Yesterday was a day I sorta dreaded.
One doesn't really "look forward" to a screening of Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ. On the other hand, I knew that seeing it again would be a great blessing to me.
There were many little things about the film I had forgotten. In fact, there was one HUGE thing I'd forgotten: the subtitles! Just before the showing, my friends Sammy and Paula Gallo were telling me they'd decided not to bring their grandson because of all the sub-titles. I actually "remembered" the film being in English! Duh. How does one forget something that significant? Especially when he's a drama team leader and a movie buff? I guess I had been so caught up in the storytelling of the film that I'd released my mind from the technicalities or something.
Anyway, it was an amazing reprise experience for me. I think in many respects the film is a telling of TWO passions: Jesus' and Mary's. The depiction of her suffering as a mother presented the Story in a way that was all the more heartbreaking. The superimposing of the flashback of her running to her fallen son (as a boy) to her fallen Son (the Lamb of God) almost undid me. As did the scene where she instinctively made her way to the exact spot over the temple dungeon where Jesus was imprisoned overnight. And her carefully cleaning up His blood from the floor of Pilate's courtyard. Gruesome but somehow beautiful.
In seeing it again, I also decided that Gibson chose a feminine Satan (who looked in many ways like a distorted version of Mary) very intentionally. Perhaps to a Man who was struggling with the reality of an imminent and brutal death, the Garden temptation to give up on His Mission might have more success if the tempter reminded Him of His mother.
One final take-away. We "Protestants" are often critical of the Catholic "obsession" with the crucified Christ. We have harsh things to say about all those crucifixes hanging on walls and around necks. We prefer to glorify the empty cross and the empty grave--and have good reason to do so. However, I can't help think that contemplating only empty crosses--especially smooth ones, or gold ones, or jewel-encrusted ones--allows us to mentally censor all the worse-than-nightmarish realities of Jesus' suffering. Perhaps we need to occasionally forgo the neat-and-tidy for the grim-and-brutal, no matter how uncomfortable it makes us. Crucifixion was certainly no picnic. But it makes picnics possible.
I'm probably not going to watch this movie again any time soon. But, the next time I do, I hope that I will once again be made more grateful for the amazing Gift that I--all of us--have been given.