Passionsspiele Oberammergau

— Midweek Meditations:
thoughts, inspiration and encouragement
from ACF community members —

3 years ago a friend offered to get us tickets for the 2020 Passionsspiele in Oberammergau. The world-famous play has been performed nearly every 10 years since 1634. It all began with the villagers of Oberammergau pledging that if God let the plague leave the village, they would perform the passion play regularly. From that day on no deaths occurred in the village, and they stayed true to their word.

The play was not performed on its regular rotation twice due to reformation bans and the second world war. Then came the Corona pandemic which made the play get postponed for 2 years. This meant, that 2022 things were even a bit more special and different than they already would have been.

Only the people of Oberammergau are allowed to perform in the play. In fact, you must have lived in the village for more than 20 years or have been born there. Children are the exception. As the performers aren’t professional actors, the rehearsals and performances must fit around the day jobs. Everyone is also not allowed to cut their hair in the year leading up to the performances, starting on Ash Wednesday the previous year. As they had already started growing their hair in 2019 (before anyone knew about the pandemic) a lot of them just let it grow for 3 years, so the hair was wilder than usual this year.

Finally, the day came for us to see the play. The village was completely filled with coaches and tourists having their guided tours. We went through security in front of the 5000-seat semi-open-air theatre, waiting for the stewards, arriving by bike from their homes and day jobs, to let us into the theatre itself. The play is in two halves, each almost 3 hours long: one in the afternoon, one in the evening. When booking the tickets they recommend getting a dinner reservation months in advance for the 2-hour interval, and luckily we took this advice and were able to have a bit of a rest between the two halves.

The play itself focuses more on the people around Jesus than how we normally hear the passion story each year during Holy Week:

We are let in on the inner turmoil of Judas trying to save the Jews from the Roman rule, who doesn’t know that the Pharisees were planning to kill Jesus once he turned him over to them.
We see how Pontius Pilate and King Herod are trying to just keep the peace in Jerusalem when sentencing Jesus to death.
At times there are hundreds of people up on stage and we hear the crowds shout Hosanna!” and later “Crucify him!”.
We are made to pause and think during the choir pieces and so-called ‘Living pictures’ which separate the different scenes and that draw parallels to stories from the Jewish scriptures.
During the temple scene, there are sheep and other animals on stage and we get to experience Jesus’ rage at the tradesmen, whilst he smashes a clay jar and pigeons are flying up in the air.
We get an insight into the different parties the Sanhedrin is made up of and their sentiments and motivations.
And we are challenged by the brutality of the flogging, Judas’ suicide, and the crucifixion.

Some people say they would only see the play once in their lifetime and then cross it off their list. We would definitely go again. If you’d like to be part of this incredible and moving event too, please be aware that there is a lot of German text said in the play so it would be hard to follow if you had little German language skills, yet text translations are for sale to guide you through.

To get some impressions watch this documentary.
We highly recommend you don’t miss out on it in 2030!

The ACF Midweek Meditations
are written by a diverse group of our church members with the intention to seek God’s fingerprints in our lives. They range from somber to humorous and are inspired by all facets of live and faith. Written by ordinary people from all walks of life, they reflect a wide range of Christian backgrounds and spiritualities.

Each week’s text portrays the individual viewpoint of its author. They might not always resonate with everyone, and are not meant to be understood as representing the Anglican Church Freiburg as a whole. Yet, as a church that is aiming to ‘Build a Community of Grace’ we seek to practice learning from and listening to one another.

We pray that these humble ponderings add a small spark of blessing to your week.

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