All posts tagged: reneedroden

Witness of the Holy Fool

Dostoevsky’s task as a novelist is to portray the self-sacrifice of the holy fool in such a way that readers will recognize its beauty and want to participate in it. —Harriet Murov The moment I knew that grad school was getting to me was the moment that I found myself deeply identifying with the manic-depressive protagonist of Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, Raskolnikov. Throughout the novel, Raskolnikov’s troubled state of soul manifests itself in long, circular interior diatribes and labyrinthine monologues, clearly the entrails of a mind coming unhinged. Raskolnikov is no idiot. He is a sharp and intelligent young man. The modern intellectual milieu that he inhabits, however, is a world devoid of Christ, and accordingly, Raskolnikov’s ability to make sense of the world has begun to break down. In trying to make sense of the world on the terms of his reason and his self alone, Raskolnikov has lost his mind. His intelligence, without the guide of charity or faith, leads him to a hellish despair and emptiness. It has led him to a …

Five Jesus Movies that Don’t Stink

Editorial Note: This post is a companion to Jesus in the Movies: Challenges of Cinematizing the Gospels, which describes the films below in greater detail and provides a theological analysis of the difficulties surrounding depictions of the life of Jesus Christ and the Gospel on film. As Holy Week approaches, channels such as AMC and Turner Classic Movies regularly roll out classic Jesus epics just in time for Easter. Movies about Jesus or the Gospel have often been accused (in many cases rightly) of being saccharine or cheesy. In an attempt to treat their subject with reverence, film-makers sometimes sentimentalize the Gospel message and present a Jesus as a soft moral teacher with magic tricks up his sleeves. Sometimes, however, artists create films that depict the Christ figure and Christ event with the strangeness and immediacy approaching those of the Gospels, and interpret their source material with grace and imagination. Here are five. 1. Jésus of Montreal (1989) A surprising and thought-provoking film, Jésus of Montreal blends together representing the Gospels and presenting the Jesus story through a post-figuration of …

Jesus in the Movies: Challenges of Cinematizing the Gospels

If, therefore, the Son of God became man, taking the form of a servant, and appearing in man’s nature, a perfect man, why should His image not be made?[1] Gregory of Nyssa’s question has provoked myriad artists in the successive centuries since the advent of the God-man into answering. The Incarnation proffers an invitation to the artist; the invisible Godhead has deigned to become drawable: come and draw. With new advances in artistic technology, artists have sought to represent Jesus in each nascent medium. As photography developed, artists shot tableaux of actors in costume, recreating Gospel scenes with their static bodies.[2] When photographs began to move, religious movies were some of the first subjects: The Horitz Passion Play (1897) and Passion Play of Oberammergau (1898).[3] When talkies exploded onto the scene with The Jazz Singer in 1927, a whole new dimension of the movie-going element appeared. With all new technology comes new challenges, and the challenge presented to movies remained: how could an artist turn moving photographs of the natural world into images of incarnate …

5 Lenten Practices that Aren’t Giving Up Chocolate

With Ash Wednesday now come and gone, Catholics everywhere embark on their journey of Lenten disciplines. Lenten penitence can quickly begin to feel rote. While there is still great spiritual benefit in denying ourselves dessert or Netflix, sometimes we seek a more thoughtful or creative immersion into the three great practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Sometimes our imaginations need a jolt from the routine to help our bodies and soul enter into the Lenten spirit of preparation. Liturgically, baptized Christians undertake Lenten disciplines in preparation for the renewal of baptismal vows at the Easter Vigil. Christians enter Lent in order to re-enter our sacramental participation in the Paschal Mystery of salvation. Ideally, Lenten disciplines will baptize our imaginations, allowing us to approach the world with fresh eyes and refreshed charity. For anyone seeking different ways to practice Lent this year, here are five ideas that may provide a new approach to prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. 1. Forgo music. Several friends have practiced variations on this theme. If you have a morning commute (by car, …

And the Nominees Are . . . Hidden Figures

Editors’ Note: In anticipation of the 89th Academy Awards on February 26, we present a series exploring the philosophical and theological elements in each of the nine films nominated for Best Picture. This post contains no spoilers. Oh, I’ll tell you where to begin: Three Negro women chasing a white police officer down a highway in Hampton, Virginia in 1961. Ladies, that there is a God-ordained miracle! —Mary Jackson, Hidden Figures And with Mary Jackson’s tongue-in-cheek prophetic diagnosis, Hidden Figures revs into full, Technicolor life. A sepia-tinged prologue has identified the central protagonist among our three musketeers—Katherine Johnson—whose patched-together wire-rimmed glasses are two windows into the kaleidoscopic world which she inhabits. For Katherine, the world is knit together in geometric forms; tetrahedrons, triangles, and rhombi camouflage themselves in windowpanes. For Katherine, numbers are the backbone of nature, and she spends each day counting the vertebrae. Her eyes light up when a teacher asks her to solve a problem and hands her the chalk. He doesn’t simply hand her a blunt stub of chalk, he hands her a sharp sword of possibility, with which …

Imagining the Gospels

We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us— we declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. (1 Jn 1:1–4) There are those beautiful, singular memories from childhood that sear into your brain, sticking with you for mysterious, inaccessible reasons. Some of them are quite insignificant, and when they roll around into the conscious forefront of my mind at odd occasions, I never cease to wonder at what odd chemistry of impressionability and emotional resonance has caused them to be burned into my memory. As I was studying for my Scripture class during last finals week, …

And the Nominees Are . . . Lion

Editors’ Note: In anticipation of the 89th Academy Awards on February 26, we present a series exploring the philosophical and theological elements in each of the nine films nominated for Best Picture. This post contains no spoilers. So they were there even before I had learnt them, but were not in my memory. . . . They were already in the memory, but so remote and pushed into the background, as if in most secret caverns, that unless they were dug out by someone drawing attention to them, perhaps I could not have thought of them. (Confessions Book X, 17) In book ten of his Confessions, St. Augustine writes of memory as a re-learning, a re-discovering. Deep in our memory there are visions of truth that we re-learn as life prompts their recall. Garth Davis’ Lion dives into the intimate quest of a human severed from his origins. How do the memories of who he once was and those who loved him reach through the rupture between them? And how must he respond once those memories reach him? Based on a true story, …

A bishop, St. Thomas Becket, against the backdrop of blue.

Thomas Becket and the Witness of Friendship

“I give my life To the Law of God above the Law of Man” —Murder in the Cathedral, T.S. Eliot[i] Thomas Becket, whose feast of martyrdom is observed today, is a highly celebrated figure of English Christianity, commemorated in painting, verse, and drama since his 12th century assassination. The story of Thomas Becket’s unlikely rise to Archbishop of Canterbury is chronicled in Peter Glenville’s film Becket (1964). Although it tells the story of Becket’s martyrdom, the heart of Glenville’s tale is Becket’s friendship with Henry; he frames the film with scenes of Henry II at Becket’s tomb, addressing his deceased friend. Becket sets up a medieval buddy movie, which is ruined by God. There is, of course, more to Thomas Becket’s story than simply his friendship with King Henry II. But the particular sacrifice of friendship, love, and loyalty that the film paints is a striking hue of Becket’s portrait, and a touching testament to the singular witness that friendship plays in the life of faith. The film starts with the puerile shenanigans of Becket …

Advent Eschatology

Oh I’d be waiting with quiet fasting, Anticipating A joy more lasting. —Madeleine L’Engle, “The Birth of Wonder” Advent—like Lent—is a liturgical period when we mark time according to what is still hidden. The Easter Hope is shrouded in sin and suffering, it has not yet broken open the world in Resurrection; the Christmas Hope of Christ’s glory is shrouded in the womb of the Virgin, it has not yet breached into the waking world of man. But Advent—unlike Lent—is not a season of penitential sorrow. Rather, Advent is a period of deep anticipation of the lasting joy that is coming into the world. To keep Advent is not to pretend, in a facile suspension of belief, that Christ has not been incarnated, that his great Nativity never occurred. Rather, to keep Advent is to walk in liturgical solidarity with all humanity’s forebears who lived in the pre-Incarnation world and to commemorate their anticipation of a Savior. As we walk with them along their journey of anticipation, we sense that we ourselves are a people …

A Dogma of Consent

The dogma of the Immaculate Conception is a doctrine that continually mystifies me. Each year as December 8th rolls around, I annually struggle to understand what exactly is so significant here that elevates this feast to a holy day of obligation. The meditations of last year never seem to have borne discoveries that adequately satisfy my questioning. What is so important that it merits mandatory Mass attendance? Why is this doctrine one that Pope Pius IX felt infallibly imperative to declare solemnly a dogma in 1854? Currently, a pressing topic in sexual ethics on college campuses is the term “consent.” There are seminars, talks, trainings, and various programs all centered on teaching undergraduates the importance and value of consent. The moral imperative of obtaining the consent of one’s sexual partner is impressed upon students as an avenue towards helping the students understand the gravity of a sexual encounter, and inviting the students to step into another person’s shoes, envisioning the encounter through the eyes of the other. Accordingly, students are taught to be mindful of …