By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK
Throughout the year on Friday each week the Church commemorates the Passion of the Lord by means of abstention from the eating of flesh meat. The giving of His Flesh and Blood on the cross unto death for the salvation of the world is remembered thus by personal penance and self-denial. Not easy in a summer full of Friday barbecues. But all the more significant for that reason. Prayer, too, is recommended by means of meditation on the Stations of the Cross.
During the holiest penitential season of the entire liturgical year, in Lent, the Church imposes Friday abstinence as a grave obligation. Hence if we knowingly break the law, we must confess it. Many parishes host a public praying of the Stations in a communal manner also on the Fridays of Lent. These customs are meant to help us all year. Extending them beyond Lent reinforces Catholic identity and strengthens our faith.
At the spiritual heart of Lent is the meditation on the Passion of the Lord. Art of various means can aid us in better immersing ourselves again in the Lord’s suffering and death. The constant presence of the crucifix in our homes and churches is our primary communal expression of the reality of the Cross. More thoroughly appropriating a sense of the personal love of the Lord for each of us expressed thereby is a life’s work. There is no better opportunity for growing in this aspect of our Faith than Lent, when so many graces are available as we journey toward Easter, which would never have happened without Good Friday.
I recently rewatched the Zeffirelli film Jesus of Nazareth. I remember being impressed as a seminarian with, for the most part, its faithfulness to Scripture. Back then one had to check the TV guide to catch it. Now it’s available on YouTube. No longer needed is a conventional television for this or any other film. I watched it on an Amazon fire tablet.
I take note now of the various accents, gathering together as the film does a variety of A-list actors from places like England, the U.S., and Italy. It has inaccuracies, such as the depiction of a bar mitzvah for our Lord as a youth. Such did not begin to occur until centuries later. Zeffirelli believed the lack of such would make it hard for Jews to relate to the film. We see here an example of the ways in which art is sacrificed for the sake of mass appeal. That aside, the film is quite well done. It achieved a massive audience when first broadcast as a miniseries in the 1970s.
Seeing the world through another’s eyes is always difficult. Understanding the life and death of the God-man is more than Herculean by comparison. In our love for Him, and the holy faith by which He saves our souls, we seek to grow nonetheless in His friendship. Accompanying the Savior by spiritually walking once again in His footsteps is the primary means of aiding us in our love of Him and accepting the graces He offers thereby. “The Father and I are one,” He tells us. When we see the Lord we see the Father, the God who began to reveal Himself by means of revelation to the Jewish people, and in the fullness of time, in Christ.
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