As Dr Esolen remarks, Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives is a short volume but for that very reason may be the ideal introduction to Pope Benedict XVI’s writings. In this Monday’s Wall Street Journal, Esolen writes:
Imagine touring the Sistine Chapel with someone who has done more than merely read some learned commentary on the paintings of Michelangelo. He has looked at them, pondered them, loved them, even waited upon them to reveal their inner harmony, and now he seeks to hand on to you what he has found. Imagine listening to a master organist, not playing the whole St. Matthew Passion but showing you, as he touches a chord here and makes a progression there, some hint of the grandeur of Bach’s composition that you might miss in the overwhelming storm of its performance. Then you have an idea of what Pope Benedict XVI has attempted in his three-volume work on the life of Jesus, but most humbly and sweetly in the “Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives.”
Modern men too often see things only by the guttering firelight of politics. Pope Benedict, who wrote many works of deep scholarship while simple Joseph Ratzinger, also served as the head of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, earning him a reputation among the ignorant as combative—”God’s Rottweiler.” It may surprise some, then, to read that Pope Benedict has written about one topic all his life long. Love is the key to his work, as it is the theme and lesson of this work. Indeed, the Pope has written that in Jesus, the man and the mission are one, and the mission is the holiness of love—of being entirely for and with God, and for and with mankind, without reserve. Now Benedict shows how this understanding of Jesus is manifest from the beginning, in his conception, his birth and his childhood.
(Go to Dr Esolen’s article for the rest of the review.)