The Kingdom Of God Is Within You
This week's DVD rental ... Stigmata. This was a 1999 movie starring Gabriel Byrne and Patricia Arquette, which dwelt, in some ways, on the same subject matter as the more well-known Da Vinci Code film ..... the idea that the Catholic Church has secret knowledge of info that would cause the Church's destruction, were it made public. This secret source of information bears an eerie resemblance to the Gospel of Thomas :-)
The main character, Father Kiernan (Byrne), is a Jesuit priest and Vatican postulator ( one who investigates the authenticity of miracles), working for the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. He meets Frankie (Arquette) while investigating her alleged experience of the stigmata, the marks on her body that replicate those of Jesus on the cross.
His questions lead him to the discovery of something even more intriguing than Frankie's apparently miraculous condition - a new gospel found in the deserts of Isreal. It imparts the message that Jesus did not plan or wish to establish a religious institution, that he would have prefered only individual's belief in him, that he could be found not in a structure like a church but in any object of nature. The saying quoted from the found manuscript in the movie seems to be taken, in part, from some of the sayings of the Gospel of Thomas ... The Kingdom of God is within you and all about you, not in buildings of wood and stone. When I am gone, split a piece of wood and I am there; lift a stone and you will find me. The movie ends with Byrne's character defying his religious superiors in their quest to keep the found gospel and its message a secret.
Roger Ebert, raised a Catholic, reviewed the movie with a combination of amusement and disbelief. Here's a bit of his review ...
The story: In Brazil, a holy priest has come into possession of a lost gospel "told in the words of Jesus himself." In the priest's church is a bleeding statue of the Virgin Mary. The Vatican dispatches a miracle-buster, Father Andrew (Gabriel Byrne), to investigate. "The blood is warm and human," he tells his superiors. He wants to crate up the statue and ship it to the Vatican for investigation, but is prevented. (One pictures a vast Vatican storehouse of screen windows and refrigerator doors bearing miraculous images.) The old priest in Brazil has died, and in the marketplace an American tourist buys his rosary and mails it as a souvenir to her daughter Frankie (Patricia Arquette), who is a hairdresser in Pittsburgh. Soon after receiving the rosary, Frankie begins to exhibit the signs of the stigmata--bleeding wounds on the wrists, head and ankles, where Christ was pierced on the cross. Father Andrew is again dispatched to investigate, reminding me of Illeana Douglas' priceless advice to her haunted brother in "Stir of Echoes": "Find one of those young priests with smoldering good looks to sort of guide you through this." The priest decides Frankie cannot have the stigmata, because she is not a believer: "It happens only to deeply religious people." Psychiatrists quiz her, to no avail. ("Is there any stress in your life?" "I cut hair.") But alarming manifestations continue: Frankie bleeds, glass shatters, there are rumbles on the soundtrack, she has terrifying visions and at one point she speaks to the priest in a deeply masculine voice, reminding us of Linda Blair in "The Exorcist." Now there's the problem. Linda Blair was possessed by an evil spirit. Frankie has been entered by the Holy Spirit. Instead of freaking out in nightclubs and getting blood all over her bathroom, she should be in some sort of religious ecstasy, like Lili Taylor in "Household Saints." It is not a dark and fearsome thing to be bathed in the blood of the lamb.
- read the whole review here
Probably the most interesting thing about the movie is the reference leading to the Gospel of Thomas. My scripture-blog buddies and I read it a while ago, so I'm a little familiar with it. It is different from the canonical gospels in that it isn't a narrative of Jesus' life, but mainly a list of his sayings.
For more information on the Gospel of Thomas or to read the translations of it online, check out the list of Thomas links at the New Testament Gateway.
And for those of you who are fans of movie critic Roger Ebert, perhaps you could spare him a prayer ... I read today that he is very ill - Read more.