A Novel by Henryk Sienkiewicz
The historical novel, Quo Vadis, is an epic story of early Christians in Rome during the time of the Emperor Nero. The hidden actor in the narrative is the Risen Christ, yet the believers’ faith makes the reader sense Christ’s presence. The central storyline involves the love between Ligia and Marcus. She is a foster daughter of a Roman general, originally of a Ligian people. Marcus, a Roman general, falls in love with her in what is a love triangle between the wife of Emperor Nero, Marcus, and Ligia. The Christian Ligia’s beauty, adorned by virtue, wins his heart. Marcus’ relationship with Ligia opens the way to the Great Commandment as lived by the persecuted followers of the Jewish Revolutionary, Jesus of Nazareth. Nero blames the Christians for the tragic fire that destroyed much of Rome—a fire of the city that Nero ordered. The narrative critiques the ways of the world, without the love of Christ, power corrupts and destroys. The beautiful story confirms love’s power over the forces that threaten to break the bond with Christ and neighbor.
The narrative of the early Christian community is a paradigm for the Church in a time of shifting cultural, political, and internal polarization. What ultimately keeps the Body of Christ vital? It is the seamless garment of love that joins us together and makes us witnesses to the Risen Lord. In a word, Quo Vadis highlights the need for a devoted Christian witness in what the evangelist called the new age of the Risen Christ.
The author, Henryk Sienkiewicz, completed the novel in 1895 and published it soon thereafter to international audiences. In 1905, Sienkiewicz was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature for his outstanding epics works like Quo Vadis and The Teutonic Knights.
To conclude, good literature awakens our Christian imagination. As a high school student, I was rewarded for persevering through the 455 pages. I felt encouraged in my faith and shed tears over a passage in Chapter 69. In the passage, Peter is fleeing Rome on account of the new persecution. When Peter notices Christ walking toward Rome into imminent danger, he asks, “Quo vadis Domine?” To which Jesus responds, “If thou desertest my people, I am going to Rome to be crucified a second time.” At which time, Peter turns around and returns to Rome to die for Christ.
The novel will strengthen your faith in the truth revealed by Christ and move your heart to embrace his way.
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