Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Readings: on The Road to Cana

Back on March 8, I posted on the Anne Rice novel, Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt. I had been inspired to read the book by the review of its sequel, Christ the Lord: The Road to Cana, posted by Tom of Disputations on February 23 (scroll down).

I have now, finally, this week, been able to get my hands on The Road to Cana, which I finished reading this morning. Since we already have Tom’s fine review, I will make only a couple of small observations about the book. Both come near the end of the novel, at the Wedding in Cana, after Christ has chosen the first of His disciples. First, a passage that particularly struck me as instructive. Here, Jesus is at the wedding feast, listening to the rhythm of the drums, and pondering the nature of time:

Time beat on, and in time, as I’d told the Tempter, yes, as he’d tempted me to stop Time forever – in time, there were things yet unborn. It struck a deep dark shiver in me, a great cold. But it was only the shiver and fear known to any man born.

I did not come to stop it, I did not come to leave it at such a moment of mysterious joy. I came to live it, to surrender to it, to endure it, to discover in it what it was I must do, and whatever it was, well, it had only begun.

It strikes me that Anne Rice has said something profound here about our calling to pick up our own crosses, each of us, and to follow Him.

Finally, there is a character in the novel whom Anne Rice has imagined, named Silent Hannah. As the name suggests, she is a deaf-mute. Rice portrays her as a dear, loving young woman, isolated by her disability, but devoted throughout her life to Avigail, whose wedding is being celebrated at Cana. There are several occasions throughout the plotting of the novel at which the reader wonders—why does Jesus not restore Silent Hannah’s ability to hear and to speak?

Finally, on the second to last page of the book, after Jesus has changed the water to wine, and has wandered a ways from the celebration, come these lines:

Beyond them and far to the left, on the farthest margin of the garden away from us, amid a small grove of shining trees, there stood a tiny robed figure with her back to us, rocking from side to side, her veiled head bowed.
Tiny and alone, this dancer, seemingly watching the rising sun.

Tiny dancer, I thought? Is Anne Rice giving a hat-tip to Elton John here, or what? But, no, of course not. What Anne Rice has done is save the healing of Silent Hannah to the very last page of the book. Is this overly sentimental? Is it a chick-lit move on Rice’s part?:

I placed my hand gently on her throat.
She struggled, eyes wide, and then she whispered it:
“Yeshua!” She was pale with shock.
Yeshua, Yeshua, Yeshua.
“Listen to me,” I said as I put my hand on her ear and then on my heart – the old gestures. “ ‘Hear O Israel,’ “ I said, “ ‘the Lord Our God is One.’ “
...I repeated it once more and then the third time she spoke the words with me.

Hear O Israel. The Lord Our God is One.
I held her in my arms.
And then I turned to join the others.
And we started for the road.

I wept. (Well...let's just say I got a little misty.)