As Mel Gibson's 'The Passion of The Christ' continues to sweep across this world like the Angel of The Lord swept across Egypt, knocking down not the first born but the most ignorant, we can already begin to feel the backlash of the winds and the tremors of distant, approaching storms. Still enraptured by the glow amid the sacrifice, by the washing salvation of Christ's Sacred Blood, and by His Blessed Mother's loving tears, we can allow the past to be forgiven by the present and embraced by a future full of new devotion to a Passion which had long become for many a label devoid of an image.
At this point we may ask, like the proverbial guy hit by the truck, "Did you get the license plate of that Miracle?" Recovering from this impact from God Almighty, it is up to us to determine if this will indeed be a changing event in our lives or just a spiritual hit and run. After seeing Our Lord's Stations of The Cross come to life like never before, we may rightly ask ourselves, "Which Station is This?"
Images and Impressions
Anyone who claims to be Catholic or Christian cannot see this film and not be left with indelible images and impressions which will forever reshape and redefine our vision of Christ's Passion. In the context of this film The Sorrowful Mysteries have been anointed with a more powerful, contemporary yet traditional, and vibrant glow.
I have found myself better able to meditate on these Mysteries armed with the impression of the masterpiece I have just seen. My love and connection to The Blessed Mother has also grown. Mel's work is so Marian that one cannot help but feel closer to She who became Our Mother. More than ever, I can plainly see The Virgin Mary as a loving embrace, a tender smile, a loving look, and a sorrowful partner.
Strangely enough, this film has made me realize more than ever how contemporary and how constant the events of Good Friday through Easter Sunday really are. The injustice, the arrogance, the betrayal, the hypocrisy, the deception and lies, the abuse of power, the cowardice, the rationalizations, the superficiality, the violence and abuse, the pain, the suffering, the tears were there and still remain with us! Fortunately for us, so unworthy yet loved by Our Lord, the love, the sacrifice, the forgiveness, the mercy, and the redemption were there and still remain as well!
Obviously, The Stations of The Cross have become The Images of The Cross.
It is as if someone had traveled back 2,000 years and photographed those events, bringing us images to recall and consider. I do not think that I will be able to follow these Stations or think about The Passion in the same way again. The wine had become stale and pale, and has now been refreshed, restocked, and vividly entrenched in my soul and palate.
It is as if the Miracle of Cana has been revisited upon today's generation. Many are amazed and grateful, believing in the miracle; others remain skeptical, their hardened hearts and prejudice scales blinding the true light of Truth for they have been intoxicated by the world, the flesh and the devil and even Mel's film can't sober them up. Alcoholics of anathema they remain.
Effects and Anticipations
If the true nature of following Christ is that we bring comfort to the uncomfortable and discomfort to the comfortable, then Mel's 'The Passion of The Christ' is indeed the true nature of Christ! This film has been like a bug spray which when sprayed pulls out all of the "bugs" hiding in the woodwork. Where there were hidden agendas and not-so-hidden prejudices and biases against Christian and Catholic ideals, there are now open opponents and clear enemies of the truth and of Catholicism itself. The wheat is being separated from the chaff through soul-revealing reaction to this experience.
The doubts have been removed from our perception of people like Frank Rich and Andy Rooney and Christopher Hitchens and Abraham Foxman and Rabbi Marvin Hier and Rabbi Schmuley Boteach and Paula Fredericksen. The true, courageous Catholics and Christians have been identified, and the cowards have been revealed. The true Catholic leaders have arisen, and the false, politically correct frauds have been identified. Thanks to this film the blur between Christ and this world, between faith and fad, and between the sacred and the secular has never been clearer. The movie has been nothing short of a spiritual laser surgery for our soul's eye, removing the blur and allowing clear, distinct, unmistakable spiritual vision.
The 'meal' has once again been stamped as an everlasting sacrifice and the gathering of buddies at the Novus Ordo Messes has once again been exposed as a counterfeit that was so cheaply traded for the authentic Rite intended for all New Testament time as the Commemoration of The Sacrifice - the True Mass, the purpose of which was to provide an everlasting reminder of why Christ died and how much He loves us that He gave us the Mass of the Faithful to enable His children to gather to praise, to give thanks, to ask forgiveness, to petition, to hear His Word, and to receive His Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity and be refreshed in His graces while willingly carrying our crosses for Him daily.
One cannot but think of the Iscariot betraying Christ to replicate how those who have sought the destruction of the True Mass have betrayed the Mystical Body of Christ today. Just as Christ says it would have been better had he never been born, so also it would have been better had the reforms of Vatican II never seen the light of day for we have wallowed for forty years in confusion and darkness. Now, there is a light on the horizon that has been brightened by Mel's masterpiece.
The synthetic liturgy and modern Scribes and Pharisees are coming apart at the seams in the same manner the temple floor was torn asunder upon the death of The Christ. Like the promised resurrection when the Temple was rebuilt in three days, the rebuilding of the True Sacrifice and true tenets of the Sacred Deposit of the Faith have begun and will one day return to its exalted position as absolute and the Latin Mass be returned to its revered status as the only Rite of the Roman Catholic Church after all innovations and experimentations will have proven to have failed miserably.
Concessions and Convictions
A very interesting issue is just how long this glow of the film will last, how long the spiritual ski jump will go before the skis hit the snow. Hopefully, the film will run its course over a long, extended trajectory lasting well into and past Holy Week! Certainly the DVD and video versions will allow the miracle to continue as a recurring family experience.
Another interesting question is in what way, if any, the financial boom of this project will translate into application and reaffirmation of traditional Catholic ideals and hopes. Perhaps Mel Gibson will have much to say on this front, as proposed by Michael Cain's insightful open letter to him posted last week at Turn the mirage into a Miracle!.
A fascinating paradox, an entertaining irony is forming on the horizon. I initially felt sure that Hollywood would completely ignore the majesty, the magnitude, and the masterpiece of this film and render it Oscar-less, at least in major categories like Director, Actor, Actress, and Cinematography. However, strange yet consistent with Hollywood's hypocrisy and opportunism, we have seen philosophical opponents, liberal celebrities, and political/social foes running to kiss Mel's hand. It is almost as if they are saying, in typical Hollywood style, "Way to go Mel, that's the way to show em'!" and "That's the way to rake in the bucks!" Can you not see the same patronizing pathos of several of these modern Scribes and Pharisees toward Mel as those who tried to butter up the Romans or persuade the people Christ wasn't really who He said He was or that much of a threat to their positions. While behind the scenes, they were in a panic, so insecure were they for they were living the lie as hypocrites. So also today in both the secular and religious climes.
I think that these modern-day idiots have three choices right now given the apparent popularity and financial power of the film. One, they can openly and honestly attack and object to the film and its creator, such as Vanity Fair's Hitchens, an avowed atheist who has reignited the whole feud with his hate-filled diatribe calling Mel a "Fascist" and a "queer basher" among other things, thus ensuring more people will go see the film than even before. Two, they can openly and perhaps dishonestly praise and applaud the film and its creator, while giving it backhanded disclaimers with the always present "but..." as the USCCB and so many bishops have done, or three, openly praise Mel while privately objecting to the creation and its messages and tone as many bishops and Hollywood movers and shakers who, like the Pharisees, realize their position of power and stature are eroding because of their hypocritical ways. I believe that most of Hollywood and the hierarchy will take the last path, in typically cynical, opportunistic, deceptive, dishonest, scheming, hypocritical, and two-faced Hollywood style and tradition. It's part of the Hollywood make-up, part of the Vatican II facade. Synthetic temporal things are like that.
The good thing is that Mel knows their ways while being an intelligent, practical man who sees the folly and uselessness of the temporal and artificial. Ironic isn't it that here is a man to whom money really isn't important to him, really, and God has blessed him with more wealth both temporally and spiritually than anyone can imagine. Whereas for those who worship the almighty buck, it is both spiritual and temporal peace of mind are so hard to come by honestly. Did not Our Lord say, "Ask, and it shall be given you: seek, and you shall find: knock, and it shall be opened to you" (Matthew 7: 7).
We can only hope and pray that many will find their way back to the threshold of that Door of Hope and have the courage of their convictions because of Mel's uncompromising convictions to cross that Providential Portal to fully embrace the Truth, the Way, and the Life.
Mel's film is one of the most masterful keys ever casted to fit the Divine Door.
I've got a feeling Mel is pretty savvy about all of this and will hopefully turn the false support to some positive use if possible or at least ride it to some recognition of his film's quality and, hopefully, its message. The other two choices mentioned will not work for the two-faced fools of Hollywood because none of them want to look like idiots attacking a bank or a Catholic convert fawning over Mel's efforts. We have already seen the backlash against Bishop Patrick McGrath for his heresy-ridden statement against 'The Passion' that blew up in his face and exposed him for what he is: a betrayer of Catholic truth. He is not alone, only one of the foolish among the majority of prelates to go public in anathema.
Whatever the course of those future events, it is interesting that this film has managed to reveal the bugs from Hollywood to Rome and everywhere in between! I would love to see at least a Best Director Oscar and Mel's acceptance speech! A dream? What we have in front of us is either vindication of sorts or a grave injustice. Either way, Mel wins!
Stations and Landmarks
Looking at Mel's effort and his travails over the past year, one cannot help but see this whole project as some sort of artistic, contemporary Via Dolorosa. We have seen Mel betrayed by his industry, falsely accused by his enemies, abused by his detractors and critics, loaded with various crosses to bear, considered by supporters, fallen at times, nailed, crucified, and mocked. What of the greater Via Dolorosa of salvation for mankind? How far are we along this road to salvation and redemption? How far have we moved along the route of suffering and sacrifice for our souls and those of others?
Some will proclaim that we are already basking in the glow of Easter Sunday given Mel's impressive showing. Others will claim that we are hanging on the cross waiting for soon-to-arrive-turns-of-fate. Still others will state that we are on the stony path, falling and rising daily under the weight of our sins and crosses. I believe that we are just in the beginning. Many of us are still waiting in somewhat trepidation in the Garden of Gethsemane, sweating out the unknown as we watch the torches of our persecuters and betrayers approaching. Many trials and abuses await us. Hopefully Mel's film will provide us with a powerful visual roadmap and reminder of what we must do and what we are fighting for. When we feel the lash of vicious barbs, or sense the evil one trying to lure us from the narrow path, we will harken back to the scenes where Christ resisted and take heart in what lies ahead. When we are berated for standing up to sin, we will take comfort in the soft, pure veil of grace that wipes our souls clean through the Sacrament of Penance. And when we, as every human does, fall again we will remember that the shame is not in falling, but failing to get up. Encouraged by Our Lady's Motherly love and consoling comfort and her Divine Son's example, that message of persistence will pay off for eternity. Mel is living proof of this persistence, that love for Jesus and Mary, and for the Truths of Catholicism. His film: everlasting proof.
We all know B.C. and A.D. as designations separating history before and after the birth of Christ. Perhaps we can add ATP as our newest designation counting years in the 21st Century. With this in mind, next year, 2005, will also be thought of as 1 ATP, one year After The Passion! That's the kind of impression this film could have on civilization in the years to come for I truly believe 'The Passion of The Christ' will be annual fare at your local theater every Lent. And why not? Outside of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, can you think of a better reminder of why Christ died for us? Yes, you might say the Bible, but think about it: Mel has left a lasting impression for he has brought the Book to life by depicting so visually the Way, the Truth and the Life as it was always meant to be presented to man by God Almighty. "For God so loved the world, as to give His only-begotton Son: that whosoever believeth in Him, may not perish, but may have life everlasting" (John 3: 16).