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But, perhaps, the greatest piece is Fyodor Dostoevski’s book The Brothers Karamazov. The book is possibly the finest literature ever written by human hand. In it is found a chapter entitled “The Grand Inquisitor.” Ivan Karamazov is telling his brother a story that he has just written. The setting is Spain, during the terrible Spanish Inquisition where many people were put to death by the church for almost any heretical belief — real or imagined. In the story, Christ decides to reappear on earth during the time of the Inquisition. He comes quietly and inconspicuously, but everyone recognizes him and many are excited about his appearance. He says almost nothing, but people are drawn to him by an irresistible force. He stretches his hand out to bless the people and they are healed as he touches them. Christ is walking by the great Cathedral of Seville just as a child’s little coffin is brought in, with weeping parents who follow it into the church. Inside the casket is a lifeless little girl of seven. The child’s mother implores Christ to bring her back. Without a word he touches the young girl and raises her from the dead. Meanwhile, the bishop is looking on disapprovingly. His face darkens and he orders the arrest of the Stranger. But during the night, the Bishop descends the stairs into the cavern of the Sacred Court building where the Stranger is being held in a dark, vaulted prison. The Bishop, who is the Grand Inquisitor, i.e. the one who inquires in order to discover heretics, looks at Christ in the squalid cell and says, “Is it you? You? Do not answer, be silent... Why did you come to meddle with us? Tomorrow I shall condemn you and burn you at the stake as the vilest of heretics, and the same people who today kissed your feet, will at the first sign from me rush to rake up the coals at your stake tomorrow.” But the Grand Inquisitor somehow changes his mind, and the story ends with these words: “When the Inquisitor finished speaking, he waited for some time for the Prisoner’s reply. His silence distressed him. He saw that the Prisoner had been listening intently to him all the time, looking gently into his face and evidently not wishing to say anything in reply. The old man would have liked him to say something, however bitter and terrible. But [the Prisoner] suddenly approached the old man and kissed him gently on his bloodless, aged lips. That was all his answer. The old man gave a start. There was an imperceptible movement at the corners of his mouth; he went to the door, opened it and said to him: ‘Go, and come no more—don’t come at all—never, never!’ And he let him out into ‘the dark streets and lanes of the city.’ The Prisoner went away.”


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