Introduction to The Light in The Darkness: The Fourth Week of the Exercises of St. Ignatius. Most of us have been through times when our familiar way of life has been taken away from us. There is death of a loved one, periods of personal depression, a loss of a job, or a partner, or a country. There is an accident, a revolution, or a crisis and the world we knew disappears. We endure in that darkness, losing the sense of self we had, losing the connections that bound us to that familiar world, losing even a sense of direction, meaning, value. We experience the death of ourselves.
Out of that death a new life emerges. It is not something we planned or even imagined possible. It is a gift, and that gift transforms the way we live. It gives us new values and companions. It offers us a joy we experience in gratitude.
This year’s series looks at different ways resurrection happens. The films explore the lives of ordinary people in ordinary situations, and the series explores the developing awareness of what it is to live resurrection. We start off with “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” as an example of someone trapped in a deathlike situation and discovering the life and creativity possible in such a situation. Resurrection is not for a life after death but is for this life, and what resurrection shows us is that death, and death-like situations is not the end of life. But it is only when we find ourselves in those situations and have to endure them that we discover life is a power greater than death.
This power allows us to enter into situations that are destructive and transform them. It does this not by condescending to those who maintain a destructive way of being. We do not say we are superior spiritually to you and so we will educate you to a better life. Rather the power of life is to love and, as that first letter to the Corinthians tells us “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres. Love never fails.” The film, “The Straight Story,” we have chosen shows that power in action, and the transforming nature of that power.
One of the most transparent and powerful manifestations of love is to forgive. This more than just words. It is to live in such a way with others -and with oneself — that guilt, shame, regret, self-pity, and any form of destructiveness and self destructiveness, is transformed into the simple lived awareness that one is loved, and one is lovable, and that one can love. The film “I Have Loved You So Long” is about a woman who emerges after 15 years in prison filled with no sense of self-worth and no delight in life. It is also about a family who takes her in and holds her up to life. The film charts the trials, the turmoil, and the triumph of such relationships.
The dead are raised to new life through the power of love. Truly we can only love when first we have experienced love, and so the question we need to ask is: when, where have we experienced love? Or better is what we experience love? Love is a much over-used word, and indeed the sensations and emotions we associate with love are often conflictual. There is love as duty; love as passion; love as rootedness; love as relational; love as integrity; love as call and response; love as fulfillment. Rarely are these dynamics, all of which are valid, in harmony with each other in our lives. The love that fosters resurrection asks us to discern between sacrifice and fulfillment. To ask which sacrifice leads to fulfillment. In this film we see many different types of love. We see the conflicts between those different loves. We see the power of a love that brings resurrection. “Silent Light” challenges the way we look at life and shows us the power of a self-sacrificing love to bring life in new and unexpected ways.
The life lived in the spirit of the resurrection does not behave in “normal” ways. Often it seems like a fantasy. Things fall into place. Creativity overcomes obstacles. Forgiveness happens. You have to experience this to believe it, because like Thomas the doubter in John’s gospel, it seems too good to be true. And that is because we confuse the habitual with the truth, and the limitations of what we habitually experience in our lives defines what is possible, and what is good. Beyond the borders of the habitual, is fantasy for us. When resurrection occurs in our lives it breaks open the borders our lives are confined in. The film “Ratatouille” is a parable about the transforming power of resurrection, and about the forces that seek to stop resurrection.
Resurrection does not happen in another world. It happens in the world we live in, and it seeks to transform this world into a new creation. So it enters into the dark places of this world to bring light and peace and comfort. This is a life and death struggle, and at times those who enter into this struggle are corrupted by what they experience. Resurrection turns into idealism; idealism turns into cynicism; cynicism turns into despair; despair turns into corruption. Resurrection is a gift that calls us to walk through death without succumbing to the forces that have aligned themselves with death. We cannot do it on our own. There is a light in the darkness that the darkness cannot overcome. Resurrection is that light reaching into the depths of our lives. We can seek for, find, and accept that gift. Or we can choose otherwise. For whatever reasons. To live the life of resurrection is always to be caught in the struggle between light and darkness; good and that which tempts us away from our truest identity — those beloved by God. “The Dark Knight” explores this contest for the soul, and examines the use that is made of the gifts, and the suffering that is the part of every human life.
The drama of resurrection occurs in every human life. Some are writ large in the theatres of the world. But most occur in simple ordinary people unnoticed by most but those who are their family and friends. The gift of resurrection is for all, and it is helpful to see how it is given, accepted, tempted, and finally lived in the lives of the little ones of this world. “Once” shows us how broken people and call forth the gift of new life in each other, and in that calling forth find a new life for themselves.
The series ends with a film by Michael Leigh. “Happy Go Lucky” examines the life of a primary school teacher named Poppy. She lives a life that is not undone by the state of the world she lives in. She does not deny that reality. She lives in it and she brings to it her sense of joy and hope. Leigh is known for his serious political films which engender in the viewer outrage and the corrupt and dehumanising treatment of humans by other humans. “The Wind that Shakes the Barley” from last year’s series was one such. So it is a surprise to encounter this, his latest film. He says of it, at the Berlin Film Festival press conference, “It’s important to reject the growing fashion to be miserabilist, the growing fashion to be pessimistic and gloomy because the world is in a bad way. Everywhere there are people on the ground getting on with it and being positive.” Poppy is the incarnation of Gandhi’s words, ‘Be the change you want to see in the world.’
We all desire to be happy. We desire to live meaningful lives with warm compassionate relationships. We desire to give and to receive love. We desire to live truly human lives.
The Regis Film series which in now in its fifth year, attempts to present to those who follow it a path to such a life. It uses the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius as a base for its explorations. The first year we looked at learning how to be spiritually literate by examining the way we feel as a mode of discernment. The next three years looked at the first three weeks of the Exercises. The first looked at how we are trapped and allowed us to discover the life that seeks to free us from those traps. The second looked at the path we could walk to gain more life. The third examines the cost of walking that path. This final set in the series celebrates the new life that is the gift of such a path. The previous sets can be found on the web-site www.discerningthetimes.ca
We hope that as you enter this set of film reflections on resurrection you re-discover in a new way those moments in your life that were truly life giving and transforming, and that the awareness of how resurrection has gifted your life allows you to see the new life that is already now around you waiting to be discovered and celebrated.
Blessings on your journey, and always.
• September 23, 2009 - The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (Le Scaphandre et le Papillon)
• September 30, 2009 - The Straight Story
• October 7, 2009 - I have loved You So Long
• October 14, 2009 - Silent Light (Stellet Licht)
• October 21, 2009 - Ratatouille
• November 4, 2009 - The Dark Knight
• November 11, 2009 - Once
• November 18, 2009 - Happy-Go-Lucky