YOUNG WORLD

Mirroring faith

DEEPA ALEXANDER

The final moments: a passion play that has been running for 74 years in Paris

The final moments: a passion play that has been running for 74 years in Paris  

HYDERABAD

Good Friday, which marks the crucifixion and death of Christ, has many traditions like fasting and abstinence from meat, the depiction of the Way of the Cross and the breaking of the fast with hot cross buns. But one event that enjoys popularity the world over and in most churches in the twin cities is the Passion Play.

This play is a genre in which the last days of Christ, from his triumphant entry into Jerusalem, the Last Supper and up to his crucifixion and resurrection, are portrayed. They have been performed for centuries the world over.

The most famous rendition was first performed in 1634 and is now performed every ten years at Oberammergau in Germany. The villagers of this little village vowed that if God spared them from the effects of the bubonic plague then ravaging the region they would perform the story of Christ's Passion every ten years. The play is performed at the start of each decade, i.e. in years ending with a zero. More than 2000 performers take part, and all are residents of the village.

In most churches in our twin cities, the play which preceded either the mass or the Stations of the Cross is now held in the cooler hours of the morning and not at the traditional hour of Christ's death at three in the afternoon.

The cast of the Passion Play generally includes a mix of teenagers, adults and young children especially for the crowd scenes where there are more sheep and goats crowding the marketplace and the Via Dolorosa (Jesus' road to Calvary). Surprisingly all the players are not necessarily from the same church and the audience is drawn from various denominations with also a couple of non-Christians thrown in.

Fr. Charles R. Kandula of the Sacred Heart Church, Lallaguda says, "The purpose of the play is to portray God's love for us and His message to make the world a better place. This matters more than the emotions or the suffering. But for those in suffering, the Passion Play may serve as a parallel and surprisingly a source of strength. And children seem more tuned to it than adults who read too much into it."

The play generally unfolds in tableaux depicting sequential scenes from the passion of Jesus, according to the Gospel of St. Matthew. Says John Martin who has played the part of Pontius Pilate for three years now. "There is a lot of spiritual value for everyone involved in the production and everyone who comes to see it feels uplifted. It's not really a strictly religious play. It just enhances the spirit of reconciliation and rebirth."

Filled with appropriate scenery and lighting there are many different retellings of this story. Whether you follow the crowd as they listen to Jesus' teachings or watch with them as He heals a leper and confronts the religious leaders of the day, the focus of Jesus' last moments on earth remain reconciliation with God and neighbour.

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