Friday, April 10, 2009

The Passion of the Christ

I can't attend good Friday services at my church while I am still in isolation. I am doing well, considering. I have a long road for recovery but each day seems to be a little bit better. But I miss the little things, a nuzzle from my dopey cat. To listen to the rain tapping on the roof of the house (at home, I live in my attic). A sip of cool wine and the sounds of the wind coming through my open windows.

So, since I could not be at home for the Easter services I got a copy of The Passion of the Christ.

Please don't write to me and tell me how bloody and violent and gruesome the movie was. Don't write to me and tell me Mel Gibson is a Nazi. If you don't want to read my blog, move along. Those of you who do, please stay, and listen to what I have to say about this amazing movie.

I was raised watching all those technicolor Cecil B. DeMille movies that came out of Hollywood. Jesus was so perfect, with his beautiful skin and his long hair and usually cool blue eyes, those beautiful Anglo-Saxon Jesus who were so handsome but looked nothing like the Jesus of the times or the race that saw him in the flesh.

I still love those sanitized movies with scenes plucked right out of a Michelangelo painting where the image of Christ is super glorified even in his suffering. Maybe the painter was too afraid to paint the way Jesus would really have looked on the cross.

For one thing, Jesus was brutally beaten. Isaiah wrote in prophecy that the mob tore his beard from his face. I had a husband who had a beard and I could never imagine tearing out a patch of his beard. They brutalized him, forced him to carry his own cross and then stripped Jesus naked. No, Jesus did not have that modesty cloth around him when he died. Jesus was naked. Jesus was naked because the Romans knew that the most shameful thing that could happen to a person who considered himself a rabbi would be to appear nude in public, in front of both men and women.

Interspersed with the brutal and violent scenes of Jesus arrest, trial, torture and crucifixion, we see Christ as he was, a carpenter, making a table for a wealthy customer. We see Christ as the rescuer, rescuing the fallen woman from her persecutors. We see Christ as a little boy being rocked in his mother's arms. We see Christ as the teacher, the servant, the preacher, the forgiver of sins.

We also see Christ making affirmations: "Mother, behold, I make all things new," he says thickly, his face misshapen and bloody. We see Christ as the suffering and condemned prisoner being comforted by a woman who removes her veil and wipes his face with it. A primitive Kodak moment.

We see the Devil, mocking Jesus "No man can take on the sins of the whole world. No, No one, it is too much," We see the Devil mocking Mary, the Devil mocking her virginal birth and her holy infant by being the Infernal Mother and her Imp child.

And then Jesus does something amazing. He gives us his mother. John is standing there with Mary, his mother and Mary the Magdalene and he tells John that Mary is his mother now and we are told that he took her into his house from that moment on.

Christ dies, bloody and beaten and torn. A giant tear (or is it just a drop of rain, like so many that have fallen upon the earth) falls at the moment of Jesus death. The temple shakes and the curtain that separated the people from the Holiest of Holies is rent in two and the ark is depicted as gone.

And then the scene changes to a dark tomb being opened up and as the light of dawn rolls over the walls it washes over my super hero, an unblemished Christ, perfect in his wholeness, perfect in his resurrection, showing only the holes where his hands have been pierced and he rises naked from the tomb.

We look for the face of Christ in the imprint of the Shroud and on the veil we call Veronica's. These smudgy pre-technology Polaroids are the sign of faith, even if they are not real. They are expressions of our willingness to believe in the King of the Most High. We are looking for His face everywhere, from drawings and art on cave walls, church walls and statuary, on humble pieces of cloth, even on the trunks of trees and in pieces of bread.

Shall I tell you where the face of Christ can be seen? The face of a tired nurse who bent over me and wiped my brow when I had pneumonia, the face of my doctor who held my hand and gave me bad news and good news. The face of a lover who slept peacefully in the night beside me.

He is the faces of children, "Suffer the little children to come unto me for such is the kingdom of heaven." He is in the faces of old people you pass on the street. He is in the face of your fellow man. He is in the face of even your enemy "For I say unto thee that thou shall love your enemy and pray for those who do evil for they are poor in spirit."

For those of you who do not believe in some form of God, no explanation will suffice. For those who believe, no explanation is necessary.

God Bless you on this Good Friday.
And remember, God is in the rain.