The music is by Franz Schubert, sung by Dolores O’Riordan, while the images are from the film The Passion of the Christ.
|Ave Maria, gratia plena,
Maria, gratia plena
Maria, gratia plena
Ave Ave Dominus
Benedicta tu in mulieribus,
et benedictus fructus ventris
ventris tui, Iesus.
|Ave Maria, full of thanksgiving
Maria, full of thanksgiving
Maria, full of thanksgiving
Ave Ave God
Be blessed among the women
And blessed be the product of your womb
Your womb, Jesus.
The Passion of the Christ came out in 2004 and was immediately labeled as “anti-Semitic” by its detractors. Though it never won an Academy Award, it holds the all time box office record for an R-rated film, having grossed $370,782,930 in the US and a whopping $611,899,420 worldwide. To the surprise of many, it became a major hit among audiences in the Arab world:
Mel Gibson’s controversial movie “The Passion of the Christ,” is breaking box office records across the Middle East. With the approach of Easter, Arab Christians identify primarily with the religious message. But it’s the film’s popularity among Muslims – even though it flouts Islamic taboos – that’s turning it into a phenomenon.
Islam forbids the depiction of a prophet, and Koranic verses deny the crucifixion ever occurred. For those reasons, the film is banned in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Bahrain. It’s also banned in Israel – but for other reasons.
“Banned in Israel–but for other reasons.” The above is from an article about The Passion that was published in the Christian Science Monitor on April 9, 2004. You’ll notice that the countries which banned the film–Israel, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain–are today all allied with each other in the support of terrorists in Syria…where the film was not banned.
But to get back to the Christian Science Monitor piece. The article includes a quote from an Israeli Jew, who damns the film as anti-Semitic “both in intent and effect.”
“I have no doubt that the film is anti-Semitic both in intent and effect, but I’m very wary of some Jewish organizations’ reactions to it,” said Yossi Klein Halevi, who is identified as being affiliated with the Shalem Center in Jerusalem.
“It needs to be more nuanced,” Halevi complained. “When an evangelical in Colorado Springs sees it, he doesn’t see anti-Semitism. But when Yasser Arafat sees it and calls it an important historic event, he’s responding to that anti-Semitism. And the fact that it’s becoming a major hit in the Arab world, that has consequences… ‘The Passion’ is where Mel Gibson and Yasser Arafat meet, and it isn’t bound by a love of Jesus.”
As alluded to in Halevi’s quote, The Passion was commented upon by former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, who is said to have attended a screening of the film along with Christian leaders. After the screening, an aide to Arafat remarked, “The Palestinians are still daily being exposed to the kind of pain Jesus was exposed to during his crucifixion.”
Here again, the passage of history is deeply significant. In October of 2004, Arafat came down with a severe illness, and on November 11 he died at a hospital in Paris. There was suspicion the death was not due to natural causes, but it wasn’t until 2013 that a team of Swiss scientists released the results of a months-long investigation showing Arafat most likely had died of polonium poisoning. Many today speculate that Israel was behind the assassination.
Ariel Sharon, who himself came to a bad end, was the leader of Israel at the time Arafat was poisoned. The former Israeli prime minister suffered from obesity and weighed 254 pounds, and on January 4, 2006, he was overcome by a hemorrhagic stroke. The last eight years of his life were spent in a coma.
“The Palestinians are still daily being exposed to the kind of pain Jesus was exposed to during his crucifixion.” When we recall what the people of Gaza in particularl have endured over the years, the analogy has validity. While I am not comparing Yasser Arafat to Jesus, the latter’s words from the Gospel of John, chapter 15, are worth recalling:
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.
Jesus was sent by God to teach humanity how to live in peace. He was born among the Jews not because Jews are “chosen” by God, but because Jews especially were in need of hearing this message. Jesus was the long-awaited Jewish messiah, but because he preached a message of peace rather than war and conquest, the Jews rejected him. Here are the words of Mary in the first chapter of Luke–a passage that is often referred to as the “song of Mary.”
My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.
Ave Maria, gratia. And if you think about it, you’ll notice another deeply significant sequence of events. Mary’s comment that God “helped his servant Israel,” is of course an allusion to the Old Testament narrative. But then came the birth of Jesus; his rejection and the calls for his crucifixion in 30 A.D.; followed by a stupendously stunning Jewish downfall just 40 years later–in 70 A.D.–when the Romans sacked Jerusalem and destroyed the temple. One wonders if a somewhat similar type downfall may await the modern Jewish state.
My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior. Here is another rendition of Ave Maria sung by Dolores O’Riordan, this time accompanied by Luciano Pavarotti:
Ave Maria, gratia. Gratia.