By Hillary Senour
As we grow closer to the season of Advent, thoughts naturally tend toward the nativity scene. What Christmas would be complete without the figures of Mary and Joseph gathered around the Christ Child in a manger?
In a similar manner, ‘Mary of Nazareth’ provides viewers with a glimpse into the lives of all those who make up the scene around the manger.
With striking scenery and gorgeous costumes, the film depicts a perhaps more colorful portrayal of Mary’s life while at the same time remaining true to the overall message of the Gospel.
Like a child getting to hear the story of how his parents met, ‘Mary of Nazareth’ paints viewers a beautiful image of the sacrificial love between Mary and Joseph that built a foundation for the loving home in which our Savior was raised.
One of the most refreshing aspects of the film is the treatment of Mary and Joseph’s courtship. The film shows a young couple very much in love with one another and with the Lord. Rather than painting Joseph as an elderly man to indicate his guardianship of Mary’s purity, he is portrayed as a handsome young man giving the idea that Mary was just as much a keeper of Joseph’s purity as he was Mary’s.
When Mary accepts Joseph’s marriage offer, we see just how much care and attention he puts into building a home for them. Day by day, he works to build the walls and roof that will shelter his beloved bride and their eventual family.
However, when Joseph receives news from Mary that she is pregnant after her long trip to visit her cousin Elizabeth, his disappointment and heartbreak are apparent. He takes his anger out on the home that he worked so carefully to build for his new wife until his hands are bleeding.
It is only when the angel appears to him in a dream instructing him to not be afraid to take Mary as his wife that he seems to recall Mary’s instructions before her trip: Do not put faith in me, but in God.
Although the movie follows Mary’s life, we learn more about the people she serves than we do her. Throughout the film she is instructing friends and family to look to God for answers; not to her or their own human understanding.
When Joachim and Ann struggle to understand their daughter’s nonsensical explanation for her pregnancy, she leads them to a deeper level of faith by simply stating, “Nothing is impossible with God.”
A theme that is seen throughout the film is how even in her deepest struggles, Mary gives herself over to God’s will, not her own. One of these deeply touching moments comes when she prays over her “sleeping” Son for God to allow her to suffer in his place. However, in the end she echoes her Son’s words that he will speak in the Garden of Gethsemane that not her own will, but God’s, be done.
As Jesus grows we see Mary’s concern – but not despair – grow as well. She is the first to know that her Son will suffer from early on, but it is as if she realizes what the depth of his suffering will be with each passing moment.
The film is perfect for the start of Advent, but since it serves as a kind of visual meditation spanning from Mary’s childhood to Christ’s Passion, it’s appropriate for any part of the liturgical year.
To learn more about the film and to find or host showings in your area, visit the official website, maryfilm.com.