In The Same Way They Persecuted The Prophets
The narrative world of Calvary is perfectly represented by the Irish countryside that hosts it: haunted by the dark mountains of depravity, but only enough so as to highlight the beauty of righteousness and virtue. Father James is the angled mirror that reflects God’s love out to his parishioners; unfortunately, he also has to reflect his parishioners’ collective corruption – bear their sins, as it were – back up to God. Even though we as the audience only spend a week with him, we can tell that Father James has been bearing these sins for a while. So when he receives the death threat, it is expected that, because he is human after all, he will forsake his piety and go on the manhunt to find his would-be killer. Instead, he continues to go about his sacred business and holy duty until the end.
This sets him apart from everyone else in the film, who all seem to be ungrounded in their faith (if they have any faith at all). It even sets him apart from the other priest, Father Leary, who contrasts Father James in practically every way. When someone calls upon the priesthood for whatever reason, they request Father James over Father Leary every single time because the latter doesn’t have the care and compassion. Father Leary is more concerned with the organizational part of “organized religion,” whereas Father James is more concerned with the actual religion: physically caring for widows and orphans and others who need (or at least ask for) him.
In The Master’s Footsteps
It’s a lifetime of these small decisions of unselfish love that have culminated within Father James and have produced virtue within him. Virtue may be a classical and maybe even an archaic notion, but we use it interchangeably with terms like “character” and “integrity.” Father James has spent his life making these small and seemingly unnatural choices and actions. So on what could be the last week of his life, he is still able to retain that virtue and continue unselfishly loving his neighbors as if it were his second nature.
It’s easy to think of Father James as a Christ figure; he does, in a way, sacrifice himself so that his parishioners could live (no matter how wicked those lives are). He is, however, something else. He is instead the perfect image and example of how a Christian is supposed to live in the present time – the time after the resurrection but before the end of all things – with our heads held up in virtue, just like Jesus, all the way to the end.
- 1 Peter 4:14: If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory, who is the Spirit of God, rests on you.
- Matthew 24:13: But the person who endures to the end will be saved.
Christian Themes In Calvary
For complete show notes and other episodes of FCC visit the Finding Christ In Cinema website.
Click on the audio player at the top of the post to listen to this episode, or use the links below for other ways to hear Finding Christ In Cinema podcast.
QUESTION: What Christian themes did you find in CALVARY? Let us know below.