I have a tendency to watch movies years after they are in the theaters, so my reviews are rarely timely. Now that it is 2020, Silence has been out for several years and everyone has already given their take on it. In short, allow me to offer some reflection why I believe any one of us are no different than the Apostate Priest, Rodrigues.
Yes, any one of us can be holier-than-thou and not only fall from grace, but live an entire life devoid of it. Turning from God, cursing God, and denouncing Him. Repeating our apostasy again and again, by word and deed. That can be any one of us, going to our death beds offering no prayers for forgiveness, being buried in the Buddhist matter–but unbeknownst to all clutching onto a pathetic little cross. There is just a shred of true faith that the cares of this world and its pains have not taken away.
I am sure Scorsese’s point was that even Judas himself could be saved–that a sliver of faith gives us hope. Many Christian interpreters, whether they are holier-than-thou or not I do not know, denounce the ending of the movie for the opposite reason. The man is an apostate, he broke the first most important commandment (to love God with all one’s heart) in order to follow the second (to love one’s neighbor as oneself.) There is no way he can be saved because of his continued apostasy–“For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His glory” (Luke 9:26). The saints even encouraged their own children to die rather than apostatize (2 Macc 7).
I can speculate that maybe a “Godly suicide” akin to what we see in 2 Macc 14:41-43 would be a way out for someone subject to the physical and psychological torture of Father Rodrigues. Even apostatizing can be given some sort of Biblical merit given the circumstance. The desire to be damned in order to save others is commended by Saint Paul himself: “I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my own people” (Rom 9:3). I have my doubts the Church blesses the former and also by doubts that we are every really posed with a situation like the latter. Even in the movie, the persecutions were ceaseless. No one was ever really saved by the apostasy of another.
Further, I very much doubt anyone who has given himself over to sin, such as apostasy, would be blessed with even a shred of grace to hang onto a cross like Father Rodrigues. So, the movie poses us with a situation that would never happen.
But, this is my mind speaking and not my heart. My heart tells me something different. When I see Father Rodrigues’ ignominious end, I cannot help but see that the pathetic man clinging onto the cross surrounded by his sin is any one of us.
We are the apostates. We apostatize daily. Foremost, we pride ourselves on not being apostates. However, we forsake even ourselves by our sin of pride.
We apostatize by not fasting. Here we are, in our comforts, rewarding ourselves sumptuously for our own sin. Our life of comfort destroys more souls than persecution.
We apostatize whenever we do not turn the other cheek.
We apostatize by not trusting God to be our provider.
We apostatize by solving our relational problems through actions and words, but not by patience.
We apostatize by being late for worship, by ignoring the ones we love, by contemplating temptation–we forsake Christ all the time.
Jesus Christ perfectly fulfilled the Law, which commands, “You shall be blameless before the Lord your God” (Deut 18:13). We daily do not offer Christ what He daily offered on our own behalf.
How many of us would be willing to die for Christ, under sustained psychological and physical torture–when we cannot say no to our stomachs, turn the other cheek when hearing a false accusation, and exercise trust in His provision? The man who cannot survive a small degree of hunger or a little insult cannot possibly survive persecution.
How can we judge the apostates when our whole lives serve as evidence for daily apostasy?
In reflection upon all of this, I can only think of how our only salvation is throwing ourselves at God’s feet and beg for mercy.
We can take some comfort in this one thing–the grace of God to accomplish the impossible. “What is impossible with man is possible with God” (Luke 18:27). God can bless us with the gift of perseverance, and it is not our own, it is the gift of God.
But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak, for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you (Matt 10:19-20).
So, let’s look at the body of Father Rodrigues’ in the funeral pyre and shudder. We must remind ourselves who we are and then daily pray for the grace to have sincere, undying faith in Christ.
It is us buried in the pagan funeral pyre clinging onto the crude cross.
Your take is the consensus view of the movie, but when I watched it (a year or so ago) I couldn’t ever see that.
In my viewing, Rodrigues isn’t simply an apostate and his story isn’t just a man falling into sin. Rather, Rodrigues was a victim of what you’d call ‘prelest’. He actively identifies Jesus in an increasingly disturbing way. An interesting scene is when Kichijiro, Rodrigues and Garupe arrive in Japan and Kichijiro runs off. Garupe begins to pray standardly, but Rodrigues panics and says “what you do, do quickly”. Later when Rodrigues and Kichijiro are captured and walking through the woods, Rodrigues yells at him “I thirst!” which Kichijuro recognizes as what Christ says to Judas. Rodrigues doesn’t just reject Christ, but he thinks he is Christ, perhaps most disturbingly typified when he sees the image in the puddle telling him to trample the fumie. Rodrigues has confused himself for Christ.
I found Silence to be a really disturbing movie. The story is about Rodrigues, but really I think it’s about the Inquisitor. He knows Roman Catholicism and people far better than Rodrigues, and the Inquisitor is able to break him because of it. He understands Rodrigues’ hero-complex and his desire to be a savior and he breaks him with it.
One of the most interesting juxtapositions is when the Inquisitor sets up a meeting with Liam Neeson and the Inquisitor and Liam Neeson both tell Rodrigues the Japanese are incapable of Christianity, thinking “son of God” means “sun of God”. Rodrigues seems reluctant to agree, but he can’t prove their wrong. However, earlier in the movie, Rodrigues is sitting next to a Japanese peasant woman who is Catholic and she tells him, with a teary-eyed joy, that they were going to go to “paradaiso”. Rodrigues snaps and yells “don’t you know you’re going to die?!?” Rodrigues can’t see the simple faith of the Japanese because he’s so wrapped up in his mission to save them.
This movie is, for me, a sign of how missions can be so very wrong: when you start to think you’re the savior, not Christ, and you become trapped in the webs the devils weave.
He certainly has prelest and what the “voice” (probably a demon) told him simply said what he already wanted to hear. He several times before that point told people to apostatize. For some reason, he held himself “above” the same thing. The “justification” of saving others is obviously nonsense, as he essentially becomes an informant for Japan. He’d would have been better of killing himself if he was willing to accept damnation to save others.
Scorsese’s touch, which goes beyond the book, is the cross in his hand at the end. This cannot be ignored easily. How does God deal with the extremely wicked where somewhere small in their heart, they covet Him? Its a false dilemma, as I said, I am sure it pretty much never really happens. But, intellectually, what does God do with such a person. Am I in my sin and my hypocrisy such a person? So, I can judge the sin of apostasy but I cannot judge the man, because in him I see me.
Like I said, your assessment is what the original author, Scorsese, and almost all reviewers say. So that’s probably the intent behind it. But my minority report never could put those pieces together to get that last final gesture. Instead, there’s ambiguity at the end when the wife places the spirit-ward in with him. When I saw it, I thought she was the one who placed the cross in his hand (since it’s not clear what she’s fumbling around with). I think the intent was that she saw he had a cross on him and hid it in his hand, but I thought it was a last offering for her gaijin husband, allowing the cross (and thus the faith) to burn up with him and to “end the story”, so to speak.
I thought the movie was disturbing, and I cannot find any redeeming feature in it. It is a glorification of evil, probably all fiction anyway.
I sort of view the movie like Noah–unintentionally edifying and probably not edified unless seen in a certain way. I do not recommend most to see the movie. My wife and I are former Calvinists, so it is easier for us to above all accept that God is righteous and so not feel that He is really called into question by the terrible events therein depicted.
I prefer to see myself as Rodrgiues, not because I am literally apostatized, but because I spiritually do so all the time. Its a bit of a stretch literally, but spiritually it is something that both my wife and I felt a lot to reflect over.
As you say , a bit of a stretch. I wonder if it is some remnant of Calvinism in you that adopts such a negative view of yourself. After all, Calvin believed there was nothing good in man at all. The church sees man as basically good, although fallen and therefore subject to concupiscence. We are all being constantly purified by God if we are faithful to him and partake of the sacraments, the Eucharist itself heals venial sins and gradually cleanses our souls.
Speaking of the Eucharist, I’ve always wanted to ask you if you have Eucharistic miracles in the Orthodox church, and if so could you give me a link to some (preferably short) examples.
I see people get sick from the Eucharist and also, allergic to its elements, not get sick. So I see Eucharistic miracles on a regular basis.
The Orthodox prayers presuppose worthlessness towards God, so it might be the prayers “getting to me.”
Christ is not a man. The life of Christ is a representative symbol of ‘the eternal pattern of’ spiritual salvation for man.
“. . the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself . .”
“. . whose seed is in itself . .”
“Judas” is also symbolic; symbolizing of the man (Rodrigues) no longer wishes to be, the man (Rodrigues) must put to death himself (suicide) if Christ is to be revealed in him. As “Paul” writes,
“. . when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, To reveal his Son in me,”
“To reveal his Son *in me,”
“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.”
“but Christ liveth *in me.”
So, man can only ever “apostatize” by remaining ignorant of the truth of Christ *within – which fundamental and false teaching keeps hidden from him the man, such that the man in his lifetime never realizes that Christ (God) is only asleep *within him and must simply awaken by hearing this truth and believing it. In such an end as (Rodrigues), the man “dies in his sins”, which is to say . . he fails in this case, in this life, to realize who he himself really is: Christ.
This is the greatest of the Christian mysteries . . “which hath been hid from ages and from generations” . . but is being made manifest to elect saints: “Christ” *in you *AS you (the hope of glory).