Monday, March 25, 2013

Palm Sunday: A Passion Play


Palm Sunday.  
Dzieci is there rehearsing their Passion Play as I arrive. Cara has arrived, ready to get the steps clean and ready. And ready to pass out palms.
Cara and palms
Anna ready to hustle the crowds. I’m feeling anxious.

People begin arriving in the darkened sanctuary. Only a simple communion table in front. The cast is dressed like Jews in the Warsaw ghetto. We gather in the back of the sanctuary and enter in procession, with palms, chanting Hosanna, hosanna in the highest. 

I introduce the service. Read the the triumphal entry into Jerusalem as it is in Matthew. Then there is silence. 

Then the Dzieci, from different corners of the church, come together  singing Hinay ma tov u manayim, chevet achim gan yahad. (How good and pleasant it is when brothers and sisters dwell together in harmony.) The gather around the table with a Torah like scroll. One cast member is given a white prayer shawl, begins as the character of Yeshua (Jesus). First comes the anointing by Mary with oil. Then the betrayal by Yehuda (Judas).  

Then the talmudim (disciples) gather around the table to celebrate pesach (Passover, the Last Supper). Echoes of da Vinci. By now the shawl has been passed to another actor, a young woman, who takes over as Yeshua. All characters will trade parts throughout the play. 

Yeshua uses the traditional Hebrew prayers for blessing the bread, Baruch ata adonoai, elohenu melech ha olam, ha motzi lehem min haaretz (Blessed are you Adonai our creator, who brings forth bread from the earth) and wine, Baruch ata adonai, elohenu melech ha olam, boray pri ha gafen...(Blessed are you Adonai our creator, who brings forth the fruit of the vine..) and the bread and wine are passed through the congregation. The passion continues through the Garden, the betrayal, arrest, trial and ultimately crucifixion. Roles constantly shifting. Until Yeshua is taken down from the cross, cradled Pieta like by a woman. 

Then the scroll is rolled up again and the cast recesses, singing Hinay ma tov once again. There is profound silence in the sanctuary. Then applause. 

It was a moving performance ritual. The table, the only set. On the front is carved Do this in remembrance of me. And so it was. The Warsaw Ghetto setting opened up a metatext. The passing of the prayer shawl and shifting parts had what one person  called an everyman experience. That is, all were Jesus. And all betrayers. We are all both. Contain both. And so the experienced  truth of the story reaches down to the archetypal depths.

As my friend Beppe said, It was the most soulful Passion rite I have experienced in a church.…this time, for the first time, I was moved to tears. It was delightfully unassuming and powerful.
We meet, as always, to update where we are. As always, somewhere between solution and abyss.  

Outside, Cara and I see two actors, just finished lunch.  We sing on the way out because we come to the passion knowing the resurrection already has happened. And I bring up the everyman angle. And the other actor says, ...and we crucify the Christ inside ourselves...and I say, It’s so easy for us  to believe that everyone deserves forgiveness but ourselves...

The Dzieci Passion Play cast

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