- Religion and Philosophy
Movie Parables: The Thorn Birds
Driven to the Cross We Sing to the LORD a New Song
The Thorn Birds is the second most-watched miniseries in television history. This multi-Emmy award winning film epic was set in Drogheda, a sheep station located in the Australian outback between the years 1915 and 1969. At the heart of this sweeping love story is the ill-fated romance of beautiful Meggie Cleary and the handsome Roman Catholic priest, Father Ralph de Bricassart. Throughout this grand saga, Father Ralph is engaged in a constant struggle between his holy calling and his carnal desires. Forced to choose between his undying love for a woman and the church he is sworn to, his ambitions win. He stays with the church only to advance within the hierarchy and become a Cardinal in Rome. What Father Ralph fails to realize is that Meggie’s son Dane, who is likewise drawn to the priesthood, is his son. Meggie conceals the truth until after Dane’s tragic death.
In the heart-rending final scene, we find Father Ralph and Meggie in their old age, reunited at the funeral of her only son. After learning the truth of fathering the son of Meggie, Father Ralph is left stunned and stricken with grief. At the family cemetery, Father Ralph is seated and suffering from a weakened heart as Meggie is kneeling before him. Together they reflect back on the unforgettable tale of a mythical bird that searches for thorn trees from the day it is hatched. From birth, its entire life is committed to sing but one beautiful song.
Father Ralph tells Meggie, “Long ago I told you about a legend, about a bird that sings only when it dies.” Meggie replies, “The bird with a thorn on its breast. It pays with its life for one song and the whole world stills to listen and God in his heaven smiles.” Father Ralph continues, “Driven to the thorn with no knowledge of the dying to come but we press the thorn to our breasts. We know, we understand, and still we do it…still we do it.”
Throughout the scriptures, the desire to please God was often accompanied by great personal costs. Commitment doesn’t come without a costly price. When we choose for certain things we choose against others. In the film, Father Ralph and Meggie paid dearly for love by pressing themselves against the thorn of a doomed relationship.
In today’s climate of ease and self-gratification we find many who don’t have what it takes to work at a lasting alliance, to hang tough with a difficult marriage relationship for better or for worse, or to stick with a group and go this distance. There’s always another group, another person, another cause where the problems won’t be so draining and the cost so high.
Job suffered loss and pain but remained committed, Abraham gave up his country and family, Joseph gave up fleshly pleasures and personal revenge, Moses gave up a royal life and Egyptian ease, and Hannah, true to her vow, gave her son Samuel back to God’s service. Because of his devotion to God, David denied himself the pleasure of getting even with Saul. Paul experienced loss, beatings, being shipwrecked, poverty, and hunger. These men pressed ahead in their love for the LORD with no knowledge of the selfless dying to come. Without the complete understanding of God’s ways, their love for him compelled them to do it.
Wasn’t it Jesus who said, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves?” (Lk 9:23-25). When we carry our cross to follow Christ we pay dearly. We forsake all our worldly dreams and ambitions for the single purpose of dying to self and resurrecting into the newness of life made possible by the Savior. Driven to the cross we sing to the LORD a new song as the whole world stills to listen and God in his heaven smiles.
The Thorn Birds (David Wolper-Stan Margulies Productions, 1983) written by Lee Stanley (based on the novel by Colleen McCullough) directed by Daryl Duke.
© 2009, Gicky Soriano. All rights reserved.
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