Tim Drake

Wednesday, March 03, 2004
The Passion
Everyone is weighing in with their thoughts on "The Passion." Why should I be any different?

The difficulty is knowing where to begin, for the film truly does defy any attempt to use words to describe it. Words are superfluous, as many viewers will attest.

I walked out of the theater after experiencing it on Wednesday, and neither my friend nor I said a word to one another. We didn't know what to say. We didn't know what to do with what we had just experienced, and so we sat in his minivan and prayed. I wept.

As I've noted elsewhere, the full bucket of popcorn that I saw sitting in the aisle on my way out said as much to me about the power of the film as theater-goer's tears and silence.

I'm a visual guy. Always have been. Always will be. I grew up on television. Prior to "The Passion of the Christ", the last film I stood in a long line to see was "Star Wars" (the original). When our family purchased their first VCR, and when MTV came into our home, those were significant events.

Thus, "The Passion" has provided something that up until now has been difficult for my mind to imagine. Ever since seeing it, I find myself dwelling upon some of its images. The film abides in me. That's the only way I know how to explain it.

As cliched as it sounds, I also find that I'm looking at the world a bit differently. Lent has been put into a sharper focus. My own failings, and my resolve to overcome them, have taken on greater importance.

The film's Catholicism is overwhelming...

The disciples frequently call Mary, "mother." The film is a living Stations of the Cross, the Sorrowful Mysteries, and a Crucifix. Christ building and testing his weight on a table (an allusion to the Eucharist). The Passover bread being unveiled as Christ's garments are stripped. Mary kissing the feet of Jesus. Veronica wiping the face of Christ. Christ crushing the head of the serpent in the garden. Claudia bringing Mary the linens to wipe up the sacred blood of her Son.

In fact, it's the most overtly Catholic film I've ever seen. The more I reflect on the film, the more meaning I discover. Throughout the day, when I recall certain scenes - most especially the scene where Mary runs to her Son, tears fill my eyes.

The day after the film, I spent time before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament at Eucharistic Adoration. As much as I wanted to gaze upon our Eucharistic Lord, I found it difficult to look at him. Images from the film filled my mind, convicting me of my own complicity in Christ’s suffering and death. My sins nailed him there. His blood was poured out for me.

Gibson’s film doesn’t let me escape that fact. It forces me to confront all that my own sins have done to him, most especially after he is taken from the cross and laid in his mother’s arms. Mary’s penetrating gaze says, “Look what you’ve done to my son,” and “Look what he has done for you.”

As of this writing approximately 19.2 million people have seen the film. I would like to hope that this film would have some effect, not only on those who have seen it, but also on our families and communities at large. May the love of Christ overflow into all of our relationships with one another. May "The Passion of the Christ" lead to a palpable reduction in the sin that our world is so awash in.

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