‘Messiah’ Series to Air on EWTN Starting Holy Saturday
Narrated by Leonardo Defilippis, the eight-part series was filmed in locations from the Holy Land to the United States, including Rome and the Vatican.
In time for the Easter-to-Pentecost liturgical season comes Messiah, an eight-part film series that will air on EWTN beginning April 11.
Filmed in almost 30 locations from the Holy Land to the United States, including Rome and the Vatican, the sweeping scope of Messiah takes viewers on a journey exploring the prophecies of the Messiah beginning in the Old Testament, where the prophets were describing the coming Messiah before Jesus appeared, and through on to the New Testament and their fulfillment by Jesus during and after his earthly life.
Beginning in Exodus, the episodes highlight the journey to the Passion and continue to the Fall of Rome.
Leonardo Defilippis, founder of Saint Luke Productions, is featured as the on-screen narrator. He is joined by expert commentators, along with added dramatic voice acting and the inclusion of hundreds of Old Masters artworks and nearly two dozen deeply moving songs, hymns and orchestral performances.
“I had just completed co-writing Queen of Heaven and wanted to do what we did for Mary for Jesus,” said Rick Rotondi, creator and executive producer of the Messiah series. Queen of Heaven was in a sense a biography of Mary through history. Likewise, Messiah showcasing Christ’s “presence throughout history.”
“I also wanted to show how Jesus, despite the scandal of the cross, triumphed not only supernaturally the most important way, but within history,” Rotondi added. “To this very day through his Church he has gathered his people as a light to the nations and conquered movements and ideologies that oppose him.”
He explained that Jesus’ contemporaries had very specific expectations for the Messiah. He would be a Son of David and “triumph over God’s enemies, as Moses had over Pharaoh and David over Goliath. The Crucifixion was a crushing blow to these messianic hopes.”
But, Rotondi noted, “What Messiah demonstrates in dramatic fashion is these hopes aren’t crushed, after all.” Look at Christianity’s growth in the last 2,000 years. He said some of the Bible’s key prophecies made about the Messiah weren’t fulfilled until after the Ascension and continue to be fulfilled to this day — even in some most unexpected ways, which will also be highlighted in the Messiah series.
“Every time the Church emerges stronger from persecution or trial, we see the Messiah ‘putting his enemies under his feet,’” Rotondi added.
Considering the overall series and the approach the producer and director took, narrator Defilippis told the Register, “What they did was a truly spiritual experience to reflect on the Messiah that’s not been done in this unique way. It has a fresh approach to the Messiah and an original effort, so to speak.”
The eight-part series begins with “Exodus — A People Set Apart” that deals with Moses’ confrontation with Pharaoh, then continues to “David — A Man After God’s Own Heart.” Following episodes examine the Jews waiting for the Messiah as they’re conquered and scattered.
When the Messiah does arrive, do the people forget the messianic prophecies? “Trial — Are You the King?” looks into that theme, which naturally leads to the next episode, “Ascension — At the Right Hand of God.” The series continues with Pentecost, Paul’s bringing the Messiah and his good news to the Gentiles as the Church spreads, and the triumph when the pagan empire falls and the persecution of Christians under Diocletian comes to an end.
Rotondi is no stranger to making a series like Messiah. He became hooked on filmmaking when working on such programs as Doors of Mercy and Queen of Heaven.
For this sweeping spectacle of a series (SeeMessiah.com), he assembled several experts — Gail Buckley Barringer, founder of Catholic Scripture Study International; Phillip Campbell, author of the multivolume Story of Civilization; Mary Healy, professor of sacred Scripture at Sacred Heart Major Seminary and a member of the Pontifical Biblical Commission; Jesuit Father John O’Brien, a popular speaker; and Roy Schoeman, radio host and author of the Ignatius Press bestseller Salvation Is From the Jews.
Rotondi had already worked with Defilippis on Queen of Heaven, which was also featured on EWTN.
“It was a profound and humbling experience for me to do this series,” Defillipis told the Register about his work on Messiah. “Not only was the script excellent, in terms of exploring the mystery and reality of the Messiah, but to be in the actual places where the Messiah walked and ate and worked was truly a great, prayerful experience for me.”
He added, “The majesty of the moment in each of the takes I was a part of as a host of the whole series truly came to light in my heart, and I hope it will become a light into other people’s hearts. It’s a series I pray will do a lot of good.”
Rotondi says Messiah educates and evangelizes on many levels. “It’s part Bible study, part history lesson, and part survey course of great Christian music and art — wrapped up in a virtual pilgrimage to the Holy Land and Rome,” all with the aim of giving viewers “a deeper appreciation for how Jesus is the one the prophets foretold.”
Joseph Pronechen is a Register staff writer.
Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) will broadcast the first episode of Messiah Saturday, April 11, at 2pm (Eastern). Check listings to adjust for your time zone.