Theme: Open Your Eyes
Disney’s 60th animated feature film Encanto started slow at the box office but has gained great momentum since its release to Disney Plus. With a lively soundtrack and catchy tunes from Lin-Manuel Miranda, the story of the magical Madrigal family has already won the Golden Globe for best animated film guaranteeing it an Oscar nomination.
The first words spoken in the movie, “Open Your Eyes”, tell the essential theme of the story. One can be seeing but never perceiving (Matthew 13:14), one can be looking at a miracle and never recognize it as such, one can be given a gift and never truly see its value. Looking at things with physical eyes is very different than looking along and through with the eyes of the heart. The same holds true for viewing the film. Looking at Encanto, one sees a story about a magical family in Colombia; looking along and through, one sees God’s foundational story of Exodus, Jubilee, and New Creation.
The opening scenes of the movie tell the “back-story” of the Madrigal family and their Encanto (place of wonder). Abuela, the matriarch, recounts the family’s history of how she and her husband Pedro were forced to flee their home carrying their three infants into the night led only by a candle. In the darkest moment when Pedro was lost the candle became a flame that would never go out. The miracle which surrounded Abuela and her children continued to grow. A house came alive to shelter them, children received special gifts to protect and serve the community who fled with them. Hidden by the candle, their Encanto became a small paradise.
The same story unfolds in Exodus, the second book of the Bible, often referred to as God’s foundational story. Moses is leading the Israelites out of their captivity in Egypt led by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. The light of God’s glory represents his presence with his people. After crossing the Red Sea, he took up residence with them first in the Tabernacle and then in the Temple in Jerusalem. Both were microcosms of his original temple/house in Eden.
The Promised Land was to be a recapitulation of Eden where the people of God would pick up the original mandate to be fruitful and multiply, pushing back the darkness and bringing light to the nations. As a “royal priesthood” (Exodus 19:6) they were to serve in God’s house and reflect his benevolent dominion (protection) over creation.
Pedro, the father of Abuela’s children whose sacrifice created the miracle for his family, is a type of Christ who is the Prophet promised by Moses in the book of Deuteronomy. As the Light of the World Jesus opens the way out of the Kingdom of Darkness (Col. 1:13) and the evil trinity of sin, satan, and death. The name Pedro means stone or rock; Christ is the cornerstone, the foundation stone of a new house made of living stones to be the dwelling place of God ( Eph. 2:19-22, Isa. 28:16, I Peter 2:6-8).
Fifty years have passed from the miracle of the candle, and preparations are underway for five- year- old Antonio to step into the light and receive his gift. However, all is not well in Casa Madrigal. Mirabel whose name means wonderful is still waiting on her miracle. The first in the family to be “passed over” and not receive a special gift, and thus a room of her own is unseen by the others and not having a shiny doorknob makes her unable to see herself.
While everyone is celebrating in Antonio’s new room (the tree of life), the house gives Mirabel an insight into its true condition. It is a house made of sand cracking and crumbling as the candle flickers. Just as the Israelites lost sight of their miraculous gift and turned in on self (the primal sin of idolatry) and began to worship the gifts rather than the giver, the Madrigals have unknowingly done the same.
The least of the family, the “ungifted one” who gets her palm pierced by the fallen roof tile, Mirabel sets out on an adventure to save the candle and “earn” her gift not realizing that she herself is the gift as all the others are.
Every fifty years the Israelites were instructed to celebrate the Jubilee. It was a year where the land would lie fallow and the people would have a long sabbath rest. Jubilee meant the freedom from slavery and restoration of lands and liberation for exiles.
It turns out that Mirabel is the Jubilee for Casa Madrigal. The one with no gift sets the gifted free from the slavery they have fallen into; she brings the exile Bruno home from his hidden prison. She is the butterfly who emerges from the caterpillar and brings resurrection and restoration to the people who came out of the “womb of the river”.1
The movie ends with a beautiful scene of reconciliation and the opening of eyes. At the riverbed, Mirabel finally sees what her Abuela lost with Pedro’s sacrifice. Abuela can now see her desperate prayer to Pedro to “open her eyes” has been answered in Mirabel . . . she is the miracle, the flame that burns so brightly.
As the butterflies and golden light of heaven surround them, Bruno the son who sacrificed himself to protect Mirabel and keep the house from falling, joins their embrace. From this restored family a new Madrigal home is built, one that welcomes the townspeople who have no gifts but are many. And when Mirabel opens the door with her knob, the entire house explodes with glory. The girl whose name means wonderful has a new Encanto.
“The glory of this latter house shall be greater than the former, saith the Lord of hosts: and in this place will I give peace, saith the Lord of hosts.” (Haggai 2:9)
“For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.” (Habakkuk 2:14)
- The name Madrigal is a Spanish habitational name from any of various places, apparently so called from Late Latin matricale, an adjective derivative of matrix ‘womb’, ‘river bed’. Ancestry .com