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Movie Reviews

Passion: Best Viewed as Combination of Three Catholic Devotions
By Chuck Hawkins
Mar 3, 2004 - 12:35:00 PM

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This analysis might be helpful regarding the Passion.

Mel Gibson, who is a "very traditional Catholic", was essentially creating an amalgam of three "very traditional Catholic" devotions. Along with this was some Catholic theology that the Eucharistic celebration (aka the mass) is essentially a participation outside/inside the confines of time in the sacrifice of the triduum (Last Supper, Crucifixion, Resurrection). Obviously, the gospels are primary source material for his movie. But, seen in the context of these devotions and this theology of the sacrifice of the Easter triduum, the movie makes a little more sense (especially if you were not previously familiar with the devotions). The devotions are:

  • The 5 Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary:
    • Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane'
    • Trial and Scourging
    • Crowning of thorns
    • Carrying of the cross
    • Crucifixion
  • The 14 Stations of the Way of the Cross:
    • Jesus condemned to Death.
    • Jesus receives His Cross
    • Jesus falls under the weight of the Cross the First Time.
    • Jesus meets His Mother.
    • Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus to carry the Cross.
    • The Face of Jesus is wiped by Veronica.
    • Jesus falls a second time.
    • The Women of Jerusalem morn for our Lord.
    • Jesus falls for third time.
    • Jesus is stripped of His Garments.
    • Jesus is nailed to the Cross.
    • Jesus dies upon the Cross.
    • Jesus is laid in the arms of His Blessed Mother.
    • Jesus is laid in the Sepulcher.
  • The 7 Last Words (really utterances; in this traditional order):
    • "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do!"
    • "Amen I say to thee, today thou shalt be with Me in Paradise."
    • "Woman, behold thy son!"
    • "God, My God, why has Thou forsaken Me?"
    • "I thirst"
    • "It is consummated!"
    • "Father, into Thy hands I commend My Spirit."

But there is more. The Passion is pro-Semitic.

Although the movie is foremost a Catholic devotional and theological statement about the sacrifice of the Christ, he did make a small editorial comment about anti-Semitism.

It is probably quite an understatement that most of the rank and file Roman centurions are very course in their actions and worldview; in short, if they were down South, we'd call them the "white trash" of the movie. During the film, one of them vilely calls one of the citizens of Jerusalem "Jew!". If said today, we would say that this is characteristic of blatant anti-Semitism.

And yet, who does the centurion say this slur to? Simon of Cyrene who helped Jesus carry the cross. Although it is not subtitled, the "Jew!" comment in Latin is very plain and easily transliterates at this point in the movie when Simon is being drafted for cross-bearing. At the point that it happens, we really know very little of Simon other than the fact that he cares for his child and, quite naturally, doesn't want to get involved in helping a condemned man carry his cross. If you see the movie again, you'll want to listen for the "Jew!" slur. As we later find out, outside of Jesus Simon turns out to be probably the single most admirable man in the movie.

I think Mel Gibson was saying something like; "Anti-Semitism, huh? I'll show you anti-Semitism - my Roman. And I'll show you what I think of the true Jew - Simon."

I saw the movie and it is not anti-Semitic. My next-door-neighbor saw the movie and he was ready to take a baseball bat to the local synagogue. He also read an article in the Wall Street Journal about a multi-national business and started into his race baiting about those of the Jewish faith.

Now, you tell me, what or who is anti-Semitic? Certainly not this devotional, meditative masterpiece of a movie or the Wall Street Journal.

Chuck Hawkins

P.S. My next-door-neighbor isn't this way; it was just a foil. And I'm already investigating getting tickets for the 12:45 show at my local theater on Good Friday! I want to come out at 3 PM right after those 7 last words.

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