I’ve had some emails wondering, “Anchoress, how come you’re not writing much about The DaVinci Code? How come you’re not outraged about Madonna’s latest provocation?”
Why haven’t I written more? Well, to be honest, I just don’t care about either of these over-hyped, over-exposed things.
I have not bothered to get myself into an uproar about Madonna and her crucifix (how old, anyway…remember the burning-crosses, necking with St. Martin de Porres in church while she gets stigmata video…from the 1980’s? She’s been confused for a long time…) or about DVC is because…well…
For all I can appreciate where my fellow Christians are coming from, as much as I understand Amy Welborn’s concerns, for example, about historical accuracy and the beating it takes from Dan Brown and his followers, and I identify with the disgust of those who are tired of seeing Our Lord mocked and trivialized…none of it worries me. Because the reality of Christ is so much greater, and more powerful, than all of it.
Possibly I feel this way because I came of age when Jesus Christ Superstar was the big gasp. Oh, my! They’re distorting the relationship between Jesus and Mary! Why, they make it sound like they were lovers! And they distort the history between Jesus and Judas! They make it sound like Jesus all but begged Judas to turn him in, so he would go to trial and be crucified! Gasp! Gasp!
Thirty-some years later, we’re still hearing that Jesus and Mary were lovers and that Judas was doing Jesus’ bidding because Jesus was not divine, but an ordinary human being with a messianic complex. DVC is promulgating the same nonsense, as is the so called “Gospel of Judas.” Really, there is nothing new under the sun, and imagination is lacking.
I’ve been hearing this stuff for all these years – most of my life – and my reason asks, “So?”
So, if the gnostics are right, and Jesus was a mere man, I guess that means St. Mary Magdalene (note, we Catholics consider her a great saint and honor her with a prominent feast day – hardly the sort of “squashing” DVC tries to argue) was a mere woman and not some vessel of “the sacred feminine,” after all. Kinda blows the whole DVC thing to bits as a pointless exercise, then, eh? And if Judas had to turn Jesus in to get the whole pageant of salvation going, well…so what? History pivots on the acquiesence of one man or woman, nearly every day, and so does one’s personal salvation. (The Virgin Mary, too, acquiesced. Unlike Judas though, she did not give up hope.) And thirty years from now there will be another book, another play, another photograph of a Holy Thing dunked in urine. And everyone will gasp again and controversy will fly…and it still won’t matter.
It won’t matter because within our few decades these ideas come around again, and go again. Haters come and go, zealots (who are always dangerous, no matter what side they’re on) come and go, but Christ remains, for Christ is Eternal. And Christ changes things. That has been true for 2000 years. The reality of Christ, experienced, changes us. I am not talking about churches, or about gatherings or fellowships – you can come up “in the church” and never have the experience of knowing Christ. You can go for 60 or 70 years with nothing but a vague hunch and a sense that something about church feels alright to you (or, that it doesn’t, but church is what everyone does, so…)
But there is a moment in most lives – in all lives, I believe, when Christ knocks and you let open the door, (what we call in our family the “milk-and-honey moment”). It is not a lucky moment, truth be told. It often occurs when you are in the dregs of despair – sometimes it takes despair for us thick-necked creatures to finally look up and say, “yeah, I really am making a balls of it, over here…”
That Milk and Honey moment, it changes us. It turns a ne-er do well drunk into the sort of man who can be a president able to withstand a mountain of worldwide abuse and maintain his composure. It turns a political conspirator into a prison chaplain. It saves a wretch like me.
Some would argue that the experience of conversion is one-part emotional breakdown and one part synapse-misfirings, not dissimilar to an unusual drug experience. That would be more convincing if people who’d tripped exceedingly well – or badly – then found their lives, their perceptions, their conscience, their attitudes and their desires to be instantly and immediately and permanently changed. But usually a drug experience does not result in such a radical shift.Conversion is a life long process. One does not drink the Milk and Honey only once in life. Indeed, we humans are easily distracted and often need to be taken by the arm and steered back like recalcitrant children. But speaking only for myself, that first experience of Christ changed me enough so that each new experience, each new Milk and Honey moment – whether drunk in a garden or a desert – simple deepened my knowledge and appreciation; it renewed. It brought further surrender and thus further intimacy.
And so I am not worried about Madonna or Tom Hanks or DVC or anything. Some say the wide dissemination and easy-acceptance of heresy and re-written history portends tough times for the church – ridicule, hatred, suppression, discrimination, even (paranoia alert) outlawing. I am not worried. If fifty years from now Catholics are once again hiding priests and holding Holy Mass underground, if Christians are using signals to direct others to worship, it will not surprise me. But the church is always at its most fervent and alive when it is under siege. It gains strength from the blood of martyrs and “there will always be a remnant.” What was it St. Peter wrote, in his gorgeous first epistle: “There is time for rejoicing, here, although for a little while you may have to endure trials…”
Really, all of this comes with the job.
The job of the Christian is to hold fast in the face of chaos and recall that Christ is more powerful than any man or media, and that darkness does not overcome light. To be honest, all the fretting from us Christians is a bit unseemly. If we are secure in what we believe, a cartoon does not take us down, no matter how perverse and offensive, because Christ is alive, and Grace abounds, and because just as an Abbess or Abbot is entitled to use whatever resources his or her community contains to advance the stability of the abbey, the Holy Spirit has a way of confounding us by using what is out there in the world – sometimes very surprising things and people – to do the will of the One.
Pray for those who hate us. There is power there. And don’t be afraid of a “what if.” Bad times might come. So, what? “If in all things thou seeketh Jesus, doubtless thou shall find him.” (St. Theresa of Avila) and “All things are alive in the sight of their King” (Avila, again). Christians are joint-heirs with the Chosen people – it makes perfect sense that we might taste some of the sting and poison the world keeps offering His people, Israel. There is nothing to fear, here. Changing situations in the world are nothing in the face of the Unchanging.
This is why sometimes stillness and silence and even retreat is so important. If we Christians do not occasionally step out of the whirlwind, if we do not remove ourselves from the day-in, day-out noise and craziness of the world and everything, and everyone, in it…we tend to get caught up, to forget that half of what is assailing our senses is strictly illusory and the other half is only semi-important. We start hyper-ventilating about every insult, we start wringing our hands about conspiracies. All of which flies in the face of faith, and grace and trust.
Don’t get distracted. Don’t get over-involved in the whirl, and leave the wind to the Holy Spirit. There are angels and demons in the whirlwind; let ’em battle it out. Observation is valuable; so is reflection. Most vaulable of all is prayer and contemplation and communion.
The other day I asked readers to begin thinking about this question: “How do you recieve a good?”
It’s a deep question. First you have to define what is good. The definition can often be surprising. Then you have to consider how you receive what you are given. That brings in whole issues of gratitude. It is a question that you can think about for days on end and then go back to, again. If you haven’t bothered thinking about it, yet…maybe today you should.
Yes, it will be on the final.
God likes irony – he must like it, He is a master at it. For all you know, someday Dan Brown might be the guy on the 700 Club talking to Pat Robertson or even – (Lord, help us) the guy getting baptised by some Opus Dei priest! :-)
If you really want to read more about DVC, though, here, this is well done!