ANN ARBOR, Michigan, MARCH 13, 2004 (Zenit.org).- As a special ZENIT feature, a woman religious offers her view on key parts of the film “The Passion of the Christ.”
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Three Moments of “The Passion of the Christ”
By Sister Joseph Andrew Bogdanowicz, OP
Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist
Viewing “The Passion of the Christ” affects each person in an individual manner. Whether one agrees or disagrees with the film’s portrayal of the last 12 hours of Christ’s life on earth, the majority of this depiction of these most sacred hours is rooted in the various Evangelists’ accounts found in Scripture.
As a woman religious, I viewed “The Passion” through the eyes of my own feminine nature and the spousal vigilance proper to one whose freely made avowal of the evangelical counsels identifies me as “sponsa Christi.” Through such eyes, I have chosen three scenes which have become as the heartbeat of my reflections.
From the opening scenes, I realized that I could not identify with Christ as such. That identification would be more fitting for a priest, who, as “alter Christus,” finds his likeness in the God-Man, Jesus Christ.
For me, Jim Caviezel’s portrayal of Christ elicited tears wrung from the heart which, I soon understood, was beating as one with Mother Mary’s and with all the women portrayed in the film: Mary Magdalene, Veronica, Claudia, the weeping women.
1st: “All Things New”
I watched Christ, I walked with him, I desired to wipe the dirt (which as a woman so bothered me) plastered with ever increasing thickness upon his holy face.
My admiration of Christ’s Mother grew as, deep within my own being, I reacted to the bloodthirsty crowds which swirled in mad frenzy throughout the film in their physical and mental brutality toward Christ.
I felt my own body lean toward the screen and had to hold myself back to prevent the release my heart sought. I wanted to shout Simon’s later words: “Stop! Haven’t you done enough? Stop!”
But she, the Mother, did not; neither did he, the Son and innocent victim. Rather, when the Mother, following the manly logic of John’s directions, was able to approach her Son, she tenderly said, “I am here!” And he responded by gifting her (and us) with the secret of obtaining the strength necessary for propitious redemptive suffering: “See, Mother, I make all things new” (Revelation 21:5).
St. Louis de Montfort must have rejoiced anew in heaven at this poignant scene culled from the spiritual reflection of Mel Gibson. Can we not summarize the Marian entrustment which John Paul II’s coat of arms has displayed to the world for a quarter of a century now as the simple suggestion, “Through the Mother to the Son”?
Perhaps the greatest moment of a mother’s love is known when her resolute strength emboldens her children for a suffering the world cannot understand but one rooted, by the redemptive value it offers, in the opened heart of the Christ.
2nd: His Presence
A personal spousal moment for me was epitomized when the Mother was wildly running through the streets in search of her bound and already brutally beaten Son.
Upon crossing over the ground which hid his physical presence from her eyes, as he was held in the dungeon below on that fateful night, she instantly knew his presence; and, bending down, she touched her cheek, her heart, to the ground.
Jesus, too, knew his Mother’s closeness and, as the cameras fell below the dust to the hollowed and dirty tabernacle below, the viewer is able to catch Jesus reaching out his hand in an invisible embrace with the woman he loves. The One whom “the rocks like wax melt before his glance” (Judith 16:15) was separated from his Mother, but they still knew a oneness beyond the things of this world.
Similarly, as “sponsa Christi,” I am not gifted with the marvelous sensible affects a bride comes to know in her husband. Therefore, the interior communication is heightened, and through this I know Christ’s presence with me: each morning in Eucharistic adoration with my community, in each holy Communion, and by reaching out to each person my Spouse sends me.
Through my embrace of all people, regardless of their individual strengths and weaknesses, I know the touch of my Spouse and that touch spiritually fructifies our union as I, with him, behold all humanity as my spiritual children.
3rd: The Pietà, and priests
The third moment which I wish to point out is that immortalized by Michelangelo’s famed Pietà. The Son lies in the lap of the Mother once again. Though the Man of Sorrows is now dead, I cannot view this scene as anything but Hope Personified.
As a woman and as a religious sister, this scene calls me to carry, support and love each individual priest whom the Almighty Father places within the radius of my heart’s care; ultimately, all priests.
As the wife is made, by holy marriage, the helpmate of her husband, I, a religious sister, become, by virtue of my vocation, the helpmate par excellence of each priest.
When the priest is young, healthy and dynamic, my love is there to prayerfully support him, as Mary supported her Son, oftentimes from what might appear to others as afar.
When the priest must carry his cross for the salvation of the world, I wish to accompany him in my role as co-martyr for the fecundity of the children of God.
And when he appears broken, spent, given, I wish that it be my heart — through my prayers, sacrifices and support — upon which he might find peaceful rest. Without him, I have no Eucharistic Spouse; with him, the Church is given Christ until the end of time.
In his role at daily Mass, the priest shows me, again, what it means to be Mary: at the birth in Bethlehem, during her Son’s public life of preaching and healing, in the silence of unitive prayer, and, finally, in receiving his Body when Calvary is completed.
With “alter Christus,” the religious woman as bride awaits the promised resurrection even as she hears a familiar voice within assuring her: “Mother, behold I make all things new.”
Would I advise everyone to experience this movie, even those who have no Christian background? My answer is “yes” without hesitation.
All persons are made in the likeness of God and thus are “imago Dei.” The Angelic (Dominican) Doctor of the Church, St. Thomas Aquinas, assures us: “The light of your face, Lord, is signed upon us” (“Summa Theologiae,” I-II, q. 91, a.2). The Apostle John gives us a one-word name for God: “Love.”
We were made by Love; for Love; and to receive and give this Love who is God.
I submit this movie has the power to resonate in all hearts because it is the greatest Love story. With faith, one can only fall back in adoration … knowing here is a Man who loves me.