The cleansing of the Temple by Jesus
On hearing that I was organising a party to see the Passion Play in Oberammergau in 2020, I was kindly lent “Diary of Pilgrimage” by Jerome K Jerome, a late 19th Century account of an overland trip from England to Oberammergau. It is dated, and full of the stereotypical assumptions and humour that a Victorian traveller from this country might have when venturing on to the Continent, but in its more reflective passages it is thoughtful and helpful.
The author with his companion visit Cologne cathedral, for example. He has no interest in monuments and religious artefacts, his concentration is upon Silence: “From contact with it we rise healed of our hurts and ready for the fight…… How small and unimportant seem all our fretful troubles and ambitions when we stand with them in our hand before the great calm face of Silence! We smile at ourselves and are ashamed……. Silence teaches how little we are - how great we are…….. It is in Silence that we hear the voice of Truth.”
Later, in the auditorium at Oberammergau, at the play itself, Jerome K Jerome remarks on the figure of Jesus: “The crowded audience that sat beside us in the theatre yesterday saw Christ of Nazareth nearer than any book, however inspired, could bring him to them; clearer than any words. however eloquent, could show him. They saw the sorrow of his patient face. They heard his deep tones calling to them…..”
“They [the audience] were present at the parting of Mary and Jesus by Bethany, and it will be many a day before the memory of that scene ceases to vibrate in their hearts. It is the scene that brings the humanness of the great tragedy most closely home to us…… Never, in any human drama, have I witnessed a more moving scene than this…… I have never heard such exquisite soul-drawing music in my life…..”
“They saw his agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, the human shrinking from the cup of pain….. They saw him, pale and silent, dragged now before the priests of his own countrymen, and now before the Roman Governor….”
So the play, its tableau, actors, music and sheer professionalism, from a body of men and women from a small village, left them amazed and uplifted. In June 2020 quite a few of us will see it again. The play will not be hugely different, and our experience will be unique to each of us. I hope that, when we return, we may spend some time absorbing its mystery and sharing its impact upon us.
PS This is my 200th blog on this website. I think that it must equate to about 60,000 words!