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Eucharistic Dimension of Mary in 'The Passion'

Interview With a Carmelite Theologian

ROME, MAY 6, 2004 (Zenit) - The relation between the passion of Christ and the Eucharist also contains a reference to the Eucharistic dimension of Mary, says a theologian and Vatican consultor.

To understand better the more important aspects of the film "The Passion of the Christ," Discalced Carmelite Father Jesús Castellano Cervera, the president of the Theological Faculty Teresianum who is a specialist in Marian studies and consultor to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

As of Monday, the movie had taken in $579 million in receipts worldwide.

Q: "The Passion of the Christ" represents the Eucharist, one of the central mysteries of Christianity. It does so at the culminating moment of Jesus' sacrifice with a flashback to the ceremony of the bread and wine. What is your assessment of this cinematographic representation of the Eucharist?

Father Castellano Cervera: I consider this contribution very opportune. The synoptic Gospels and Paul tell us about the supper before the Passion, as we know, and in it the institution of the Eucharist, while John, who does not give an account of the Eucharistic institution, gives the whole supper a Eucharistic meaning, from the washing of the feet, to the priestly prayer.

The supper forms part of the passion of Christ. In the giving of his body, which must be crucified, and his blood, which must be poured out for the remission of sins, Jesus instituted the memorial of his passion and redeeming death, and carried out a prophetic action, showing awareness of what was about to occur in the last part of his life.

In the film, this flashback unites the passion with what Jesus accomplished in the supper. On one hand it shows that, all that Christ had anticipated is realized in the passion. The supper looks toward the cross.

And at the same time it reminds us that from that historical event, which happened once and for all on the cross, the Eucharistic celebration -- "Do this in memory of me" -- is a "representation," in the striking sense of a "sacramental presence."

But the call to the supper and to the institution of the Eucharist at the moment of the death on the cross confers great realism both to Jesus' words in the Last Supper -- when he anticipates already sacramentally his sacrifice and his offering -- as well as the realism of the Eucharistic sacrifice as total gift, painful and at the same time full of love, obedient to the Father and a sacrificial donation to us.

There is no doubt: The realism of the Passion highlights the "price" of the gift of the Eucharistic sacrifice, also saying with the Council of Trent that in the Eucharist are present "the victory and the triumph of his death."

Q: A priest acknowledged that Gibson's film has enabled him to understand more profoundly the sacrament of the Eucharist, in regard to the meaning of the sacrifice and of the blood poured out to wash away the sins of men. What is your opinion?

Father Castellano Cervera: I think that's right. There is always the danger of trivializing the Eucharist when it is not regarded with the love with which Christ instituted it for us, when it is not related to the sacrifice of his death, and when it is not celebrated as a memorial of the love of Christ for his Church and for the whole of humanity.

The priest who acts in the person of Christ cannot live the celebration without seeking to identify himself with Christ's feelings, as the words of the Missal also indicate.

A correct way to celebrate Mass, to bless the Father, to pray to the Spirit, to offer the sacrifice of Christ and to offer oneself and the Church, together with the holy and immaculate Victim, is to be able to create also in the assembly a sense of the mystery, and to enfold it in the living offering of the Eucharistic sacrifice, in communion with Christ who offered himself and continues to offer himself for us.

Q: Controversies aside, the critics share the view that no other film has ever represented in such a precise way the figure of Mary. The Mother of Jesus lives the tragedy and pain of the passion, even though she knows that the plan of salvation is being accomplished. What would you like to say in regard to this interpretation?

Father Castellano Cervera: The observation is correct. The historical presence of Mary at the foot of the cross, according to John's Gospel, is the key to understand that hers was a constant, intense and shared closeness to the Son in his hour, in the hour of the Son and her hour, from the supper to the cross.

Mary was not there by chance, but because she had followed her Son's steps, as faithful disciple and Mother. The film is absolutely correct in showing her in different moments of the itinerary of ...

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