The big news in Protestant, Catholic circles just now
is the new motion picture about the crucifixion of Christ. You might want
to know more about the background of this unusual film.
Filmed in Italy, financed by the motion picture actor,
Mel Gibson, the $25 million film, The Passion of the Christ, is
focused on Jesus final 12 hours. The characters speak Aramaic and
Latin; and the film is subtitled in English. (The word,
"passion," means passus, "having suffered" or
"having undergone.") "Passion" is the Catholic name
for the crucifixion of Christ.
We ourselves do not view it for several reasons. One is
the fact that portraying Biblical events, especially events in the life of
Christ, cannot but cheapen our view of what happened back then. Far better
it is to reverently pray and read about the closing scenes in the life of
Christ in the Bible and Spirit of Prophecy.
Another problem is that going to theaters encourages
our youth to later attend them again.
The actor who portrayed Christ admitted, in a recent
article in Newsweek, that he believes he swore at one of the
"Roman guards" who accidentally struck him twice during filming
instead of hitting the board in the middle of his back. That swearing was
omitted from the final sound track. Was he a dedicated Christian at the
time he was portraying Christ?
The motion picture actor, Mel Gibson (who produced the
film), is a faithful, practicing Roman Catholic and also a devoted
follower of the Catholic mystic, Anne Catherine Emmerich. His film is
based on her book, The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ. A
high-ranking priest, Carl E. Schmoger, wrote a reverential book about
Emmerich's life, The Life and Revelations of Anne Catherine Emmerich.
When she entered a cloister as a nun, she began
"levitating." According to legend, at times the other nuns
would see her floating in air above the ground. She was also said to
"bilocate"; that is, in vision, she witnessed important
historical events, including the execution of Louis XVI, king of France.
She is said to have visited Marie Antoinette in prison and held a
conversation with her, leading to Maries conversion.
She is revered by Gibson and thousands of other
faithful Catholics, as a mystic who received many visions and also had
the stigmata. The stigmata is the apparent bleeding wounds of Christ, in
the same locations where He had them. According to reports, her wounds
were up to half-an-inch in size--on her hands, feet, side, and head;
these bled profusely, especially on Fridays.
"In 1798 the Crown of Thorns was laid upon
her brow by her heavenly spouse [Christ] as she prayed toward
mid-day before a Crucifix in the organ loft." Michael H. Brown,
in Spirit Daily, p. 4.
In summarizing her life, she wrote in her book:
"All that is holy, all that is blessed, all that
pertains to the [Catholic] Church, was as perfectly intelligible to me
then as now, and I saw marvelous things of the Church's essence. I
felt the Presence of God in the Most Blessed Sacrament. I saw the relics
shining with light, and I recognized the saint who hovered above
It was after worshipfully reading about her life,
that Mel Gibson was impressed that he must produce the film and pattern
it after teachings she revealed. He devotedly carries one of her
relics with him at all times.
"Gibson has amalgamated the four Gospel accounts
and was reportedly inspired by the visions of two nuns: Mary of
Agreda (1602-1665) of Spain and Anne Catherine Emmerich (1774-1824) of
France; Emmerich experienced the stigmata on her head, hands, feet and
chest wounds imitating Jesus." Newsweek, February 16, 2004.
According to Christianity Today (March 4, 2004),
here are two examples of non-Biblical additions to the film which Gibson
got from Emmerich's visions, as quoted in her book, Dolorous Passion.
Pilates wife hands cloths to Christ's mother, Mary, so she can wipe
up some of His blood. (2) A female devil appears to Christ in Gethsemane
and tempts Him to not die for the worlds sins.
Terry Mattingly, another devoted Catholic, in his The
Passion of Old Words and Symbols explains that Gibson's objective in
making the film was to bring everyone back to Rome.
"It is crucial to realize that the images and
language at the heart of The Passion of the Christ flow directly
out of Gibson's personal dedication to Catholicism in one of its most
traditional and mysterious forms: the 16th-century Latin Mass.
" I don't go to any other services, the
director [Gibson] told the Eternal Word Television Network. I go
to the old Tridentine Rite. That's the way that I first saw it when I
was a kid. So I think that that informs ones understanding of how to
transcend language . . The goal of the movie is to shake modern
audiences by brashly juxtaposing the sacrifice of the cross with the
sacrifice of the altar [the mass] which is the same thing, said
"The ancient union of symbols and sounds has never
lost its hold on him. There is, he stressed, a lot of power in these
dead languages. Thus, the seemingly bizarre choice of Latin and
Aramaic [as the only languages spoken in the film] was actually part of
The following news clip gives us additional details:
"Mel Gibson to Produce Film on Christ's Passion,
Rome, Sept. 6, 2002 (Zenit) Mel Gibson is in Italy to
finalize details for the filming of a movie on the passion and death
of Jesus, a Hollywood trade publication reports.
"Variety magazine said the Australian
actor-producer sought advice from Vatican experts for Passion,
which will be produced by his Icon Productions. The film will
be faithful to Gibson's Catholicism, the magazine added.
"Gibson has decided on actor Jim Caviezel to
play the role of Jesus. Caviezel, also a Catholic, is acclaimed
for his roles in The Count of Monte Cristo and High Crimes.
"The Spanish newspaper La Razn reported
that the filming will begin in mid-September, coinciding with the Roman
fall, which in Gibson's words will bring the right light to
recreate the particular atmosphere I want.
"Gibson and two aides traveled to Sassi di
Matera early last month in preparation for filming. Sources speculate
that filming may take place in the nearby town of Craco."
September 6, 2002.
In a December 21, 2003, in-person interview with
Jim Caviezel (Hollywood actor who impersonated Christ in the film), the
following information was provided:
"Jim Caviezel was already a devout Catholic
when he got the role of Christ in Mel Gibson's The Passion of
the Christ . . Register staff writer Tim Drake interviewed
him on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe . .
" Was there anything in particular Gibson
had you do to prepare for this part?
" Mel and I are just administrators of Gods
work, and that's all that we continually ask for. And that's why we
centered every day on the Mass and receiving the Eucharist. There was
not one day that I was on film that I didn't receive Communion. I
just try to be the best Catholic . .
" I've always made acting follow truth, and
Mary has always pointed me toward that truth. I really believe that
she was setting me up, getting me ready to play her Son. She architected
this whole thing.
" People have asked me, " Were you
scared about getting this film? " And I say, Yes, a part of
me. But the other part of me says that I'm absolutely honored that
he, through Mary, would pick me to play this role.
"How has playing the part of Christ impacted
how you pray the rosary?
" Before going to the set every day, I
prepared myself in mediation or through the rosary, always through Mary.
I also went to confession and the Holy Spirit would convict me of my
sins. Once Id done that, the rest was very fundamental; it really
was. "Register, December 21, 2003.
"The long scene where Jesus gets scourged with
metal lashes is incredibly difficult to watch.
" There was a board on my back, about a
half-inch thick, so the Roman soldiers wouldn't hit my back. But one
of the soldiers missed, hit me flush on the back and ripped the skin
right off. I couldn't scream, I couldn't breathe. Its so painful
that it shocks your system. I looked over at the guy, and probably
said the F word. Within a couple of strokes he missed again. There's
like a 14-inch scar on my back. "Newsweek, February 16,
2004, p. 53.
After viewing an advance showing of the film, Pope John
Paul officially announced that it has his fullest blessing.
"Papal Praise for The Passion
" It Is as It Was, John Paul II Says
"New York, Dec. 18, 2003 (zenit) Mel Gibson's
The Passion of the Christ gains a new admirer: the
"According to various news sources, John Paul II
is the latest to see Gibson's movie on Christ's passion the weekend
before last, in the Vatican . .
"Afterward, and with an eloquent economy
[brevity of words], John Paul shared with Archbishop Dziwisz his
verdict. The latter, in turn, later shared John Paul's five-word
response with the co-producer of the movie, Steve McEveety.
"This is what the Pope said: It is as it was.
"In a recent piece in the Opinion Journal,
columnist Peggy Noonan, a contributing editor of the Wall Street
Journal, notes that the Pope joins other leading Church figures,
such as Cardinal Dario Castrilln Hoyos, prefect of the Congregation for
Clergy, who have praised the film and even suggested that all priests
see it." Zenit, December 18, 2003.
Although containing visions given by spirits to
Catholic mystics, Protestants love the film too.
"Mel Gibson told CT: I've been actually
amazed at the way I would say the evangelical audience has hands down
to this film more than any other Christian group. What makes it so
amazing he says is that the film is so Marian [so centered on
Mary] . . And Gibson goes beyond many Catholics when he calls her a
tremendous co-redemptrix and mediatrix. "Christianity
Today, March 2004.
"This evangelical enthusiasm for The Passion
of the Christ may seem a little surprising, in that the movie was
shaped from start to finish by a devout Roman Catholic and by an almost
medieval Catholic vision." Ibid.
The film was slated for release on an important
Catholic holy day: Ash Wednesday, February 25, 2004, all at once in 3,500
see update article