For most people, the movie that conjures up Easter memories is The Ten Commandments. Every Easter you can count on seeing the Epic story of Moses and Ramses brought to life by Charlton Heston and Yul Brynner. But another Charlton Heston movie captures my Easter memories, and that movie is Ben Hur.
I remember seeing Ben Hur with my entire family at the Michael Todd when I was eight years old. At the risk of sounding ancient, in those days going to the movies was a big event, especially seeing an epically produced movie like Ben Hur , Gone With The Wind, or Camelot. Those movies were over three hours long and when you went to see them it was like seeing a Broadway play. The movie had an overture and an intermission. Yes, you would have about a 10 minute opportunity mid-movie to get up, use the facilities, get some more popcorn or whatever. It was the art of creating an theatrical experience through film and as a young girl I was captivated.
I had never seen anything like it before, the music, the grandeur the conflict, the spectacle. Watching the story of two boyhood friends, one a Roman and one a Jew, grow into men and into enemies. The movie chronicles the story of the Roman oppression of the Jews and one of the side plots is the story of Jesus Christ. Ben Hur chronicles the life of Judah Ben Hur beginning with his life of wealth and privilege and moving to his loss of wealth, the imprisonment of his mother and his sister, his sentence to be a galley slave and his downward spiral into hatred and despair. In the end it is Jesus Christ that saves him and reunites him with his family. The movie begins with the birth of Christ and ends with His death and the redemption of mankind.
I remember sitting in my seat watching the miracle of redemption and feeling so convinced that the teachings of the Catholic Church were absolute. Unfortunately time and experience have shaken those beliefs but a glimmer of faith remains in the seed of Ben Hur. Many times in my life I have been disillusioned by things I once believed in so strongly. Many times I questioned why certain things have occurred, why bad things happen to good people, why I was hurt deeply or deeply hurt others. In those moments, my mind flashes to the very end of the movie when Ben Hur comes home to Esther no longer angry and bitter but with peace in his heart and he says, “it was as if He took the sword from my hand.”
Many times in my life I prayed to have the sword taken from my hand, and I have to say it always was. So although I may not have blind faith, I do believe that there is someone watching over me. And every Easter, I think about sitting between my mother and father at the Michael Todd Theatre and seeing Ben Hur. I am grateful they gave me the gift of that movie and I am grateful that throughout my life God has always taken the sword from my hand.