Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Veritas? Quid Est Veritas?

Truth? What is Truth?

Those words of Pilate's have been echoing in my mind all last night and this morning, after seeing "The Passion of The Christ" last night. In one scene of the movie, Pilate spoke of "his" truth to his wife. Many in our world today seek to relativize the truth or pretend there's no such thing.

But there is. Ultimately, there is only one Truth.

There is Christ, who IS Truth.

There is Christ, and Him crucified. Everything else, though it may be "true" and important, pales in significance to the Truth of Christ and Him crucified.

That's what the movie left me with. There are many things I could say about the movie, and I'll share some of them here. But no description I could write will do justice to the experience.

You must see this movie. Fr. Robert Sirico, whose Oratory of St. Philip Neri sponsored last night's screening, said in his prefatory remarks that he wasn't sure whether any movie will change people's lives. But, he said, the decision one must make in response to the proposition this movie makes will change people's lives. I think that's an excellent summation of the effect and impact of this movie. It does make a proposition:

He was wounded for our transgressions. By his stripes were we healed.

Some of the the things that hit me the hardest were little things. For example, when Pilate questions Jesus, he begins doing so in Aramaic. But then, without warning, Jesus switches to Latin. The effect was electrifying to me. Perhaps that's because I've studied Latin extensively (M.A. in Classics) and so can follow the Latin dialogue. But just the effect of Jesus doing so (I was so bowled over that I actually missed the first sentence of what he actually said) hit me like a punch in the gut. It struck me, on reflection, as "right". I found myself thinking, "yes, of course he would have."

Another little thing involves a flashback scene with Jesus and His mother, while Jesus was working as a carpenter. I won't say what happened because I don't want to spoil it, but I will say that Mel Gibson managed, in one 3 - 4 minute scene, to capture the real humanity of Jesus and the motherhood of Mary.

Since it is de rigeur in discussing this movie to answer the question, I will: No, this movie is NOT anti-semitic. If one has a problem with this movie, the problem isn't with the movie, it's with the Gospels.

Is this movie accurate? Not in some literalistic, tot-up-the-scripture-references way. Gibson makes use of his artistic imagination to paint a portrait. But this movie is Faithful. Faithful to the Gospels. Faithful to the Tradition. Faithful to who Christ is and what He did.

And it is Faithful to the most profound mysteries of our Faith. I was struck by how Eucharistic the movie is. Not just in the flashback scenes of the Last Supper, but as a whole. I don't think I'm giving anything away here because others have written about this, but there is a scene after Jesus' scourging where Mary wipes up His blood. I was moved to think about the Mass, and every time I look into the Chalice when I say "this is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant...". That blood, and the blood at the foot of the Pillar, are the same.

I will never celebrate Mass the same way again.

This movie is Art. Art in the best and highest sense. One of the panelists last night said we tend, in our day, to think of art as a private expression of what is internal to the artist. But of course, that's not what Art is really all about.

The real purpose of Art, he said, is to show us the Truth about things. Art, because it reveals beauty, points the way to Truth. Art at its best shows us the Truth.

That is what this movie does. It shows us the Truth.