The Risen Christ Appears to His Mother
We all see Jesus differently, and my image of Jesus was forever and dramatically changed at age 19 when Fr John J Walsh, SJ showed us in the Jesuit Novitiate in Florissant, Missouri, Piero Pasolini’s black and white film made in 1964 : The Gospel According to St Matthew. Before the film was released, the churches were poised and ready to condemn it, as Pasolini was well known to be a gay man with communist leanings. Yet when it finally came out, most churches realized no one had ever made such a stark and beautiful film about Christ and the Catholic Church gave it their annual film award. Like many masterpieces of the past, in art, music and film it’s difficult to re-create the impact this film had on everyone. Pasolini filmed it in the poor hill towns of Italy. It’s as far from a Hollywood Jesus or film about a Him, as you can possibly get. The soundtrack is likewise unique in its use of Bach, the African Mass, Missa Luba, and the Black American spiritual, “Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child.” I could write a very long time on the impact this one work of art still has on me. But it’s mainly Jesus, played by the only Spaniard in the film, Enrique Irazoqui, that changed me , turned me upside down, inside n’ out and made my love for Jesus burst into flame and grow immensely. Such is the power of the Holy Spirit working through an artist who is empty enough to be used by God.
I’ll just mention two of the film’s unforgettable scenes : one is the Child Jesus running on a beach-like landscape in Egypt, into the arms of the waiting Joseph while Mary looks on with deep love, at a distance. Another is Jesus kneeling in prayer with his head partially covered by a dark mantle, in which your own soul feels and copies His prayer just by watching. I can still see and feel these scenes in my heart and soul.
Although the Gospels are silent about this, St Teresa of Avila and St Ignatius Loyola (out of many, many of church mystics) could not but help imagine that the Risen Lord would appear first of all to His waiting Mother.
Many paintings show a triumphant, even muscular, Risen Lord. And icons generally show Him actively breaking down the gates of death or Hades, trampling the devil, and grabbing the wrists of Adam and Eve - then freeing all the Old Testament saints within.
At the heart of many of the recent Marian Apparitions is a prophecy that the church will undergo death and resurrection, (and then a New Pentecost) to be conformed to its Savior, the Lamb of God. During this Lent and Easter we cannot help but contemplate the staggering new pageant of innocent victims across the world, who in their deaths join the immense Retinue of the Lamb, portrayed in the Apocalypse (book of Revelation). For this reason, I chose to turn for inspiration concerning a Risen Jesus, to one of many of Rogier van der Weyden’s masterpieces, of a “still shaking, visibly vulnerable” Risen Christ appearing to his Mother.
A blessed Joyfilled Easter!
Fr Bill McNichols