She is that bark which "in the full sail of the Lord's cross, by the breath of the Holy Spirit, navigates safely in this world." According to another image dear to the Church Fathers, she is prefigured by Noah's ark, which alone saves from the flood. (CCC# 845)
As a Deacon, I am an ordinary minister of the Sacrament of Baptism in the Roman Catholic Church. I am always moved by the prayer the priest or deacon prays over the waters of the Font. It includes these words, "The waters of the great flood you made a sign of the waters of baptism, that make an end of sin and a new beginning of goodness."
The words are repeated in the Catholic Catechism in its rich teaching on Baptism in the economy of salvation, which instructs us that the loving plan of God in the Old Testament prepared for and prefigured its fulfillment in Jesus Christ and the Paschal mystery. (CCC #1217-1222)
We affirm as Catholic Christians that "The Church has seen in Noah's ark a prefiguring of salvation by Baptism, for by it 'a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water.'" In fact, this imagery runs throughout the New Testament. One example is found in the passage in the first letter of Peter cited in the text:
God's patience waited in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 2 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers subject to him. (1 Peter 3:18-20)
As one trained in theology, I regularly instruct the Christian faithful and those seeking to come into the Church of the importance of these wonderful biblical characters and accounts in the Old Testament. I remind them of the principle of biblical interpretation that the seeds of the New Testament are present in the Old. The Catechism affirms, "the flood and Noah's Ark prefigured salvation by Baptism." (CCC#1094)
After I saw and heard these words from Paramount in the advertising, "The film is inspired by the story of Noah. While artistic license has been taken, we believe that this film is true to the essence, values, and integrity of a story that is a cornerstone of faith for millions of people worldwide. The biblical story of Noah can be found in the book of Genesis", I felt reassured.
I also thought that my reading of the controversy was probably accurate. I was wrong.
I knew my youngest son was coming into town for the weekend. For many reasons, I wanted to take him to this movie. It was being hailed as "epic" in a few favorable reviews. He loves action movies and special effects.
He is in his early twenties and trying to figure life out. I really hoped that the moral underpinning of the film could be used as a seed in his life as he walks through those years which are so difficult for young men.
The movie was a terrible disappointment on so many fronts. The only good thing I can say about it is that I hope it spurs enough interest in the real biblical account that it draws people to read the Bible.
(Column continues below)
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
At Catholic News Agency, our team is committed to reporting the truth with courage, integrity, and fidelity to our faith. We provide news about the Church and the world, as seen through the teachings of the Catholic Church. When you subscribe to the CNA UPDATE, we'll send you a daily email with links to the news you need and, occasionally, breaking news.
As part of this free service you may receive occasional offers from us at EWTN News and EWTN. We won't rent or sell your information, and you can unsubscribe at any time.
The worst part of the film was the last part. It was completely fabricated. It had absolutely no basis in the biblical story and undercut the moral ground and message of the entire account of Noah, the flood and its deeper spiritual significance in opening up an understanding of the consequences of wrong human choice and the mercy of God.
A recent article by Steven D. Greydanus, written for the National Catholic Register, asked the proper questions as a standard for considering this disappointing film. In addressing the fact that the movie did not follow the Biblical account, Greydanus astutely notes:
There are really two questions here: First, what does the film add to the biblical story? Second, what does the film take away from the biblical story?
Adding to the story is normal and expected in any biblical adaptation or any adaptation of any literary source material. Virtually all Bible movies add or elaborate upon characters, dialogue, motivations and other elements, either to help clarify the story, to imagine how it could have been or for other artistic reasons.
Obviously, not all additions or elaborations are comparable. There is a difference between adding dramatic color to a story and adding so much drama that you're essentially telling a new story. Yet as long as the key events of the original story aren't taken away, the merits or demerits of even substantial additions are largely in the area of taste and personal interest.
Taking away from the story is more problematic. A biblical film that takes away significant elements of the source material may weaken or even subvert the story. Any biblical film should preserve the core elements of the story it adapts - not necessarily every detail, but the essential points.
The same writer reviewed the film here. I do not share his positive analysis.