Today is a special day, not only for Christians but for anyone wishing to take stock of their lives. Ash Wednesday inaugurates the season of Lent, a time for introspection and redirection. Considering the current drift of our nation, especially in terms of morality, a drastic redirection is devoutly to be wished. Modern Liberalism has convinced many that satisfying physical needs and living in "harmony" with others is all that is necessary for a rewarding life. But this secular philosophy has not only failed us but helped create a society as dissolute as Berlin in the 1920s. Consequently, restoring some semblance of virtue to our perverse society is a tall order.
However, an encouraging sign is the enthusiasm exhibited for today’s premiere of Mel Gibson’s film The Passion of the Christ. I’m not naïve enough to think that one film will be the salvation of our society. And I concede that there are some who might not need a religious context in order to be virtuous. But Gibson’s film will force many of us to confront the unpleasant but essential crucifixion of Jesus. Courageously, Mr. Gibson persevered against a concerted campaign to prevent us from seeing the film.
Also, this film might create a fuller understanding of what the martyrdom of Jesus was all about. What it "was all about" cannot be explained by logical analysis nor reasoned dissertation. Similarly, verbal instruction cannot teach someone how to ride a bicycle. Their first attempts usually result in falling down. But finally, they "get it." Likewise, the gift offered by the sacrificial act of Jesus has to be experienced.
Although it cannot be explained in words, it can be evoked artistically, as Mr. Gibson is attempting in his creative film. In doing so, he is following a centuries old tradition wherein music, art, and literature have been fashioned to allude to this unique experience. I hope The Passion of the Christ will be as affecting to moviegoers as the singing of a bird was to Thomas Hardy as described in his poem The Darkling Thrush.
I leant upon a coppice gate
When Frost was spectre-grey,
And Winter’s dregs made desolate
The weakening eye of day.
The tangled bine-stems scored the sky
Like strings of broken lyres,
And all mankind that haunted night
Had sought their household fires.
The land’s sharp features seemed to be
The Century’s corpse outleant,
His crypt the cloudy canopy,
The wind his death-lament.
The ancient pulse of germ and birth
Was shrunken hard and dry,
And every spirit upon earth
Seemed fervourless as I.
At once a voice arose among
The bleak twigs overhead
In a full-hearted evensong
Of joy illimited;
An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small,
In blast-beruffled plume,
Had chosen thus to fling his soul
Upon the growing gloom.
So little cause for carolings
Of such ecstatic sound
Was written on terrestrial things
Afar or nigh around,
That I could think there trembled through
His happy good-night air
Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew
And I was unaware.
"Some blessed Hope" would certainly be welcome in our current predicament; a degenerate society that seems to be hope-less. However, it has been said that a new culture often begins to ripen as the old culture collapses. If that is true, the enthusiasm for Mel Gibson’s film might indicate that the process has begun.
Gail Jarvis [send him mail], a CPA living in Beaufort, SC, is an advocate of the voluntary union of states established by the founders.