Another thumbs up.
This afternoon I attended a special showing of "The Passion of the Christ," followed by a live stage interview with Mel Gibson.
There are several things I would note about this film. First, there is nothing new here. Except for a couple of dramatic adaptations (a crow pecking the eyes of the unrepentant thief on the cross, for instance), it is essentially what you have in the Gospels. Second, there is nothing "shocking" or emotionally wrenching here, unless one has neglected the traditional pieties of the Church. Those who follow the ancient Christian custom of meditating on the sufferings of our Lord at the Daily Canonical Hours (a custom for which we have written testimony from the early years of the third century), or who habitually pray the standard akathists of Our Lord's Passion or of the Holy Cross, or who regularly make the Way of the Cross, or who regularly pray the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Holy Rosary, or who simply ponder the Gospel accounts of the Lord's Passion each day will find nothing here that they don't already know or have not thought about deeply.
One Orthodox commentator has complained about all the blood in the film, saying that the emphasis on the Lord's blood is not "Orthodox." Folks who feel this way, I suggest, may want to review the Epistle to the Hebrews and ask themselves why this epistle is read in the liturgical services of the Orthodox Church toward the end of Lent.
Third, (and I do not push this one too hard) I wish the producers had consulted an Orthodox Christian with respect to the placing of the two thieves. The "good thief," as is known to every Orthodox Christian who has reached the age of four, should be on the Lord's right, not His left.
Fourth, I was very struck by the use of the Psalter in this film. Jesus is pictured as praying the Psalms at several points in the film. The Psalms that are cited are those very familiar to those who pray the Daily Canonical Hours.
Fifth, everyone should see this film. That includes teenage kids, who will need a note from their parents to see a film that is rated "R".
Subscribe to Pastoral Ponderings — Fr. Reardon's weekly essay.
Read past essays and listen to podcasts by Fr. Reardon.
Books by Fr. Reardon: