Film: Docu-series: Mysteries of the Faith
Director: Robin Dashwood
Cast: Show-runner: Melanie Archer Narrator: David Harewood
God works in mysterious ways. The faithful have always believed in its power and hence that of relics. For them, since times immemorial, relics are not mere objects but transcend known realms of understanding or rationality. The docuseries Mysteries of the Faith sheds light on relics of Catholic Christians. Rather passion relics, so called for these are associated with crucifixion of Jesus Christ, hailed by millions as their saviour.
The four-part Netflix series introduces us to both the mystery and origin of many of these relics such as Holy Grail, Crown of Thorns, Holy Face and more. Relics are perceived by the followers as a direct line and connect to God. To understand this connection, we are taken to different parts of the world like France, Italy and Brazil (the largest catholic country in the world) where many of these holy relics are ensconced in various cathedrals and churches. It traces how these ended up far away from the place where Jesus Christ was crucified and resurrected. In the process it tells many tales, some interesting legends like that of St Helena who embarked upon a journey way back in 326 AD to find the True Cross, the one on which Jesus was crucified.
The fable surrounding how she chose which among the three crosses she came across is the treasured one is as mystical as Jesus Christ’s rise from the dead. We also encounter fire-fighters who at grave risk to their lives ensured that the holy artefact the Crown of Thorns, which Romans thrust on the Christ’s head, is not lost to the fire that engulfed Notre Dame Cathedral in 2019.
Then there are stories of miracles where an ordinary mortal shares how his daughter was saved by the Holy Face in Manoppello, Italy. Supposedly, the Veil of Veronica, the cloth placed over Christ’s face in the tomb is revered by Catholics as they believe his face appeared miraculously on it after resurrection. While most stories around relics are wrapped in mystery, the documentary does not propagate blind faith or superstition.
The last episode, The Saint Next Door, even questions the authenticity of some of these relics like the Shroud of Turin and Holy Face. But can faith ever be questioned. As a believer says – ‘God exists, you just have to have faith’. Even more significant is the assertion of an expert on religious studies; faith is about engaging with everything that we can’t know about reality. Sure makers do enquire; can these fragments from distant past perform miracles? However, as you see people overwhelmed at the very sight of these relics, you can’t dispute how faith is very personal, experiential and can’t be subject to scrutiny.
Shot spectacularly by Geoffrey Sentamu, taking in the vast expanse of the majestic places as well as the close up images of the treasured relics, it intercuts opinions of experts, experiences of the devout, beliefs of the priests to weave a fine mosaic of relics. Through visual effects it recreates some of the pages of bygones, but there are no unnecessary accoutrements.
An engaging journey into the world of faith, the series offers wealth of information about the priceless relics. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea. But if you had enough of fictional dramas and their inexplicable twists and turns, this slice of religious history intertwined with legends and served with faith is worth your time.