The Passion of the Christ - a personal view

 As a Catholic - already familiar with the Good Friday services, and Stations of the Cross images around the walls of our churches, I found Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, faithful to the Gospels, very moving and thought-provoking.

This is Gibson's personal meditation on the Way of the Cross, a very brave project, beautifully filmed. The brief flashbacks to Jesus' childhood and ministry provide much-needed relief to the harrowing depiction of his torture and crucifixion. I loved the portrayal the relationship between Jesus and Mary. It was fascinating to hear Aramaic for the first time and Latin.

However the film censors have given it a Certificate 18 and I feel they were right to do so. Many scenes are horrendously violent, and not suitable for a younger or more sensitive audience.

I believe the early Christians - some of whom were brave enough to be thrown to the lions rather than give up their faith - were nevertheless so distressed by the Crucifixion they avoided using the image for centuries.

In our cinema age, each decade has brought out a film on the Passion of Jesus. I wonder what this one says about ours?

I didn't find this film anti-Semitic. Jesus and Mary are Jewish as are all the apostles. So is the beautifully-drawn character of Simon of Cyrene who helps Jesus carry the cross. While some high priests condemn Jesus, other walk away saying his trial is a sham. Many Romans are also depicted as sadistic brutes. The one consistently evil character is the Devil - an androgynous figure - never far from the screen. At the end we see it defeated - although I think this might have been slightly more clearly spelt out, particularly for a non-Christian audience.

When Jesus died, Matthew 27:54 recorded: 'When the centurion and those who were keeping watch over Jesus saw the earthquake and what took place they were terrified and said: "Truly this man was the Son of God!" '. I didn't hear this in the film. The Resurrection, without which our faith means nothing, is depicted rather briefly.

I know some Christian groups see this film as an evangelical tool - "the opportunity of a generation" and are encouraging everyone to go to it - including non Christians and those under 18. I am not sure they are right.

People would find our faith more attractive if we tried harder to live out some of the teachings Jesus gave us, rather than pressurising them to see a film.

See also:

ICN 27 February 2004 - The Passion of the Christ - review by Fr Peter Malone, ( president of SIGNIS, the World Catholic Association for Communication)

ICN 12 November 2003 - A Catholic analysis of Mel Gibson's 'The Passion' - Fr Peter Malone

And for general reference:

ICN 12 February 2004 - US bishops issue documents on: 'the Bible, the Jews and Death of Jesus'

LONDON - 26 March 2004 - 387 words

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