Monday Musings for 8.24.20


Dear Friends,

If you have been to my office, perhaps you have noticed my Oberammergau cross.  It is a gift from Helen.

There is a story behind it.  In 2004 our daughter, Kelsey and a few of her college friends decided it would be fun to attend a live broadcast of “The Price is Right.”   She ended up winning the Showcase.   Among her prizes was a trip for two to Munich, Germany.  We were relieved that she invited her mother to go with her, not her boyfriend.  Oberammergau is nearby, just north of the Austrian border.

If you have heard of Oberammergau, it is probably because of their Passion Play.  There is a story behind that, too.

An outbreak of the bubonic plague devastated Bavaria during the Thirty Years War.  The village of Oberammergau was untouched by the plague until September of 1633 when a man named Kaspar Schisler returned home after working in a nearby village.  Over the next 33 days, 81 villagers died, which was half their population.  On October 28, 1633 the villagers vowed to God that if they were spared from further death, they would perform a play every ten years depicting the life and death of Jesus.  Nobody died of the plague in Oberammergau after that vow was made, and the villagers have kept that vow ever since.

The first passion play was performed the following year (1634) and it has been performed every ten years ever since.  (From 1634 to 1674, it was performed in years ending in “4.”  From 1680 on, it has been performed in years ending in “0.”)

I was looking at that cross on my office wall the other day as I was daydreaming (that happens a lot), and I wondered what happened to the 2020 Oberammergau passion play.  We’ve had another “plague” recently, you may have heard.  Did they have to cancel?  And how do you cancel a play that was a promise that stopped an earlier plague?  Well, I looked it up, and they didn’t exactly cancel, but they did postpone to 2022.  So maybe there is time for you to still get tickets!

My research also turned up a bizarre connection with Adolf Hitler.  He came to power in 1933 and he pushed for a special production of the Oberammergau play in 1934, marking the 300th anniversary of its first performance.  He attended and was said to especially enjoy the anti-Semitic elements of the play.  Since World War II the play has been revised.  Jews are no longer blatantly cast as villains.

And by the way, there was no passion play in 1940.  That was the year Hitler’s hate inflamed the whole world in war.

In Christ (who, by the way, was a Jew),