Friday, May 19, 2006

A Tale of Two Jesuses

Frederick and Mary Ann Brussat over at Spirituality and Practice wrote a review of The Da Vinci Code that disappointed me and caused me to lose respect for them as folks of faith who navigate the modern and post-modern scene with wisdom. But they also gave me insight into the cultural meaning of the book and the film at this juncture in the first decade of the 21st century. Here is what they write:
In our era, a great and fierce battle is being waged by zealous, rigid, and close-minded Christians against more progressive Christians and spiritual seekers who are open, curious, and hospitable about Christianity and all religions. One reason why this film will speak to so many people is that we can empathize with Robert and Sophie as they realize the extent of the conspiracy to suppress the truth about the Holy Grail and to keep quiet the important role of women in church history. We also can connect with their deep desire to get to the bottom of things.

Robert and Sophie are mentors of openness as they plow through one mystery after another. Openness as a spiritual practice has become more important than ever these days when government, corporations, and church institutions use secrecy and spin doctors to cover up the truth and protect themselves and their power base. The film no doubt will be championed by those who are curious about learning more about the Sacred Feminine, the life of Mary Magdalene, and the humanity of Jesus. (See our list of many varied and fascinating resources we have covered on these subjects.)

Those of us who believe that openness is a prerequisite for spiritual growth in a complex world know that God loves diversity. Hence, we can tolerate differences and see no need to destroy someone else's position in order to make room for our own. The Da Vinci Code is making a great contribution by encouraging dialogue about Christianity and creating awareness of the diversity within the early church. Because of this novel, thousands have been spurred on to read the Gnostic Gospels and to re-envision the role of Mary Magdalene in the Christian community. And any movie that salutes the staying power of the Sacred Feminine is something worth celebrating in a time when chauvinism is strutting its last hour upon the stage.

They have named the disease, I think: it's the Battle of the Jesi. Let's consider the salient line one more time:
... a great and fierce battle is being waged by zealous, rigid, and close-minded Christians against more progressive Christians and spiritual seekers who are open, curious, and hospitable about Christianity and all religions.

The Da Vinci Code is the mirror image of The Passion of the Christ: in that case, the "zealous, rigid and close-minded Christians" turned out in droves to see a non-deconstructed Passion Play on film. The Passion as a horror film, effectively done. In this case, the "more progressive Christians and spiritual seekers who are open, curious and hospitable about Christianity and all religions" will [presumably] turn out to see an affirmation of the major tenets of the feminist Christian heresy: that men hate and fear the power of women; that Christianity was co-opted from Good Guy Jesus by a bunch of women-hating men who would stop at nothing to pervert the truth and drive out the Goddess and her nurturing acolytes; that the Catholic Church is inhospitable to women, oppressive, secretive, and rigid.

I was thinking this morning about the anecdotal story of Pope Leo XIII and his vision. The aging Pope Leo, so the story goes, had returned from celebrating Mass and had begun to confer with his cardinals. Suddenly he fell into a deep faint, and the cardinals could not find a pulse and feared for his death. After a few minutes, the Pontiff opened his eyes, sat up, and exclaimed "Oh what a horrible picture I was permitted to see."

The vision he saw had elements of the Book of Job and elements of the Book of Revelations. He saw God and Satan in discussion, and Satan was mocking God and telling Him that humankind was getting easier and easier to deceive. His Christ would soon be forgotten in the hearts of men and women, and it was only because God shored up the Body of Christ with so many extra helps that it had any loyalty and remembrance of Christ left at all.

So God said, "I give you the next century. I will withdraw my special helps. Do your worst. My Son will conquer even so."

Pope Leo went on to write the Prayer of St. Michael, and inserted it at the end of the Mass in the final prayers. I grew up saying this prayer. The Novus Ordo does not include it so we no longer pray it at Mass, although by custom it is always prayed now at the end of the public praying of the rosary.

I've thought often of that story as we make our way into a new century. What if the story is true in its basic elements? It certainly would explain the horrors of the 20th century. Then a part of me is peeved at having to come of age at a time when the Prince of Lies was getting in his licks and succeeding so well. Part of me is delighted that perhaps my grandchildren will come of age in a different world, less full of deception and the evils concomitant on belief in deceptive ideologies.

Now would be the time of change, the cusp of a reawakened Body of Christ, and the Prince of Lies is making his last gasp effort to stem the tide.

I like to think this is so.

1 comment:

Marty Helgesen said...

I pray the three Hail Marys and the other prayers after Mass privately after every Mass. I also pray the prayer to St. Michael as part of my morning prayers.