Getting into the mind of Jesus’ mother inspired a retired psychiatrist to write a novel about what Mary might have experienced during her son’s life.
Lorne Brandt, who attends Peace Mennonite Church in Richmond, has always had an interest in women’s issues and women’s theology. A Sword Shall Pierce Your Soul is his first novel, self-published through FriesenPress’s office in Victoria, B.C.
“I do refer to it as a novel,” says Brandt, “but in the sense that it is very much based on what we have written in the Bible, as well as my own knowledge gained from wider learning about the culture of the time, as well as what I learned on two trips to the Holy Land some years back. As such, it really fits in the biblical or historical-fiction genres.”
The idea for the book came about when Brandt began reflecting some years ago about the resurgence of interest in sermons on biblical stories rather than topics, and how people encounter different characters from the Bible.
“I preached my first sermon on the role of women at Easter back in 1967, having just graduated from Canadian Mennonite Bible College,” he recalls. “The occasion was the church of which I was a member then having a vote to allow women to vote, or not, at what used to be called ‘brotherhood meetings.’ ” The vote was favourable, he says.
Brandt started studying women of the Bible, such as Tamar, Rahab and Bathsheba.
“From there, or maybe even before that, the idea of writing something based on one whom I would call the most important woman in the Bible occurred to me,” he says. “Part of my motivation for reading about women such as this is that I hope it inspires women in our day to see the role women did play in the Bible and early church, and how that should encourage them for today.”
The title—which refers to Simeon’s words to Mary in Luke 2, when Jesus’ parents dedicated him at the temple—relates to the plot, which has some Anabaptist theology worked into the outcome.
“The sword in the Bible often means the Word of God,” he says. “The Word of God piercing your soul, that’s where the Anabaptist part comes in. It’s something that, in my imagination, haunted Mary through her life. When she saw Jesus on the cross, that would have pierced her soul too. [In the book] I have Jesus visiting his mother after the resurrection. What son would not visit his mother?”
As for future writing projects, Brandt says, “I have actually begun to work pretty far into a sequel, but just need to use more self-discipline and motivation to complete it!”
A Sword Shall Pierce Your Soul can be obtained through CommonWord.ca or FriesenPress. Brandt also looks forward to promoting his book at a “Borscht and Books” event at the Mennonite Heritage Museum in Abbotsford on May 18. To watch an interview with the author, visit bit.ly/417WVRJ.
Do you have a story idea about Mennonites in B.C.? Send it to Amy Rinner Waddell at firstname.lastname@example.org.