Having just won two Oscars for Best Original Song and Best Sound Editing (and recently out on DVD), the James Bond film Skyfall is certainly in the midst of some media spotlight at the moment. But there’s another reason that Skyfall is particularly relevant right now — the way its themes coincide with the season of Lent.
In quick summary for those of you unfamiliar with Skyfall, the film follows James Bond, Agent 007, as he faces off against a terrorist named Silva who wages war on Britain, the secret service organization MI6 and its leader M. In addition to his foe, Bond must also overcome the challenges raised against him by his age and the wounds (both physical and mental) that his job as a secret agent has afforded him.
So just where, then, do the season of Lent and the film Skyfall overlap?
The idea of mortality
“Think on your sins.” When Silva broadcasts this message to M, it carries a sinister and foreboding terror — clearly, this man is out for revenge, to make M pay for the “sins” she has committed in her life. But the message itself, “Think on your sins,” is really not all that different from some of the key phrases and ideas of Lent, the most prominent of which is, “Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return.” This phrase, uttered on Ash Wednesday as ashes are placed on a person’s forehead, reminds us of our mortality — Diamonds are Forever, but we certainly are not! We only have so much time on this earth to fix the patterns of sin and wrongdoing in our lives. You Only Live Twice may suit Bond fine, but the rest of us only get one life, and we have to spend it being our best. Certainly M could have benefitted from heeding such a message!
Old vs. new
Another major theme of Skyfall is the contrast between old and new. Sometimes the old must be left behind in order to make way for something new, as we see in the transfer of power between Judi Dench’s M, the head of secret service agency MI6, and Ralph Fiennes’s Gareth Mallory, chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee. Other times, the old must be rekindled in order to restore a certain good that may have been lost, as with Bond’s struggle to regain his former stature after being shot and almost killed by a fellow agent.
So too should our Lenten journey emphasize the old and the new in our lives. Lent is a time to evaluate our faith and spirituality and strive toward improvement for ourselves and for others. (After all, your faith needn’t be For Your Eyes Only!) Like Bond, we may be in a fallen state from what we once were. We may not be practicing good habits like we once did, or perhaps elements of our faith have been wounded by our sins. But also like Bond, we must not accept this fallen state as who we are. Instead, we “train up” and try our best to pick up the pieces of the way things once were. Lent provides an excellent opportunity for each of us to do this.
When I was little, I used to pray every day. It wasn’t anything too complex — just a few prayers when I woke up or on my way to school and a few before I went to bed. My Babcie (Polish for grandmother) used to call them my dzien dobry pacierze and my dobranoc pacierze after the Polish words for good morning prayers and goodnight prayers. She’d make sure that I’d said the morning ones by not turning on the car radio on the way to school until I did. Somewhere along the way, I stopped saying my daily prayers. However, I’m hoping to bring this practice back into my life this Lent. I hope that by finding time to reflect and pray every day during Lent, I will put myself back into the habit of praying like that, and thereby allow my spirituality to even more fully permeate my life.
While Lent can be a time for picking up something old that was good, the season also gives us the opportunity to leave old sinful practices behind in order to make way for something new. (SPOILER ALERT!) In Skyfall, we see M deposed and eventually killed for the misdeeds she has done, and we see Gareth Mallory take her place after she has fallen. This can mirror the Lenten practice of “giving up” something excessive or harmful to us or to those around us, or of adopting a beneficial new habit. A few years ago a friend of mine decided to eat only vegan food for Lent as a way to be more compassionate about her eating habits, both in regard to how ethically her food was prepared and how well she was taking care of her body. After the 40 days, she felt better about herself and her health, and has chosen to remain a vegan ever since. It is exactly this kind of lifelong change for the better that can be achieved just by setting your mind to it over Lent, and not letting yourself fall back into your old ways once the season is through.
So, wherever your Lenten journey may take you, don’t forget where you’ve been — and where you’re headed. (Tomorrow Never Dies!) Perhaps keeping Bond in mind will help you reflect this Lent and inspire your decisions as to what old and new things need to change in your life.