Vatican premiere of “The Nativity Story” movie

I attended tonight the world premiere of the new film “The Nativity Story”. It was shown to a full house in the Paul VI audience hall in the Vatican. Having the premiere of a film like this was a first for the Vatican. The woman Catherine Hardwicke (Tombstone, Three Kings, Vanilla Sky) who directed it was in attendance, as well as Secretary of State Tarcisio Card. Bertone (Archbp. Vercelli, Secretary CDF, Archbp. Genoa) was there, though not the Holy Father (Archbp. Munich, Prefect CDF). Also we saw in the hall the writer Mike Rich (Finding Forrester, The Rookie), the actor who played Joseph, Oscar Isaac, and the woman who played Elizabeth, Shohreh Aghdashloo.

If you are expecting stark realism in the film, you will not be disappointed. If you are expecting classic images of mangers and Wise Men with camels, …you will not be disappointed.

The film juxtaposed very realistic, even naturalistic scenes with scenes overlaid with classic images of the Nativity narrative, which snobs and scholars might turn their lifted noses at, but which I think should please most viewers, as they did me.

The makers of the movie did not shy from using images one nearly automatically associates with the Christmas narrative. There are Wise Men, right out of your Nativity scene and named Gaspar, Melchior and Balthasar, with camels and garish boxes. They follow the star, “moving” in the sense that planets are converging,. and the star obligingly shoots a comforting ray of light down into the animal stall while Mary is in labor. The Holy Family has a faithful little donkey and the Blessed Virgin a blue mantle, though of a very light shade. Herod is really a bad guy who will remind you of a Semitic version of Braveheart’s Edward Longshanks. The music incorporated snatches of well-known melodies such as Veni veni Emanuel and The Coventry Carol. The angel of the Annunciation was suitably luminous and the shepherds sufficiently humble.

The text of the Magnificat worked as bookends in the film and, while our version of the movie was dubbed in Italian with English subtitles, I expect the final scene, interlacing the Magnificat with strains of Stille Nacht, may move many to tears.

In fact, the audience tonight was very responsive. They burst into applause when the baby Jesus was born, as one might expect, and laughed at the appropriate moments of comic relief, provided not terribly subtly by the three Wise Guys, er um, Men. In fact their humorous repartee is sets up their glorious expressions of faith at the moment of truth. I was up in the press area and there were some studio nazis from New Line present to make sure no one was recording anything or taking images from the showing. They freaked out when people in the audience began shooting flash pictures of the screen at predictable moments, and began making hurried cell phone calls.

The film did not lack suggestions of the difficulty women faced in the ancient world. The political dimension of the expected Messiah was mentioned several times. A serious thread found its way into the Nativity narrative with the occasional glimpse of men crucified along the side of the road.

I do not want to speak too much of the actual details of dialogue or portrayal of the biblical figures. Make up your own minds. Suffice to say that in the brief time of the film the script allows for some very strong character development, making them more than simple two dimensional figures. I particularly liked their Joseph, who was young, strong, and normal man striving to be virtuous and… well… normal.

I do not think you will be disappointed by the movie. I give it a biretta tip … o{]:¬)

Before the showing, there was a little speech in Italian by Archbishop John Foley, President of the Pontifical Council for Social Communication followed by a longish reading in Italian from the Gospel of Luke from the Nativity narrative by Gigi Proietti. Archbp. Foley, for his part after his Italian text, spoke more extemporaneously for a moment in English. He said, “At a time when in so many places people are hesitant to say ‘Merry Christmas’, they are hesitant to say the name of Jesus Christ, we are happy to celebrate here this evening a film in which we commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ, the God Man, the Savior of the world, born of the Virgin Mary. … We can say, even a month before hand, may all of you have a Merry Christmas. Buon Natale a tutti.”

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74 Responses to Vatican premiere of “The Nativity Story” movie

  1. dcs says:

    I heard that Mary is shown having labor pains. True? And that Anne and Joachim rebuke her for being pregnant.

  2. dcs: I am not going to go into details.

    However, yes, Mary has labor pains, though without all the dramatic screaming. I think it is reasonable that Mary had labor pains (which I am guessing from the fact that you asked the question you think she shouldn\’t have had). We are, after all, not monophysites or docetists, right? Also, we don\’t have a lot of information (read: we have NO information) from Scripture about any opinion Mary\’s parents might have had.

    I am somewhat less than enthusiastic about any film portrayal of biblical themes, especially when the films verge on error. Such is the case of Franco Zeffirelli\’s exaggerated shrieking by Mary at the moment of the deposition: she completely lost control in that film. While labor pains are reasonable, lots of uncontrolled shrieking is not.  Although

    I don\’t think there was anything over the line in the film tonight.

    The film has images and moments people have come to expect from Nativity scenes, but if you are looking for a baroque painting from start to finish, this won\’t be your film.

  3. Geoffrey says:

    The BBC is reporting that the 16-year old actress who played the Virgin Mary in the film is pregnant…

  4. Geoffrey: And your point?

  5. Matthew says:

    Fr. Z: In fairness to dcs I don’t think that he was thinking of monophysitism or docetism but simply the doctrine that Mary was free from the stain of original sin and thus presumably free from its effects (although that latter part would be a conclusion from the dogmatic declaration not itself part of that declaration). Since pain in childbirth is, according to Gen.2, one of the consequences of original sin and Our Lady was conceived immaculately it is not a great stretch to conclude that she did not suffer in childbirth. There is also, of course, the citation from St. Augustine that the Christ Child passed out of Mary’s womb as a ray of light passes through a pane of glass. There is also the issue of Mary being virgin ‘in partu’ which many Fathers equated with her physical integrity.
    PAX

  6. Catholic Mom says:

    I don’t want to make an issue of the “labor pains” but our priest at Mass today did. He claimed that showing Mary having labor pains was heretical. This was news to me. I understood “Mary, ever Virgin” as referring to Mary’s never having sexual relations either before or after the birth of Jesus. Our priest implied that it also refers to the process with which Mary gave birth. Can you explain?

  7. In all fairness… auctores scinduntur. Also, this is a movie, not a theological treatise.

  8. Gee, Father, I just wandered over from The Curt Jester, and I love your blog! Thanks for writing it!

  9. Anonymous says:

    http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/15448a.htm

    I. THE VIRGIN BIRTH IN CATHOLIC THEOLOGY

    ….that the supernatural influence of the Holy Ghost extended to the birth of Jesus Christ, not merely preserving Mary’s integrity, but also causing Christ’s birth or external generation to reflect his eternal birth from the Father in this, that “the Light from Light” proceeded from his mother’s womb as a light shed on the world; that the “power of the Most High” passed through the barriers of nature without injuring them; that “the body of the Word” formed by the Holy Ghost penetrated another body after the manner of spirits.

  10. Jason Cebalo says:

    Well, I think heresey may be pushing it , but yes, Scripture does say that labour pains are a punishment for
    original sin. Also, a number of early chirstian writings speak of Our Lady giving birth without labour p

  11. Jason Cebalo says:

    Sorry, that should have read “labour pains”

  12. Kimmy says:

    THE POPE HAS SPOKEN!!!

    http://motherofallpeoples.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=546&Itemid=83

    Born of the Virgin Mary
    By Msgr. Charles M. Mangan

    ……Pope John Paul II, on May 24, 1992 at the conclusion of the International Study Conference that commemorated the 16th Centenary of the Plenary Council of Capua which considered Mary’s Perpetual Virginity, commented: “… some Church Fathers set up a significant parallel between the begetting of Christ ex intacta Virgine (from the intact Virgin) and His resurrection ex intacto sepulchro (from the intact tomb).. . the Church proclaims as factually true that Mary… truly and virginally gave birth to her Son, for Whom she remained a virgin after birth; a virgin—according to the holy Fathers and Councils which expressly dealt with the question . . . also in everything which concerns the integrity of the flesh . . . .” (L’Osservatore Romano (English edition), June 10, 1992, page 14).

  13. Kevin says:

    It sounds very good, Father. I’m interested to hear about the faithful family donkey. Hope the movie comes to India, soon.

  14. I could be wrong but…

    To the woman he said, “I will GREATLY MULTIPLY your pain in childbearing…” Genesis 3:16 RSV-CE 2nd ed.

    0 x 10 = 0 No pain to multiply equals no pain.
    1 x 10 = 10 Ten times greater than the original pain.
    It would seem that pain was present in child birth to some extent before the fall, no matter how small – and that it was “greatly multiplied” after the fall.

    Otherwise it would seem that God would have said “I will give you pain in childbearing…”

    St. Luke also said: “She gave birth…” Seems like he might have communicated something more miraculous if Mary said it had happened. I mean if she told the disciples about the Annunciation, why not a miraculous child birth?

    I’m just not sure how a pre-fall natural childbirth with pre-fall “labor pains” would negate anything theologically, in particular the Immaculate Conception.

    Again, I humbly submit that I could be wrong and leave open that Almighty God did and can do whatever He wants.

  15. Melody says:

    Another wanderer from the Curt Jester here. ^_^
    I would agree with Campidoctoris de Anathematis. While I may be truly in error, it seems that unless the birth was truly supernatural Mary gave birth in normal fashion. I submit that she likely had a very easy birth compared to others. However, it would seem logical that Our Lord came into this world at a healthy weight and size. I do not wish to be crude about such a delicate subject, but does that not imply some labor?
    Am I the only one who does not equate the Holy Mother’s perpetual virginity with having an intact hyman? Many a chaste and virginal woman loses hers through athletics and other things.

  16. Nancy Brown says:

    I, too, wandered here via Curt Jester.

    Thank you for this fine review. I was wondering if I should take our family to see this movie, and you’ve helped me to decide: I want to see it! how often does anyone produce anything these days you can take the whole family to? I think this would make a wonderful family Advent adventure, and give us all something visual to share and talk about. Thanks, Father.

  17. Kimmy: That citation provided by my friend Msgr. Mangan, in turn quoting the late Holy Father, does not really provide any support for or against the possibility that the Blessed Virgin experienced pains from child birth.

  18. Father, I’m being terribly unfair to you by my vagueness in this matter, but I half-remember one of the Fathers suggesting that Our Lady was spared labour pains at the time of Our Lord’s birth, but that she somehow experienced them by her sharing in His pain during the crucifixion. Does that ring any bells with you? I’m going to have to look through my books to find this because that is a beautiful idea.

  19. Zadok: Yes, that rings a bell. I am digging at this question now.

  20. Victor says:

    Father,
    you might want to check the visions of St Birgitta of Sweden. If I remember correctly, she very thoroughly describes the birth of OL&S by the Virgin Mary: Mary was kneeling and praying, and the child Jesus suddenly appeared on a cloth before her (I always imagine it like a StarTrek-like beaming). Of course, St Birgitta is not doctrinal, but still…

  21. ellen says:

    Zadok the Roman and Fr. Zuhlsdorf, I had not heard that point about Our Lady suffering labour pains at Jesus’ crucifixion. I look forward to learning more. The truth is important. If it is the truth (as I believe) that God’s gift to Our Lady was her perpetual virginity, then we must proclaim that truth. It is my understanding that labour pains are caused by the woman’s body preparing to expel the child through the birth canal and continue through that process. Most protestants that I have known have believed that our Blessed Lady was not a virgin during or AFTER the birth of Jesus, so this film could confirm them in their error and perhaps even lead people to think that the Church is rethinking her teaching. So maybe it is important that if Catholics say that the film is good, we should also proclaim our belief in Our Lady’s perpetual virginity.

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  23. Cathy says:

    I was engaged in this argument once – about Mary’s labor pains.
    I couldn’t find anything in terms of magisterial teaching
    on the subject. What I did find was a lot of theological
    opinion.

    Here’s my take: There are three ‘curses’ given to the folks
    in the garden. You will bear children in pain, you will have
    to work for a living, you will die. Jesus was obviously also
    free from original sin, but he certainly worked for a living and
    he most certainly died. If that was true about him, why
    would his birth (and Mary’s pains) have been any different?

    Also, as Catholics, we don’t take the story in Genesis 3 as
    literally, factually true. These etiologies are part of the
    mythic structure of the text. There is theological truth
    there, certainly. (Original sin is one doctrine that seems to be
    empirically proven.) But we don’t have to believe in the
    snake, etc. We know how human beings evolved, and they
    evolved with large brain cases which cause their mothers
    some effort in giving them birth.

  24. Kent Wendler says:

    The Immaculate Conception was spared from the *stain* of Original Sin, but she was obviously not spared from all of its effects. The fact that she experienced pain in her life is de fides.

    St. Birgitta was a human being like us with her own prejudices and “preconceptions”. As Father Groeschel points out very strongly in his book “A Still Small Voice” about visions, they are all “filtered” through the visionary’s limitations, and they very much get it wrong at times.

    Our Lord was “a man like us in *all things* save sin”. How many of us were miraculously “teleported” from our mother’s wombs?

  25. Cathy:

    And . . . what the Lord God said to the first couple weren’t “curses” — they were God revealing the consequences of eating from the tree of knowlege of GOOD AND BAD: Now God was telling them what some of those good and bad things were:

    childbirth (good) + pain (bad)

    desire for husband (good) + his domination (bad)

    food, work (good) + struggle, thistles (bad)

    The noteworthy thing is how Adam and Eve react (or rather, don’t react), at the end of the Lord’s statements to them. Go read it: they don’t act as though they’ve just had unrelenting curses laid upon them. In fact, what Adam says clearly reveals he’s focusing on one of the GOOD things.

  26. Cathy says:

    Fr. Martin,

    I wasn’t using ‘curses’ in the sense that God curses us. I was
    using it in the sense of the Ancient Near East covenant
    documents: “This is what happens if you obey….(blessings)and
    “This is what happens if you don’t….(curses)” But of course
    God is beyond all that. It is just that it is written in the
    human language of the time and I don’t think that they would
    have necessarily made the distinction between curses and consequencecs,
    much as small children don’t necessarily make the distinction
    between ‘consequences’ and ‘punishment.’

    Thanks for making the clarification.

    Cathy

  27. Most animals do not appear to suffer the kind of pain in childbirth that humans do, but there is clearly some kind of effort. Similarly, the Blessed Mother might not have suffered agonies in childbirth, but still have felt it, just has her divine Son experienced hunger in the desert, or sadness at the death of Lazarus, or fatigue that led Him to sleep in the boat on the sea of Galilee. As for the “tokens of virginity,” virginity in ordinary women is not synonymous with an intact hymen. I know a woman, a virgin at marriage, who ruptured hers by a fall as a little girl (her mother reminded her of this before her wedding, and told her to make sure to reassure her husband). So Mary was a virgin regardless of physical condition, since she had not known man. Certainly it is possible–since with God all things are possible–that her Son passed through the hymen by some supernatural means, or that God restored it after He had been born, but I don’t think it’s necessary. Indeed the first possibility suggests Docetism, since at all other times Jesus’ mortal body (as opposed to the risen body) is subject to the normal laws of nature and did not pass through any solid objects. As for the second–why? Who would notice one way or the other? Not St. Joseph, because they never had intercourse, and not any other man. The notion of SS. Joachim and Anna’s reaction is interesting. The first response of St. Joseph suggests that they, too, might have come to the same conclusion. I suppose that when St. Joseph said he’d go ahead with the wedding they were content; or perhaps God revealed something to them as He did to him and apparently to St. Elizabeth.

  28. That Our Lady is a Virgin before, during and after the birth of Jesus is part of the deposit of faith. The Virgin Birth or virginity of Mary during the birth of Jesus is absolutely beyond debate for Catholics. The Council of the Lateran (649) reads:

    “If anyone does not profess according to the holy Fathers that in the proper and true sense the holy, ever-Virgin, Immaculate Mary is Mother of God, since in this last age, not with human seed but of the Holy Spirit, She properly and truly conceived the divine Word, who was born of God the Father before all ages, and gave him birth without any detriment to her virginity, which remained inviolable even after his birth: let such a one be condemned.”

    Subsequent magisterial texts make it clear that “virginity during birth” includes everything that is proper to physical virginity. The idea that Our Lady’s virginity during birth is merely spiritual or actualized because She conceived virginally does square with Church teaching. Thus, gynecological explanations are out of place, and the inference that the birth was painless is simply based on the fact that it was miraculous. I am not going to pretend to tell you how it happened, but logic is logic.

    Niether am not one to confuse art and theology, but even from an artistic point of view, I do not see the advantage of naturalizing the most supernatural event that ever occurred. I know I will be told that mothers have more to identify with in a naturalistic representation, but in reality far more is to be lost than gained. Our heavenly Mother can help us so much, because She is really different.

    I have been involved in discussions on this topic a number of times before. I always like to reference the homily of St. John Chrysostom for Christmas morning:

    “Though I know that a Virgin this day gave birth, and I believe that God was begotten before all time, yet the manner of this generation I have learned to venerate in silence, and I accept that this is not to be probed too curiously with wordy speech. For with God we look not for the order of nature, but rest our faith in the power of Him who works.”

  29. Domini Sumus says:

    St. Thomas Aquinas states in “Summa Theologicae” that the lack of an intact hymen does not invalidate virginity.

    “That a physical membrane is unbroken is incedental to virginity, which persists because of the will’s purpose to abstain from sex-pleasure. If it happens not to be intact from sme other cause, this is no more prejudicial to virginity than damage to a hand or foot.” Summa Theologiae 2a2ae. 152, 1

  30. Context is everything. St. Thomas in 2a2ae. 152, 1 is speaking about the VIRTUE of virginity, and nowhere applies his comments about the lack of physical integrity to the event of the Virgin Birth. The idea of “virginal integrity” appears over and over in magisterial documents concerning the Virgin Birth, and the tradition is clear as to its meaning. Is the Virgin Birth any more difficult to believe than the Virginal Conception? Remember, the Holy Spirit is NOT the father of Jesus. Jesus is conceived by the power of Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary, without father. That is the doctrine. You can’t explain it. It is miraculous.

  31. Irulats says:

    Henry Dieterich said,”As for the “tokens of virginity,” virginity in ordinary women is not synonymous with an intact hymen.” Your opinion may have validity but that the church teaches quite specifically that the Mother of God retained all aspects of her virginity.
    Cf. Creed of the Council of Toledo XVI (693): DS 571
    And as the Virgin acquired the modesty of virginity before conception, so also she experienced no loss of her integrity; for she conceived a virgin, gave birth a virgin, and after birth retained the uninterrupted modesty of an intact virgin.
    Yours in Christ.

  32. Catholics don’t doubt that Mary is a virgin, perpetually, before, during and after the birth of the Lord. That is not at issue. What is at issue is whether or not she experienced pains in childbirth. Some think yes, some think no. There are arguments on both sides. But we are not in disagreement about her perpetual virginity.

  33. John Schuh says:

    Father Angelo says, miracles have no natural explanation. The fact is. however, that Mary is a woman, not a goddess. The second Eve had to endure endure suffering, in tribute to the first. Perhaps, and here I speculate. she had to experience pain at the beginning. the common lot of mankind, for the sake of mankind. It was part of the choice she made. Certainly she suffered with us, or do we call her Our Lady of Sorrows for nothing.

  34. I acknowledge Father Z.’s caution, and beg indulgence of further answer to my esteemed objectors.

    For the record, St. Thomas in the Summa (II IIae, q. 164, a. 2, ad 3), where he discusses the punishments for original sin, states:

    “For any woman who conceives must needs suffer sorrows and bring forth her child with pain: except the Blessed Virgin, who “conceived without corruption, and bore without pain” [St. Bernard, Serm. in Dom. inf. oct. Assum. B. V. M.], because her conceiving was not according to the law of nature, transmitted from our first parents.”

    Secondly, indeed, miracles have no natural explanation. This particular miracle, viz., the Virgin Birth, points to the divinity of Christ. The patristic datum is that if a virgin conceives and bears a son, as Isaiah says, then that child is God. I would respectfully submit that the tradition has always been careful on this point, as the content and meaning of the Virgin Birth is easily vacated if we submit it to scientific analysis or criticism of other sorts.

    Finally, St. Bonaventure neatly brings together the mystery of Our Lady’s sorrows and the Christmas event in the pithy statement: “That which in the Nativity She brought forth with joy, in the Passion She gave birth to with sorrow” (Commentary on Luke, c. 23). Our Lady does have pain in childbirth, but only at the foot of the cross as Mother of the Church.

  35. Father Angelo: Can I add this more recent comment?

    24. Leaving aside charity towards God, who can contemplate the Immaculate Virgin without feeling moved to fulfill that precept which Christ called peculiarly His own, namely that of loving one another as He loved us? \”A great sign,\” thus the Apostle St. John describes a vision Divinely sent him, appears in the heavens: \”A woman clothed with the sun, and with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars upon her head\” (Apoc. xii., 1). Everyone knows that this woman signified the Virgin Mary, the stainless one who brought forth our Head. The Apostle continues: \”And, being with child, she cried travailing in birth, and was in pain to be delivered\” (Apoc. xii., 2). John therefore saw the Most Holy Mother of God already in eternal happiness, yet travailing in a mysterious childbirth. What birth was it? Surely it was the birth of us who, still in exile, are yet to be generated to the perfect charity of God, and to eternal happiness. And the birth pains show the love and desire with which the Virgin from Heaven above watches over us, and strives with unwearying prayer to bring about the fulfillment of the number of the elect.

    Bl. Pope Pius IX in his encyclical on the Immaculate Conception A diem laetissimum, 2 Feb 1904

  36. Thank you Father Z. And that is the connection between the virtue of virginity, the Virgin Birth and Our Lady’s Motherhood of the Church. It is all about sacrificial love (cf. “oblative love” of Benedict XVI’s Deus caritas est).

  37. IC says:

    Thanks Fr. Angelo and Fr.Z. for clarifying things.

    Just adding an excerpt from Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange’s The Mother of the Savior :

    The Virginal Birth

    St. Ambrose bears witness to the virginal birth when commenting on the text of Isaias: ‘A virgin shall conceive, and bear a son;’ she will be a virgin, he says, in giving birth as well as in conceiving. [28] The same had been said earlier by St. Ignatius the Martyr, [29] Aristides, [30] Clement of Alexandria. [31] It was defined by the Lateran Council. [32]

    St. Thomas gives the following arguments to show the appropriateness of the virginal birth: I — The Word, Who is conceived and Who proceeds eternally from the Father without any corruption of His substance; should, if He becomes flesh, be born of a virgin mother without detriment to her virginity; 2 — He Who came to remove all corruption should not by His birth destroy the virginity of her who bore Him; 3 — He Who commands us to honor our parents should not Himself diminish by His birth the glory of His holy mother.

    28. Epist. XLII ad Siricium Papam, P. L., XVI, 1124: ‘Non enim concepturam tantum inodo virginem. sed et parituram (Isaias) dixit.’
    29. Ad Ephes., xv, I.
    30. Ex vita Barlaa,n et Josaphat, P. G., XCVI, 1121.
    31. Strom., VII, xvi; P. G., IX, 529.
    32. Denz., 256; item 993.

  38. Oxy Man says:

    Hi there,

    I went to see this movie at the New Zealand premier, and I thought it was a great watch; I even shed a few tears.

    However, as a Catholic, there were some glaring frustrations for me with the movie.

    I agree that St Joseph’s portrayal was excellent, and I really hope it encourages my protestant friends to take another look at his important role as head of the Holy Family.

    I thought the wise men were a great addition that gave the film some light relief every now and then.

    I felt the character development of Mary was weak. Initially she is portrayed as this scatty child who throws a tantrum when she is told that she is going to marry Joseph, and then as soon as she becomes pregnant she instantly transforms into a super mature and holy young woman.

    Even if they were trying to portray her in a more human light, the way her character changes makes absolutely no sense.

    And the prayerful/faith dimension of Our Lady is seriously lacking – she seems to do more time getting upset about things than praying.

    The movie also portrays Mary as being present at the birth of John the Baptist, but as far as I am aware this is not held as being correct by Scripture or Tradition.

    And the shepherds and the wise men arrive together at the birth, but this isn’t the right timeline either.

    I understand why they did these things – for the sake of making a movie to a formula, but it was a little frustrating in regards to sticking to even a basic level of accuracy.

    And I also found her response during the Fiat to be a little annoying – Mary responds to Gabrielle with something along these lines; “how can this be for I have not known a man YET”

    I actually found the Christmas card scenes of the birth of Jesus to be a little bit cheesy for my liking, and the eagle flying by every time Gabrielle made an appearance also added to the cheese factor – and I’m not really sure what the point of that was either! (Was it meant to suggest that Gabrielle disguised himself as an eagle????)

    And yes, the pains during were frustrating, and the super fast birth of Jesus made that scene feel like a made-for-TV drama moment.

    I enjoyed the movie, it was reasonably well acted and scripted (even with the weak character development in some places), and I think that it is a very timely movie considering the mass commercialisation of Christmas that happens today.

    But if you’re looking for a faithful and historically accurate portrayal of events you’ll be disappointed.

    And it isn’t academy award wining script writing or acting, but it is reasonably well crafted.

  39. Oxy Man: Thanks for chiming in.

    I think I might just edit your comments out, however, since they are pretty much \”spoliers\” for those who might see the film. You comment is still here. I just put it into an invisible moderation queue for later.

    I imagine some bloggers will rush to put lots of film details on their sites, but I don\’t want people to have their sense of anticipation ruined because of my site.  If you want I can repost your comment sometime after the opening.

  40. Brian Murphy says:

    Just got back from a private screening of the movie and I thought it was excellent, an awesome movie. Please go and see it and show your support, as I would love to have more movies like this.

  41. Rosemarie says:

    +J.M.J+

    >>>Certainly she suffered with us, or do we call her Our Lady of Sorrows for nothing.

    It’s interesting to note that the Birth of Christ is not numbered among the Seven Sorrows of Mary, but among her Seven Joys.

    In Jesu et Maria,

  42. Freye Hudson says:

    We now read in our press/ that the young lady who was Mary in
    the movie is indeed pregnant to her boyfriend she is apparently
    thrilled by this……

  43. Therese says:

    Thank you Fr. Angelo and Fr. Z.

    I have learned a lot from the dialog here.

    Freye,

    This is a little bit of a dilemma, do we boycott the movie because of an immoral actress. Or do we support a movie made which is respectful of Our Lord, and thereby encourage the making of other good and decent movies we can take our children to. For me it’s the latter.

  44. Lisa says:

    Is this movie appropriate for young people? I teach a 6th grade Religion class who marvel that Mary was approximately their age at The Annunciation. I’m just not sure if the violence is too much for a 12 year old. There are not many reviews available at this point. I’m wondering if seeing this film might be a field trip option.

  45. Lisa: Any time there is a doubt, you should see the movie yourself before taking children. However, in this case I don’t think there is anything in the movie not appropriate for children, especially if they are prepared beforehand by learning the Gospel account of the nativity story.

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  48. D says:

    I went to see this last night, opening night. As a recently baptized Christian, I will tell you that this was a most welcomed, meaningful and revolutionary movie for me. It centers around the mother of Our Lord, Jesus Christ.

    A superbly crafted and thoughtfully directed movie, it deserves a high rating. It is an unprecedented tribute to a woman who has been relegated to backdrop scenes. Finally, Mary gets to have a movie about her spiritual journey. In my own life, Mary was in the far distant background, giving her fleeting thought if I came across a Nativity scene at Christmas or if I heard the Beatles song, “Let It Be”:

    “When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me, speaking words of wisdom, let it be. And in my hour of darkness she is standing right in front of me, speaking words of wisdom, let it be.”

    It was made for a certain niche — the ~200 million or so Americans who consider themselves Christians. Two years ago, I was not in this niche, being “spiritual, but not religious.” Long story, short, it was Mary who pointed me to her Son, lead me on my own spiritual journey and caused a revolution in my heart, mind and soul.

    Those who take the time to learn about her and her role do not, as I was mislead to believe, worship her. They simply respect and venerate her. Leading folks to her Son, as I learned, is her job. In this movie, her character is doing exactly that again for me and viewers who are called to see it.

    Ever since she lead me home, Christmas has taken on such meaning as I never imagined. This year, I’ve started the season — called the Advent season — with a faith-based movie that allowed me to slide right into it in a beautiful, gentle and do I dare say, beatific way.

    This movie experience is an exquisite gift for the heart and soul. Moreover, it is a feast for the eyes. I went past the inanimate objects of Nativity displays to a visually rich and “fleshed” out Mary, Joseph, Baby Jesus, shepherds, Magi and stable animals. The director of the movie, Catherine Hardwick, referred to a line in the script: “…the greatest of kings born in the most humble of places.”

    “Power,” she says, “is not a physical power. It’s not riches, it’s not money, it’s not control of governments and nations. It’s a deeper power, spirituality.”

    At the end of the movie, the audience burst out in spontaneous applause. For each of us, Christmas is not at all about holiday parties, frenzied shopping and the trappings and physical accouterments. Now, THAT’S revolutionary.

    When this comes out in DVD, it will be a part of our yearly Christmas tradition, reminding us what it is all about.

    “Merry Christ-mas!” I hope you will make it meaningfully merrier by giving yourself this movie experience of the life of Mary.

  49. Rita Katherine says:

    There’s no question — I’ve never ever seen
    the Blessed Virgin Mary but upon seeing the trailers/
    ads I said to myself, “that’s not Mary” and wanted to
    cry. “Why,” I said to myself, “Did they want to make
    her so prosaic, so uninspiring, so ….?” If I may
    be forgiving for presuming, I felt a little
    like Bernadette when she
    cried at the statue-ideas put to her to represent
    what she saw as Mary. Will I go to the movie. I doubt
    it.

  50. Cornelia says:

    Very protestant movie, the way Mary is portrayed. And in imitation of Luther, adding to Scripture, by having Mary say, I don’t know man YET. I cannot stand the thought of watching Mary portrayed as a petulant, pouting teenager, while the angel greeted her as the “fully-graced one”.

  51. Bernadette says:

    I read most of these posts & I understand why many say Our Blessed Mother gave birth without labour pain as She is the Immaculate Conception & also without sin…so She doesn’t experience the pain of Adam & Eve’s disobedience. But I also understand those that believe Our Mother Mary did suffer some sort of labour pain! Well, I tend to believe the greater possibility of Our Mother givimg birth without pain but then again I was not there!!! And I do believe without a doubt that Our Precious Mother conceived Our Savior through the Holy Spirit & that She gave birth & after Our Savior’s birth she remained a virgin!!! And if She did give birth the natural way…well all is possible with Our Father!!! I believe all this without reservation!!! But for those who say that She did not feel any pain because She was without sin…well…I gave birth to two daughters without pain…no meds, naturally!!! The doctor & nurses were a bit taken aback to witness this!!! I still am in amazement when I think about it & just resigned to the fact that Our Lord took pity on such a weak person as me, not because I was holy at all but a miserable sinner with much hope!! And I am a sinner, I grumble when things do not go my way, I am quick with the tongue when aggravated…most of this because of my pride!!!! Yet one of the things that touched me more was how Our Mother was portrayed with humbleness as the Nazoreans treated Her because in their eyes, judging & not knowing the Miraculous truth…as a scandal!!! Yet Our Mother & Joseph kept on with thier daily duties! They didn’t run away!! How I wish to have my heart like Our Mother!!! True that Her role was a bit understated & I would have loved to see a deeper character for the Blessed Virgin Mary…but I must admit I loved the movie!!!

    Bottom line…whether Our Mother gave birth with pain or without…She said Yes to Our Merciful Father & The Word Became Flesh & Dwelt Among Us!!!! She conformed with the Will of Our Father & Joseph also did the same!!! They were poor & suffered greatly, but they accepted their hardships & sufferings with much faith in Our Father & love!!! That is what I got out of The Nativity!!!

  52. Jesse Daggett says:

    As a new Catholic, it is interesting to read these comments from presumably cradle catholics. It underscores sad reality that catholic’s today do not seem to elevate the sacred tradition of the Church to the level it should; far less the authority of the Church Fathers, Magisterium, and Holy Fathers. Subjective modernism is rather our authority, calling into question the importance of accuracy of any reiteration of historical events. Quite frankly, we are bound by Sacred Tradition and the teaching authority of the Church. If a film, Catholic or otherwise, fails to relay the facts and teachings of the Church accurately, then it is legit and proper to address those innacuracies.

    The idea that Mary suffered labor pains denies her immaculate conception through the admittance of original sin. I know the word “heresy” is one the Church now shines away from, in postmodern ecumenism, but nonetheless it is an accurate summary of such an idea.

    Call a spade a spade. These are not subjective “ideas” and “emotions” but rather dogmatic institutions of the Church; Catholics are thus bound to embrace them in full while serving the Church be denouncing contrary ideas.

    In Christ through the Blessed Virgin,
    Jesse

  53. Heather says:

    Father Zuhlsdorf,

    Ad Diem Illum Laetissimum was written by Pope St. Pius X on the 50th anniversary of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception; Bl. Pius IX was not alive in 1904.

    I don’t see how the quote from that encyclical reference applies to the question of whether or not Our Lady experienced pain during the birth of Our Lord. That reference is from St. John’s Apocolypse, and has nothing to do with the Nativity.

    Our Lady was conceived without original sin, and therefore did not suffer the punishment due to original sin, namely pain during childbirth.

    Our Lady of Fatima asks us to atone for the 5 ways in which she is blasphemed—and all 5 are contained in this movie.

    I hope you will reconsider your endorsement.

  54. Heather: Elsewhere on the blog there are entries with lots of discussion that clear up the issues.

  55. Fr. TPGG says:

    For, in fact, he was “conceived of the Holy Ghost” within the womb of a Virgin Mother, who bore him as she had conceived him, without loss of virginity…

    …Accordingly, the Son of God, descending from his seat in heaven, and not departing from the glory of the Father, enters this lower world, born after a new order, by a new mode of birth… And born by a new mode of birth; because inviolate virginity, while ignorant of concupiscence, supplied the matter of his flesh. What was assumed from the Lord’s mother was nature, not fault; nor does the wondrousness of the nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ, as born of a Virgin’s womb, imply that his nature is unlike ours.

    From the Tome of Pope St. Leo

  56. Dan G. says:

    Hi all –

    Very interesting and meaningful discourse — it seems the conversation keeps wandering back to perpetual virginity, when the issue is the question of labor pains. Here is how I attempt to think with the mind of the Church:

    1. The answer “yes” or “no” on whether Mary experienced pain in giving birth to Jesus is simply not known. It is a matter of theological speculation. There are arguments for and against, but it seems one would err on the side that fits most consistently with the broader and more certain aspects of Mariology. I am no expert, and am outranked by many in the blog above, so I submit this in all deference.

    2. It seems there is fairly strong tradition that Mary died before being assumed into heaven. There has long been the Church of the Dormition of Mary in Jerusalem, for example. My point here is simply that it seems fitting to Mary’s humility and desire to imitate her Son – that she chose to pass through death, as her Son did. We don’t know for sure, but the tradition that holds this — is based, not on the necessity of her death, but on her choice to go the route of suffering, in imitation of Jesus. So too, I can’t help but see Mary choosing to bear her Son in the solidarity of labor pain, if not for any reason but to be the obedient ‘Eve’, the humble ‘Eve’ — to counter the pride of our original parents. It seems contorted to extricate Mary miraculously out of her externally simple life, which was like ours in every way but sin — to posit her having a “spiritual” sort of birth. So, to the extent many speculate that Mary died in humility (even if she need not die) it seems appropriate she chose the pain of labor – or it was simply God’s will for her.

    3. Finally, it seems that Mary’s mystical ecstasy and joy at the birth of Jesus would have been so elevated and indescribable, that the issue of whether she experienced pain becomes, well — pretty irrelevant. No one experienced union with God as Mary did, but her experience was notably interior and hidden from us. I wonder why Mary and Joseph were so adamant about finding lodging for Mary with child, if the Jesus would simply “appear” miraculously before her? I think it is far more dangerous to encroach the humanity of Christ (Irenaeus: “the flesh [of Christ]is the hinge of our salvation”) than to postulate Christ’s skipping the birth canal in entering the world. He left the world in humility, and I think he entered the world in humility – ie. without qualification. It is important to consider how changing the nature of the birth of Christ from that of every other human being … may also throw into question his full humanity – umbillical cord, placenta and all.

  57. Dan G. says:

    Slight correction to my sentence in #3 should read: “I think it is far more dangerous to encroach the humanity of Christ (Irenaeus: “the flesh [of Christ]is the hinge of our salvation”) AND to postulate Christ’s skipping the birth canal in entering the world.” My point, poorly stated – is to convey the notion that Christ’s full humanity is kept in tact more convincingly if his birth is as all are born into the world. There is no sin or lack of dignity in Christ’s being born naturally through Mary.

    (I couldn’t read all of my text in the drafting box, for some reason – sorry for my misstep)

    Thanks for reading this.
    Dan

  58. Dan says:

    To Jesse –

    I don’t think anyone in the blog is of the mind that those who believe Mary did not experience labor pains – are heretics. Also, I don’t understand how Mary’s having labor pains denies her immaculate conception. Just because Mary was preserved from Original Sin does not imply directly that she was also restored with what theologians have called the ‘preturnatural gifts’ of Adam and Eve. I am glad you are in the Church, and admire your zeal. I am as orthodox as they come in the Catholic Church, and there are some matters that Catholics may have differing opinions on >>> this is one of them. As you can see from the erudite comments in the blog, no one can cite any particular “doctrine” of the Church on this matter. We’re all trying to grow in our love and knowledge of Mary, our Immaculate Mother – Theotokos.
    Peace,
    Dan

  59. Did anyone hear Rush Limbaugh lavish praises on the movie today on his radio show?

  60. RBrown says:

    1. The answer “yes” or “no” on whether Mary experienced pain in giving birth to Jesus is simply not known. It is a matter of theological speculation. There are arguments for and against, but it seems one would err on the side that fits most consistently with the broader and more certain aspects of Mariology. I am no expert, and am outranked by many in the blog above, so I submit this in all deference.

    No, it is not merely a matter of theological speculation. There is a long, glorious list of the Fathers, including Leo the Great, that affirms it.

    From the seasonal hymnus ad officium lectionis:

    Veni, redemptor gentium
    ostende partum Virginis
    meretur omne saeculum
    talis decet partus Deum.

    2. It seems there is fairly strong tradition that Mary died before being assumed into heaven. There has long been the Church of the Dormition of Mary in Jerusalem, for example. My point here is simply that it seems fitting to Mary’s humility and desire to imitate her Son – that she chose to pass through death, as her Son did. We don’t know for sure, but the tradition that holds this—is based, not on the necessity of her death, but on her choice to go the route of suffering, in imitation of Jesus. So too, I can’t help but see Mary choosing to bear her Son in the solidarity of labor pain, if not for any reason but to be the obedient ‘Eve’, the humble ‘Eve’—to counter the pride of our original parents. It seems contorted to extricate Mary miraculously out of her externally simple life, which was like ours in every way but sin—to posit her having a “spiritual” sort of birth. So, to the extent many speculate that Mary died in humility (even if she need not die) it seems appropriate she chose the pain of labor – or it was simply God’s will for her.

    1. Her status as the second Eve is usually used as an argument in favor of a miracular birth.

    2. It was not Mary’s choice to choose or not choose the pain.

    3. Finally, it seems that Mary’s mystical ecstasy and joy at the birth of Jesus would have been so elevated and indescribable, that the issue of whether she experienced pain becomes, well—pretty irrelevant. No one experienced union with God as Mary did, but her experience was notably interior and hidden from us. I wonder why Mary and Joseph were so adamant about finding lodging for Mary with child, if the Jesus would simply “appear” miraculously before her? I think it is far more dangerous to encroach the humanity of Christ (Irenaeus: “the flesh [of Christ]is the hinge of our salvation”) than to postulate Christ’s skipping the birth canal in entering the world. He left the world in humility, and I think he entered the world in humility – ie. without qualification. It is important to consider how changing the nature of the birth of Christ from that of every other human being … may also throw into question his full humanity – umbillical cord, placenta and all.

    It is true that Christ’s flesh is the hinge of our salvation: The foundation of St Thomas’ Christology is that we are saved by the Humanity of Jesus. BUT His Humanity was elevated as a consequence of the union with His Divinity–thus St Thomas’ phrase to describe Christ’s Humanity, instrumentum coniunctum, described Christ’s Sacred Humanity.

  61. RBrown says:

    in favor of a miracular birth

    should be:

    in favor of a miraculous birth.

  62. Jordan Potter says:

    Yeah, I heard a little of Rush Limbaugh’s gushing praise. I know he’s a Protestant (Methodist?) Christian — although he doesn’t seem to realise how Ayn Rand’s philosophy is irreconcilable with Christianity — so I didn’t expect him to object to the numerous historical and doctrinal errors in the movie.

    Of course, it would also be nice if the folks at the Vatican nnoticed some of those errors and tempered their praise of the movie.

  63. Martha says:

    I really can’t understand why Catholics want to see this movie. I supposed it is because they are so starved for real Catholicism, that they flock to gather crumbs.

    Have a blessed Christmas.

  64. Gordo says:

    I would only build upon the wonderful points made by RBrown by saying that if one believes in the magisterial weight and nature of liturgical tradition, the Dormition (Falling Asleep) of the Theotokos is far more than a matter of pious belief, but rather should be regarded as the established doctrine of the Church.

    That this Feast (among the venerable Twelve Great Feasts of the Byzantine calendar) has not been celebrated in the Latin West (which has focused more on the Assumption) does not in any way make it purely a matter of theological speculation.

    As to the labor pains of the Theotokos, I have see no issue in asserting that there were some pains, but not to the extent (“greatly multiplied”) as experienced by those under the curse of the ancestral sin.

    I look forward to seeing the film over the holidays!

    God bless,

    Gordo

  65. RBrown says:

    I would only build upon the wonderful points made by RBrown by saying that if one believes in the magisterial weight and nature of liturgical tradition, the Dormition (Falling Asleep) of the Theotokos is far more than a matter of pious belief, but rather should be regarded as the established doctrine of the Church.

    It is a possibility that Falling Asleep in the Lord refers to death.

    Garrigou LaGrange referred to the death and resurrection of the BVM.

  66. Gordo says:

    The fact that the Theotokos is portayed in traditional iconography on a funeral bier with Our Lord holding her immacualte soul in a mandorla of light adds even greater weight to the Tradition of her holy death.

    http://www.goarch.org/en/special/listen_learn_share/dormition/learn/

    …not to mention the prayers from the Menaion for the Feast.

    http://www.anastasis.org.uk/15aug.htm

    God bless!

    Gordo

  67. Gordo says:

    The fact that the Theotokos is portayed in traditional iconography on a funeral bier with Our Lord holding her immacualte soul in a mandorla of light adds even greater weight to the Tradition of her holy death.

    http://www.goarch.org/en/special/listen_learn_share/dormition/learn/

    …not to mention the prayers from the Menaion for the Feast.

    http://www.anastasis.org.uk/15aug.htm

    God bless and Merry Christmas!

    Gordo

  68. Gordo says:

    sorry for the duplicate!

    “Anything worth doing, is worth doing badly.”
    G.K. Chesterton

  69. Dan G. says:

    I’ve finally got it – whether Mary had labor pains is a mystery.

  70. Dan says:

    Can’t resist observing – if then, the tradition of Mary’s holy death is strong:

    She must have chosen death freely (as her Son did), if one holds Mary need not
    have experienced death because of her freedom from original sin.

    Thus, I postulated above that perhaps it is not unreasonable to assert Mary also
    experienced the pain of labor, even if she could have been preserved from those
    pains because of her freedom from original sin. My point above was that you would
    expect a symmetry between her death and the issue of natural vs. miraculous birth
    of Christ. I’m all for God working the miraculous birth of Christ, I’m just not
    convinced this is some obvious, settled issue in the Church. No one is questioning
    her perpetual virginity or immaculate conception. The dialogue is what theological
    inferences are appropriately made from these doctrines and what Scripture tells us.

  71. Lisa says:

    I believe in the Immaculate Conception and Perpetual Virginity of Mary. This truth is a mystery and like Dan, I am not sure the Church has spoken infallibly about labor pains. The punishment after the fall was the “multiplication of birth pangs” (implying there would have been some pain anyway)… work, and death. Jesus was sinless, but he succumbed to death when crucified. And certainly Mary suffered emotional pain while standing at the foot of the cross. For me, Mary having labor pains makes her role in the plan of salvation even more meaningful, it makes her even more united with her Son.

    On to the Assumption–according to Genesis Mary should have been spared death since death was a punishment for sin. (I don’t think the Church has spoken officially about this; the Eastern church calls this “the Dormition of Theotokos”). Again, Christ was not spared death. Sinlessness was their reality, but this did not interfere with the natural effects of having a physical body. Both felt pain, both suffered, both died. This is why I always believed Mary experienced labor pains during childbirth. That the hymen broke and there was a little blood, just as Jesus shed a little blood at his circumcision to be sure. How does this make either less sinless? I am confused! God forgive me if I’m wrong.

  72. Dennis says:

    Lisa, The Perpetual Virginity means Mary remained a virgin
    before, DURING and after the birth of Jesus. I’ve understood
    this to mean that the hymen did’nt break. Having said that
    I’ve never given it much thought because its a mystery.

  73. Lisa says:

    I have thought it over and changed my mind. If Jesus could enter Mary’s womb miraculously, then I’m sure he could exit her womb miraculously. Yes, some things are better left a mystery. — Lisa