The human soul has permanence, a quality etched deeply into us. For those who die in Christ, even after death there’s new life. Because it’s so fundamental to our identity, it’s natural that we tell stories about death and rebirth. The greatest of these stories, which just so happens to be true, is the Resurrection of Christ. Spreading out from this story and reaching back to it like an echo are countless other tales emphasizing the possibility of new life.
I’ve always been an avid reader. If you are, too, here are some classic books that contain the theme of resurrection.
Tale of Two Cities
— Charles Dickens
Sydney Carton is a flawed character throughout Tale of Two Cities, but his redeeming quality is love of a woman. She’s married, but when her husband is scheduled to be executed during the French Revolution, Sydney changes places with him for her sake. As he’s led to his death, he recalls a scripture verse: “I AM the resurrection and the life, says the Lord; he that believes in me, though he were dead, yet shall live.”
The Count of Monte Cristo — Andre Dumas
Edmond Dantes was betrayed by jealous friends and sent to prison, but he escapes with knowledge of a secret treasure a fellow prisoner gave him. With the money, he re-creates himself as the Count of Monte Cristo. At first, his new life is directed towards revenge, but eventually Dantes forgives his enemies and has a second chance at life.
Lord of the Rings
— J.R.R. Tolkien
Toward the middle of this tale, Gandalf the wizard confronts a beast called the Balrog. Gandalf is triumphant but is mortally wounded. He later reappears, resurrected, and Tolkien writes, “His hair was white as snow in the sunshine; and gleaming white was his robe; the eyes under his deep brows were bright, piercing as the rays of the sun; power was in his hand.”
War and Peace
— Leo Tolstoy
Prince Andrei has everything, but realizes he’s caught up in trivialities, so he joins the Russian army to seek greatness on the field of battle. During the Battle of Austerlitz, he’s gravely wounded. While lying on the battlefield gazing up at the sky, he has an epiphany. The only thing that will make him happy is love. Tolstoy writes, “Divine love cannot change. Nothing, not even death, can shatter it.” Andrei recovers and lives a new life.
The Little Prince
— Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
When he meets the Little Prince in his semi-autobiographical fairy tale, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry has crashed his plane in the desert. Both of them are stranded, and the Little Prince describes how he lives on a different planet. He longs to get back to it because he has a rose there that he loves. In the end, the Little Prince allows a venomous snake to bite his ankle and falls down, seemingly dead. He assures his friend beforehand, though, that appearances deceive and he will in fact be reborn and on his way home.
Happy reading, friends!
Father Rennier is pastor of Epiphany of Our Lord Parish in St. Louis. A former Anglican priest, he was ordained in 2016 under a pastoral provision for the reception of Anglicans and Episcopalians into full communion with the Catholic Church. He and his wife, Amber, have six children.