Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ"
"His Blood be upon us and upon Our Children"
by Richard P. Salbato
On Ash Wednesday 2004 Mel Gibson's movie, "The Passion of the Christ" will open in 2,800 American cinemas, 500 English ones, and 500 Australian theaters.† It will then come to the European countries - in April to Italy and in June to France, Spain and Portugal, and then the rest of the world.† It is certain that Mel Gibson will recover the $30 million in production costs in the very first week.†† It does not take much for me to predict that this movie will become the biggest money maker of all time from both theaters and videos.† It will be the most watched movie of all time and will remain a classic for many years to come.† But more than that this movie will become the greatest tool for teaching Christ and His Church since the Bible itself was compiled.† Unlike most theologians and catechisms, this movie will reach that heart and not just the brain.† Because of the masterful way that Mel Gibson directs this movie it will convent Protestants and Jews to the Catholic Faith and will become the true instrument of Unity that so many Holy Fathers have worked for.† It will bring Catholics back to Church and make those who have not left love their Church and Mass all the more.† In short this movie will save souls, maybe millions of souls.† But this movie is not without controversy and the controversy has helped promote the movie.† Most of this controversy is about the statement of the high priest, Caiphas:†
"His Blood be upon us and upon Our Children"
Anti-Semitism or, at least, anti-Judaism is the fear of many Jews and even some Catholics because the film includes the cry of the Jewish people in the mouth of Caiphas.† Actually the Bible does not place these words in the mouth of Caiphas but with the crowds. Pilate washed his hand of Jesus saying, "I am innocent of the blood if this just man, look you to it."† And the whole people answering, said: "His blood be upon us and upon our children."† Matthew 27:25† Mel Gibson places it in the mouth of Caiphas because according to Anna Catherine Emmerich, where Gibson gets much of the background for the movie, it was Caiphas who instigated the crowds to say these words.† Although Mel Gibson does a masterful job in defending the movie from this Anti-Semitic accusations, I would like to offer him some advice as to the right way to defend these attacks on the film.†
If I were to be asked what I though of the words of Caiphas, I would say that because he was high priest, God put these prophetic words into his mouth for all of us.† I would like to repeat these words,
Let Christ's Blood be upon me and all my children for all generations to come because His Blood upon me is my salvation.†
This was not the first time that Caiphas made prophetic words.† In John 11:47-52 we read that the Pharisees gathered together a council asking what to do about this Christ.† Caiphas said to them,
"You know nothing.† Neither do you consider that it is expedient for you that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation should parish not."
And then Saint John added in his commentary about this statement that "he spoke not of himself but being the high priest of that year he prophesied that Jesus should die for the nation, and not just for the nation but to gather together in one the children of God, that were dispersed."† So Saint John shows the precedent of Caiphas' prophetic words in the next case regarding Christ's Blood being upon us, not as a curse but as a loving cure for all mankind's sins.
The fact that Caiphas was not a good man does not matter to prophesy, he was the authority and God uses authority to accomplish is Will.††† Caiaphas, the Pharisees and the Sadducees did not represent the Jewish people, but, rather was detested by them; the Talmud reserves terrible words for him and for his father-in-law Annas).† Both the Pharisees and the Sadducees were religious cults and had no real authority by law but gained authority by cooperation with the Romans.† The Pharisees came to be about the time of the Machabees, and the same time that the Romans gained control of Israel.
The Passion of the Christ is the Mass
The Mass is above all Jesus' sacrifice, the bloodless renewal of the passion and the passion is the first Mass. In fact, the entire Bible leads up to this one sacrifice and all the other sacrifices before it were shadows of the real thing to come.† From the Tree of Life to Abraham's prophesy "God, Himself, will provide the lamb for the sacrifice", to the command of God to Moses to offer the symbolic lambs all the way to the very first Mass of Christ and the end of the symbolic sacrifices of the lambs when the curtain in the Temple was torn in two and Christ said, "It is finished."† The shadow was finished - the real was here.† The symbolic was finished. The real Lamb of God made his sacrifice.† The first Mass started in the upper room where Christ had the Passover meal with his Apostles and in the drinking of the third of the four cups of wine as prescribed by the old law, Christ consecrated the bread and wine into his Body and Blood, and then He said, "I will not drink of the fruit of the vine again until I drink it with you in My Kingdom.† Because Christ did not drink the fourth cup of wine the Passover meal was not finished but continued on to the crucifixion where at last† Christ said, "I thirst." And offering Him vinegar wine on a hyssop branch and sponge, and Saint John said, "Jesus therefore, when he had taken the wine, said "It is finished." And He bowed his head and died.† John goes on to say that he saw it and his testimony is true.† What then is finished?† The old law of the sacrifice of the lambs is finished and the First Mass is finished.† The first Mass is finished but each and every Mass offered from that time to the end of the world is that same first Mass and we are brought back in time to be present in the upper room and at the foot of the Cross.† One sacrifice for all time but relived throughout time to the end of the world.† The fact is that from the time of the actual Crucifixion till now the Jews no longer sacrifice the lambs because - first the Temple was contaminated by the torn curtain and the walking around of corps from the dead and then from the fact than in 70 AD the Romans killed off all the tribe of Levites and without Levite priests no sacrifice can be done.† So the death of Christ ended the sacrifice of the lambs both spiritually and actually.†††
From Anne Catherine Emmerich, the stigmatized visionary, Gibson has taken extraordinary intuitions: Claudia Procula, Pilate's wife, who offers, weeping, to Mary the cloths to soak up the blood of the Son is among the scenes of greatest delicacy in a film that, more than violent, is brutal. Brutal is what the Passion was. The desperate Peter after the denial, falls at the feet of the Blessed Virgin to obtain pardon. The theological importance attributed to the Madonna, as well as to the Eucharist, is seen in the most material, and therefore Catholic, way (the Transubstantiation) -- will create some uneasiness in American Protestant churches which, without having seen the film, have already organized themselves to support its distribution.
This film, for its author, is a Mass.†† By flashing back and forth from the upper room to the Cross of Christ, Mel Gibson lets you understand that they are one and the same thing but he does it to the heart and not just to the mind.†† The blood of the Passion is continuously intermingled with the wine of the Mass, the tortured flesh of the "corpus Christi" with the consecrated bread. †
Theologians Hate Film
Theologians from the Chicago Theological Seminary, Chapman University, Vanderbilt Divinity School, DePaul University, University of Texas, Boston University, and Boston College made it clear that they donít like the movie because, they say, it doesnít conform to their understanding of Christís death.† Kind of reminds me of Pharisees.† The truth is that all their teaching, books, articles and lectures put together cannot compare to the impact that this film will do and they see their lives as meaningless compared to this film.
The Miracle Production
In fact, on the set much more happened than what
is known; much will remain in the secret of consciences: conversions, release
from drugs, reconciliation between enemies, giving up of adulterous ties,
apparitions of mysterious personages, extraordinary explosions of energy,
enigmatic figures who knelt down as the extraordinary Caviezel-Jesus passed by,
even two flashes of lightning, one of which struck the cross, but did not hurt
anyone. And, then, coincidences read like signs: the Madonna with the face of
the Jewish actress with the name Morgenstern which, it was only noticed later,
is, in German, the "Morning Star" of the litanies of the rosary.
Lightening struck James Caviezel (who played Jesus) while he was hanging on the Cross. "I was lit up like a Christmas tree," the actor told a radio interviewer. "It felt as if I had two hands slapping my head and all of a sudden I had 200 extras scurrying. I had no idea what happened. All I was seeing was pink and a kind of a fuzzy static in front of my eyes." Caviezel said that when one of the crew came over to check if he was OK, he was struck by lightening, too. The two survived. There was a spiritual battle on the set.
"There have been a lot of unusual things happening, good things like people being healed of diseases; a couple people have had their sight and hearing restored. There was even a little six year old girl (visiting the set) who had epilepsy since she was born and had up to fifty epileptic fits a day. She doesn't have them anymore, for over a month now." There were agnostics and Muslims on the set converting to Christianity.††
Do Not See the Film, Feel the Film
If the mind does not understand, so much the better. What matters is that the heart understands that all that happened redeems us from sin and opens to us the doors of salvation. Precisely as the prophecy of Isaiah reminds us on the "Servant of Yahweh" which, taking up the whole screen, is the prologue of the entire film. The wonder, however, seems to me to be verified: After a while, one stops reading the subtitles to enter, without distractions, in the terrible and marvelous scenes -- that are sufficient in themselves.
The Gamble For All Catholics
Mel has said it with pride tempered by humility, with pragmatism kneaded with mysticism which becomes in him a singular mixture: "If this work was to fail, for 50 years there will be no future for religious films. We threw the best in here: as much money as we wished, prestige, time, rigor, the charism of great actors, the science of the learned, inspirations of the mystics, experience, advanced technology. Above all, we threw in our conviction that it was worthwhile, that what takes place in those hours concerns every man. Our eternity is bound up forever with this Jew. If we don't point this out, who will be able to do so? But we will point it out, I am sure of it: Our work was accompanied by too many signs that confirm it."
And I confirm this.† If anyone out there can contact Mel Gibson, tell him my suggestions and also ask if he can give to the Convent of Coimbra, Lucia of Fatima's convent, a copy of the film.† They can wait until I can buy one, but would it not be nice to have one sooner.†
Richard P. Salbato
Visit the site of
"The Passion of the Christ"
The Mass throughout the Bible http://www.unitypublishing.com/GREATEST.html