When I read Pope Benedict XVI’s Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration, I was blown away by the courage and brilliance of its approach. I remember someone interviewed me for one of those Best Book of the Year columns and I mentioned the Pope’s book and called it “luminous.” When the interview came out, I saw it and thought, “Oh crikey, I sound like a nun!” and reminded myself only to recommend books with titles like Death of a Serial Killing Pimp in order to maintain my hard-won reputation.
However, I just finished the second part of the Pope’s study of Christ, Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week from the Entry into Jerusalem to the Resurrection and it too is luminous, even if it does make me sound like a nun.
Pope Benedict, as I’ve said before, is the Last European, by which I mean the last great man and mind who fully comprehends the beautiful but now dying culture that produced him. It’s appalling to me–though not surprising–that the only thing the mainstream media ever covers about him is how often he apologizes for the abuses of some priests or how politically incorrect his view of gay people is or whatever. I have now read a good selection of his writings and when the work of Foucault and Derridas and de Man and the rest of that benighted lot has toddled off to the obscurity it so dearly deserves, Benedict’s writings will stand. They may be the final flares of genius to fly up from the continent he loves before darkness closes over it.
I’m not a Catholic. My views on authority and sexual morality are too individualistic. But when I see the level of thought coming out of Anglicanism – especially the low and despicable crypto anti-semitism in the cowardly guise of anti-Zionism – and then read the grace-filled, spirit-inspired work of Big Ben, well, I’m embarrassed.
Anyway, a great Lenten read for us Jesus fans.