The Oberammergau Passion Play was first performed in 1634. According to local legend, the play is performed every ten years because of a vow made by the inhabitants of the village if God spared them from the effects of the bubonic plague then sweeping the region, they would perform a passion play every ten years.
A man traveling back to the town for Christmas allegedly brought the plague with him by accident. The man purportedly died from the plague and it began spreading throughout Oberammergau.
After the vow was made, according to tradition, not another inhabitant of the town died from the plague. All of the town members that were still suffering from the plague are said to have recovered. With this coronavirus plague going around, I wonder if we might see another Passion Play or two pop up somewhere in the world.
The play is now performed in years ending with a zero, as well as in 1934 which was the 300thanniversary and 1984 which was the 350thanniversary. It involves over 2,000 actors, singers, instrumentalists and technicians, all residents of the village. I totally enjoyed witnessing the presentation myself in the year 2000.
Maxie Dunnam likes to tell about an American businessman who traveled to see the Passion Play. Following the performance the businessman had the opportunity to meet and talk with Anton Lang who portrayed Christ in the play.
Seeing the cross that was used in the play, the businessman wanted his wife to take his picture holding it. He attempted to lift the cross to his shoulder. To his surprise he could hardly budge it from the floor.
He said to Mr. Lang, “I don’t understand. I figured the cross would be hollow. Why do you carry such a heavy cross?” Mr. Lang’s reply explains why this play draws people from all over the world to that little Bavarian village.
He said, “If I did not feel the weight of His cross, I could not play the part.”
And neither can we.
How do you feel the weight of the Cross of Jesus, because of these trying times, in your faith life today?