All the Prophets are lights, they only differ in degree; they shine like brilliant heavenly bodies, each have their appointed place and time of ascension. Some are like lamps, some like the moon, some like distant stars, and a few are like the sun, shining from one end of the earth to the other. All have the same Light to give, yet they are different in degree. – Abdu’l-Baha, Abdu’l-Baha in London, pp. 62-63.
On this Earth, our life-giving lamp has always been the fixed star we call the Sun. Another Sun also appears in the midst of creation: The Sun of Truth, or the prophet of God:
The spiritual cycles of the Sun of Truth, like the cycles of the physical sun: are in a state of perpetual motion and renewal. The Sun of Truth can be likened to the material sun, which rises from many different points. One day it rises from the sign of Cancer and another day from the sign of Libra… Yet the sun is but one sun and one single reality. The possessors of true knowledge are lovers of the sun and are not attached to its dawning points. Those who are endued with insight are seekers of the truth itself, not of its exponents and manifestations. Thus they bow in adoration before the sun, from whatever sign and above whatever horizon it may appear, and seek the truth from any sanctified soul who might reveal it…
Thus the Sun of Truth at one time shed its rays from the sign of Abraham; later it dawned above the sign of Moses and illumined the horizon; and later still it shone forth with the utmost power, heat and radiance from the sign of Christ. Those who were searching after truth worshipped it wherever they saw it, but those who were attached to Abraham, when once that Sun cast its rays upon Sinai and illumined the reality of Moses, were deprived thereof. And those who clung to Moses, when once the Sun of Truth shed its heavenly splendour in the fullness of its radiance from the point of Christ, were likewise veiled, and so forth. – Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, newly revised edition, pp. 86-87.
I’m on my way to our local movie theatre to see The Young Messiah, which some critics have panned as “dull.” It’s actually sharing billing with a more dramatic version of Christ’s life: Risen, Kevin Reynolds’ Resurrection-as-mystery flick. In all, there have been so many Christ-related movies since the first one in 1903, that I can’t count them all.
The films about Christ that I’ve seen, all the same story or variants about the Apostles and others, have pretty much stayed with me. For the life and behavior and words of Christ are spirit-thrilling and mysterious in the extreme. How could one personage have such a massive influence on the people of the world since his days as a messenger of God?
We associate Christ’s life and death with A.D. 33, the year he was crucified so unjustly. In fact, A.D., Anno Domini, means the Year of Our Lord and is the basis for the calendar we use today as modified by Pope Gregory XIII, who introduced it in October of 1582. Even that calendar was a modification of the one instituted by the Romans, specifically by Julius Caesar, in 45 B.C.
Ah, but I digress. Back to religious movies. At the age of 11, I saw blue-eyed, long blond shiny-haired Jeffrey Hunter play Jesus on the big screen in Technicolor. Or was it widescreen Panavision? Either way it confirmed all I had been taught as a Catholic boy growing up in Sacred Heart Church and Elementary School. Catechism and bible stories every day, in one form or another, were drilled into my young memory. All sunk into my spirit, if not into my Christian behavior.
That “mysterious spirit” portrayed in the innumerable Christian movies and books I’ve seen and read, didn’t actually reveal itself to me until I was 19 years old. As I listened to Street Fighting Man by the Rolling Stones rockin’ in one ear, a young man I had just met, an artist and pure soul named Ted, mentioned the Baha’i Faith to me for the first time. He answered my rush of questions in my other ear.
That moment kick-started the next phase of my spiritual journey. I began to see the next movie series of faith, so to speak, or the sun rising from a new point on the horizon. I recognized the same light I’d followed and worshipped in Christianity, dawning from a new place and time.
And I had just begun my giant leap.
What religious movies affected you, and what leaps of faith have you made?
Next: Looking for the Lord—at the Cinema