Last Sunday was Easter, the day that Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is a special day for believers, but I want to tell you about a whole city that commemorate this time more than any other I know about.
While traveling through Germany in 1989, we arrived into one of the most attractive and interesting little towns I had ever been. The buildings and homes were all painted with beautiful frescoes depicting the history and religion of the quaint mountain village nestled in the Bavarian Alps. The shops were so unique with items not viewed in many of the other shops where we had previously been. My wife had a field day, and if you won’t tell her, so did I, because shopping is not my thing.
As we strode about town, I glanced down one of the streets and saw what appeared to be a large building that seemed totally out of place with the rest of the city. As I inquired of a shop keeper he advised this was the place where the city citizens present a Passion play every 10 years and that the next presentation would be in 1990. After our conversation was over, I sat down and began to read some of the booklets about it he had given me. At that moment I determined to return to see it. That we did!
On the set day in 1990 we arrived early since the pageant began at 9 a.m. and would last all day until 5:30 p.m. My first thought was, I will never stay through this entire presentation. Was I ever surprised as my attention was never away from the stage.
While the actors spoke only German we had been given a large program written in English. Other programs had been provided to people of other countries of their respected language as well.
At first, I didn’t think they would be able to pull it off by making a presentation that would be understood by only one language. Was I ever wrong!
I was immediately overwhelmed by the huge cast of actors and animals. (More than 2155 participants moved across the beautiful set.) The presentation was outstanding and its casts had been made up by the town folks, etc. The oldest participant was Karl Eitzenberger (born 1907), who will celebrated his 90th birthday in July before we saw the enactment. The youngest performer was only 6 years old. Both participated in one of the large crowd scenes.
How did such a play began I pondered? Why did the pageant present just the last week in the life of Christ and His final suffering? With a little research I discovered this little village was in danger of loosing all its inhabitants due to the Black plaque during the terrible thirty years war, so the elders of the town met and prayed and vowed if the village be spared they would present a pageant depicting the last days of the life of Jesus Christ. The town was spared and thus the beginning of such an event. The first play was in 1634 and since then 40 performances have occurred every 10 years as an expression to the testimony of the religious faith of the people of Oberammergau. The event, with a history of more than 370 years, records nearly a half million attendees each year to the play which runs from May to October on the first year of each new decade.
The 41st Passion Play will takes place in 2010 beginning in May and ending in September.
The city begins to plan for this new event on Ash Wednesday of 2009. It is when men respond to the "Hair Decree" because from this date on all the men in Oberammergau taking part in the play are requested to let the hair on their heads and faces grow.
My wife’s keepsake is a beautiful fancy umbrella she bought to keep dry. However, when the play started the son (Christ) began to shine for the whole day.
“For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us who believe it is the power of God.” -1 Cor. 1:18