Tuesday, February 7, 2017


When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
1 Corinthians, 13:11

Recently, I mentioned that I had begun to read a novel called Silence, and noted that I had read the book many years ago, had not liked it at the time, and suspected, now, that I had not really understood it, as I was not a Christian at my first reading and knew very little about the faith.

Concerning the latter point, I was right.

Silence, by Japanese Christian apologist Shusaku Endo, is a story about the cruel persecution of Christians in that country during the 17th century reign of the Samurais. And it is a literary masterpiece.

Two missionaries take the arduous journey from Portugal to Japan to search for their beloved seminary teacher, whom, it is rumored, may have gone apostate, denying his faith. It is the journey as well of one of these missionaries, Father Rodriguez, into the full meaning of faith, into a full acquaintance with the true person of Christ.

This novel unfolds like a symphony, or like a Wagnerian opera, replete with recurring leitmotifs, the sounds of the crickets, the buzz of flies, the light of dawn and dusk, the visage of Christ, the crowing of roosters, the groaning of tormented martyrs, the smell of rot, the pounding of the surf, and silence - over and over, silence - each instance heralding a harmonic progression of Rodriguez's inner struggle and awakening.

There is only one who dies for all, and forever - who is eternally crucified and eternally victorious - the man, Jesus Christ, the son of God. The rules, the doctrines, the does and don'ts for which men become so fond, are the fascinations of children, and not the eternal foundations of faith.

From peace and comfort, naivety and pride, Rodriguez is thrust into a world of struggle and suffering, sacrifice and futility, on a sorrowful road to depth of experience and meaning.

This novel is deeply felt, deeply questioning, deeply mature. It is one of the best novels I have ever read. 

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