Thursday, September 15, 2011

The mestizo's confession

Another brilliant vignette from The Power and the Glory. . .

But the man wouldn't stop. The priest was reminded of an oil-gusher which some prospectors had once struck near Concepción — it wasn't a good enough field apparently to justify further operations, but there it had stood for forty-eight hours against the sky, a black fountain spouting out of the marshy useless soil and flowing away to waste — fifty thousand gallons an hour. It was like the religious sense in man, cracking suddenly upwards, a black pillar of fumes and impurity, running to waste. ‘Shall I tell you what I've done? — It's your business to listen. I've taken money from women to do you know what, and I've given money to boys . . . ’

‘I don't want to hear.’

‘It's your business.’

‘You're mistaken.’

‘Oh no, I'm not. You can't deceive me. Listen. I've given money to boys — you know what I mean. And I've eaten meat on Fridays.’ The awful jumble of the gross, the trivial, and the grotesque shot up between the two yellow fangs, and the hand on the priest's ankle shook and shook with the fever. ‘I've told lies, I haven't fasted in Lent for I don't know how many years. Once I had two women — I'll tell you what I did . . . ’ He had an immense self-importance; he was unable to picture a world of which he was only a typical part — a world of treachery, violence, and lust in which his shame was altogether insignificant. How often the priest had heard the same confession — Man was so limited he hadn't even the ingenuity to invent a new vice: the animals knew as much. It was for this world that Christ had died; the more evil you saw and heard about you, the greater glory lay around the death. It was too easy to die for what was good or beautiful, for home or children or a civilization — it needed a God to die for the half-hearted and the corrupt. He said, ‘Why do you tell me all this?’

There's more of sin and grace in this novel than in many a theology textbook.

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