Catholicism in Literature
In continuity with my love of Anne Rice’s earlier books, I’d like to continue that, but to move away from the Vampire Chronicles, the Mayfair witches, and the activity of other “supernatural” creatures, and into her works on the life of Jesus.
There is much to be said about the two first installments in the Christ the Lord series. However, I’ll refrain because I cannot and will not ruin these books for anyone. They are jewels. At first thought, the idea of someone writing a novel about the life of Jesus in the context of a fictional, but historically-probable 1st century world for a Jew sounds like quite the challenge. However, to write this from a first person perspective as if you were Jesus Himself, to enter into the psychology of the incarnate Logos and to imagine what it is like to be simultaneously God and man and try to ‘live’ it out, as it were, in a novel presents itself as an impossible task. The impossibility becomes exponentially more clear when Mrs. Rice decided that she would be entirely faithful to the biblical framework and the orthodox Catholic understanding of the person of Jesus — that is, she would contradict none of the christological pronouncements of Nicea (325), Constantinople (381), nor Chalcedon (451). What a task.
Anne Rice, author of 28 books, which have sold nearly 100 million worldwide is one of the most widely read novelists in modern history. I have read nearly every book she has published. My first inclination was to discuss the themes predominant throughout all of her writing; however, a second thought, has prompted me to focus instead rather on the book that influenced me the most – leading me to the Catholic Church for the first time as Rice herself journeyed home.
Memnoch the Devil describes the vampire Lestat’s encounter with the Devil, who calls himself “Memnoch.” He is taken on a journey through the ‘whirlwind’ into Heaven, Helll, and the main epochs in the evolution of the universe. It is a radical retelling of the entirety of biblical history from the devil’s perspective. The devil’s charge is that he is not evil; in fact, he despises it. Rather, what he opposes is God’s tolerance of the existence of evil and suffering that plagues mankind and that in the beginning God, allegedly, had no interest in inviting man into His company in heaven. Memnoch – in a long story short – becomes the servant of humanity (and God) working to usher lost souls into Heaven. He invites Lestat to join him in the fight against evil and to bring all human souls from the gloom of Sheol to the paradise of Heaven.