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Good Morning Nanty Glo!
        Friday, April 2 2004

Jon Kennedy, webmaster

The Passion of the Christ

Thursday night my son Kevin took me to see Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ. The film having been a discussion topic on our forum this past week, I thought I'd share my impressions as today's postcard.

Generally, it didn't disappoint in any way, nor did it blow me away. I stuffed my pockets with tissues, knowing my "Irish eyes" tend to run and having read lots of testimonies that there was lots of weeping in the theaters. I misted over several times, but tend to do that even at commercials; I didn't have to reach into any of those pockets. The theater was not crowded, but there were lots of people, most of whom turned out to be there as a bloc as members of an all-male recovery group. I mention that because we did hear some sniffles in other rows around us.

I thought the production values were superior to most of the well remembered biblical-themed movies of old; the narrative effects are realistic; the setting is authentic looking, there is no over acting, but the performances are solid and never lacking authenticity. Having been given to think the satan character was constantly going in and out of male and female forms, I was impressed that that's not so. Instead, the actor in that part is an androgenous or sexually ambiguous person. My guess that maybe Gibson portrayed the devil as a woman in some segments to make her/him alluring was wrong; the actor may be an effeminate man or a masculine woman; I'm still not sure what s/he was.

Lots of extra-biblical church tradition shows up in the script, the most noticeable being the Catholic legend of St. Veronica (which is based on the Latin for "true icon") in which a woman from the sidelines of the procession to Golgotha pats the Lord's face with her veil, which causes an image of Jesus' facial features to transfer to the cloth as an icon. A less obvious application of a tradition not referenced in the New Testament is the film's portrayal of Pilate's wife as a sympathizer with Jesus. Church tradition holds that she became a member of the church after it was established. Though I've heard Jewish critics call the favorable treatment of Pilate in the movie as one of its "anti-Semitic" points, I think Gibson was trying to show Pilate as trying to play to his wife's concerns more than making him a "good guy" in contradiction with historical records about him.

I can understand why some critics who are not familiar with the Gospel accounts (or even previous movies like Jesus of Nazareth or King of Kings) saying they had difficulty understanding some of the scenes. Without a grounding in the story's outline, some sequences are puzzling. One that was probably a reflection of either Catholic traditional legend or something revealed to one of the mystics Gibson reportedly read for background on the passion, is a scene of Mary, His mother, and Mary Magdalene wiping up the blood left behind on the floor where He had been scourged. Though it was dramatic and didn't seemed out of place, it suggested more hidden meaning than ever became clear to me. This is often a valid criticism of movies based on books; the Ring Trilogoy, for example, leave me bewildered many times, having not read Tolkien's books, but that doesn't diminish the excellence of the film adaptations.

As for it being anti-Semitic, in my opinion it is not in the least or at least no more than the Gospels themselves are. There are no racial differences apparent between the non-"Christian" Jewish characters and the Roman characters. Certainly the script does not strike me as any more cognizant of the Jewish role in the crucifixion than any of those older movies already cited. Too violent? No. Claims that the scourging goes on in great detail for upwards of 45 minutes struck me as untrue. Most of the strikes are on the back while the camera is on Jesus' front. But there is more blood than you've seen in any production of this kind, and there are more open wounds.

I highly recommend seeing it, and now through next week (Holy Week) is the best time to do so.

Webmaster Jon Kennedy 

Country wisdom

Life is simpler when you plow around the stumps.

—Sent by Mary Ann Losiewicz 

Lenten thought for today

One can distinguish five reasons why God allows the devils to attack us:

  • First, so that from attack and counter-attack we may become practiced in discerning good from evil.
  • Second, so that our virtue may be maintained in the heat of the struggle and so be confirmed in an impregnable position.
  • Third, so that as we advance in virtue we may avoid presumption and learn humility.
  • Fourth, to inspire in us an unreserved hatred for evil through the experience we thus have of it.
  • Fifth, and above all, that we may attain inner freedom and remain convinced both of our own weakness and of the strength of Him who has come to our aid.

— St. Maximus the Confessor, 580-662  

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