May 21, 2006


Yesterday I decided that it was my cultural and pastoral duty to read The Da Vinci Code. I don't feel like I have to see the movie because everyone says it's a terrific bore. I think I need to see for myself what all this fuss is about.

When I've done such things in the past, there have been interesting results.

For instance, at some point I decided I needed to both see and read The Last Tempation of Christ. What amazed about it was that it actually is heretical, but not for any of the reasons people were screaming about. Oh well, Jesus is tempted to marriage and family instead of the Cross, big deal. There are worse temptations to imagine of him in Gethsemane. The real problem with the story is that Kazantzakis is a dualist and a Manichee, and is always talking about the transformation of matter into spirit, as if God didn't really mean it when he looked at the created, material world and said it was good.

Lesser known is Kazantakis' life of St. Francis, which though it suffers from the same problems, is an intense telling of the story nonetheless. I read it when I was a novice. An older friar told me he had done the same thing and he had been "messed up for weeks."

I also went to see The Passion of the Christ because everyone was talking about it and I thought I needed to be conversant with it. I had mixed feelings about this one. Some of the characters were great (Herod, Veronica, Simon of Cyrene,Mary and Mary Magdalene, the devil) while other things were handled poorly, like the devil-children pursuing the guilty Judas. The narrative structure in which the institution of the Eucharist was intertwined with the approach to Golgotha was both good story and good theology.

So if I actually get through The Da Vinci Code I'll post my humble opinion.


Jeff said...

Hello Friar,

For me, the Last Temptation was comical and ridiculous. I couldn't sit all the way through it, which surprised me, because I love everything else Martin Scorcese has ever done, which includes the themes on Catholicism which he tends to interject into his movies (like Mean Streets, for example).

As for The Passion, I thought it was a fair-to-good movie that could have been a great movie, but missed the mark. I wouldn't go as far as to say that it was anti-semitic, but it went right up to the very edge. It darned near was. I thought the Jesus and Mary characters were wonderfully done, but I thought the brutality was over the top (and the Stations of the Cross happens to be my favorite devotion). Gibson seems to have a blood and brutality fetish that says more about him and his own demons than it does about Christ. It was a movie that I really wanted to like, but it left me quiet and very unsettled and troubled. That view of penal substitutionary atonement is more at home in evangelical Protestantistm that in Catholicism, in my opinion. I think the rest of your comments were pretty much on the mark.

Paula said...

I really hope that the theology of substitutionary atonement is not Catholic, as Jeff said.
I cannot see the sacrifice of Christ in legalistic/judiciar terms
(for example as a payement for the offended honour of God).