Apocalyptic Fiction | Rose Trabbic | IPNovels.com
An interview with Michael D. O’Brien about his new novel, Elijah in Jerusalem, the sequel to his 1996 debut novel, Father Elijah: An Apocalypse
Michael D. O’Brien is a best-selling novelist, an insightful social critic, and an acclaimed painter. In 1996 Ignatius Press published his debut novel, Father Elijah: An Apocalypse, a powerful story of a Carmelite priest’s confrontation with the Antichrist. Since then, Ignatius has published ten more of his novels. His writing has been compared to Dostoevsky by Peter Kreeft, and has been praised by the late Sheldon Vanauken, who said of Father Elijah: “I’ve read thousands of books, and this is one of the great ones. I hope tens of thousands read it, and are shaken as I have been.”
It has been nearly twenty years since the publication of Father Elijah. It’s now that we return to the story of Elijah Schäfer: priest, Holocaust survivor, and witness to the end times. Rose Trabbic interviewed Michael O’Brien about the new novel Elijah in Jerusalem for the Ignatius Press Novels blog.
In the preface to Elijah in Jerusalem you wrote, “To presume that we have received in advance a precise decryption of the symbolic prophecies in the book of Revelation – a route map or survivalist manual, as it were – is to weaken our faculty of discernment and our openness to the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the angels.” Why did you feel the need to write this warning in the preface?
O’Brien: World-angst is in the very atmosphere we breathe daily. The apocalyptic sense saturates the consciousness, and subconscious, of contemporary mankind. It manifests in a variety of ways, for example in the tsunami of disaster films and also in the neo-horror films which corrupt the meaning of the supernatural. It’s also visible in the proliferation of people claiming to be mouth-pieces for God. My purpose in writing a cautionary introduction to the novel was mainly to warn believing Christians against this particularly dangerous form of apocalypticism. Because my novel deals with apocalyptic themes in an imaginative way, I did not want any readers treating the story as a kind of “prophetic” foretelling of the future, adding it to the thousand voices proclaiming wildly diverse scenarios of the future.
Do you reject private revelation?
O’Brien: No, I surely do not. However, I maintain that in this field of the spiritual life we must always exercise particularly careful discernment. While I respect private revelation that is tested and approved by legitimate religious authority, I am concerned about the way many deeply devout people have fallen into a kind of neo-gnostic consumption of the locutions of seers and visionaries, indiscriminately, and to the degree that it becomes an insatiable appetite. All too easily this leads to displacing the Gospels and the teachings of the Church with a pseudo-Gospel, an End-Times Gospel. In my novel, both authentic and false private revelations play a role; the authentic consoles and strengthens God’s servants, the false sows confusion among the most devout of the Lord’s followers. Both are indeed present in our times—at the very moment in history when we need to be most united in our resistance to evil.
In Elijah in Jerusalem, the Antichrist emerges as the world leader, and Father Elijah is sent to rebuke him and call him to repentance. One of the Antichrist’s important platforms is to erase all differences with religions so that there will be peace. Why is this a dangerous and false illusion?