Skip to comments.Reflections on The Passion of the Christ
Posted on 03/17/2004 8:06:54 PM PST by Land of the Irish
The Passion of the Christ
David Allen White, Ph.D.
REMNANT GUEST COLUMNIST, Virginia
Reviews offer evaluations of movies; this is not a review because Mel Gibsons film The Passion of the Christ is not a movie; it is a great work of Catholic art and a turning point in human history.
Who would have guessed back in the year 2000 as one millennium passed into another that in a few brief years the highest grossing five day opening in cinema history would be for a film that chronicles in excruciating detail the passion and death of Our Lord Jesus Christ? In a world gone secular and filled with lies, ruled by demonic hatred of the Truth, especially the Truth of God; in a world awash in sin and rife with unrestrained and prideful human desires, governed by hatred of the Good, especially the Goodness of God; in a world defaced by ugliness and reveling in deformity, governed by the hatred of Beauty, especially the Beauties of Gods Creation; in such a world who could have imagined the box office triumph and the heart-felt response to a true work of art, a good work of art, a beautiful work of art, especially one that demands so much of the viewer?
The extreme reactions evoked by the film provide a straightforward spiritual litmus test. Will you see the film or not? Will you believe the film or not? Will you obey His Commandments or not? Has there ever been a work of art so miraculously designed to separate the sheep from the goats, or to see if the sheep will follow the shepherd or stray off on their own? The film must be divinely inspired.
Mr. Gibson has said that the real maker of the work is the Holy Spirit. He has been mocked for saying so. In a historical sense, he has said nothing unusual. All artists and poets and musicians from the dawn of time have known that they are dependent on an outward force that works through them to produce the end product. Some arrogant artists have assumed they were themselves the source of their genius, but for the most part such men are aberrations. The majority of great artists have appealed to the muses or to divine inspiration or to God Himself for assistance. Following their creative act, they have thanked the source, such as Bach writing S.D.G. at the conclusion of his compositions Soli Deo Gloria, To God Alone the Glory. The director of The Passion merely places himself in line with these great artists.
The howling voices in the press would deny Mr. Gibson the status of artist. A real artist, according to their perverse judgment, mocks our Lord, as do many in the film who jeer as Our Lord passes along the Via Dolorosa. You may place a crucifix in a beaker of urine or create a portrait of the Blessed Virgin with elephant dung, you may suggest Our Lord had unruly passions directed toward Mary Magdalene or unnatural relations with His Disciples this is real spirituality and profound insight say the twisted, liberal, academic, worldly commentators. Yes, the spirituality of the demonic, the profundity of the abyss. To show the truth of Our Lords sorrow and suffering and sacrifice drives them into a violent frenzy, just as when a vampire is confronted with a crucifix. The elite intellectuals in America are indeed the walking dead.
These same voices who sang hosannas and built shrines before the bloody carnage and gory excesses of Peckinpah and Spielberg and Tarantino now hold their noses in the air and sniff at the violence in Mel Gibsons masterpiece. This is a self-evident red herring. There have indeed been times when violence was considered unsuitable for human viewing. The Greeks of the fifth century B.C. allowed violence on the stage with only rare exceptions. They considered it obscene, which in Greek means away from the scene or off stage. These actions, not being proper for civilized men to witness, were to occur off-stage. Thus Oedipus blinds himself off-stage and Medea slays her own children off-stage. The Greeks were also so sensitive to religious piety that when Aeschylus put the female goddesses of revenge, the Furies, on stage in a scene set at the Temple of Apollo, the mere thought of such sacrilege so disturbed audiences that grown men fainted and pregnant women miscarried.
Such is not our time. We are more like the Romans, a society centered on politics and law and engineering, legitimate pursuits that too easily descend into manipulation and legalisms and pride. Like the Romans, we have a thirst for blood. For decades our cinema screens have been awash with blood. We have had no qualms about allowing our young to grow up watching (via movies and television and video games) thousands and thousands of simulated horrors. We called this artistic freedom. Such freedom stops, however, when it comes to Our Lord. His Passion should not be shown. Why not?
The simple fact, of course, though the raucous voices of hate would never admit it, is that they know quite well what His Blood represents, as opposed to all the rest of the blood shed for years on many of those same screens. And the director makes this fact very clear. This is His Precious Blood, made Precious because it is the Blood sacrificed to the Father in atonement, as the reparation for the sins of the world. His precious Blood had to be shed, among thousands of other causes, because parents in our time would love their own children so little as to allow them to be killed in the womb or, if they survive, to grow up watching bloody horrors and other obscenities that will scar their young souls for eternity. The Preciousness of the Blood of the Christ is underlined in the magnificent scene where Pilates wife brings the white cloths to the two Marys. Unable to bind Our Lords wounds as He has already been taken away, they kneel in the courtyard and wipe up that Blood, letting it be absorbed into the large swaths. They are not cleaning the ground; they are preserving His Precious Blood, the Precious Blood shed for the critics and the academics and the self-appointed intelligentsia. They know this and it drives them mad.
It should also madden the novus ordo establishment. God in His infinite wisdom has allowed the greatest work of Catholic art, and thus the greatest work of art, of the age to be created by a Traditional Catholic. In a post-Vatican II Church that has turned its eyes away from the Passion of Our Lord, Mel Gibson has shoved this hard Truth before the eyes of the world. He has done more apostolic work in the last week than the entire Church hierarchy has in the last forty years. In their pristine, sentimental new order temples of felt banners and eagles wings and liturgical dancers and altar girls and resurrecifixes and kisses of peace and lay ministers and Father Bobs and Father Mikes and social justice, where has the Precious Blood been located? Not on the supper table and maybe not even in the chalice at the consecration, given the arrogant sentimentality of these reformers which allowed them to change Our Lords very words to be spoken at the moment of the consecration of the wine into His Precious Blood. The Great Sacrifice is back, but not in the novus ordo temples; no, it is on the screen, placed there with devotion and faith and love by a great artist to be witnessed by millions of viewers who have forgotten this great gift or have never been aware of it before.
That Mel Gibson in his subtitling gets the words of Our Lord correct in his translation of pro multis as for many shows what a simple task such precision is. You do not have to be a scholar or a linguist or a genius to get the translation right. You simply have to love Our Lord more than you love the praise of the world. The faulty translation of for all in the novus ordo mass shows that the New Church loves its own ecumania more than it loves the words of Our Lord. And how about the canard that the people will no longer respond to the Mass in Latin? Oh, no? Well, how about a popular film in Latin and Aramaic? The voices of those who know insisted the people would never respond. The film instantly gives the lie to years of deliberate falsehood and disinformation coming from the post-Vatican II Church.
There are wonderful touches throughout the film to catch the eyes and to delight the hearts, not to mention to comfort the souls, of Traditional Catholics. The Latin language and the correct translation of for many at the Last Supper are only the beginning. How about the glorious moment when, as the cross is raised up and falls with a tremendous jolt into place, thus beginning the Great Sacrifice, Mary Magdalene covers her head with a veil? How about all those who love Our Lord kneeling before the Great Sacrifice? How about the Blessed Mother on that first Good Friday coming forward to kiss the feet of Our Lord as He hangs on the cross, an action re-enacted by millions of Catholics over the centuries on every Good Friday? And just what is the curious piece of brown cloth on straps that hangs over the shoulders of the Good Thief on his cross as he asks Our Lord to remember him when He comes into His Kingdom?
I have no doubt there are countless other sublime touches from this man devoted to the Traditional Catholic Faith. I have only seen the film twice. On a second viewing, the film offered a very different experience. Not as shell-shocked with the visceral impact of Our Lords profound suffering, I saw new things and experienced different emotions. I had not seen at my first viewing the dove flying over our Lords head when, with His eye badly bruised, He comes before Pilate for the first time, a clear parallel to that other bird and that other eye that appear late in the film, bringing something other than consolation to the unrepentant thief. This is a work of art and will demand multiple viewings which, being a great work of art, it will repay with new insights and new sublimities. (The art historians must get to work. The number of reminiscences of great paintings of the past from Grunewald to Caravaggio to Raphael and so on is astonishing.)
As to the non-Catholics who have seen the film or spoken against it, we have obligations in charity. This is a perfect occasion to explain to the poor Protestants the connection between the Crucifixion and the Real Presence. Through his brilliant cross-cutting, Mr. Gibson has given us all the material we need to bring the point home. We must also explain the central role of the Blessed Mother in salvation history. Again, this good Catholic man, this great artist, has done the work for us. We have an obligation to make clear that the film is obviously not anti-Semitic. At the same time, we need to understand the central role of the Jews in Gods providential plan. Just as they unwittingly did Gods work two thousand years ago, they have played a central role in turning this film into a worldwide phenomenon that will be seen by millions of people. Once again, God is using these people; from their fulmination and their hatred and their rage, He has brought forth great good. We must try to convert them to the Truth, to accept finally the Messiah who died for them.
And the novus ordo Catholic Church that with the exception of some good devout priests has stood silently by and given no support or encouragement at any point in the production or dissemination of this great work of Catholic art? I could not help but be struck in both my viewings by the pompous arrogance of the High Priests who stood by unmoved, unrepentant, with, in fact, a slight hint of smug self-satisfaction, as Our Lord was tortured and abused. Could there be a more obvious parallel to the attitude of our own hierarchy who has delivered up the Mystical Body of Our Lord Jesus Christ and stood silently by with a measure of pompous self-assurance as His Mystical Body has been abused and humiliated, spat upon and vilified, tortured and crucified? Surely Solange Hertz is correct when she states that in our age we are witnessing the Passion of the Church.
To believing Catholics, the disdain and indifference shown by Church officials toward this film is heartbreaking. From the silence of the American bishops (with the exception of Bishop McGrath of San Jose who raised his voice in the heretical statement that the gospels are not historical accounts of historical events) to the farcical fumbling of Vatican officials over the alleged five words only five?! supposedly uttered by the usually garrulous Pope, the Catholic Church hierarchy has once again disgraced itself. We must pray that God will soon end this great spiritual chastisement.
Near the beginning of the film, the director shows Peter denying Our Lord three times. After the suffering but loving countenance of our Lord is turned toward Peter and Peter looks into the face of his Master and Savior, he is overcome with guilt and sorrow. His immediate response is to go to the Blessed Mother and, falling at her feet, say, weeping, I have denied him, Mother. May one day another Keeper of the Keys be granted such a moment of revelation and follow in the footsteps of that first pontiff, for only through such an admission of guilt and only at the feet of Mary can we hope for the denial of Our Lord to end. The triumph of Her Immaculate Heart and a period of peace for the world will follow the full restoration of the One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic Church.
On behalf of all Traditional Catholics, I thank you Mel Gibson for assisting in the possibility of such a restoration and giving to our souls much needed hope in this time of weariness and sorrow and trial. You have reminded us of what we too can expect from the world. If they have hated Me, our Lord says to His disciples in the film, they will hate you. Thank you for making our Lent richer in its true meaning and in the days to come for helping to make our cross a bit lighter. We carry it in good Catholic company, in genuine fellowship with you and with the Suffering Christ.
I tip my hat to that remark. Couldn't have said it better myself.
Gibson has dealt a serious blow to the N.O. "feelgood" Mass. As the film is seen by more and more Catholics, and as its message sinks in and takes root, parishoners are going to be less and less satisfied with superficial kumbaya liturgies, and are going to demand more serious, devotional Masses from their pastors.
Perhaps, even some of the priests may be touched by the film, and reconsider the manner in which they have been saying Mass.
How fervently do I pray this.
I take this guy's Ph.D. is not in logic. No way to get from A to E logically.