Thursday, March 11, 2004

"Blood of Christ, inebriate me..."

Another smart-ass blowhard who's begging to be smacked up side the head with a catechism:

"Gibson, by contrast, merely demands that you witness in labored, faux real-time detail the fact of Jesus' torture, and marshals it into a shrilly righteous indictment of us for having seen it, and like the Jewish rabble and Roman authoritarians, still failing to submit to its self-evident logic.

This barely contained contempt for the film's audience comes through most clearly in the camera's obsession with blood. Anytime Jesus sheds his blood, the camera zooms hungrily in for a close-up. We do not see the blood merely shed; we also see it spatter back into the faces of the torturing Roman soldiers, who cackle in Breughel-like transports of sadism. After the scourging, the two Marys take up two cloths and begin sopping up the copious amounts of Jesus' blood that have literally puddled in pools in the courtyard. As he is mounted on the cross, we see his blood draining out of one of the cross's nail-holes, much like the oil in an automotive crankcase."

Is it really news to anyone that Catholics have always regarded the Blood of Christ as more than bodily fluid? For all his smarmy intellectual hot air, this guy can't even wonder whether he might be missing something here. For Catholics, Christ's Blood is the recapitulation of the blood of the Passover lamb, which saves us from death, analogous to the lamb's blood spread on the lintels of Israelite households. At High Mass, when the priest sprinkles the congregation with holy water and prays the Asperges Me, he is recapitulating the sprinkling of bull's blood by the high priest on the altar of the Temple for ritual purification. From the Gospels, the disciples are commanded by Christ to drink his blood from the "cup of salvation" or else have no part of him. The attention the Marys pay to Christ's blood in the film is a representation of the devotion Catholics pay to his Precious Blood. In his famous prayer Anima Christi, St. Ignatius of Loyola supplicates,
Body of Christ, save me.
Blood of Christ, inebriate me.
Water from the side of Christ, wash me.
Passion of Christ, strengthen me.
O good Jesus, hear me.
Within your wounds, hide me.
Christians inebriated with blood? Cambridge Univ. Dominican theologian Aidan Nichols named one of his books, No Bloodless Myth, to describe the drama of the Christian story, which is to say that the Christian story is in fact a rather bloody myth. How can any critic worth his ink avoid seeing this context in TPOTC? So, YES, Catholics are obsessed with Christ's blood. Call it disgusting, but that's orthodox Catholicism, not some deviant pornographic version of it, as the critics keep charging ad nauseum. Even Judaism gives blood a theological meaning through its rituals and kosher laws. But our critics can't fathom the relevance of theological perspectives. Once again, I have never been more dumbstruck by the self-incriminating "know-nothingness" of intellectuals.

One of the great misconceptions (propagated unfortunately by even the film's supporters) is that TPOTC is "literal" or "historical." It is not. It is theological, which includes the literal text and the historical Jesus, but is not reducible to either. There would be a lot less hysteria over this flic if we all just understood that much.