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ABOUT THE BOOK ABOUT THE BOOK
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Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

The second book in Anne Rice’s hugely ambitious and masterful life of Christ.
 
It’s a winter of no rain, endless dust, and talk of trouble in Judea.  All who know and love Jesus find themselves waiting for some sign of the path he will eventually take.  After his baptism, he is at last ready to confront his destiny. At the wedding at Cana, he takes water and transforms it into red wine.  Thus, he’s recognized as the anointed one and called by God the Father to begin a ministry that will transform an unsuspecting world.  

Excerpt

Who is Christ the Lord?Angels sang at his birth. Magi from the East brought gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. They gave these gifts to him, and to his mother, Mary, and the man, Joseph, who claimed to be his father.In the Temple, an old man gathered the babe in his arms. The old man said to the Lord, as he held the babe, “A light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.”My mother told me those stories.That was years and years ago.Is it possible that Christ the Lord is a carpenter in the town of Nazareth, a man past thirty years of age, and one of a family of carpenters, a family of men and women and children that fill ten rooms of an ancient house, and, that in this winter of no rain, of endless dust, of talk of trouble in Judea, Christ the Lord sleeps in a worn woolen robe, in a room with other men, beside a smoking brazier? Is it possible that in that room, asleep, he dreams?Yes. I know it’s possible. I am Christ the Lord. I know. What I must know, I know. And what I must learn, I learn.And in this skin, I live and sweat and breathe and groan. My shoulders ache. My eyes are dry from these dreadful rainless days–from the long walks to Sepphoris through the gray fields in which the seeds burn under the dim winter sun because the rains don’t come.I am Christ the Lord. I know. Others know, but what they know they often forget. My mother hasn’t spoken a word on it for years. My foster father, Joseph, is old now, white haired, and given to dreaming.I never forget.And as I fall asleep, sometimes I’m afraid–because my dreams are not my friends. My dreams are wild like bracken or sudden hot winds that sweep down into the parched valleys of Galilee.But I do dream, as all men dream.And so this night, beside the brazier, hands and feet cold, under my cloak, I dreamed.I dreamed of a woman, close, a woman, mine, a woman who became a maiden who became in the easy tumult of dreams my Avigail.I woke. I sat up in the dark. All the others lay sleeping still, with open mouths, and the coals in the brazier were ashes.Go away, beloved girl. This is not for me to know, and Christ the Lord will not know what he does not want to know–or what he would know only by the shape of its absence.She wouldn’t go–not this, the Avigail of dreams with hair tumbled down loose over my hands, as if the Lord had made her for me in the Garden of Eden.No. Perhaps the Lord made dreams for such knowing– or so it seemed for Christ the Lord.I climbed up off the mat, and quietly as I could, I put more coals into the brazier. My brothers and my nephews didn’t stir. James was off with his wife tonight in the room they shared. Little Judas and Little Joseph, fathers both, slept here tonight away from little ones huddled around their wives. And there lay the sons of James–Menachim, Isaac, and Shabi, tumbled together like puppies.I stepped over one after another and took a clean robe from the chest, the wool smelling of the sunshine in which it had been dried. Everything in that chest was clean.I took the robe and went out of the house. Blast of cold air in the empty courtyard. Crunch of broken leaves.And for a moment in the hard pebbly street I stopped and looked up at the great sweep of glittering stars beyond the huddled rooftops.Cloudless, this cold sky, and so filled with these infinitesimal lights, it seemed for a moment beautiful. My heart hurt. It seemed to be looking at me, enfolding me–a thing of kindness and witness–an immense web flung out by a single hand–rather than the vast inevitable hollow of the night above the tiny slumbering town that spilled like a hundred others down a slope between distant caves of bones and thirsting fields, and groves of olive trees.I was alone.Somewhere far down the hill, near the sometime marketplace, a man sang in a low drunken voice and a spark of light shone there, in the doorway of the sometime tavern. Echo of laughter.But all the rest was quiet, without a torch to light the way.The house of Avigail across from ours was shut up like any other. Inside, Avigail, my young kinswoman, slept with Silent Hannah, her sweet companion, and the two old women who served her and the bitter man, Shemayah, who was her father.Nazareth did not always have a beauty. I’d seen generations of young maidens grow up, each fresh and lovely to behold as any flower in the wild. Fathers did not want their daughters to be beauties. But Nazareth had a beauty now, and it was Avigail. She’d refused two suitors of late, or so her father had done on her behalf, and there was a real question in the minds of the women of our house as to whether Avigail herself even knew the suitors had come calling.It fell hard on me suddenly that I would sometime very soon be standing among the torchbearers at her wedding. Avigail was fifteen. She might have been married a year ago, but Shemayah kept her close. Shemayah was a rich man who had but one thing and one thing alone that made him happy, and that was his daughter, Avigail.I walked up the hill and over the top. I knew every family behind every door. I knew the few strangers who came and went, one huddled in a courtyard outside the Rabbi’s house, and the other on the roof above where so many slept, even in winter. It was a town of day-to-day quiet, and seemingly not a single secret.I walked down the other side of the slope until I came to the spring, the dust rising with every step I took, until I was coughing from it.Dust and dust and dust.Thank You, Father of the Universe, that this night is not so cold, no, not as cold as it might be, and send us the rain in Your own good time because You know that we need it.Passing the synagogue, I could hear the spring before I saw it.The spring was drying up, but for now it still ran, and it filled the two large rock-cut basins in the side of the hill, and spilled down in glistening streaks to the rocky bed it followed off and away into the distant forest.The grass grew soft here and fragrant.I knew that in less than an hour, the women would be coming, some to fill jugs, others, the poorer women, to wash their clothes here as best they could and beat them on the rocks.But for now the spring was mine.I stripped off the old robe and flung it down into the creek bed where the water soon filled it up and darkened it to where I couldn’t see it. I set the clean robe aside and approached the basin. With my cupped hands I bathed in the cold water, drenching my hair, my face, my chest, letting it run down my back and my legs. Yes, cast away the dreams like the old robe, and bathe them away. The dream woman has no name now and no voice, and what it was, that painful flicker when she laughed or reached out, well, that was gone, fading, like the night itself was fading, and gone too was the dust for this moment, the suffocating dust. There was only cold. There was only water.I lay down on the far bank, opposite the synagogue. The birds had begun, and as always I’d missed the exact moment. It was a game I played, trying to hear the very first of the birds, the birds that knew the sun was coming when no one else did.I could see the big thick palm trees around the synagogue emerging from the clump of shapeless shadows. Palms could grow in a drought. Palms didn’t care if the dust coated every branch. Palms went on as if made for all seasons.The cold was outside me. I think my beating heart kept me warm. Then the first light seeped up over the distant bluff, and I picked up the fresh robe, and slipped it over my head. So good, this, this luxuriously clean cloth, this fresh-smelling cloth.I lay back down again and my thoughts drifted. I felt the breeze before I heard the trees sigh with it.Far up the hill was an old olive grove to which I loved to go at times to be alone. I thought of it now. How good it would be to lie in that soft bed of dead leaf and sleep the day away.But there was no chance of it, not now with the tasks that had to be done, and with the village charged with new worries and new talk over a new Roman Governor come to Judea, who, until he settled in as every other Governor had done, would trouble the land from one end to the other.The land. When I say the land, I mean Judea and Galilee as well. I mean the Holy Land, the Land of Israel, the Land of God. It was no matter that this man didn’t govern us. He governed Judea and the Holy City where the Temple stood, and so he might as well have been our King instead of Herod Antipas. They worked together, these two, Herod Antipas, the ruler of Galilee, and this new man, Pontius Pilate, whom men feared, and beyond Jordan Herod Philip ruled and worked with them as well. And so the land had been carved up for a long, long time, and Antipas and Philip we knew, but Pontius Pilate we didn’t know and the reports were already evil.What could a carpenter in Nazareth do about it? Nothing, but when there was no rain, when men were restive and angry and full of fear, when people spoke of the curse of Heaven on the withering grass, and Roman slights, and an anxious Emperor gone into exile in mourning for a son poisoned, when all the world seemed filled with the pressure to put one’s shoulder to it and push, well, in such a time, I didn’t go off to the grove of trees to sleep the day away.It was getting light.A figure broke from the dark shapes of the houses of the village, hurrying downhill towards me, one hand upraised. My brother James. Older brother–son of Joseph and Joseph’s first wife who died before Joseph married my mother. No mistaking James, for his long hair, knotted at the back of his neck and streaming down his back, and his narrow anxious shoulders and the speed with which he came, James the Nazirite, James, the captain of our band of workers, James, who now in Joseph’s old age was head of the family.He stopped at the far side of the little spring, mostly a broad swatch of dry stones now with the glittering ribbon of water gurgling through the center of it, and I could plainly make out his face as he stared at me. He stepped on one big stone after another as he came across the creek to me. I had sat up and now I climbed to my feet, a common enough courtesy for my older brother. “What are you doing out here?” he demanded. “What’s the matter with you? Why do you always worry me?”I didn’t say anything.He threw up his hands and looked to the trees and the fields for an explanation.“When will you take a wife?” he asked. “No, don’t stop me, don’t put up your hand to me to silence me. I will not be silenced. When will you take a wife? Are you wed to this miserable creek, to this cold water? What will you do when it runs dry, and it will this year, you know.”I laughed under my breath.He went right on.“There are two men as old as you in this town who’ve never married. One is crippled. The other’s an idiot, and everyone knows this.”He was right. I was past thirty and not married.“How many times have we talked about this, James?” I asked.It was a beautiful thing to watch the growing light, to see the color coming to the palms clustered around the synagogue. I thought I heard shouting in the distance. But perhaps it was just the usual noises of a town tearing off its blankets.“Tell me what’s really eating at you this morning?” I asked. I picked up the wet robe from the stream and spread it out on the grass where it would dry. “Every year you come to look more like your father,” I said, “but you never have your father’s face really. You never have his peace of mind.”“I was born worried,” he confessed with a shrug. He was looking anxiously towards the village. “Do you hear that?”“I hear something,” I said.“This is the worst dry spell we’ve ever had,” he said, glancing up at the sky. “And cold as it is, it’s not cold enough. You know the cisterns are almost empty. The mikvah’s almost empty. And you, you are a constant worry to me, Yeshua, a constant worry. You come out here in the dark to the creek. You go off to that grove where no one dares to go. . . .”“They’re wrong about that grove,” I said. “Those old stones mean nothing.” That was a village superstition, that something pagan and dreadful had once taken place in that grove. But it was the mere ruins of an old olive press in there, stones that went way back to the years before Nazareth had been Nazareth. “I tell you this once a year, don’t I? But I don’t want to worry you, James.”


From the Hardcover edition.
Anne Rice|Author Q&A

About Anne Rice

Anne Rice - Christ the Lord: The Road to Cana

Photo © Becket Ghioto

Anne Rice is the author of thirty-two books. She lives in Palm Desert, California.
 
www.annerice.com

Author Q&A

A Conversation with Anne RiceQ: What led you to the idea of writing this book, and then to the actual writing of it?A: Obsession led me to write this book, and it’s been that way with every book I’ve ever written. I become completely consumed by a theme, by characters, by a desire to meet a challenge, and the book begins to grow. With Christ the Lord, the obsession began in my earliest childhood in pure religious devotion. Though I broke with my religion in college, I was still obsessed with religious questions, the basics–Why are we here? Why is the world so beautiful? Why is it so important that we lead good lives, even when we don’t believe in an afterlife? I never stopped with this obsessive thinking and exploring, and the idea for the book–Jesus in his own words–was always there. I went back to the Catholic Church in 1998, completely. In 2002, when I was sitting in church before Mass one Saturday evening, I made the declaration to Christ that I would do this book and nothing else. And the entire purpose, shape, tone–all of that came together.Q: Those familiar with your work will immediately recognize this subject matter as a departure for you. Assuming you agree, why head down this particular road?A: This subject is in no way a departure from that of my previous works; no one who knows my work could possibly think so. The whole theme of Interview with the Vampire was Louis’s quest for meaning in a godless world. He searched to find the oldest existing “immortal” simply to ask “What is the meaning of what we are?” I was always compelled to seek the “big answers.”Q: Jesus Christ narrates this book. Explain your decision to make him the narrator.A: Jesus is the first-person narrator of this book because the use of first-person narrators is the way I know how to write a book with the greatest power and chance of artistic success. The intimate voice of the narrator in earlier novels worked powerfully for me. My first novel was written that way. Though I’ve written many novels in the third person, I’ve never felt as close to the characters as I felt to Louis, Lestat, Marius, and, finally, to this character, this fictional “creation” of Christ the Lord. Q: The Author’s Note in the book touches on the research that you did. What did that research comprise? What types of texts did you consult?A: Research was as total as I could make it. As I explain in the Author’s Note, I explored the ancient authors–Josephus, Philo of Alexandria, the writings of the sages, the rabbis, the Evangelists, the Bible itself relentlessly. But I also studied as much as I could of current archaeology having to do with first-century Palestine. I read as much as I could in New Testament scholarship, reading books by cynical critics of Christ, skeptics who wanted to debunk Him, and also great scholars. I read the great Catholic scholars Meier and Brown, and others. The field is far too vast for me to be comprehensive, and my work is ongoing. I do not read the ancient languages, but I am beginning to study Greek. Q: How did you sort out issues of artistic license when it came to a story the basics of which are almost universally known (if not universally believed to be true)?A: When it comes to this book, artistic license does not really exist. What I did was take the Jesus of the Gospels, the Son of God, the Son of the Virgin Mary, and sought to make Him utterly believable, a vital breathing character. Of course I created fictional scene and dialogue. But it is all within an immense and solid frame. This was a huge challenge. I had to move in His world, and know His world, and that took the immense research. But license? I took as little as possible. I worked within the strictures of what we have been taught about Christ the Lord. That’s why I used the title. Q: Would you hope that readers would come away from this book understanding and knowing more about Christianity and the figure of Christ, or did you write it for people to simply enjoy as a novel? A: I wrote this book to make Christ real to people who had never thought about Him as real. I wrote this book to make the readers care so much about Him that they see him perhaps as never before. I wrote it for all my readers and for all readers. Re-telling the Christian story is the essence of my vocation. And we re-tell that story so that it can be heard anew. That has been going on since the Evangelists in one form or another. I am no Evangelist. But I am an artist who wants to make the most significant art I can make. And for this art to have value, it must be utterly true to the spirit of Christ as I have received it from multiple sources: the Gospels, my church, my prayers, my meditation.Q: For people who are not coming to the book from any particular religious background, what do you hope they’ll take away from it? Put another way, do you think an atheist could ever like this book?A: I hope readers will come away caring passionately about this character, Jesus Christ, and wanting to know infinitely more about Him. We have become so de-sensitized to language pertaining to Jesus. I've tried to re-invent Jesus for those who don't want to think about Him or know Him. I hope that readers who do not come from a religious background will take away a sense of Jesus, the Jew, and Jesus, the child of miracles. And I hope that the book will give pleasure and satisfaction for those who do know Him and care about Him, and that does seem to be happening. I hope biblical scholars will see something here they can recommend. I hope atheists will feel a part of the world inside the book, and say “I was there!” I hope my oldest readers will embrace this character as they have Marcel, or Tonio, or Lestat or Louis in the past. Of course I think an atheist could like this book, because it brings to life the period, the milieu, the people who brought about one of the greatest religious revolutions in history.I tried to do justice to Jesus in every conceivable way I knew in this book. I can’t give any more to anything than what I’ve given to this book.Q: Were you nervous about writing this story, either from a personal standpoint or because of any concern about how closely or intensely it would be scrutinized?A: No, I wasn’t nervous. I was scared to death. I was so scared I couldn’t do it, yet I felt so compelled to. I went almost out of my mind as I sank into this material and as I prayed and studied and wrote. I was terrified. But I knew I had to do this. I felt strongly that no one had done it in the way that I was doing it. There have been many novels about Jesus Christ, but there has not, to my knowledge, been one like this, one that accommodated entirely all the knowledge we are given about Jesus while maintaining that Jesus is who He said He was: The Son of God. I was scared to death of being attacked and misunderstood, and pre-judged. Above all, I was and am scared of being dismissed. But it does not matter. I will go on writing the best books I can possibly write about this subject no matter what happens to me. Q: Will you ever write another Vampire novel?A: I can’t see myself doing that. My vampires were metaphors for the outsiders, the lost, the wanderers in the darkness who remembered the warmth of God’s light but couldn’t find it. My wish to explore that is gone now. I want to meet a much bigger challenge. Q: The book ends when Jesus is still a boy. Is there a sequel on the way? A: Yes, there are sequels on the way. I feel that keenly and can’t deny it–I don't want to deny it. But this book must stand on its own. And I did what I set out to do in so far as I talked and walked and saw with my character within the Gospel framework, and in light of the latest research in many fields. I feel a great satisfaction in having done that.Q: What do you make of the current religious climate in this country?A: I wish that we had more visible Christian and Catholic leaders who talked about love. We have many, but we could use more. It is tragic that many in America think of us–the Christians–as being people who hate others. We need leaders who open their arms to others. We need leaders like Fulton Sheen and Billy Graham and Rick Warren and N. T. Wright. We need to love one another; we need to acknowledge the goodness and the good intentions of our brothers and sisters; we need to stop fighting Christian against Christian. I have no time now for anything but trying to love other people. That is a full-time job. To fill my writing with that will take everything I have. I want to love all the children of God–Christian, Jew, Moslem, Hindu, Buddhist–everyone. I want to love Gay Christians and straight Christians.But the point is, we need people to make visible the great embracing and compassionate message of Christianity, people to continue the revolution started by Christ Himself, people to bear witness that the story of Jesus Christ is going on and on without end, gaining power with each century, and reaching more and more people. We need saints. We have to become saints. We have to become like Christ. Anything less is simply not enough. The world doesn’t need any more mediocrity or hedged bets.

Praise

Praise

“Hypnotic, incantatory. . . . Readers will be lured by the promise of simply rendered holiness.” —The New York Times

“Rice couples her writing talents with the zeal of a recent convert and a passion for historical research. . . . Remarkable for Rice’s prose and rich sensory detail.” —Christianity Today
 
“A masterful book written by an extraordinary writer at the height of her powers.” —All Things Considered
 
“Rice brings a liveliness and palpable joy to the material.” —Los Angeles Times
 
“A remarkable achievement. . . . An engaging story told within the structure of biblical narrative and theological orthodoxy.” —Father Richard Neuhaus, publisher, First Things

“A masterful book written by an extraordinary writer at the height of her powers. It deserves to be read for that reason alone. But it also deserves to be read to better understand the most dynamic and important person in human history – Christ the Lord.” —All Things Considered
 
“Rice brings a liveliness and palpable joy to the material.” —Los Angeles Times
 
“[Written] with reverence, marvelous scholarship, and a faithful portrayal to present the mystery God’s dwelling among humankind.” —Archbishop Oscar H. Lipscomb
 
“Compelling. . . . Rice emphasizes Christ’s humanity as few authors have done.” —Rocky Mountain News

Reader's Guide|About the Book|Author Biography|Discussion Questions|Suggestions

About the Book

"Hypnotic, incantatory. . . . Readers will be lured by the promise of simply rendered holiness."
The New York Times
 
The introduction, questions, and suggestions for further reading that follow are intended to enhance your reading of Anne Rice's Christ the Lord: The Road to Cana.

About the Guide

The second book in Anne Rice's hugely ambitious and courageous life of Christ begins during his last winter before his baptism in the Jordan and concludes with the miracle at Cana.


 
It is a novel in which we see Jesus—he is called Yeshua bar Joseph—during a winter of no rain, endless dust, and talk of trouble in Judea.


 
Legends of a Virgin birth have long surrounded Yeshua, yet for decades he has lived as one among many who come to the synagogue on the Sabbath. All who know and love him find themselves waiting for some sign of the path he will eventually take.


 
And at last we see him emerge from his baptism to confront his destiny—and the Devil. We see what happens when he takes the water of six great limestone jars, transforms it into cool red wine, is recognized as the anointed one, and urged to call all Israel to take up arms against Rome and follow him as the prophets have foretold.


 
As with Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt, the opening novel, The Road to Cana is based on the Gospels and on the most respected New Testament scholarship. The book's power derives from the profound feeling its author brings to the writing and the way in which she summons up the presence of Jesus.

About the Author

Anne Rice is the author of twenty-eight books. She lives in Rancho Mirage, California.
 
www.annerice.com

Discussion Guides

1. In the Christian New Testament, the Gospel of John records that Jesus' first miracle happened at the wedding feast of Cana, where water was changed into wine. Also in the Christian New Testament, the Gospel of Matthew states that, before performing any miracles, Jesus first entered the desert, where he was tempted by the Devil. Rice's first title for this book was The Temptation. Why do you think she changed the title to The Road to Cana?

2. Rice has customarily written in the first person, which offers the reader a particular insight into the inner life of the protagonist. In The Road to Cana, does the first-person narration give us insight into the inner life of Jesus? Is the intent of God elucidated? Discuss how revelations of Jesus' personal life are meaningful for contemporary Christians.

3. In The Road to Cana, Jesus says, "What I must know, I know. And what I must learn, I learn". Thomas Aquinas explicated Jesus' human intellect as having a threefold font of knowledge: divine knowledge, infused knowledge, and experiential knowledge. With regard to Jesus' experiential knowledge specifically, how does Avigail contribute to Jesus' experience and knowledge of love? Does he learn about human love? Discuss whether experience and knowledge can help one to love more humanely.

4. Discuss the divine power that Jesus demonstrates as God's son in The Road to Cana. In chapter 22, how does Jesus overpower Satan?

5. The New York Times book review of Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt states: "Ms. Rice retains her obsessions with ritual and purification. . . . She writes this book in a simpler, leaner style, giving it the slow but inexorable rhythm of an incantation." Are the Christ the Lord books a prayer for Rice? Discuss instances in The Road to Cana where Rice has written rituals of purification and incantation.

6. Which of the four Christian gospels most influenced The Road to Cana? Which Gospel stories are distinctly portrayed? Discuss whether these Gospel stories inspire rites of maturity for all Christian faiths today.

7. First-century Jewish women worshiped in the Ezrat Nashim—the Women's Courtyard—which was located beside or behind the men's place of worship. How does Rice's scholarship and penchant for historical authenticity enable her to accurately depict the role of Jewish women in first-century Palestine? In The Road to Cana, does Jesus criticize, whether by word or by deed, this masculine/feminine segregation? Discuss how new understandings of masculinity and femininity have influenced today's religious practices.

8. The Gospel of John is the only biblical source that mentions the wedding feast at Cana. In John's account, Jesus' mother, Mary, informs him at the wedding feast that the wine has run out. It is Jesus' reply to her that has mystified many throughout the centuries. In the final chapter of The Road to Cana, Rice quotes this reply: "Woman? . . . What has this to do with you and me?" Catholic saints, Christian biblical scholars, and homilists have attempted to explain this seemingly callous rejoinder, but their explications vary. How does The Road to Cana treat the mystery behind this dialogue between mother and son? Discuss whether Rice lends a mother's tenderness to the scene.

9. Mel Gibson's film The Passion of the Christ (2004) focuses on the suffering and death of Jesus. In what ways does Rice's Jesus differ from Gibson's? Specifically, when does Jesus, as depicted in The Road to Cana, show real human passion?

10. In an essay posted on her Web site, Rice says of her own writing career: "[My earlier novels] are not immoral works. They are not Satanic works. They are not demonic works. . . . The one thing which unites [my works] is the theme of the moral and spiritual quest. A second theme, key to most of them, is the quest of the outcast for a context of meaning." Is The Road to Cana Rice's attempt to show Jesus' spiritual quest?

11. Jesus, the narrator of The Road to Cana, begins by positing a solitary question: Who is Christ the Lord? Discuss whether this question has been answered by the end of the novel. If not, will this question ever be answered?


(For a complete list of available reading group guides, and to sign up for the Reading Group Center e-newsletter, visit www.readinggroupcenter.com.)

Suggested Readings

Karen Armstrong, A History of God; Geraldine Brooks, The People of the Book; Dan Brown, The Da Vinci Code; Anne Rice, Called Out of Darkness, Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt, Interview with the Vampire; Marilynne Robinson, Gilead.
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