Sunday, March 07, 2004

Just what does "Passion" mean, anyway?. A perfume? A great love? Intense emotion? Those would be my guesses, but this probably indicates the post-Christian culture in which I live or the Southern Baptist/American Protestantism with which I grew up. The movie sends me to the dictionary.

Webster's New International Second Edition Unabridged ("WNIDSE") was the US law firm standard when I commenced the practice. In its definition of passion, we reach the idea of a "feeling; emotion" only in the fifth definition; of "desire", as in sexual desire or lust, in the sixth definition. In the seventh definition we get to "strong desire or predilection, esp. as expressed in action . . . " And in the eighth we finally reach the idea of passion being "an object of love or ambition". The ninth definition gives us "pl the feelings or emotions collectively".

But go to the initial definition, the first. At the beginning, passion is a "Fact or state of enduring inflicted pain, tortures, or the like; an affliction. Obs. exc. specif. a [usually cap.] Orig. and usually, the suffering of Christ on the cross; or, often, his sufferings between the night of the Last Supper and his death, thus including the agony of Gethsemane. b The sufferings of a martyr; martyrdom.

The OED (Compact Edition 1971) shows the first usage in English about 1175, but the reference is in Middle (Old?) English, and I can't read it.

Passion derives, according to the WNIDSE, from a French word meaning "to suffer", and it has the idea of passivity, not activity in it. The word "patient" is related to this idea of passion, as in a patient, the one who is the passive figure, the one who suffers from an active agent, that is from illness.

And so we see Jesus in his Passion, being passive and submissive: not calling down the angels, not destroying the Temple, the prosecution, the Romans, not destroying us.

Today I spoke to Walter about the film. He said his favorite part was at its beginning, with Jesus in the Garden, when he smashed the head of the snake with a suddenness and perhaps a sort of contempt, as if that thing did not deserve a bit of attention other than being crushed under his heel. I loved that part too. Why does it appeal to Walter and me?

We want our Messiah to clean house. Yeah!

If Passion is one's total submission to God's will, then the other side of that submission is total contempt for and the efficient dispatch of evil from one's path of obedience. Would that I had that approach to the sin that wants to insinutate itself into my life.

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