Every age has its story, a story that gets read and re-read, told and re-told; a story that helps to define the age. For 2,000 years the Christian story has been the world’s story the greatest story ever told. For the past couple of years a new fable, The DaVinci Code, has made an attempt to corrupt and upstage the greatest story.
Turning the Christian Story on Its Head
The great British author and story-teller G.K. Chesterton wrote that every story must contain three basic elements: a thing to be loved, a thing to be fought, and a thing that both loves and fights. In a classic children’s story, those three elements would be represented by a princess, the dragon, and a prince.
Let’s compare the story of the world to the DaVinci Code fable.
The Christian story uses all three elements vividly. The thing to be loved is the soul, Mary, and the spotless bride of the Church. Not only is Mary a person to be loved, but she herself loves so perfectly that she is chosen by God to carry His Son in her womb. That action brings about not only the redemption of mankind, but the salvation of the world.
The thing that must be fought is the devil, depicted in both Genesis and Revelation as a Serpent. The Evil One seeks to devour the child, but Mary and her Son crush the head of the Serpent.
In the Christian story, it is the Church founded by Christ and His Apostles, and handed down to priests in union with their bishops, and bishops in union with the pope that both fights and loves. The Church fights doctrinal error and heresy, and by so doing protects Christ and His Mother.
“The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him,” wrote Chesterton. And so it is with the Church. It fights not because it hates, but because it loves Mary and the Child Whom she bore.
It’s fascinating to note that the only two times in history when papal infallibility has been invoked have been the two dogmas that protect the person of Mary: her Immaculate Conception in 1854, and her Assumption into Heaven in 1950. According to Church doctrine, Mary is protected not only from the devastation of original sin, but also from the sting of death itself.
Catholic dogma is typically proclaimed when it is under attack. In the dogmas of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption, the Church predicts the impending modern attacks on the Blessed Virgin Mary and comes to her defense.
The DaVinci Code, by comparison, isn’t a timeless, eternal story. Instead, it’s a throwaway beach novel, a weak fable for our age.
Brown turns the world’s story on its head.
That which must be loved, in the Code, is the “sacred feminine,” the erroneous idea that Christ wanted us not to worship Him, but the feminine as exemplified by Mary Magadalene. The fable says that Christ was married to Mary Magdalene.
In the novel, the “dragon” which must be fought is the Roman Catholic Church, the misguided clergy, and a murderous monk.
And that which both loves and fights is the enlightened scholar, Professor Robert Langdon, who heroically “saves” the female, Sophie Neveu, from the clutches of the patriarchal Church and an all-male priesthood.
Brown’s argument is summed up quite well in the character of Leigh Teabing’s claim that, “Almost everything our fathers taught us about Christ is false.”
Among the book’s supposed revelations are that Christ wasn’t Who He said He was, that He wasn’t divine, that He didn’t intend to create a Church founded upon Peter and the Apostles, that He married and had children, and that the Catholic Church has lied and murdered people to protect this “secret.”
The Code rearranges the characters of the Great Story and twists their relationships. His fable attempts to remake Christ in our own image, and by so doing proves to be an attack not only upon Christ and His Church, but also on Mary His mother.
The Absence of the Dragon
As interesting as the characters are that Brown includes in his fable, there is one central character given Chesterton’s trinity of characters who is missing.
By the Code’s substitution of the Church as the “dragon,” Brown has created a fable that lacks a true dragon.
Is it merely an oversight to create a story in which the Church is the “enemy,” but the real enemy is nowhere to be found? It sounds like the mantra of our age: “The devil doesn’t exist. There is no such thing as sin. There is no Hell.” The setup is the French poet Charles Baudelaire’s observation that “the devil’s first wile is to convince us that he does not exist” enfleshed in a novel.
Who would create and advance such a twisted story? One could rightly argue that the Evil One the missing dragon is actually behind any story that attempts to hijack the Christian narrative. That which attacks the Church comes from the Evil One. He, ultimately, is the one behind the story. Hence, he has conveniently created a story in which he, himself, is absent.
Contrast the Code’s approach with that of two successful motion pictures of the past few years, The Exorcism of Emily Rose and The Passion of the Christ. Both films chose to personify evil. In fact, Mel Gibson purposefully inserted the devil as a character to remind us that he does exist, portraying him as an androgynous, ambiguous, slightly attractive yet repulsive figure that provokes the Roman guards. The devil also mocks the Mother of Christ, the only other character in the film who seems to be able to see him.
The Attack on Mary
The Code, too, mocks the Mother of Christ. It is a fundamental attack on Mary. For it is the Blessed Virgin Mary, not Mary Magdalene, who is the true feminine icon for the Church. Christ protects the spotless bride, the Church. To degrade the Church is to desecrate Mary, the authentic “sacred feminine.”
If we accept the premise of the novel that Christ wasn’t divine it makes a mockery of the Immaculate Conception, Mary’s perpetual virginity, Mary’s “fiat”, and her Assumption. Her “yes” to God, and her role in salvation history, become utterly meaningless. Why would God need to preserve Mary from the stain of original sin or save her from death itself if she were not Mother of the Divine?
Whereas Christ takes our sins upon Himself, suffers, and dies upon the Cross, His mother is never injured physically. At the Cross, Christ gives His mother to John for safe-keeping. He bequeaths to the Apostles, in the same way, the Church for their safeguarding through history.
The Church Chesterton’s prince exemplified by the fraternity of Christ and the priesthood, protects Mary from attacks, both physical and doctrinal. In the divine plan the feminine is protected by the Father and the all-male clergy. This patriarchal and fraternal order is, of course, a structure of oppression to be despised and rejected by modern feminists.
The great mystery and paradox of the Church is that it is both the feminine the spotless bride and the masculine the apostolic Church. It is both that which is loved and that which fights. That’s why the Christian story is so great. That’s why it is the story of every age. It’s a complete story, not a neutered one.
Claims such as The Da Vinci Code’s are nothing new. Every new claim to redefine Christ is nothing more than an old heresy that’s been recycled and given new clothes. Arianism sought to deny Christ’s divinity. Nestorianism sought to deny Mary as the Mother of God. In the end, Brown’s claims, too, shall pass into history an unremembered fable. Drawing from Chesterton, we might say that The DaVinci Code is “ridiculous and deserves to be ridiculed.”
Meanwhile, the everlasting story the Christian narrative will continue. It is the ultimate romance. The hero sacrificially lays down His life out of love, and then returns victorious even over death, death on a Cross. As the early Apostles and martyrs of our own era have shown us, it’s a story worth dying for.
For that reason, it will endure.
The Christian story about a princess, a dragon, and a prince will be told by our children and their children’s children until the ultimate hero and dragon-slayer Jesus Christ returns in glory.
Tim Drake is the author of Young and Catholic: The Face of Tomorrow’s Church (Sophia Institute Press, 2004). He serves as senior writer with the National Catholic Register and Faith and Family Magazine. He writes from St. Joseph, Minnesota.
Young and Catholic can be ordered by calling 1-800-888-9344 or visiting Sophia Institute Press.
(This article originally appeared in the National Catholic Register and is used by permission of the author.)