Ecce Homo

Posted by Christine Nusse on Apr 2, 2004 | Categories: Seasons of the Spirit
Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe. And Pilate saith unto them, Behold the man! Ecce Homo!

John 19:5

After much hesitation, I finally went to see The Passion of the Christ. In fact, I went to see it once more, twice in the same week.

There have been countless works of art, using various medium, done on that same topic -the Passion of Christ- for the last two millenniums. Some move us, some do not. All reflect their author’s faith and cultural background. This one uses the modern medium of cinematography and it is Mel Gibson’s own meditation on the Way of the Cross.

The ‘Passion’ gives the last hours of Christ a rawness and proximity difficult to escape. Indeed, it does compel us to react. Among the characters, no one remains neutral. Each one of them answers, very differently, but very strongly, in accordance to who they are. That, maybe more than anything else, prompted me, to react also, as I watched.

Everyone of the characters had his/her eyes on Jesus, but only a few met his eyes. There, I think, is the central axle of this movie; and it does work powerfully. In no way repetitive, it brings something different in each one of the protagonists: From Satan, Judah, the wounded soldier, all the way ultimately, up toward heaven, the last glance, to God.

Each one of Christ’s looks seems to set the one looking back at him, in his/her truth. “I came to witness to the Truth,” said Jesus. “What is the truth?” answered Pontius Pilate. Jesus’ truth, our own truth, God’s truth. First, the truth on whose account Christ has lived his life and is now suffering his passion. But also the truth of each of the ‘looked-upon’. Mary, Peter, John, and so on.

I try to imagine myself being looked upon by Christ in this fashion. What is my truth? Do I dare to stand in it and look back? Do I trust enough? Do I have the courage? If I only trusted Christ’s look upon me, wouldn’t I let go of all fear and self homophobia?

The last look of Christ is for God. And how does God answer? A drop of water falls upon the cross. Would it be God’s tear?

What makes this death different is Christ’s nature as both human and divine. He does not suffers as a man only, but as God too. So from then on when we look at the cross, we do not look only at a holy man tortured and killed for his beliefs, but as God. “Who saw me, saw the Father”, said Jesus. Not only in the Transfiguration, but also in the carrying of his cross. Why? This is the Christian answer to the mystery of suffering and death. Not an answer but a deeper mystery. In God’s being, Christ’s suffering and death are present, and also sin as temptation. This is the truth Jesus witnessed to, “the folly for the Gentiles, scandal for the Jews”, as St. Paul wrote.

This is the truth which calls me intimately and demands that I look back, as I am.

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