I first met the King of the Universe in a movie theater when I was twelve years old. And I still consider it one of the great graces of my life.
Mom worked in retail downtown in New Orleans. Adjacent to the store where she was employed was a movie theater.
It was magical. It had a lovely balcony, and in the ceiling were tiny lights that twinkled like stars. Grecian inspired statues posed elegantly on pedestals nestled against luxurious drapery that ringed the theater ceiling to floor. And it was huge. Row after row of seats stretched across several aisles before the huge screen.
One glorious spring day, I accompanied my mother to work, so that I could meet a friend to have lunch and shop at the five and dime store nearby. But my friend wasn’t feeling well, and couldn’t meet me.
Mom was going to send me home in a taxi, but then I looked up at the marquee on the magical theater and read the words: King of Kings.
“Mom, there is a movie about a king playing next door. Can I please go see it?”
And so, I bought my ticket for the eleven o’clock matinée. Those were the days when movies ran consecutively, without pause to empty out the theater…so you could stay as long as you liked. I settled into the end seat on a side aisle, with my popcorn, and waited for the movie to begin.
From the moment I heard the majestic music, and saw the title flash on the screen in imposing letters, I realized that this would be a movie about Jesus. He was a King, wasn’t He?
I didn’t consider myself to be very religious. I had book knowledge about God from my Catholic school, but I didn’t know Him at all. In fact, I was rather afraid of Him. Yet, for as long as I could remember, I had always felt a strong attraction to this mysterious God, and would sometimes catch myself daydreaming about Him, most especially, Jesus…the Crucified One.
But, I certainly had no intention of falling in love with Him while watching a movie. Yet, when Jeffrey Hunter appeared on the screen as the adult Christ, my heart soared….not for the handsome actor. Even then, I knew the difference. No, it was the Person of Jesus Christ Who attracted every fiber of my being. I was mesmerized as I watched Him gently hold in His arms the foaming at the mouth demoniac. And when He visited John the Baptist in prison, I wanted to grasp His hand and hold on the way John did.
I loved Him for defending that poor woman caught in adultery, and I imbibed every peaceful, loving and challenging word of the Sermon on the Mount. I wept with Him in His Agony in the Garden, and could barely watch the scourging and crucifixion. And then it all ended…. with only His shadow on the sand and those awesome words: ” I am with you always, even until the end of the world.”
If ever there was a movie I didn’t want to end, it was this one. And yet the screen went dark…for a few minutes. But then it all began again: the music, the title, the Story…and I stayed. I stayed and watched the second viewing of this three hour long movie.
I was alone, in an empty part of the theater, yet I did not feel alone. I felt warm and joyful and hopeful inside…and yes, even loved. I followed Jesus throughout His life again…this time focusing more on Who He was than what He did.
Jesus came alive for me on that screen, as He never had in my religion books or sermons I’d heard, or even the Bible stories we read at school. He knew I had needed to “see” Him.
And although it would be 13 more years before we sealed that first encounter, I never forgot our “first” meeting. He was always with me…calling me, reminding me of His Love. Although I fell into sin, and even stopped attending Mass for a time, He was always there. He was unforgettable.
In the theater, the third showing had begun, and I desperately wanted to stay…to stay forever, but I knew my parents would be waiting for me. I stayed as long as I could, about an hour, and then slowly left the theater, fighting back tears.
Mom and Dad were amazed that I had spent the entire day at one movie, but they didn’t ask any questions. And I was grateful for that, as I had a need to be silent in that way that we do when we have felt the Master’s touch.
Since then, other more sophisticated and refined productions of the Life of Jesus have been produced, and I have seen as many as I heard about.
But superior though they may be by critics’ standards, none have ever transformed my life like that day I spent at the movies with the King of all kings.
Jesus, You are so beyond words…even the tongues of angels cannot praise You as You deserve. Thank You for capturing my heart when I was twelve. I didn’t realize at the time the depth of what I had experienced. It would lie buried within for the next several years, but I knew You and I never ceased to desire You, even when I was running away from You. O my King, may we never be separated again! I love You!
How great and wonderful are all your works,
Lord God Almighty;
upright and true are all Your ways,
King of nations.
Who does not revere and glorify your name, O Lord?
For you alone are holy,
and all nations will come and adore you
for the many acts of saving justice you have shown. (Revelation 15: 3-4) NJB
I watched that movie every year on tv when I was a kid. I think I fell in love with him then, too. Because I’ve never forgotten it. Thanks.
Hi Colleen. I think it was the first movie made about Jesus where you could actually see His face close up. (I seem to remember reading that somewhere….) Isn’t it delightful how God can touch the depths of our hearts through something as simple as a movie. I’m glad you liked it too. I don’t usually watch it on television anymore, but I bought the DVD….just in case I need it 🙂
Hi, Patricia – I don’t think I’ve seen that one. I bought the Greatest Story of All Time and wasn’t aware of The King of Kings. The Feast of Christ the King has always been my favorite. It was the day our Pastor chose for us to make either our First Communion, so it is the first feast day other than Christmas or Easter that I have a clear memory of and was deeply touched by. I love that Christ is Our King!
I also love that you were so captured and won over by his love for you! I like very much the image of holding on to Jesus’s hand as John the Baptist did from his prison cell. I think that is why we do not want to leave him in the Blessed Sacrament.
Have a blessed week!
the other Colleen 🙂
Hello there, ColleenID 🙂 How wonderful that you got to make your First Holy Communion on such a magnificent Feast Day! I don’t remember when my First Communion was… I suppose I could look it up somewhere. Oh yes! Don’t you love that Christ is Our King…our only King? Last year on this Feast, I commented on some passages from the book of Samuel, where the people were demanding an earthly king. It made me so sad that they weren’t content with God as their King. He gave them what they wanted. Sort of reminds me of our own time…..
I absolutely love that part in Revelation where Jesus comes down from Heaven, riding the white horse and wearing many diadems, and His Name is King of kings and Lord of lords. Can you imagine? I wish I could see that. When I was a little girl, I always thought the world would end in the year 2000. It was such a nice round number; I thought it was perfect 🙂
Oh, what a lovely thought: “that is why we do not want to leave him in the Blessed Sacrament.” How true! We are even more blessed than John was…
I will rmemember your thought tomorrow during adoration. You have a most blessed week too! xoxo
This was a real “page turner” for me (a page-scroll-downer?)… I felt I sat right with you in the theater. I just knew you were going to sit through the movie a second time :)!! Thank you for a moving, beautiful post.
Thanks, Nancy! I can’t help wishing I was that twelve year old again…so I could relive that day. Such a little thing as a movie, but it has remained so sweet all these years. The sad thing on earth is that all those wonderful “firsts” pass away, and we have only the memory of them. That is why I think that in Heaven, all will be ever new..never lost. We will always be falling in love with God…don’t you think? xoxo
Oh, what a wonderful thought :). Yes, I do think…………..
Thanks, Nancy. It’s wonderful to share dreams…. 🙂
Patricia…Years ago, I knew some missionaries who showed this movie on the field and it drew many to conversion. But, that beautiful theater you describe, was for you that day …the mission field.
What a treasure to hold that sweet memory from childhood in your heart. Like the Blessed Mother we cherish these indescribable joys that our Lord gives us. Maybe we can’t go back…but it seems to me you have the great gift in explaining a bit of the treasure for us to share in with you.
Love and blessings xxxooo +
I wish we we still had movies like that. The Passion of the Christ was amazing too, but I don’t think I could have handled that well as a child. I so wish there were some good Christmas movies coming out…but there is nothing anymore.
I love when we all share our experiences with Our Lord…He knows exactly how to touch each unique soul. Those sweet memories we all cherish are the reminder that it was indeed Jesus Who touched us. We forget so many other things, but I find that I remember just about everything from childhood that was related to God calling me in some way. He doesn’t let us forget. 🙂
PS Yes, I still wish I lived next door…flocks of parrots, Chinese cabbage w/tofu and all 🙂 Actually, I think your menus sound delicious….and I know there is banana cream pie in the freezer. ; )