Every year, my family observes a cinematic ritual for Triduum.
Our seasonal movie-watching during Advent, Lent, and the Christmas and Easter seasons varies from year to year, but Triduum is always the same.
On Holy Thursday, just before the Mass of the Lord’s Supper and the start of Triduum, we watch the first 39 minutes of the animated Jesus movie The Miracle Maker, from the start of Jesus’ ministry to the raising of Jairus’ daughter and the execution of John the Baptist.
On Good Friday, after the Celebration of the Lord’s Passion, we watch the next 36 minutes: essentially the Passion narrative to Jesus’ burial, ending with Mary Magdalene weeping at the foot of the cross and running despondently through the streets.
Perhaps we ought to save the last eight or nine minutes — the Resurrection — until Sunday afternoon, but we don’t. We watch it on Holy Saturday evening in anticipation of the Easter Vigil. (After Sunday Mass we visit family.)
Yes, it’s simple enough to be accessible to children. Yet no other Jesus movie I’ve seen is so well-grounded in the historical, cultural, political, religious, and even economic realities of Jesus’ day, or in the religious conflict between Jesus and the Jewish authorities.
Our adult children have grown up with this movie. Our second daughter, now 17, recently remarked on the role it had played in her spiritual formation. Every year I’m grateful that this film came along at the right time to play this role in our domestic life.
Watching The Miracle Maker, I find year after year that a plasticine stop-motion puppet — voiced with warmth, humor and authority by Ralph Fiennes — persuasively is Jesus to me, as the crucifix over my bed or the Divine Mercy image on my wall is Jesus, in a way that no actor could achieve.
Because it’s animation, many people assume The Miracle Maker is a kids’ movie. This is only half accurate. (I’ve called it must-see Easter season viewing for absolutely everybody, and I stand by that.)