Saturday, July 28, 2012
a scene from The Diary of a Country Priest
One of my favorite scenes from one of my favorite films, The Diary of a Country Priest. In this scene, the young priest visits one of his parishioners, a proud woman who, though not a church delinquent, has nonetheless allowed herself to become estranged from God.
While the skilled Lutheran pastor will have certain things to say and certain accents he will make which in some ways differ from the Roman Catholic perspective, nevertheless there is much I love about how this scene plays out. I must add, too, that this scene cannot be fully appreciated without having seen the whole film. In fact, I also recommend the book, which is even better than the film.
One of the things the viewer must bear in mind, going into this scene, is that the priest is going into this visit under a weight of great suffering. He suffers physically (he won't know until later that it is stomach cancer), and also spiritually. It is in that context of suffering and weakness that he enters into this pastoral visit.
Leadership consultants know that one should not go to an important meeting in such a condition. Many in the church feel the same way. Yet here he is, in a state of weakness and vulnerability, the degree of which seems analogous to the condition of Jesus when He met the devil in the wilderness after a forty day fast. In fact, this is an apt comparison, for a number of reasons. For the priest, in this pastoral visit, is not involved in a mere business meeting, requiring the mere conveying of information and a good impression. Rather, he is engaged in a serious spiritual conflict. This is a front in a great spiritual warfare. To be sure, this is not to say that there is hostility between him and his parishioner. He is there out of love for her. She is not the enemy; the enemies are sin, death, and the devil himself. Put another way, he wrestles not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. And in this fight it is not what we bring that matters, for God's grace is sufficient, and His strength is made perfect in weakness. The spiritually mature Christian knows his weakness, and glories in his infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon him. Indeed, it is the power of Christ which is at work in this confrontation; in fact, it is the very work of Christ Himself through the ministry of this humble priest.
And in the end, it is Christ's peace which the priest bestows upon his penitent, a peace that will renew her life, and which will cost the priest more suffering and scandal. But for that, you must see the movie.