This is Holy Saturday, the saddest day of the Liturgical year; Christ has died, but is not raised. The Apostles, their leader crucified, at least one a traitor, scattered and hiding make their way back to the Upper Room. A tragedy too deep to understand the Savior’s words promising the Resurrection, that will come later, now is the loss of dreams and hope.
Thus it is a good day to comment on Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ. Even though there is a Resurrection scene it leaves us emotionally on Holy Saturday.
The story is easy to lose in the violence. Satan is confronting the Messiah, and throws all in his possession to defeat God’s Anointed and bring mankind totally into the void of evil. Violence upon violence is thrown to defeat Jesus by pain, despair, and hopelessness and finally death. The actions of the crowds and soldiers become more and more inchoate and violent. Satan is smirking more and more as the end comes near. Despite this some good remains, Mary Jesus’ mother, and Mary Magdalene, Veronica, Simon the Cyrine and ultimately the Centurion. But the violence goes on. - - - Finally Satan's victory, Jesus dies. - - - But wait - the tear of God washes clean. The temple veil is torn. The curses of the old law have been fulfilled. We see Satan cry in protest as he realizes he is defeated. On the third day, though the Apostles and disciples have yet to realize it, Christ will be Risen.
It is sometime said that the movie is an episode, not a story, and it should include more of the life of Christ, that this one episode does not give the full context. A reasonable comment from those who are not part of the Church. But I think that it is only an episode, the central episode, is how it should be seen. For in the Church the story of Christ is told throughout the year and the story of the Crucifixion is told in Lent and especially on Good Friday. In the Church the rest of the story of Jesus gives context to Good Friday, but even more importantly Good Friday and Easter give context to the rest the story.
The importance of this movie is not in Mr. Gibson’s heroic struggle to get it produced, or in the record box office that rewarded his efforts. The importance is that every year, even when the rest of the world has forgotten about it, in theaters, church basements, on home video, late night cable the Christian Church will be brought back to the Central story of the Christian faith. The rest of year, the story of Jesus no matter how well or poorly told will be presented in the context of the Crucifixion and Resurrection to reaffirm our faith, build our hope, and light the charity of Christ in our hearts.
While the movie described by some as a means of evangelization, I think it is more for the Catacombs, so that no matter how the Church may be scattered, until God in His grace restores her or Jesus comes again, the story of what Jesus did for us will be told with strength and clarity. For
Though Christ has died
On Easter Christ is raised
And Christ will come again!