(I’m publishing a series of posts about Mary the Mother of God during the Marian month of May. This was originally published at my Times Union blog.)
When the movie The Passion of the Christ was about to come out in 2004, I got very caught up in the fervor against the movie. There was so much propaganda, and I really believed that the film would be filled with anti-semitism. I was prepared to not go see the movie and I was ready to rail against it.
The film opened and my friend’s dad went to see it. So what? Well, he is an observant Modern Orthodox Jew, who lives in Jerusalem, but happened to be in New York City for business that week. She called and told me that he did not find it offensive at all and that he thought I should see it. Sherwin’s opinion was good enough for me, so off I went.
Now I can tell you that while it did not revile me in the ways that I thought it would, there were things about the movie that I did not like… and I still feel that way. However, there were things in the movie that I loved, and one of them was the portrayal of Mary, the mother of God. If you have not seen the film, this is a great reason to do so.
The role of Mary, was played by Maia Morgenstern, a Romanian Jewish actress. Her portrayal of Jesus’ mother pretty much unravels any notion of “little lady dressed in blue.” Like with so many images of Jesus, as well as the saints, we tend to end up with people who do not really look like they are from the Middle East. Add to that different ways in which Marian images have been shaped, and we are left with an “image” that may not be accurate.
Forgetting the whole westernizing of Mary in image, it is the very grit of the role that has stayed with me all these years. I have a hard time imagining a little shiny, sunbeam of a girl all the way around. Mary must have had some real strength and determination – and I suspect had some of it all along. Look at that photo of Mary from the film, at the top of the post – I really find this imagery so powerful. This is a woman who is with me on my journey, as she was with her son, Jesus Christ.
Mary, the Mother of God was a woman who lead a remarkable life, one that should not be distilled down to some saccharine sweetness and purity. She was under incredible duress but had resilience and incredible grace. This is what the ultimate cooperation with God is, not something so one dimensional and small.
So when people want to talk about Mary, I almost always bring the movie up. I am reminded of how much Mary suffered, and how she loved her son so fiercely. I have to tell you, I have not watched the movie in awhile and when I pulled up the short 2 minute clip at the end of the post, I did cry.
Many people have told me that they would “never” see that movie. What a pity! I would simply say that the movie is worth seeing for numerous reasons. And if you are like me, you will not like parts of it. So what? I’d love to hear about other people’s impressions of Mary in this movie. (Note: I do not want to get into a discussion about the whole movie, not today, OK?)
And whether you have seen the movie or not, what are your thoughts and feelings about Mary? How do you imagine her? Has your image of Mary changed over time? (Mine has… maybe a future post?)