Silent Film (1903): Life and Passion of Jesus Christ : The Annunciation

This is an early (1903) silent film about the life of Christ.  The camera is stationary, which gives the impression of filmed theater, and the story is told in a series of scenes. I will here provide a description of the first scene of the movie, the annunciation. My remarks are borrowed from Catherine O’Brien’s analysis in the Celluloid Madonna.

In the annunciation scene, Mary is pictured holding a water jar, a detail suggestive of wells, which are symbolic places for betrothals in the Bible. The apocryphal Protevangelium of James depicts the annunciation to Mary in a domestic setting.  Mary meets the angel upon returning from a well.

Here, in this movie, the angel once he appears has a lily in his hand, a symbol of purity.  The angel fades in to make its presence felt and fades out to disappear. The angel hovers in mid-air. Mary bows to acknowledge the angel’s holiness. The angel moves lips and makes hand gestures to express the message that he carries from heaven. No fear or protest is indicated but rather devotion and acquiescence as Mary bows to receive the message and in assent.

As Mary rises and raises her arms to heaven, the gesture indicates that she is making herself a handmaid to the Lord in an historically significant act of volition.

The entire movie is visually quite fascinating. The absence of sound heightens the visual effects.

Question: What are the advantages of silent film, aesthetically, in portraying the life of Jesus?

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Miracle of the Sun (1917)

A hundred and one years ago at Fatima in Portugal, there occurred an apparition of Mary, called the Miracle of the Sun, which is said to be the largest attested miracle in modernity, witnessed by 75,000 people.

Whether or not one is Catholic — or sympathetic to Marian devotions — it is striking that this apparition seems to mark the end of one era and the beginning of the new. The old world has died; modernity is born.

The Fatima seers, who speak from the perspective of the old world,  prophesied wars (World War I and II), apostasy, and scandals in the Church. Presumably, the fate of Russia was at stake since it was prophesied that Russia would fall into atheism and the Church would lose its honor.

Some Catholics argue that the old religious world that has been lost ought to be restored. The traditional rites and sacraments, together with ecclesiastical teachings and the preaching of the Gospel, offered people disciplines and instructions for leading holy and good lives. Others welcome the so-called secular movements (e.g., socialism and feminism) that are perceived to have displaced the old hierarchies and to have ignited crisis and critique.

With regard to the miracle of the Sun — and Marian apparitions, generally — skeptics point to the ideologically slanted messages that come to seers and visionaries through Mary. If the mother of God does appear to people, what accounts for the sometimes sectarian and partisan quality of her inspired ideas? Or, shall we concede that Marian messages are filtered through the beliefs of her visionaries and seers rather than being transmitted verbatim or reproduced with a documentary accuracy?

The faithful who take seriously Marian apparitions, by contrast, claim that the messages are sound and creditworthy. Like the prophets of old, Mary issues warnings while advising repentance. To her seers, she offers hopeful remedies (e.g. praying the rosary) and promises for the renewal of faith and the wellbeing of the world.

Whatever one’s position in regard to Fatima and Marian visions, the Miracle of the Sun is a phenomenon to contend with. Can this miracle witnessed by so many be justified by naturalistic causality or explained away as the consequence of  collective hysteria? Or did the veil open between heaven and earth on that day, Oct 13, 1917, one hundred and one years ago?

I am linking to a couple of videos about the Miracle of the Sun and to some discussions and critiques of the Catholic Church with regard to the Fatima prophecies and the three secrets involved. It is debated whether the third secret given at Fatima has actually been revealed. There is also a possible fourth secret.  I link also to an article about another Marian apparition, given to Agnes in Japan, which occurred on Oct 13, 1973,  on the anniversary of Fatima.

 

General Book on Fatima: Our Lady of Fatima Paperback – October 1, 1954
by William T. Walsh

Article about Vatican Deception, documentary on Fatima: Vatican Deception Documentary : Fatima

Fourth Secret Book

Our Lady of Akita: Agnes

 

 

Miracle of Our Lady: Czech Opera by Martinu

How amazing to find a contemporary opera about the miracles of Mary. See below for the youtube of the music.

(Sadly, I cannot yet find the English translation of the songs.)

The opera, from the twentieth century (1930’s) by the Czech composer Martinu, consists of  a cycle of plays about Mary. (If I find the English translation for the libretto, I will update this post accordingly.)

About the Martinu, see Link:

Life of Martinu

Vision of Jesus during NDE

Jesus said that by dying, we open ourselves to eternal life. Our lives then become fruitful. In some instances, through a near-death experience  — or a serious brush with death — a person becomes aware of the source of life, itself, which is eternal. Jesus Christ is revealed.

John 12:24-25: Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.

Here is a beautiful experience, recounted by a woman who died (in clinical terms) at the hospital. Jesus Christ came to her, as a being of pure golden light, who glowed through the heart with a blue star.

The woman (Charmian Redwood) knew that she had touched the eternal.  Upon returning to her body, and recovering from her illness, Charmian reoriented her life according to sacred values. This short video is quite affecting.

Miracles/Trance: Vibrational Reality

Here are two interesting podcasts, interviews with healers and spiritual innovators.

See LINKS, which will take you to the interviews. Summaries are provided below.

Miracles (Maria Kellis): This healer tells of healing herself through a centering upon her inner vibration of gratitude and love. We have the power of choice to shift our lives and when we follow the intention of love (rather than fear, guilt, or insincere motives), miraculous results may unfold.

Trance States (Pi Villaraza): This Filipino man walked through his country in order to learn self-trust. He lived as a hermit on a mono-diet of coconuts. Along the way, he came to recognize that our normal state of consciousness, which is tethered to society and the value systems of culture, actually inhibits and hypnotizes us. By learning to surrender and to center upon the expanding states within, by ecstasy and dance, we reach trance states that reveal to us our authentic selves, where we are free.

Croiset the Clairvoyant and the miracles of Jesus of Nazareth

The work of the Dutch Clairvoyant Gerard Croiset (1909-1980) sheds light, in some particulars, on the miracle working of Jesus. In this post, I will address two points.

1. The inner signals and experiences that the healer, clairvoyant, or miracle worker undergoes, in rapport with his subjects or petitioners For this matter, I will compare Croiset’s report with a passage about Jesus’s experience of healing (Mark 5:30).

2. The helps and hindrances to healing or miracles I will compare Croiset’s report with a passage about Jesus’s miracle working and healing in Nazareth (Mark 6:4-6).

The Dutch Clairvoyant Gerard Croiset (1909-1980) was gifted with paranormal abilities, including telepathy, clairvoyance, and precognition. He was hired by private clients and police, or detective agencies alike, to find lost children, to weigh in about circumstances and suspects in crimes, and even to offer insight into the historical contexts of manuscripts and fossils.

1. The inner signals and experiences the healer, clairvoyant, or miracle worker undergoes, in rapport with his subjects or petitioner:  Energetic signals (Mark 5:30)

Interestingly, Croiset could feel in advance – upon making contact and receiving a request from someone  – whether he would be capable of responding and assisting in the case. Croiset’s biographer Jack Harrison Pollack quotes the famous clairvoyant, “Whenever anybody telephones and says he would like to talk to me some time, I do not feel a thing. But when a warning feeling disturbs me, I get a vibration which is like a full-up feeling and I expand like a balloon. I grow attentive. Then I know it is not an ordinary call….When somebody with a real problem comes to see me  I see a lot of colors. These colors spin around in me very fast until they form a picture. These pictures shoot out as if they were flashing forward like a three-dimensional film.”

Croiset’s description of his healing rapport with his subjects raises the question (if a speculative one), whether perhaps inwardly, as with Croiset, some sensation or vibration would alert Jesus that the petitioner in question, in need of healing or a miracle, had genuine need of assistance.  Rarely do we learn in the Gospels of any subjective experience of Jesus, involved in his healings and miracles.

In one rare instance, however, we do find this telling description of Jesus’s healing rapport with a woman in need. A woman who has been bleeding for twelve years is healed when she touches the garment of Jesus.  The healing is marked for the healer by a sensation (Mark 5:30): “At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, ‘Who touched my clothes?'”

In this case, Jesus makes physical contact with the one he heals. Usually, in Jesus’s healings, there is no such contact. Inwardly, perhaps, the power within Jesus stirred him, as it did Croisset, when a person with a legitimate need approached him.

2. The helps and hindrances to healing or miracles (Mark 6:4-6): Compassion

Croiset was indifferent to quantitative tests of his paranormal abilities, such those devised by J.B. Rhine, the Duke researcher. Once declining to participate in one of Rhine’s studies — which involved predicting a series of figures on cards — Croiset remarked, “I do not like just to guess cards. I have to be emotionally involved in a case, such as a missing child or somebody in trouble.”

If compassionate interest aroused Croiset’s capacities, by the same token self-interest thwarted them. Croiset was incapable of predicting the future on behalf of his family or in order to secure some financial gain. Conversely, where he and his clients shared a significant problem, Croiset’s abilities were enhanced. Because Croiset had nearly drowned once, he became an expert at rescuing or locating drowning people. He had a special sensitivity to orphans, having suffered as an orphan himself.

In the case of Jesus, it is curious that the unbelief of his own townspeople prevent him from working stupendous miracles. As Mark 6:5 explains, about his work in Nazareth, “he could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them,” because of the people’s “lack of faith” (6:6) and because a prophet (i.e. Jesus) is not honored in his own town (6:4).

A lack of trust or belief, on the part of those he would assist, could thwart that compassionate interest that (as with Croiset) enhances the miracle worker’s success.

In conclusion, like Croiset, the famous healer and clairvoyant, Jesus may have registered somatically a signal to alert him as to the needs of his petitioners (Mark 5:30).  The healing abilities of Jesus may have been enhanced, too, by compassion for the afflicted (Mark 6:4-6).

 

Come Alive !: The Secret and Life Abundant

Jesus says, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” John 10:10

The Secret, the 2007 mega bestseller by Rhonda Byrne, provokes divided reactions. The basic message of this book — and the accompanying DVD – can be life-affirming. The teaching of The Secret, it may be argued, resonates with the teachings of Jesus in some respects. Both support people to come alive in ways that are natural to our hearts, given our unique talents and desires.

Contrary to the message of the New Testament, however, The Secret can encourage rank materialism, which deviates from moral or generous aims.

Life Abundant

In the New Testament, we are to enjoy life abundant (John 10:10) by making use of our gifts for the benefit of all.  If we follow our goals and dreams, according to The Secret, while envisioning success with faith and right intention, then life will assist their realization. Surely, from a spiritual perspective, our hopes and goals for life — which make us come alive — ought to be respected and nourished. If we come fully alive, then we can assist the world likewise to be alive. The Secret may be a tool toward this end.

Many believe themselves to be prisoners or victims in life. The Secret offers those who feel like victims tools for self efficacy, so that they may chart their own destiny. Similarly, the teachings of the New Testament–for instance, concerning prayer– give us power to decide our fate and our happiness while assisted by an infinite and creative intelligence.

Morally Dubious and Deluded

Some, however, criticize the concept of the law of attraction, which is substantially the message of The Secret, as being simplistic or even deluded. (See, for instance, this critique: Mark Manson The Secret.) The empire behind The Secret, furthermore, has been riven by law suits, arguments, and betrayal, thus seeming to vitiate the message of ethically rigorous and pure-minded positivity, championed by its architects. (On lawsuits, see: Lawsuits and the Secret NYTimes and The Australian Critique Rhonda Byrne.)

Testimonials: Benefits in People’s Lives

Those who are inspired by The Secret, however, attest that its message has helped them to change their lives. Proponents and converts report that they wake up through this book to the reality that they are no longer victims in their lives but instead creators of them. The Secret restores our personal power, as one advocate describes, which is endowed by God.  (See, for instance: How the Secret Changed the Life of Jewel     Manifesting Goals and Spirituality.)

What gives people hope about this message is its affirmative vision of life. What if life is actually amenable, malleable, and responsive to our deepest desires, aspirations, goals and wishes? Whether our desire be for a wonderful love relationship, for financial success, for healing, or for the capacity to carry out a humanitarian project, The Secret affirms that these desires are good and may be realized so long as we remain focused and positive in our approach to realizing them.

Furthermore, if life can be trusted to carry us forward toward self-realization, then we need not struggle by pushing against the current of life. Instead, we may jump into the life stream and let it carry us to our highest good.

Conclusion

The Secret can, indeed, encourage wishful thinking and a superstitious fear of negativity. The emphasis, in the movement around it, on material goals may lead to ethically dubious results.

Yet, in a different way, the message of this book confirms the gospel promise of life abundant. The gospel message says that life is generous and abundant. Our individual goals and dreams may be realized through right intention and faith. After all, God cares for each of us. We are guided, easily and joyously, toward the glory of our own flowering and fulfillment — like the lilies of the field which neither toil nor spin.