Years ago I belonged to a parish church that was among the first in our community to enact a “passion play.” It covered Jesus’ life from his arrest on Thursday night, his death on Friday, and his Resurrection on Sunday morning. The props and special effects were engineering feats, the makeup and costumes amazing, but it was the SRO attendance at the one enactment on Good Friday that proved our church had attempted something special.
The first year I played in the “the angry mob.” I really wanted a speaking role, but the deacons and their wives had already taken all of those. I just had to do the best I could with what I had been assigned.
The deacon playing Jesus led the way up and down the church aisles carrying a cross. Roman soldiers accompanied him. Behind them walked John and the two Marys. The Angry Mob (about a dozen of us) brought up the rear, jeering and calling for Jesus’s death.
I knew I had nailed my performance when a furious preschooler lunged at me from one of the pews. (He was so angry that his mama had to physically hold him back from kicking me in the shins.) Our debut was a success.
The next two years I tried out for Mary, Jesus’s Mother, but was assigned the role of Mary Magdalene (No, it was not typecasting!). I steered a bawling Holy Mother up and down the church aisles while she stumbled and wailed overcome with her grief.
I remember exactly when I blew my chance at ever playing Mary. At the audition I told the head deacon/director and the church pastor/producer (both men) that the Mother of God would hold her head high, not out of pride but because like her son, she too embodied courage. If she were to cry, it would be for the immensity of the sins of mankind. She knew restitution for them required her precious son’s life. She would save her tears for the end, when she held his dead body in her arms.
Courage is not pompous or selfish. It does not come with special effects, costumes, and overacting. It comes from deep inside, a rare trait.
I’m sure that church play touched many, both actor and audience, but very few reacted with courage. Most just watched and cried, horrified by it all.
This is dedicated to the one Child who dared to take on the angry mob.