Sunday, March 23, 2008

"The Passion" revisited. PreVat II Speaks

Last night, Good Friday, I watched Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ.” I have seen this film each year since it first came out on Ash Wednesday, 2004. This is now a tradition in our household. This is such a magnificent film, and speaks to the very heart of the Christian Faith.

A few days ago, as we sat in church, I heard a priest say in his sermon, “No Good Friday, no Easter; no Easter, no salvation for mankind.” Simple, but direct. That is the Christian Faith.

I, like many of you, have seen just about every Christian movie made by Hollywood. From “The Robe” to “Ben Hur,” from “The Greatest Story Ever Told” to “Jesus of Nazareth.” Yet no film has ever captured pure, solid, Christian belief as does Gibson’s “The Passion.”

Several years ago, prior to its release, I followed closely the controversy surrounding “the Passion,” especially by those who had yet to even see one minute of the film. I was amazed at the outright hatred of so many, especially from Hollywood (who up until then had seen Gibson as a huge star and money maker), from liberal Jews, to liberal Christians (to include several Catholic Bishops), and, of course, from the secular media, most of who detest Christianity on any level.

Much was made of Gibson’s upbringing, his Traditional Roman Catholic faith (he was raised with only the old Mass, refusing to attend the new), and of his father, who was (and is) a sedevacantist (a Catholic who believes the last true Pope was Pius XII). Gibson, for his part, has never stated that he was (or is) a sedevacantist, but he has had some very strong words for the post-Vatican II church that Roman Catholics find themselves in. He also refused to walk away from his father. (Sounds like a current politician running for President today, no?)

One of the many things I found so interesting upon the release of “The Passion” was in the reactions from Christians around the world. (How non-Christian religions viewed this film is of no interest to me.) It seems as though Evangelical and fundamentalist Protestants, along with Traditional and conservative Roman Catholics, loved this film. Yet, it was liberal Catholics, and mainstream Protestant denominations, that had the most criticism of this portrayal of Christ’s Passion. The answer to this is, I believe, in so many mainstream Protestant denominations having steadily moved away from historical Christianity, where their faith, what it is, is based more on Jesus being simply a “good man” or a “good teacher” instead of God himself, the second person of the Holy Trinity. I also believe that it is the “hard sayings” of Christ regarding salvation that has effectively turned off these groups to what they all once held dear.

Not to be left out, I saw many of our older, much more liberal bishops (many who are so wrapped up in the Ecumenical movement) side with the mainstream Protestants over this film, and Gibson’s portrayal of the actual Passion.

My next comment is sure to upset many with in my Church. But, to put it bluntly, I do not believe that a post-Vatican II director could have made “The Passion” as Gibson did. It was, from beginning to end, nothing but Traditional Catholicism. Only one seeped in pre-Vatican II theology, a man of the Council of Trent, could have done what Gibson did so magnificently. I’m sure many would disagree with this statement, but I hold to it.

Lastly, I can never get over the shear brilliance of the casting, the score used, and the use of Aramaic and Latin by the actors. My two favorite scenes are during Christ’s walk to Golgotha. First, when Satan and Mary look at each other from opposite sides of the road. Both know who the other is. Both know what is expected of each in salvation history.

The second, and my most favorite scene, is when Mary runs to her Son, as He falls again with His cross. He looks up at her, puts His hand to her face and quotes Revelation 21:5, “Look, I make all things new!” Incredible film making by an incredible director.

I would ask all of you to think about what that priest said the other day, i.e., No Good Friday, no Easter. No Easter, no salvation.


Blogger Matthew said...

Caveman I would like to add some of my personal observations about this film. First I can cite a few "Mainstream" sources that endorsed this film: Billy Graham and the famous movie commentators: Ebert and Roeper.

Your comment about how a Post Vatican 2 Catholic wouldn't direct this film, I see how that can be true but I must say that some Pre-Vatican 2 Catholics that have a real hate towards any private revelation whether approved or unapproved and they would never use Anne Catherine Emmerich's visions as part of the movie.

Proof of this belief can be found on at Catholic forums where any topic of apparitions is discussed.

7:16 PM  
Blogger Hail3N1 said...

"Look, I make all things new!" This was my favorite part also! It tore me up. And I agree with you, about being a traditionalist as Gibson, who could/would make a film like this. Only a traditionalist would tell/show the Truth!

8:19 PM  
Blogger Vir Speluncae Catholicus said...

As much as I'd like to take credit for this post, I can't.

PreVatII penned this

5:42 AM  
Blogger mig said...

I am ashamed to say that I didn't put any effort into Lent (or Advent) this year. And so here it is Easter and I look around saying that I missed a year in the church. I can blame the church but it does lie with me. I am one of those people that has to have a shepherd. Maybe this was the year for me to realize and understand why Jesus uses the shepherd as our guide and protector. Only without one do I realize how much I depend on one. How easily it is to get lost without one. I beg God to send us a shepherd. I can't live without one.

6:59 AM  
Blogger PreVat2 said...

I received an excellent private message from a Catholic I have tremendous respect for, Former Altar Boy (FAB). Here are a few of his comments regarding my post:

"I, too, make "The Passion" an annual event. I agree with everything you said and add:

- the direction, the cinematography, and the costuming were each deserving of an Oscar but anti-Christian and/or, predominantly non-practicing Jewish Hollywood wasn't going to let that happen (yes, casting was marvelous - esp. a Jewish woman who last name is Morgenstern (German for Morning Star, one of the titles of the Blessed Virgin) was more than mere happenstance.

-the flashbacks to the Last Supper are each brilliant and so apt at the points they occur.

-one scene that stands by itself, but has extra meaning if one knows the language, is Judas seeing the rotting donkey, then hanging himself over it. One of the ancient names of Satan is Beelzebub (translation = lord of the flies [can also mean: lord of the dung heap]). I thought that was a clever play by Gibson.

As usual, FAB has hit it out of the ball park.

Here are a few additional comments from yours truely:

If you buy the latest DVD of "The Passion" it comes with an additional DVD showing numerous additional aspects in making the film. One very special part are the "deleted scenes." The first is the scene in which the Jewish leaders tell Pilate that Jesus' blood will be upon them and their children. Now in the final cut, Gibson took out the subtitles, but actually kept that part in. Very clever! The second deleted scene was when Pilate holds up the sign he has written to be placed above Christ's head on the cross. The Jewish leaders complain loudly. Pilate then yells at the crowd, "What I have written, I have written!"

Now why Gibson kept that great part out is a mystery to me. But boy, was it good!

Lastly, watch the hand that first drives in the very first nail. It is NOT the hand of a Roman soldier. It is, in fact, the hand of a Jewish Temple guard. Very clever of Gibson. There was enough guilt to go around!

8:50 AM  
Blogger Paul, just this guy, you know? said...

The second, and my most favorite scene, is when Mary runs to her Son, as He falls again with His cross. He looks up at her, puts His hand to her face and quotes Revelation 21:5, “Look, I make all things new!”

This bit, which combines a flashback in which Mary recalls an occasion when Jesus, as a child, was running and fell down and she ran to him then, brings tears to my eyes, as it did again when I watched the film this past Wednesday.

I'm not sure I agree that a novus ordo Catholic director could not have directed this film, but the simple fact is that none did.

Finally, it was my understanding that the hand seen swinging the hammer as the first nail is driven into Jesus' hand in fact the hand of Mel Gibson himself.

Great post!

10:12 AM  
Blogger Celibatarian said...

Given how many people inside and outside of hollywood were against this movie, its very existance is a miracle. And I mean that literally. This film cost Gibson alot in terms of political capital in hollywood. He is forever an outcast but considering the impact, wow, he did a good thing. God bless him.

7:19 PM  
Blogger Alicia said...

I have also made it a point to watch The Passion during Lent. The sequence depicting the scourging at the pillar always causes me to shake uncontrollably. I have watched it many times, yet this always occurs. This is THE most moving film I have ever seen.

11:32 PM  

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