Monday, April 9, 2012

The Passion Of the Christ & the History of Salvation

Both controversial and inspiring, writer/director Mel Gibson was even accused of "making himself God," by those who disliked the film (not that the accusation makes any sense); for those of us who have found a deeply moving and intimate portrayal of Jesus Christ and His Sorrowful Passion, the story has stayed with us, deepening our faith and our willingness to suffer for our own sins and those of others. The video below contains the entire film, which I will be discussing scene-by-scene below:
The moon has long been a pagan symbol of various cults of Satanic worship; why would Mel Gibson’s 2004 drama The Passion Of the Christ open with a pagan image? Because it’s not a pagan image; the cycles of the moon have been used since earliest man to measure time and seasons, hence, on this “night of nights,” the night of the Last Supper, the moon in its fullness makes the viewer aware of the fullness of time and the fulfillment of the prophecies of the Christ, the Messiah.
The darkness and fog covering the garden is indicative of sin covering the world: just as we cannot see what is happening in the garden because of the night and fog, so we cannot see what damage is done to our soul when we sin. All images are high-quality, so please click on any that you might want to study in greater detail and they will enlarge to full-scale and resolution.
It is proper that Gibson chose to begin the tale in a garden, because it was in a garden that man’s story began, the Garden of Eden and man’s Fall from Grace; the Garden of Olives begins the story of returning man to God’s Grace, and the Resurrection in the garden signals the completion of the intent.  Before we see the lonely figure of Jesus praying alone, we see a tall tree, in full bloom with leaves, and it both invokes the Tree of Knowledge from which Eve and Adam partook of the Forbidden Fruit, and that being the whole purpose of why the Divine Economy had to account for the Sacrifice of Jesus, but also how the bare Tree of the Cross would impart new knowledge to us and make us fruitful in our own journey to salvation.
Just as we don’t hear/understand the initial words of Jesus praying because we see the entire story through the eyes of sin (the tree limbs hanging down obscuring the view of Christ) and it is the words of One Wholly Obedient—scared, terrified, yes—but willing to endure the terrible sacrifice for Justice that is demanded. Why is Christ’s robe slipping off his shoulder? His cloak is red, the color of love and martyrdom; His robe is white, the color of purity, and in this case, utter Purity of Obedience. We know, from the writings of the saints, that when we fail in love, we can succeed through obedience (when we don’t want to do something, we can accomplish what must be done because we remind ourselves of Christ’s obedience, and His fear of not wanting to go through what has come before Him is not a sign that His Love for humanity is failing Him, rather, that we, the saints in training would fail in callings we should heed and only obedience would get us through.
It’s a simple gesture, but a telling one: just as Christ reaches out for the tree to help steady Himself, and His hands don’t feel the tree there, so Christ reaches out for the support and love of His disciples, and neither are they there.  The sleep of the disciples mirrors the sleep of the whole world, the sleep of us even today, because parts of our souls are still submerged in sin, keeping us from being fully “awake” and alive to the call of Christ. The second Peter hears His Voice, Peter and the others awaken, just as, in the spiritual life, when we hear Him call our name, we awaken.
When Jesus asks, “Could you not even keep watch with me one hour?” those of us who go to Maundy Thursday each year and stay until Midnight know the difficulty of staying awake and focused on what we know will happen for our own sakes. But Peter asks what has happened to you? The roles have been reversed: whereas the disciples are used to receiving encouragement from the Lord, now the Lord needs encouragement from them. Why? So He could completely conquer Sin and Death for us, on the way to the Garden of Olives from the Upper Room, Christ’s Divinity was suspended: He endured the entire Passion in His human form with no consolation from His Divine nature, just as we have no consolation in our dark hours. Jesus’ helplessness, so to speak, is what startles Peter, because he’s used to the fully Divine and fully human Jesus, not a suffering Jesus.
“Stay here. Watch,… pray.” What kind of advice is that? Fleeing seems like a much better idea, doesn’t it? Is Jesus telling them to watch for Judas coming? No, He’s telling them to watch how He submits to the Father’s Will, and to pray to do in their future trials as they will see Him do. Why does Jesus not want the others to see Him in this state? Pride? No, because that is how it is in the spiritual life: what builds up some (in this case, Peter, John and James) would not be beneficial for others (the other Apostles), that is why the path of each saint is destined for heaven, but each path is different.
When Peter looks back up at the moon and hears the loud bird screech in the background, that is the call of the bird of death which has been unleashed, and it has been unleashed, as the visual commentary tells us (camera angles and directions) because just as the fullness of time for the Christ to suffer has come, so, too, has the fullness of Judas’ betrayal come. The area separating Judas from the High Priest reminds us, instantly, of the special treatment which Judas has received in being one of only twelve in the entire history of humanity to travel with Jesus and be His intimate friend and numbered among the Apostles. 
Thirty pieces, as St. Augustine would point out, is the multiplication of 3 (honoring the Trinity) and 10 (the number for the fullness of Grace). It's not a matter of what Judas has gained by selling Christ, but what he has lost, just as each of us lose when we turn to the world instead of to God. Long time readers of this blog should be thinking about the links we have made since October between the defeating of werewolves by anything silver, for the reasons given above, because the man who has become enslaved to his sexual appetites can only be saved by the Word of God, that is, something silver. (For more, please see The Bright Autumn Moon: The Wolf Man).
Before anyone speaks, Judas looks behind him; Satan is with him. There are odd aspects to Satan’s presence in the Passion story. Blessed Mary of Agreda and Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich agree that Satan, up to this point, had not been sure whether Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ, the One who could come into the world and end Satan’s reign. In the Scriptures, whenever a demon would challenge Christ’s authority, or call Christ the “Son of God,” or make other such reference, it’s not that Satan acknowledged Jesus was the Christ, but was trying to discover if Jesus was the Christ (the Messiah). When Jesus conducted the Last Supper, and Satan could feel the Divine Power transubstantiating the Bread and Wine, Satan knew then that he was about to be defeated; whereas Satan had been using Judas to try and destroy the prophet Jesus of Nazareth, even Satan could see that if Jesus was handed over to suffer and die, He would defeat Satan forever. When Jesus, at the table of the Passover, tells Judas to do what he must, and Judas leaves, Satan actually tries to talk Judas out of betraying Jesus to prevent Jesus’ triumph, but it’s too late, Judas is so bent on his own destruction that even Satan can’t sway him from committing this sin!
Why does the priest toss the bag of money to Judas? They know it’s a sin to betray your friend, and don’t want to defile themselves by touching him (consider, if you will, the parable Jesus told of the Good Samaritan: the High Priest wouldn’t touch the wounded man because it would ceremoniously defile them; the wounded man was Adam, symbolically, and the Samaritan who saved him and paid the price for his healing was Christ). The next question: why does Judas drop the money? Because Judas does not have “a grip” on what it is he is doing and is going to happen. Judas stooping down to pick up the money, and his bare feet (feet symbolize the will, so his will to collect the money is “exposed”) mean that he is willing to stoop to collect on what it is he will do. Judas being a thief, then, is juxtaposed against St. Dismas, the “Good Thief,” because Judas, having traveled with Christ stole even though he knew what he was doing, but Dismas, never having been with Christ, saw in the few agonizing hours they were together that Jesus was Lord.
There are lots of deep, fruitful ways of understanding the Mystery of Christ’s sweaty bleeding, but at least one way is that the Temple, wherein Judas and the High Priests, agree to arrest God, is now the “den of thieves” and no longer the Temple; because the Temple was the place where sacrifices were performed, Jesus’ bleeding in the Garden of Olives is a clear sign that now He is the Temple (of which He had spoken earlier) and He is the Sacrifice, being Pure and undefiled which the Temple no longer is because of the great sin that has taken place there, the betrayal of God by His own people.
Gibson does something interesting here, he basically changes the story, but it’s still fruitful and instructive. In the original narrative, we are told that an angel comes and comforts Christ; instead, Gibson has Satan come. Knowing that Judas is bent on doing what Judas will do, the devil now tries to tempt Christ away from His Path, but there is another reason this works, too. Even when we want to do God’s will, our own fear and doubt can start undermining us; it’s a blessing from God when Satan shows up to work against us, because then our heart, mind and soul unite together against Satan instead of tearing us apart inwardly, and that’s what Gibson chose to illustrate with Satan tempting Christ.
When the clouds of darkness (the Great Cloud of Unknowing, as the saints call it) pass over the moon and shroud Christ in darkness, a part of His Face is drowned out, while the other part (the right half) can still be seen; this happens often within the film, because even though Christ is fully human, and His Divinity has been suspended so He will suffer fully as we humans suffer, there is a part of His Pure, Undefiled soul that we do not have access to because of our own sin; great saints such as Mary and Joseph, John the Baptist and St. Lawrence, would be able to see that part of Christ’s suffering and inner reservoir of Love and Obedience, but we mere humans and sinners cannot, we must have faith to see what our inner darkness drowns out.
Why does the worm come out of Satan’s nose? Because of the Eternal Worm that will never stop gnawing upon souls in Hell; in not knowing who Christ is (still trying to get it out of Him), Satan reveals who he is, the one in rebellion against the Father. As the camera travels down Satan towards the ground, we see the nails upon the fingers (typical of monsters and evil personages in general); they are long, dirty and sharp. The hands symbolize strength, and what it is that we get our strength from; like Dracula (and all vampires) the nails are sharp as a sign of greed, grabbing everything to fulfill one or more of the appetites, and that’s how they became a vampire and that’s how we are to understand Satan in this scene, making a last, greedy grab for power, the way the devil tempted Eve to grab the Forbidden Fruit and that’s why the snake comes out, reminding us of how Eve partook of the Fruit in Eden, making it necessary for Jesus to partake of the Chalice of Bitter Suffering.
I, at least, don’t think of Jesus in such human terms, and I am deeply grateful to Our Lord for inspiring Gibson to offer us this side of His Suffering, because I don’t think—in my own selfish egoism—of Jesus really being tempted the way I am tempted, but the serpent crawling over his right arm, the right arm of God Almighty that some day will sentence the Just and the Damned, and trying to overtake God’s own Strength isn’t a sign of how powerful Satan is, but of how weak Jesus allowed Himself to become out of Love for us.
When Jesus stands back up, He finds what He did not find earlier when He reached out for the tree and the three Apostles had fallen asleep: support. His Hand touches the Rock the He Himself is for us when we are weak, and like us, He grabs for the sure Rock of solid Faith (like David before Him) and, finding it, is able to overcome His weakness. Jesus stepping on the head of the serpent, as Mary herself will do later, symbolizes Satan’s pride (the head, the governing function) being crushed by the Humility and Obedience of Jesus (His Heel because the heel is the lowest part of our body, so it symbolizes when we ourselves become lowly).  Now that Jesus has all His Weapons gathered within Himself, Obedience, Humility and Faith, He can fight the battle that Adam and Eve could not.
Jesus asks the group led by Judas, “Who are you looking for?” That’s not a casual question, it’s the question He asks each of us, within our own soul: are we looking for Jesus of Nazareth, or Satan, the rebel of heaven? Judas hears this question as he should hear it, and that’s why Judas turns to run. It demonstrates, like Judas looking behind him when he received the money from the priests, that his initial impulse is good, but then he undermines it. Judas has total control of his free will, we should not doubt that, but the way Gibson decided to utilize the camera angles, and the speed of the shots communicates to us the Eternity of this moment, how this moment is different from all other moments in history.
Why does Judas kiss Jesus?
We’ve gone over this before, specifically in The Kiss and the Soul: Gustav Klimt, but it’s so important it’s worth examining once more. When God created Adam, He brought Adam to Life with the Breath of Life, a Kiss; when Adam took the bite of the Forbidden Fruit, that Breath of Life left him, and he was dead in sin (the expelling of the Holy Spirit from his soul). So that Jesus truly becomes the “New Adam,” Judas kissing Jesus takes the Breath of Life from Our Lord as the Fruit and its disobedience took it from Adam. (When Jesus is Resurrected, and enters the Upper Room where the Apostles are gathered, He Breathes on them, returning to them the Breath of Life lost among men with Adam’s sin and at Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit comes, it’s as a Rush of Wind; to insure that we know this is THE BREATH OF LIFE given to the Apostles, there are Flames of Fire like Tongues, from the Holy Spirit’s Mouth; for more, please see The Kiss and the Soul: Gustav Klimt).
As the ensuing fight proceeds, (“Strike the Shepherd and the Flock will scatter,”) Jesus keeps looking at Judas, following Judas with His Merciful Eyes and trying to talk to Judas and get him to repent so he won’t hang himself and confine himself to damnation. Jesus quietly following Judas with His Prayers is the way Jesus will want His Followers to teach the Gospel, which brings us to the next incident.
I have to admit, Peter taking the sword and slicing off the ear of the soldier is exactly the same way I tend to “preach” the Gospel, using so much vinegar that no one wants to “give ear” so I try and take it; I am working on that, though. The point is, this scene illustrates for us how intuitively, at this point, if Peter had been made Supreme Pontiff right then and there, how he would have gone about spreading the Gospel, by the sword, and so it’s not just to fulfill the requirements of Divine Justice for the sin of Adam and Eve, but also for the spreading of the Law of Love, the Way, the Truth and the Life.  “Those who live by the sword, shall die by the sword,” and that is certainly a prophecy of things to come. Jesus, in healing the ear of Malchus, heals not only his physical ear and hearing, but Malchus’ spiritual hearing so that he can hear the Gospel although, as St. Francis would say, not a single word is being spoken (and that’s why Malchus is slow to rise, he is awe-struck by the Presence of God).
It’s not just the spreading of the future Gospel that the lesson teaches us, but also the separating of the old ways and the new ways: God made His Presence known in the days of King David through the power and victory of Israel’s sword in battle; that will not be the future (but how the Pharisees are expecting it to be) rather, Christ’s disciples will be beaten, instead of doing the beating, and by allowing themselves to suffer as the Shepherd Himself is doing, by that will the Victory be won. Jesus isn’t just telling Peter to drop that sword, He is telling Peter and all future disciples to “drop the sword” and win the battle by giving your life, not taking life. (As Jesus says this, He no longer wears the red cloak, but the white tunic, putting Him in the role of the Lamb of God, the Pure and Faithful, led to the slaughter).
Mary awakens the moment Jesus is struck with a chain. Long-time readers know that chains usually symbolize the “sin which binds us,” (for example, in Immortals, it’s with a chain that Zeus fights the Titans). Jesus being struck with chains—which occurs numerous times throughout the film—reminds us the viewers of how Jesus is taking our sins upon Himself, entering into our bondage of slavery to sin and death so that He can deliver us from it, just as God delivered Israel from Egypt through Moses.
When Mary tells Magdalen to “listen,” it’s the sound of silence they hear, and that silence is “the silence of the Lamb of God” as He goes off to the slaughter. John bursting through the door in such volume, the light shining into the room behind him, symbolizes our own minds and how the reality and brutality of what is to take place is suddenly bursting in upon us, like John into the room.
The brief encounter—the second encounter, technically—of Peter and Malchus (the first being Peter cutting off his ear) mirrors the next scene, when Jesus sees Judas. Peter and Malchus are two believers (one being the oldest of the Apostles, the first to confess Him the Messiah, and the other, Malchus, the newest convert) and both go, in their own way, to find Jesus; Jesus, however, takes the painful fall to find Judas, nurturing his sin within the darkness of his soul, but Jesus coming to save Judas isn’t enough; Judas doesn’t go to Jesus because he prefers to be ashamed and carry out punishment upon himself rather than accept Mercy from His Master who Loves him. Again, we see in Judas a good initial impulse, then he turns away from that path; the demon hiding in the darkness is an act of God’s mercy for Judas: Judas sees with his own eyes what he has given his soul over to—just as Jesus saw Satan so He could pull Himself into Unity against the enemy, remembering why He was willing to enter into His Suffering—and while seeing the demon does Judas some good, it’s an imperfect contrition that doesn’t lead Judas on the right path because Judas hasn’t “run the race” that St. Paul will talk about later, he has pursued the worldly, not the spiritual.
Once Jesus has been brought into the courtyard, and the High Priests are gathering to press their charges, they pass Judas, hiding in a doorway with a small, grated window behind him, a light shining through. This perfectly communicates to the audience the state of Judas’ soul, his repentance trying to “shine through” and open the doorway into God’s mercy.  Peter knows that in embracing Mary, the Mother of Jesus, the Virgin promised by God to Adam and Eve, and all their descendants, a new Mother of humanity who would—unlike Eve—crush the head of the serpent instead of listening to it, be a bridge of mercy for sinners to pass upon to God’s Forgiveness, Peter knows that embracing Mary is embracing Jesus (for those who, like myself once, do not believe in the importance of Mary regarding God’s elect role for her and her greatly esteemed destiny bequeathed to her, then you don’t believe that God has fulfilled His Promise of the Woman who would crush the head of the serpent).
When the guard rides up and asks about what is going on, we might be a bit confused by Magdalen’s passionate reply: “They’ve arrested him! In secret! In the night! To hide their crime from you!” as her right hand holds her left wrist. Magdalen uses this language because this is exactly what happened to her when she was caught in adultery, and Jesus saved her, but Magdalen can now do nothing to save her Lord. In right hand holds her left wrist in a demonstration of “binding” and being chained, because that is what she was (more on this later) and Jesus is now.  When the Temple guard tells the Roman soldier that Magdalen is “crazy,” and the Roman replies, “I see,” seeing that Magdalen’s intellect has seen clearly and that she is not crazy.
Jesus engineering His table, in the next scene, reminds us of how He is the Divine Engineer of history, destiny and salvation, for each of us, and Himself. The table He builds is the new Altar of Sacrifice upon which the Mass will be celebrated (and that’s why He gets up on it and tests its strength, He will be upon it in the form of the Bread and Wine). Mary peering through one part of the table and seeing Him Working is probably pretty accurate regarding the state of her soul; in my own devotions, I forget how human our Mother was, and focus, instead, on the Immaculate Conception, which I should not do (when Jesus is washing His Hands and splashes some up on Mary, this is a reference to how she has shared in His Cleansing because she will share in His Work). This intimate moment in the life of Jesus and Mary, just before His real Work is about to begin, shows us how she knew more than any of us would have known, but she still is not God, and she still had to endure the great Cloud of Unknowing like all of us.
When she asks her Divine Son if He is hungry, He says, “Yes, I am hungry,” Hunger eats at Him though to do His Father’s Will, for Jesus eats only the “meat of Obedience” and the tall table is for the one who, unlike Adam, will “measure up” to God’s calling. Who is the “rich man?” His Father, because the Father is the only One who owns everything, Everything comes from Him, all else have what they have as a gift from Him, so Jesus—like each of us is called to do—is not only making the table/alter as a gift for His Father, but a Gift of Himself as well. 
(Mary has three fiats she must make in order to undo Eve’s one “No” to God: the first fiat is at the Annunciation; the second fiat is when Mary and Jesus meet upon the Via Delarosa, because it’s far easier to say yes to something when it is still far removed, but it’s excruciating to say yes when it is before you; if Mary, when she looked into her Divine Son’s Eyes, had said, “No, Lord, do not do this,” It—the Passion—would have been stopped, but knowing she would say, “Yes,” is why she was chosen to help. The third fiat of Mary is at the Ascension, when her Love, her Life, leaves the world but asks that she stay behind and be the mother to the Apostles and the young Church that she had been to Jesus; again, she says, “Yes.”)
It’s odd, isn’t it, that Pilate would be up past one o’clock at night? Why can people not sleep when they should? He’s reading over scrolls, trying to do the “work of the world,” instead of the work of the soul, as his wife does (which is why she “wakes up” from the sleep the world puts us in and she’s in “the light,” because she is now in the know about what is really happening).
As Caiphas hears the charges against Jesus, the defilement of the Temple, and why it can no longer be the Temple of God is graphically illustrated for us: the priests of the Temple have blasphemed God and can no longer serve Him because they have blasphemed against His Son.  Judas, standing off to the side and seeing what they are doing, rubs his mouth against the stones of the Temple; why? The mouth symbolizes the appetites, and to Judas, the Temple is still clean (but it’s not by his own hand) so to rub his sinful mouth (that kissed Jesus) is to try and cleanse himself of his sin, but that obviously isn’t going to work.  This is verified when Judas rubs his sinful mouth upon his own hand, the hand that accepted the money; so the hand is as sinful as the mouth; for these reasons, we see why, through the sin of Judas, we need Jesus, because He alone is the Purity that can wash away our sins.
To make sure we don’t get the idea that Caiphas wants to acquit Jesus, that he only wants stronger proof of Jesus’ wrongdoing that will stand up before Pilate, another priest comes forth and brings with him the light of reason that the charges are all contradictory, and he’s pushed off to the side and silenced.  Then another comes forth and stands up for Jesus, and he too is thrown out of the court. Caiphas asking Jesus if He is the Messiah is just like Satan asking Jesus earlier “Who is your father?” because Caiphas wants to crucify Jesus who challenges his own authority in the Temple just as Jesus challenges the authority in the world of Satan.
What is Judas doing? Reaching out, as Jesus did in the Garden of Olives, for support, and, again, this is the correct first impulse Judas has, but then it will be followed by a lesser, evil impulse.
Of all the answers which could be given at this point, this is the one given; why? Hope. When we are in the midst of the darkness of our own lives, we hope and look forward to something better, regardless of what they may be, and Jesus Hopes as well, and by verbalizing it, by articulating what it is that He Knows will come to pass—His Second Coming—He is further strengthened to endure the darkness of his Suffering.
When Jesus looks up at Caiphas to answer his questions (more like taunts, really) one eye is swollen and the other eye is darkened so we can barely see it; this is a picture of Caiphas’ own soul, because regardless of what Jesus says, Caiphas will ensure He is crucified, so that Caiphas’ guilt before God will be complete, Jesus answers in such a blindingly truthful way, that Caiphas’ sins make the answer burning coals heaped up upon him: “I AM.”
Caiphas rips his priestly garments has a false act of weeping that God has been outraged, and that is why Jesus has a tear run down His Face, He weeps not for Himself, but for Caiphas and those he leads astray, because the verdict against them is Death, not against Jesus, and this Tear from Our Lord is His Own Prayer for their salvation and forgiveness. (A tear, as in ripping, is also a tear, as in weeping, and the tearing of the garment is also the tearing of the eyes of Jesus).
In the next scene, Peter and Judas are weighed in the balance and an interesting picture about the development of the soul is found. Peter, first of the Apostles to recognize Jesus as the Messiah, has denied Him three times, as prophesied. Why? So we would know, throughout the history of the Church, that the Pontiffs, the Successors of Peter are not chosen because they are perfect, they are chosen by the Divine Mystery of God (why does Peter really deny knowing Christ? Because each of us do, every time we commit a sin, regardless of how small or great, and since Peter and the Apostles would be given the power to absolve the flock of its sins, they themselves would need to know how they could sin and themselves abandon the Lord, just as we would).
For Peter, his denial of Christ is as terrible as Judas’ selling of Christ, but we know that Peter—unlike Judas—will “come out of it,” and in seeking the Mercy of Jesus, actually become stronger because Jesus will give Peter more than he lost in his denial (just because Peter is the chosen one, doesn’t mean that Jesus doesn’t have to suffer for Peter’s sins, too). Judas, on the other hand, wants to reach out to Christ in this moment, as usual, and does follow it up with trying to return the silver, but that act of penance is wholly inadequate: only Christ can forgive sins, and now that the High Priest has blashphemed God for the sake of his own power and standing in the society, Judas going to Caiphas trying to repent of his sins is not going to have any effacing reward.
When Judas tries to give back the silver to Caiphas, he says, “I’ve sinned, I’ve betrayed innocent blood.” This is really the backbone of Judas’ sin, because he’s not saying, I’ve betrayed God, all Judas is saying is “Jesus of Nazareth hasn’t committed any crimes.” Hence, by the positing of The Passion Of the Christ, Judas never believed that Jesus was really the Messiah, at least not the way Peter did. Judas, of course, in saying Jesus is innocent, contradicts Caiphas, and Caiphas doesn’t like that one bit, which may explain why he’s so cold to Judas, but also that Caiphas no longer needs Judas, he has what he wants, Jesus in chains. This exchange also reveals what Judas wants and Caiphas can’t give him: forgiveness, which only Jesus can give but Judas won’t ask for because he doesn’t know to because he has sinned and sinned and sin is all he knows now.
The scars we see upon Judas’ mouth when he’s trying to give back the silver reveals to us how the effect of his sin, his appetite for wealth, is deteriorating him (granted, it comes from wiping his mouth upon the stone, but that didn’t have any effect).  We know of course that the Hebrew word for “silver” is very much like the word for “Word,” which Jesus Christ is, and in trying to give back the silver, the worldly silver, Judas hopes to regain the Silver of the Gospels that he has lost.
Against a wall, symbolizing his sin, and a pile of sticks behind him—both the wood that would, in a few hours time become sanctified, but which all ready carry meaning because of Isaac carrying the wood of his own sacrifice—Judas has scratched and gnawed away at his soul as his face is scratched. We should know that the “children” playing aren’t children at all (it’s like one or two o’clock in the morning) and hence, they aren’t playing at all: just as they are throwing the ball around when we first see them, so they will throw Judas around to completely condemn him and lead him to damnation. The children are manifestations of what is inside Judas, because Jesus said, bring the children unto Me, and unless you become like a child, you cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven, Judas failed to become a little child (even at this point, Judas can still be redeemed, but he’s too hard-hearted to).
 Mary knows where Jesus is without seeing Him because their Hearts are connected, in Love, in Suffering. She knows where Jesus is because she knows where the Greatest Pain is, and feeling where that greatest Suffering is, is where she goes to join in it and unite herself to it. Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich tells s that Mary felt every ounce of pain that Jesus experienced in her soul, and if we fail to believe that, then we fail to believe in God’s justice, because Jesus makes reparation for Adam’s sin as Mary makes reparation for Eve’s sin, and unless every prism of Original Sin is accounted for, none of it is and that includes the Passion of Jesus.
Jesus bound in the darkness, His Hands close together, symbolizes those who are still in the darkness and dungeon of sin. Because they are united, not to God, but to their sin, their hands are joined in their sin—a full agreement, embracing of sin—and Jesus’ Suffering in the prison cell—without food, water or comfort, suffering as an animal because sin turns us into animals—is for those locked in the prison of sin.
The inner-demons of Judas have chased him into the desert; unlike the desert of Moses where the aridity airs out sin like a swamp being drained, Judas is in the desert of damnation where there is no grace, no living water, to save him from his sin.  The demons spitting upon him reminds us of the spitting upon of Jesus by the Temple guards, but whereas when others spit on us, we can offer it up and unite it to Christ’s Suffering, so we receive Life through it, Judas is spitting upon himself, and tormenting himself, therefore, he’s in league with the devil who hates him because Judas doesn’t have enough genuine self-love to ask for God’s Mercy.
What does the dead camel mean?
In the Old Testament, Rebecca gave water to the camels of Isaac’s servants, prophesying the role of Mary as the Mediatrix of Grace. But just as the Old Testament prophets weren’t able to do everything as perfectly as what Jesus will accomplish, so the prophetesses could not accomplish everything as well as Mary, they could only be signs of what was still to come in the Virgin and what her work would be regarding Salvation history.  The point is, when Rebecca watered the camels, humans were still animals living in sin (Moses hadn’t even received the Law yet); even though Judas had spent three years with Jesus, it hasn’t done him any good, it hasn’t received the Water of Life (the Water Jesus tells the Samaitain woman about at the well) and that’s why the camel is dry and decomposing. That lack of Grace in Judas’ soul is why he hangs himself, condemning himself to die in Original Sin.
To draw the exact opposite comparison is Pilate’s wife, Claudia, a pagan, who has never known Jesus but is able to tell that her husband will be making a terrible mistake if he does what everyone wants him to do. 
Jesus being unable to walk or move demonstrates how, living in a state of sin, being an animal instead of a child of God, prohibits our will power (our feet and ability to walk) crippling us from being able to do good and our hands/arms being bound keeps us from exercising our greatest strength, our free will, because our addiction to whatever sin it is that has a hold upon us forces us to always choose that sin over God.
When Pilate first sees the state of Jesus as the High Priests drag Him before the governor, even Pilate’s dull wit can understand the outrageousness of what has been done, but slowly, Pilate comes to commit what damns so many from losing heaven: the tragedy of mediocrity.  Pilate is neither bad, nor he is good, and the weight of his own spiritual lethargy means he cannot move towards good, causing him to slowly slide towards evil. As Caiphus lists crimes Jesus has committed, a white bird, probably a dove, hovers over the scene which Jesus sees.  Why does this happen?
Pilate has big ears and short hair: Pilate listens (the ears) but his extremely short hair means that he “doesn’t have very deep thoughts” and so doesn’t fully think things through, leading to his rash decision.
As Caiphus accuses Jesus before Pilate (mirroring how Satan will accuse us before God on our own day of Judgment) Jesus starts to doubt Himself. This happens to us all, and so it’s fitting that He should pave the way so that He can comfort us when we go through it. We doubt whether we have done the right thing, or the wrong thing (such as St. John of the Cross instituting reforms that caused his Brother Carmelites to lock him up; did he go too far in his reforms? This would be a moment of legitimate self-doubt, that you had not been guided by the Holy Spirit, but doing your own will instead and that’s why the bird appears, to reassure Our Lord that He did the Will of His Father—as Jesus preached He did—not His Own Will.
“All men who hear the truth, hear my voice,” and Pilate responds to Jesus, “Truth!” because Pilate does not believe that “Truth” is possible, hence, he does not believe in God, because if he believed God exists, Pontius Pilate would know Truth exists in God (even the pagan gods, if he had reverence for them). Does Pilate bail out on his responsibility in sending Jesus to King Herod? Absolutely, and it's been that kind of diplomatic behavior of all of Pilate's life that has made him unable to do the right thing when the time comes that he must do the right thing, but still won't.
Hair, of course, symbolizes our thoughts, the state of our thinking; that Herod wears a wig shows that not only does he not have any thoughts of his own (his "yes" men in the court really think for him) but his thoughts are artificial, and even unnatural. The make up he wears re-enforces the unnatural aspect of Herod (and we know he's unnatural because he married his sister-in-law and lusts after his niece).
Herod not being impressed with Jesus' appearance, and wanting to see Jesus do something, again, re-establishes Herod's court as the "court of appearance," where anything gaudy rules; yet it's the slave, the one who probably sees more within Herod's court than anyone else, who also truly sees Jesus as the Son of God (this slave had probably also seen John the Baptist and Salome's dance for his head). The world is still full of Herods today: I want to see you do something, do a trick, raise the dead, and then I will believe and that's why Jesus of course does nothing and says nothing. Of course, the world we live in today (probably as the world as always been) is just like Herod's court, where appearance is everything.
While this is an intimate scene between Pilate and Claudia, Pilate is also doing what's called "deconstructing himself": he's asking Claudia how she knows truth, when she hears it? And Pilate claiming that you can't know truth is false because he wants to know from Claudia how she knows truth, so, considering his wife to be a source of truth, Pilate should know that he can rely on others to be a source of truth, or at least that what his wife tells him is truthful (or not discuss it with her anyway). Claudia says this, "You will not hear the truth," and she speaks correctly, and sometimes this one "little sin" is all it takes, because then your whole life is led astray by it.
Claudia is the essence of the "good wife," supporting her husband and trying to be a help-mate to him in finding the better path that he must take, yet Pilate denies his wife's attempts at saving him. "Do you want to know my truth, Claudia?" he asks her, and Pilate takes Veritas, Truth as it exists in its greater being above any one man, and turns it into the truth of the one man, and many times, even the best Christians will do that, too. This example illustrates why there has to be a greater Truth over human beings and not just a truth that we each create in our own image.
Why is the releasing of Barabbas so heart-breaking? It's the realization that it would be better to have a murderer, than the Messiah of Peace; if Christ had come preaching revolution, and was a criminal like Barabbas, He might have gained more followers, including the high priests; as it were, the high priests rejected the Messiah because the Good News He was preaching wasn't what they wanted to hear, and that's why they refused to believe He was the Messiah, despite all the miracles.
Whereas the right eye of Jesus is swollen so He cannot see out of it, the right eye of Barabbas is blind so that he will never see. Because of his life or opportunity, whereas someone (as Saint Dismas will do later) realize, I deserve to die for my sins, but this man has done nothing wrong, I will die, let him go instead, Barabbas takes the free ticket and flees. Jesus' swollen eye, on the other hand, is that His love even for Barabbas is swollen and so He doesn't see what Barabbas is really doing, but dying for Barabbas as He dies for us all.
The scourging, or whipping, of Jesus is a Great Mystery and many things have been revealed to the saints regarding it; sometimes they have said that Jesus told them He was Whipped this number of times and other saints have said a different number of times, making the saints be in a seeming state of contradiction; it's not contradiction, rather, a deepening of the mystery, because numbers in prophecy aren't units of measurement they way they are here on earth; in prophetic, or eternal time, they contains seeds of knowledge and wisdom (for more, please see Saint Augustine's The City of God, where the great saint goes into great detail regarding how to understand the wisdom of numbers in relation to God and Salvation).
What is definite is that the Scourging of Jesus was the punishment that He undertook for those suffering from sins of the flesh specifically sexual sins, that is why the guards who whip Jesus are so monstrous and animal-like because for those plagued with the sins of the flesh, those are the demons who tempt them and the horror done to Christ's sinless Flesh is mirrored in our souls by the harm caused to our inner-immortality when we commit even a small sin against Purity and Chastity.
As discussed earlier, the devil is going to try and break Jesus so He's unable to finish the Work of Salvation, and the appearance Satan in the crowd is meant to accomplish two things: first, to inspire the guards to ever greater brutality, which works, so that Jesus will be unable to offer Complete Suffering as the perfect Sacrifice to His Father for our sins; secondly, to make others, in shame of their own sins, to turn away and not be touched by what He endures for us. The devil will always lose because the devil's evil is no match for God's Love for us.
We see an aspect of Mary's suffering we probably don't think of, her suffering as a mother. What loving parent (including God as Father of us all) would not rather suffer a misery destined for their child (a child falls, for example, and has to get stitches; what parent wouldn't rather suffer that pain for their child, because their love for the child makes them able to easier bear the pain in place of the child). When we see Claudia, her simplicity in offering the towels reminds us that God is at work; how else would this pagan woman know to do this, and how else but the merits being earned for all people right then by the shedding of the Divine Blood.
When we see the devil with her child, a deep correlation is being constructed for us: there is the deformity of sin, as the "child" shows us, and there is the deformity of Love, that Christ shows us in his Body being marred by the whipping. We each have this choice to make, to be the child of Satan or the Child of God, but we are not both, and it we are not actively working on our spiritual life and choosing God every day, then we are by default the children of Satan.
Why does Jesus wash the feet of the disciples?
It was, as we all know the task that lowly servants would perform upon their masters (John the Baptist said he was not worthy to untie the strap of Jesus' sandal) but the Love Jesus imparts to His disciples is to also give them humility. True humility so that their position with Him and Love for them does not make them proud. The feet symbolize humility, for Jesus to wash the feet means that He is giving them a truer, deeper humble approach to what He has called them to do so they do not become proud and can be turned away from their destiny by the pitfalls of sin.
The word "perverse" means "turn upside-down," so we can see how perverse this scenario is: the guards destroy the body of the God who gave them a body. The guards turns weedy thorns into a crown for the God who crowned them with immortality, and people judge the God who will Judge them and sentence them to Eternal Life or Death.
When Jesus had been dragged off and they put upon Him a Crown of Thorns, the guard pushing the thorns into the Head of Jesus says, "A beautiful rose bush," and unwittingly, he speaks the Truth, for each of us who suffer persecution wear a crown of thorns exactly to make the rose bush bloom. In nature, the rose comes and then the thorns grow, but in the spiritual life, the thorns come and make it possible for the roses to bloom, meaning, that through the trials and difficulties of life, the flowers of virtue--patience, humility, perseverance, love--not only come into a person's soul, but fill the soul. That is what it means to be a saint, a soul full of the roses of virtue (hence the Biblical references to gardens).
Its fitting that Magdalen would take off her veil to wipe the Blood of Jesus, because, again, the veil covers a woman's head, her hair being her great pride and source of beauty; to use the veil to soak up the Blood of Jesus means that Magdalen has no boast but Jesus' Love for her and His forgiveness of her sins. For her to think back when He set her Free, just as He is held in bondage, demonstrates her great spiritual love for Him.
What does Jesus write in the sand?
One of the great Mysteries of the Gospels, we simply don't know; everything from the sins of those who would stone Magdalen to the names of the ones who themselves had lusted for her in their hearts. But let's ask ourselves, when does God write anything? God wrote the Ten Commandments and the Hand of God wrote the prophecy on the wall of Belshazzar's Feast. We know that Jesus says, "Let him who is without sin cast the first stone," and it's possible that this very sentence is what He wrote, that in the sand it would be passing and pertain only to Magdalen's sin, but writing and saying it meant that it would become a part of the Law of Love that Jesus meant to instill in the hearts of each of us.
"Whose is the greater sin?" Jesus asks Pilate, because Pilate has been given his power from God, not from Caesar, and Pilate has mis-used that power to condemn God, not glorify Him; it's important, because in our own stations of life, whatever they be, we, too, have power to condemn God or praise Him, and that may come in the form of a kind word to a stranger, or a cursing to someone in our own family, but we all have power that must be used wisely.
Ecce Homo!
Behold the man!
Two words of the greatest importance because it's what happened to Adam after his Sin: the eating of the Forbidden Fruit had deformed his soul such as we see in the Body of Jesus, and that deformity is what made Adam realize his shame before God, causing him to hide from his Father and Creator, so that when God called to Adam, Adam did not come. With the embracing of the Cross, we see the greatest example for us in the true lesson of Humility and the embracing of our own own troubles and difficulties in life.
Mary seeing the devil in the crowd as Jesus takes up His cross is no different than Jesus confronting the devil in the Garden of Olives: seeing the enemy reminds Mary what is at stake, and why she has given her "Yes" to God to participate in the saving of mankind. This is also the moment Mary's humility and willingness to submit to God, regardless of how horrible her Son's Suffering is, un-does the dis-obedience of Eve.
When Mary reaches Jesus and says, "I'm here," she gives her "Yes," again, "Yes, I am here suffering with you and completing the work with you."  And we are called to say the same.
There is a wonderful devotion given to one of the saints: for anyone who says two Our Fathers, two Hail Marys and two Glory Bes each day, honoring the Drops of Blood which Jesus shed on His Way to the Cross, they will shine with particular brightness in heaven because of the painful Wounds causing so much Blood to be shed. In terms of salvation history, these Drops of Blood might symbolize those who came before Christ but that He wanted to Save.
As with Magdalen earlier wiping the Blood of Jesus from the floor where He was scourged, Veronica offering her veil is a good example of Humility in uniting our will to God, because Jesus implants upon her veil (symbolic of her thoughts) His Own Image and Likeness, which means, she has united herself to Him in His work and is doing that which she has been called to do. The difference between what Veronica is called to do and Simon, helping Jesus carry the Cross, illustrates the diversity of callings we all have, and how each is specifically crafted to bring devotion and holiness in each of us. Veronica and Simon have drastically different reactions to Jesus, but both what will enter sainthood because when the time came, they knew how to say "Yes" to Jesus.
When Simon and Jesus reach the top of Calvary, they have made the incredible climb of the hill of Golgotha. That's because, in the spiritual life, the hardest work always comes at the end, because you are then weakest, and God can be at His Strongest, so it's Him doing the work, not you, but the previous work has helped you to sufficiently advance in the virtues so that can can do the work of Calvary, the Place of the Skull.
When Mary, Magdalen, and John reach the top, Mary and Jesus look into each other's eyes and Mary kneels, in prayer, without any words, so that Jesus might be given the Strength He needs to stand and complete His Work.  It has been said by the saints that Mary was so obedient to the Word of God, that if God had so willed that Mary herself nail the stakes into the Body of Jesus, she would have done it. Are we obedient enough to even make it to church on Sunday?
Why is Jesus crucified?
There is the shame, there is the disgrace, but there is another reason why the Bread of Life wished to have Nails driven into His Hands and Feet: the Patriarch Isaac was a well digger. In order to demonstrate that Jesus was indeed the Messiah, He had to accomplish All things perfectly and better than the Patriarchs and the Prophets, so His Work would be recognized. Isaac, a well-digger, could dig wells that would give earthly water, life-giving water in the desert, but Jesus had Wells of Mercy and Grace dug into His Own Flesh with the Nails so that, through His Wounds, we would have life-giving Grace in the desert of life on earth.
Jesus has His Arm stretched so far that it comes out of joint; then He's turned over onto His Back; why? This is what has happened to His Teachings, people--supposedly with good intentions--have made decisions about what Jesus meant and so separated His Teaching from the rest of His Body and turned what He said and did over to hurt others instead of help them.
Even in the midst of misery, there is consolation: to bless her and aid her through this trial, Magdalen is allowed to see the angels holding up the ends of the Cross when the soldiers flip Jesus over; she is the only one, but her anguish is so great, that God reminds her He is with her and she heard all that He said He would do. When Christ is raised up, Magdalen pulls a black shawl over her head, to pray and contemplate, to remember all the lessons she has taken within herself because this is how she has been called to run the race, for herself and others.
Back in the days of Moses, when he went to Pharoah and told him to "Let my people go," Moses cast down a rod and it turned into a snake; Pharoah's magicians also cast down rods that turned into snakes, but the serpent of Moses ate the serpents of Pharoah. The serpent of Moses represented Christ, because God and the demons are of the same type, that is, God created those who would become demons, but the power the demons have come from God, but God's power is supreme, that's why Moses' serpent ate the others. Then, in the wilderness, the people complained and the seraph serpents came and bit them with deadly venom and people were dying; so Moses raised up a serpent upon a pole, and Christ told His followers that He, too would be raised up and those serpents were demons biting the people and leading them into sin, but Christ's Sacrifice would save people from the death of the serpents.
Pilate with the sign, "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews."
There is an important point of contention which Jews cite as a legitimate reason for not believing that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah. They claim that when God led the Jews to Mount Sinai, He publicly gave them the Ten Commandments so that all would know them; Jesus, however, instructed His disciples privately, in secret, so not everyone could have access to the Message of God equally. The preaching of the Apostles doesn't matter at this point, it is, rather, the decree, the sign nailed to the Cross with Jesus that was the public statement of God that here was the One who fulfilled the Law perfectly for Israel even though He was branded a criminal. Jesus was crucified outside the city gates where all who were there for the Passover could read it because it was in three languages, so that is the "public aspect" of Jesus' ministry. Further, it can be argued, that the giving of the Ten Commandments wasn't public because only the 600,000 Jews received it, only people of the Hebrew tongue, whereas people of the three dominant languages received the notice that Jesus of Nazareth is King of the Jews.
When Jesus spread out His Arms upon the Cross, it invoked Moses, again, because Moses spread out his arms to separate the Red Sea so Israel could safely pass over the dry land to freedom from Egypt; Jesus spread out His Arms so that we could pass safely from the land of sin to the Land of Life. Regarding the taunts standers-by call out to Jesus to "Come down from the Cross!" fulfills the work of the Prophet Nehemiah who, as he was rebuilding the Temple, heard his enemies say to him to "come down" from the walls so they could speak to him and kill him. Just as Nehemiah knew he would lose his life if he came down, so, upon His Cross, Christ knows He will lose all He has won for us if He comes down and, like Nehemiah, won't. 
There is also the fulfillment of the Prophet Elijah and his challenge to the god Baal. Just as Elijah called down the Fire of God to destroy the false god Baal, so Jesus is given the Fire of God--the Holy Spirit--to destroy Satan by Love. This is a course of division amongst some Christians: was Jesus crucified in His Hands or in His Wrists? In His discourse with St. Catherine of Siena, Christ assured her that the Nails were driven into His Hands, because it wasn't the Nails keeping Him on the Cross, but the Fire of Love of the Holy Spriti so He could complete His Work.
Saint Dismas is the shame of Israel.
Having not heard the Good News before, even this thief can see that Jesus prays for His enemies, and that He must be Lord, indeed. Dismas outshines Judas, the bad thief, and the High Priest Caiphus by only hearing a few words and understanding the Gospel so well in what he sees in Jesus, that he is blessed with Heaven that very day. Gesmas, on the other hand, will not see so he loses his eye to the bird of death. Historians have argued that this isn't possible, but again, this isn't history, this is art, and art communicates to us what history cannot.
When Mary kisses the feet of Jesus, she drinks the Well of Humility to sustain her for what she knows she still has left to do. Just before Jesus dies, He declares Mary to be "Woman," that in her work and contributions to Salvation history, Mary has undone what Eve did, and now, "all things can be made new," and she is no longer Mary, but Woman, the title that Adam had given to Eve, but Eve lost by her sin, which is now given to Mary because of Mary's Obedience, Humility and Sacrifice.
For what does Jesus Thirst?
So many saints have written deep and meaningful expositions, but perhaps it is as simple as Jesus thirsting for consolation. As the poet Gerard Manly Hopkins wrote, "Lord, send my roots rain," it is the aridity of suffering in the desert that has no consolation (such as Mother Theresa experienced) that brings the most anguish to saints, but also, the greatest saints. Jesus experiences the greatest anguish because His is also the Greatest Consolation in His Resurrection that is to come.
Only one eye is open because that is how the journey of faith is: we can see only partially what God is going to do or bring about. It would have been possible to have Jesus have blue eyes: blue is the color of wisdom, but also the color of sorrow, because it is through sorrow that we gain the greatest treasure, wisdom. That would have been a fitting application. Brown, however, is the color of dirt: either we humble ourselves to being no better than the dirt (which is why monks wear brown habits) or we have no morality and our appetites make us "filthy" in sin. The Sorrowful Passion was an act of love made in humility, so the eyes as the windows of the soul, are specifically focusing on Christ's great humility in this act, and especially in this scene, just before his last breath, his humility in faith and trust that God will do all He has said.
The drop of rain which comes down is symbolizes two things: first, the Rain of Grace that will permit the Lord to comfort all people in their trials and misery. It is the end of the desert of sin and the beginning of the Reign of Grace. Secondly, and more important, is the drop of water which the priest adds to the wine at Mass: the water is added to demonstrate that, just as you cannot take the drop of water out of the wine once it has been added, so you cannot take Christ out of the world since He has come, died and risen. The Temple Veil is divided into half because it is the Jewish custom that, upon hearing of the death of their child or loved one, they rip their clothing, over their heart, to show their humility that it is God's right to take life; the Temple Veil being torn was/is the tangible sign to the Jews and Pharisees that God's Only Child had died. Just because Satan is conquered does not mean that we do not still invite Satan into our souls and give the devils and demons free reign over us, because we do, but the Cross is there for us, to go and drink of the Wells of Mercy which Christ so lovingly dug for our needs.
This is only a tiny, and humble exploration of a great film that touches upon our most important purpose in life: our salvation. When the Stone is rolled back, it reminds us of Jacob rolling back the stone for Rachel to water the sheep, because the stone that Jesus moved is the stone blocking our hearts, and the water is the Life of Grace. Just as Jesus told Mary that He makes all things new, so He has been made anew, and He longs to make our souls anew, to cleanse us in the Water of Baptism and Grace.