Hence it is that Christ is not only God, but very God indeed – very God of very God, insomuch that He Himself is the Truth, If, then, we enquire His Name, it is “the Truth;” if we seek to know His natural rank and dignity, He is so truly the very Son of God, that He is indeed God’s own Son… and to deny Christ to be God’s own Son is to class Him with the rest of mankind, as no more a Son than any of the rest.St. Ambrose of Milan, Exposition of the Christian Faith (Book 1, Chapter 17.108)
Today Catholics celebrate the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, commemorating a private apparition of Christ given to a French Visitation nun, St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, from 1674-75. Heavily stressed in these visions was His dual nature, human and divine; symbolized by His Heart “which has so loved men that it has spared nothing, even to exhausting and consuming Itself, in order to testify Its love”, and which He desires the devotion of, and reparation to it, propagated everywhere. No better way is His love for humanity expressed than through His sacrifice on Calvary, and subsequent Resurrection, by which all have a hope at sharing eternal life with Him, free from all the earthly toils we experience daily. While we’re on that topic, let’s shuffle over to Puella Magi Madoka Magica.
It’s been said that this anime shares allegorical reference to tenets of the Christian religion – most notably with its main character, Madoka Kaname, who in the series’ final episode saves all magical girls in the past, present, and future by doing a “gamer move” on the antagonist, Kyubey, through sophistry. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a wonderful scene and wraps up the previous two episodes pretty well, but also has led some to equate her with Christ. Amidst all of the comments of folks commenting “Madoka is my Saviour (sic)”, I only found one post objecting to the title, written on the now-defunct Anime Bowl site by Tommy Phillips. Well, it never hurts to be the first one to reflect on this, especially from a Catholic background, so on with it then.
Background: Madoka Kaname’s “Relation” To Jesus Christ
Puella Magi Madoka Magica hinges on the concept of human girls receiving magical powers to fight seemingly evil entities known as “witches”, much like a traditional magical girl series such as Sailor Moon. Such girls are recruited by a cat-like creature known as Kyubey, who lures them in with the premise of fulfilling one wish of theirs in exchange for these powers; however, episode 7 reveals the horrible truth regarding this bargain, as nothing more than a bogeyman: in becoming powerful, they surrender their souls and must never fall into despair, lest they themselves become the witches they fought. Madoka herself is tempted to join, but refrains due to her own insecurities (episode 5), being horrified with a near-death experience she or someone else felt (episode 3, 6) or getting stopped by Homura (episode 8). The revelation of the true relationship between magical girls, witches and the Earth’s sustainability, which makes them mere thermodynamic molecules, comes frighteningly clear to Madoka after Sayaka’s death in episode 8, sending her into an emotional crisis that formulates her subsequent actions.
Coming across an injured Homura, who fought an entity known as Walpurgisnacht, she finally decides, in the last episode, to become a magical girl under the caveat of erasing the existence of witches – a fact which would undoubtedly lead to her own existence being erased. In declaring her desire to do so, she defiantly stands up to Kyubey with the following words:
I want to erase all the witches before they were born. Every witch now, before, and the near future, shall be erased by my own hands… I don’t want to see all those magical girls before me cry. I want to see them smile to the end, and whatever stands in my way I will destroy it – rewrite it, if I have to. That is my prayer. That is my wish.Madoka’s final wish, episode 12
At once does she glow, obtain her signature magical girl look, and vanquish not only the demons of Walpurgisnacht, but transcends multiple timelines absolving many magical girls from reaching the point of despair, rewriting history and making it better, so to speak. It is on these words that the whole argument hinges on. To put it in syllogistic form: “Someone who performs an extraordinary action associated with Christ can be seen as an allegory of sorts to Christ. Madoka sacrificed her life to atone for the suffering of magical girls, like Christ died to redeem humanity. Therefore, she is a Christ allegory.” In recognizing one common feature of both individuals’ lives, a link is established to make them common to one another. Is such a comparison warranted? My answer: In the negative. Such reminds me of the ridiculous attempts made by clueless atheists and rabid neo-pagans to attempt to disprove the historicity of Jesus Christ by pointing out similarities between His life and other pagan gods; therefore, the former is a hoax; ergo (failing to) disprove Christianity by (supposedly) exposing a flaw in the system. The argument is a false comparison based on dishonest material, but that’s not my point for this particular topic.
I love Puella Magi Madoka Magica, and willingly concede there are some similarities between their lives – apart from their redemptive arc, their wrestle with evil (Madoka .vs. Kyubey, Christ .vs. Satan in St. Matthew 4:1-11, St. Luke 4:1-13) and the presence of devoted followers (Homura and Sts. Peter and John); but we must recognize, first of all: that the series isn’t based on a Biblical theme as much as it is on Faust, a German legend involving the titular philosopher selling his soul to a demon called Mephistopheles for worldly knowledge and unlimited pleasures. One needs not look far to see the obvious connection with the magical girls and Kyubey to this. Even if we ignore that, still to call her a Christ allegory would be a massive overstatement, and opens a slew of theological roadblocks.
Case #1: Christ was fully aware of His divinity throughout; there was no evolution to such. Madoka needed to contemplate for 12 episodes before subsequently attaining a godhood that she was not aware of.
Picture Madoka in the first three episodes. She is a ditzy, modest, and happy-go-lucky girl who attends Mitakihara High School with her two friends, Sayaka and Hitomi. She is close to her family, particularly her mother, with whom she confides all her secrets with. Although kind-hearted, she is very naive and easily gullible, as depicted when she rescues Kyubey, a deceptively evil figure who keeps his true emotions hidden under a smile. Over time she begins to lose that initial innocence as she sees her friends succumb to the conflicts associated with being a magical girl, and the dark secrets attached to it. She struggles to get a hold of her life until Kyubey forces her hand into realizing the evils of the system, and eliminates it for good. In doing so she elevates her status into that of godhood, and drops her humanity as soon as that threshold is crossed.
As I am now, I can see everything that has or will happen. That’s why I know how hard it was for you to help me across all these timelines: your tears, wounds, the hardships you underwent to save me; I know all. I’m sorry I never knew until now; I really am! Until I became a god, I didn’t know that this whole time, you were the best friend I could ever ask for.Madoka relishes in her godhood to Homura, episode 12
Christ’s divinity on the other hand, was known to all from the outset. The Blessed Virgin Mary was fully aware that the person she would give birth to would be the Redeemer of mankind; St. Joseph was told by an angel of His divinity, and at the ripe age of 12, He began His ministry, much to the shock of His parents who thought they had lost Him – and when found, declared: “Did you not know, that I must be about my father’s business?” (St. Luke 2:49). It is clear from His teaching to the Apostles that He knew about His divine status throughout, and did not need to somehow acquire knowledge of it over time – and He displayed it with many miracles, the gift of omniscience, and a flourishing apostolate to accompany it – acts privy to God alone. Madoka may only claim omniscience and a following, but not the ability to tamper with natural happenings at her own dispensation.
Therefore, it is impossible to contend that He wasn’t aware of His divinity from start to finish, like in Madoka’s case. If you’re looking for something similar to her, consider the Adoptionist, Nestorian or Modernist Jesus. You know what’s even worse? Each of these were condemned at the Nicaea, Ephesus, and the First Vatican Councils respectively, rendering them heretical and absolutely non-Christian. In his 1907 encyclical Lamentabili Sane Exitu Pope St. Pius X lists this as one of 65 condemned Modernist propositions: “Christ did not always possess the consciousness of His Messianic dignity.”
…we confess… although he assumed flesh and blood, he remained what he was, God in essence and in truth. Neither do we say that his flesh was changed into the nature of divinity, nor that the ineffable nature of the Word of God was laid aside for the nature of flesh; for he is unchanged and absolutely unchangeable, being the same always, according to the Scriptures.St. Cyril of Alexandria, refuting Nestorius’ “two Sons” theory at the Council of Ephesus (451 AD)
Case #2: Christ was perfect in and of Himself, and had a clear mission as a Redeemer; Madoka is easily tempted and shows a lack of care in carving a path for herself.
Madoka’s emotional weakness is something viewers will know of in the first three quarters of the anime. With Mami and Sayaka, she broods about wishing to become stronger, but moreso her lack of clarity in purpose shows with Homura, a girl who she befriends in the former’s original timeline, and becomes determined to save at all costs. She frequently finds herself running into Homura who appears to despise her at first and sows seeds of doubt, despair, and ill-confidence in herself through saying “If someone promises you a miracle, don’t listen to them”, “Becoming a magical girl means giving up all hope of salvation” or “Stop giving into your shortcomings and make it seem you’re helpless”. It follows that she has to flop through the series wandering for a purpose in life, and requires a great deal of information before discerning what her goal should be; and even when she assumes godhood, she admits fault in not realizing Homura’s concern for her.
I’ve never had a skill or subject I was proud of, and feared I would spend the rest of my life on the sidelines, unable to help anyone. Then, I met you, and you inspired within me the will to fight and bring joy to others. Thanks to you, I knew what it felt like to be of use, which drives my wish to become a magical girl.Madoka confides her insecurities to Mami, episode 3
It’s pointless to juxtapose her as a Christ figure when she’s flawed, clueless about herself, and ostensibly needs salvation. How could someone akin to Him be in need of saving? Herein stands another conflict; for Christ is the total embodiment of perfection by all his actions and deeds; so He could neither be doubt over what He was born to do, mull over temptation even for a mere second, or approve of evil as a means to an end. Hence His rebuffing of Satan’s temptations one by one, no matter how attractive they seemed, the unclean spirits He casted out, and His constant rebuke of evil and strict adherence to good. His firmness in His divine dignity is proven in the account of His Passion.
Having foretold His death in Scripture (St. Matthew 16:21-28, St. Mark 8:31, St. Luke 9:43-45, St. John 3:14), and despite being given one last chance to save Himself in the Garden of Gethsemane, He chose to cast it away, freely accepting that He was about to be betrayed, flogged, tried, and made to hoist the Cross upon which He would suffer, and die on. He rebuked St. Peter twice when he attempted to stop, or derail the fate that was to come upon Him, indicating this was the way by which salvation could be attained to those who desired it. He endured without a second thought the pain that was inflicted on Him, knowing how necessary it was, and fulfilled His role as a Redeemer unstained. Puella Magi Madoka Magica inverts this and depicts Madoka as someone as a somewhat-irredeemed saviour, a far cry from the figure her advocates claim she emulates.
(In reply to objections) I answer that, as appears from what was said, the evil which consists in the defect of action is always caused by the defect of the agent. But in God there is no defect, but the highest perfection, as was shown above. Hence, the evil which consists in defect of action, or which is caused by defect of the agent, is not reduced to God as to its cause.St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae (Part 1, Question 49.2)
Case #3: If Madoka was a Christ figure, surely she would have a physical death and resurrection of great significance, instead of slipping into ethereality. But it never happens.
Did Madoka and Christ experince suffering? Of course they did, albeit in different forms. Madoka’s trial saw her lose Sayaka, Kyouko, and Mami to their own lusts, sorrow and grief at the witches’ necessary existence plus Kyubey’s deceit. In Christ He experiences both physical pain from His wounds and mental anguish at the Jews’ rejection of His Messianic identity. Both came to stop a certain evil from manifesting – death as the end of life – and bring hope to others in this world and the next. However, this is only a fraction of what elements are to be expected from a true Christ figure.
Kyubey: That can’t be… if that wish were to come true, it wouldn’t just amount to temporal manipulation, you’d literally oppose the laws of nature themselves! Do you truly intend to surpass God?
Madoka: Whatever you wish to call it… you betrayed all those magical girls, their hopes and the stock they put into their battles. I want them to smile unto the end, and no longer cry. I will oppose, and rewrite if I have to, any law that stands in my way. This I pray, and this I wish for!Madoka becomes a god, outwitting Kyubey
The lack of a physical death and resurrection on Madoka’s part, in my opinion, is the most important argument which strongly opposes the above claim. Why is this important? Because these elements are so essential to the person of Christ, and de fide to the foundation of Christianity that it’s included, and recited in the Nicene Creed every Sunday. Take these two away, and you have nothing more than a generic superhero. No matter how many trials they face, nothing will equate them together as long as these two elements do not exist. As a result, we can consider Aslan from The Chronicles Of Narnia as a Christ figure because of the symbolism behind him, the power, infallibility, death/resurrection sequence and the conquest over evil that he possesses, and since the book’s author, C.S Lewis, openly has admitted to basing the character off Him; but not Madoka.
For starters, she technically never dies: in other universes, she is shown near the point of death, like when Homura meets her the first time, but that doesn’t count because those aren’t in the same timeline as the canon ending. Neither does she have anything akin to a physical resurrection: once she makes the wish, and eliminates the magical girls’ obstacles, she just simply disappears from existence and becomes a kind of elemental figure, remembered by few. Whereas Christ’s death allowed Heaven to open and emptied Hell of all the righteous Old Testament figures, she only rewrote the laws of the universe in favour of the magical girls, which can hardly be called a true sacrifice in a Christ-like sense.
For Christ Himself the Resurrection was the entry into the condition of glory which was the reward for His self-abasement in suffering.
From the soteriological point of view it, unlike Christ’s Death, is not the meritorious cause of our Redemption, but it is the victorious completion of the work of Redemption. It belongs however to the completeness of Redemption, and is therefore associated in the Holy Scriptures, with the death on the Cross, as one complete whole. It models our spiritual Resurrection from sin, and the pledge of the resurrection of our bodies.
From the apologetic point of view, it is the greatest of all Christ’s miracles, and as the fulfillment of prophecy, the strongest proof of the truth of His teaching.Fr. Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, pg. 193-194
Let me be clear: I have no problem with recognizing parallels to Christian themes in anime. I do it all the time, and that’s part of the reason why this blog exists. For example, Little Witch Academia shares values akin to an anti-Modernist propaganda; episode 49 of Digimon Adventure 02 explores the human tendency to concupiscence; Sakura Kinomoto’s mantra in Cardcaptor Sakura shows the merits of trusting the plan Divine Providence sets for us; and some properties of the multiverses of Steins;Gate look like Molinist ideas. As I’ve mentioned before, the most I’ll consider Madoka is as an archetype of a Christian saint: someone who overcame their faults, despised evil, and were willing to give their lives for Christ and neighbour – nothing more beyond that.
However, it is adorning an unlike character with a status as divine as that of Jesus Christ which is problematic and requires lots of theological hurdles to jump and mental gymnastic exercises which aren’t worth reconciling. To see good in characters like her is fine – but to elevate someone to a godhood they don’t deserve is completely out of the question. The love of Christ for us all, especially through His Sacred Heart, is a reality more penetrating than a magical girl who broke reality to stop a bunny-cat from owning our souls.
My Divine Heart is so inflamed with love for men, and for you in particular that, being unable any longer to contain within Itself the flames of Its burning Charity, It must needs spread them abroad by your means, and manifest Itself to them (mankind) in order to enrich them with the precious graces of sanctification and salvation necessary to withdraw them from the abyss of perdition.Our Lord to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, 27 December 1673
3 thoughts on “St. Pius V Corner: An Unbloody Sacrifice Without A Divine Redeemer”
Very thoughtful! And very thorough as well.
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Thank you Dave! 😊 Glad you like it!