Sunday, December 1, 2013

Catholic Defense Of "The Nativity Story"

The Nativity Story and Catholic Teaching:

On November 26, 2006, New Line Cinema’s The Nativity Story, the first major Hollywood feature film to focus on the birth of Jesus, had its worldwide premiere at Pope Paul VI Hall in Vatican City, becoming the first film ever to premiere at the Vatican. High-ranking Vatican officials, including Pope Bendict’s secretary of state and right-hand man Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, were among the audience of 7,000 to 8,000, which reportedly responded enthusiastically to the film.

'What the film does right', as per Steven D. Greydanus:
Although The Nativity Story doesn’t contradict or deny the Immaculate Conception or Mary’s perpetual virginity, clearly it doesn’t affirm them either. On these Catholic distinctives, the film is silent. To that extent, the critics are right to contend that The Nativity Story is informed by an outlook that is Protestant rather than Catholic.

This doesn’t mean that the film doesn’t affirm Catholic truth regarding Mary and the Nativity story. It does.

It affirms the Annunciation, the Incarnation, the virginal conception, the divine sojourn in Mary’s womb, the Nativity of the Lord.

It affirms the Visitation (Elizabeth’s inspired greeting, the infant leaping for joy in her womb), various angelic appearances (to Joseph, Zechariah, the shepherds), the Christmas star and the journey of the Magi, the adoration of the shepherds and the Magi.

It affirms the betrothal of Joseph and Mary, the Roman census, the journey to Bethlehem, Herod’s slaughter of the innocents, the flight into Egypt.

It affirms prophecy fulfilled, faith in God honored, virtue tested and rewarded. It affirms Jesus Christ, God made man and Savior of the world.

It affirms His coming into the world as the turning point in sacred history. It affirms Mary’s faith in the word of the angel and the acceptance of her Fiat, “Let it be done to me accord to your word.”

It affirms Joseph’s obedience to the word of the angel who appeared in his dream. If the characterization of Mary isn’t everything it might have been, its success with St. Joseph goes a long way toward making amends.

My answer, along with Cardinal Bertone and Archbishop Foley, is that The Nativity Story is worthwhile. Like Pope Paul VI, I prefer a biblical film that gets right much of what matters most, even if it is not without some issues and drawbacks, to no film at all.


retriever said...

Nice post, greeting from Belgium, have a nice Advent.

Anonymous said...

So glad you are participating. I have not seen this film but will add it to my Netflix que. For me personally, I don't base my own belief on whether or not the story is accurate regarding the conception and birth. I am a former Catholic now a practicing Episcopal and the basics are the same if literally believed. I look forward to hearing more from you.

Carlos Echevarria said...

Thank you very much, I wish you a blessed Advent, as well, :)

Best regards from Miami

rebecca said...

welcome carlos to mornings with mary. a place to share love and light as we move toward the feast day of our lady of guadalupe.

Carlos Echevarria said...

Hola Rebecca,

Muchas gracias !!! I am a hard core devotee of Our Lady of Guadalupe, doing the Mañanitas, every December 11th, on the eve of the 12.

Carlos Echevarria said...


I highly recommend this film, I think it is awesome, in so many regards. The fact that the Vatican and Pope Benedict XVI had it screened there, is good enough for me.

I have had some arguments with some "traditionalists" over a scene or two (none of them had actually seen the film) but the gist of the story is in accordance with the Gospels, particularly the one of Luke.

BTW, I have relatives in Redonodo Beach and Torrance, :) Visited Redondo in the late 80s, totally awesome.