Blessed is the artist upon whose work several profound interpretationsare attributed. His subconscious might be responsible for injectingsome layers of messages to his conscious mind’s work, however, it ismore likely that he could have just been speaking about one thing andyet the beholders credited to his masterpiece far more than what he everhoped for.
I watched Jim Caviezel’s interview on EWTN during both its re-runstoday. In the Q & A, he was asked what the scene wherein Mary, afterseeing her Son being raised on the Cross, released two fistfuls ofstones could have meant. Jim gave his interpretation of the scene. Iwonder what Mel Gibson wanted it to symbolize.
After some thinking, I was led to another interpretation, much closer tomy own experience. In “The Passion…”, I saw Mama Mary kneeling down andclosing both hands into fistfuls of rocks while watching her Son beingnailed to the Cross. She needed something concrete to hold on to in theface of such unbelievable brutality. Despite what the angel Gabrieltold her about this Child she was to bring into this world, nothingcould have prepared her for the anguish of watching her own Son beingput to death for a crime He did not commit. Yet, when Jesus’ Cross wasraised, she released her hold from earthly explanations and put herfaith in God. She stopped looking down and started looking beyond whatwas placed before her eyes.
In Olongapo where I was born, I remember watching the Senakulo when itwas staged at the Rizal Park, but I got so bored that I begged myparents to walk me home. I was too young to appreciate all the runningon stage as well as the loud music that went with the show. My parentslater told me that the Cenaculo was usually held for two consecutivedays. I could not be persuaded to go back for the second day.
I grew up watching the prusisyon every Holy Week. In Bacoor, Cavite,where my father hails from, we were forced to watch three successiveprocessions on Good Friday. The first one was from the “Romano”, thenfrom the “Aglipay”, and last was the one from the “Montenegro”. To mylimited understanding, I could not tell the difference from the threegroups, except that I was told that we belonged to the first group andthat was where most of my relatives joined. In the processions, thestatue of the lady holding a piece of white cloth with three identicalimprints of Christ’s bloodied face was my favorite. I was told that hername was Veronica and that she had the privilege of wiping Jesus’ facewhile He was carrying His Cross. Caviteños were famous for their brassbands, one of which was named the Bandang Noveinta y Sais (written as Ipronounced it as a child), where my cousins and uncles were members.The blaring of their horns signaled the arrival of the prusisyon and wechildren had the highlight of our no-TV-no-radio vacation by rushing outof the eskinita into the main road and wriggling our way through thecrowd to get the best view of our favorite saints. I did not witnessself-flagellations and crucifixions in Bacoor. The traditions therewere relatively tame compared to what usually went on in the rest of the country on Good Friday.
When I was in college, my ate had a friend who invited our family towatch the dramatization of the Crucifixion in Cainta, Rizal. The wholetown came to watch as three men were “nailed” to the cross. I could notbear the sweltering heat of the noonday sun. I almost believed that theshow was authentic, except that the blood that spurted out of their“Jesus” was colored fuchsia. I was disappointed somehow, as Ihalf-expected to see real blood as nails through flesh and blood ran. Afterwards, my family joined my sister’s friend’s clan as they feastedon seafood and fruits. There was no red meat that day, but what we didcould not be described in any way as fasting.
As the middle girl in the family I was always the one who was made toendure the services at Church with my late aunt, while my Ate wentvisiting with other relatives and our bunso had the privilege of stayingwith our Mama wherever she was. One thing I noticed year in and yearout was that every afternoon on Good Friday, it always rained hard.Once, it even flooded near the doors of the St. Michael parish while Iwas waiting for my aunt to finish praying. I asked my Mama why italways rained on Good Friday, and she replied that it was because Godwas crying over the death of His Son.
These images from childhood flashed through my mind on my first GoodFriday after watching the inspired film, “The Passion of the Christ”. Isaw it after I had already established a personal relationship withJesus. I waited to see how they would depict my favorite scene from theprusisyon, what I eventually thought of as Veronica’s Privilege. It wasclear that I was not in Kansas anymore when I heard the name Yeshua. Ihave never heard a more sweet-sounding name. I’ve met people namedafter Jesus or Hesus, so Yeshua had a more powerful impact on me. Ipray to Yeshua and I call on His name more intimately and confidentlynow.
As I saw my Lord, Teacher, Master, Savior, and King being murdered, I,like Mary in the movie, initially grasped at human explanations for thesupreme sacrifice that our God did for our sake. My mind could notanswer WHY He did that for me, although I had revisited this questionduring the past 10 years of my walk with the Lord. I had to watch themovie a second time, and that was when I was able to let go. I openedmy balled fists and raised my palms heavenward. I did not cry as muchas my seatmates during both showings, perhaps because the violencenumbed me. In my heart, however, I knew that this was inspired,directed, produced, and starred in by Yeshua of Nazareth Himself.
I could neither give nor listen to the CLP talk “Who is Jesus Christ?”in the same way again. I could never walk nor pray The Way of the Crosspassively after this experience. I would henceforth refrain fromromanticizing Christ’s sufferings and instead focus on the reality ofHis humanity and His divinity.
I saw significant conversion experiences in my household members caused by the movie. Mel Gibson literally hit the nail right on the head withthis masterpiece. I think that no man, no matter how handsome ortalented, could achieve all these without grace. Mel, Jim, and the restof the people behind the movie could have poured their time, talent, andeffort into its making. I believe, though, that hearts such as minewere moved and lives were forever changed by it because of the power ofthe Holy Spirit in all of us, using the movie as a messenger of God’sLove. That first raindrop that fell like a giant teardrop from heavenboldly depicted the Good Friday rains that I had been used to.
Today, between 2:30 to 4:00 p.m., the heavens cried once again. Ilocked myself in my room to listen to the pounding of the rain and tomeditate on the washing away of my sins and the tearing down ofeverything in the temple that separated me from my God. It was nolonger a movie I was passively watching. I witnessed once more how theerstwhile bright April sun was hid behind dark, angry clouds thatbrought the annual cleansing rain.
I tell myself I do not need to see a movie about the Resurrection inorder for me to believe in it and to live it out. Woe to me if I lackthat much faith that God would decide to use my physical senses again inorder to wake me up to the reality of His Healing Love.
I wait for the Lord now with the certainty of a watchman. I know thatthe sun would surely rise on Easter morning, and so would He. And thisI believe to be true, too – so would I rise with Him.
April 9, 2004