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Monday, April 9


In 1633 the Black Death was ravaging Europe and the people of Oberammergau, hoping to protect their village from further devastation, made an oath to God.  They pledged that every ten years the entire community would perform the Passion Play, enacting the suffering and death of Jesus Christ.  From the moment this promise was made, all villagers were indeed spared from the plague.  Their pledge holds true to today.  Only twice in its history has the play been prevented:  once in 1770 when the church prohibited it, and again in 1940 when World War II made it impossible.  The year 2010 marked the 41st staging of this remarkable event.  Here you will see images from the 1980 and 2000 production catalogues.

Toronto offers many smaller-scale versions of the Passion Play, the most spectacular being at the Church on the Queensway.  A huge cast, lavish costumes, real donkeys, goats and lambs along with a full band and hundreds of dedicated volunteers create a spectacle that makes you almost give way to the conversion-heavy  preaching that you must endure before you can witness the pyro-laden resurrection. 

I don’t want to seem disrespectful. The story of Jesus’ ministry, suffering, death and resurrection fascinates me.  I’m not a believer, I don’t think that He’s watching over me, but I find myself drawn to this yearly drama.  Joseph Campbell talks about the Christ story as a myth that echoes through many cultures, with the final sacrifice standing in for yearly spring offerings made to bring about bountiful harvests.  He also talks about how some people are losing touch with religion because the stories don’t reflect our times and that we need to reinvent the myth to suit our culture.  (I can’t help but think about HP dying in the woods to save his magical brethren… did I just say that?) Happy Easter.

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