate: "I can cut that thread."

Yeshua: "You are mistaken about that too . . . Don't you agree that that thread can only be cut by the one who hung it?" (19).

Pilate then asks: " . . . the kingdom of truth will come?"

"It will, Hegemon," replied Yeshua with conviction.

"It will never come! Pilate shouted in such a terrible voice that Yeshua recoiled. (23).

Bulgakov's doubting Pilate is utterly conflicted, whereas his mephistophelean Woland is a devil of great confidence. Like Paul, above, in Last Temptation, Woland teaches by "obstinacy, longing, and faith." He whispers to the doubting poet Berlioz: "Keep in mind that Jesus did exist."

"You know, Professor . . . we respect your great knowledge, but we happen to have a different point of view regarding that issue."

Woland: "No points of view are necessary . . . He simply existed, and that's all there is to it."

Berlioz: "But surely some proof is required."

Woland: "No, no proof is required. . . . But as we part, I implore you, at least believe that the devil exists! I ask no more than that. Keep in mind that for this we have the seventh proof . . ." (12, 34).

***********************

" . . .there is nothing but mystery in the world,
how it hides behind the fabric of our poor, browbeat days,
shining brightly, and we don't even know it"

~ The Secret Life of Bees (63) ~