My name is Maria and this experience started with a phone call in May from a pilgrimage travel company asking for help in Oberammergau, a small village in South Germany.
1633 the bubonic plague raged across large parts of Bavaria, including Oberammergau. The village chronicle reported: “In their suffering, the Village Councils of six and twelve met together and gave their solemn oath that they would perform the tragedy of Christ’s Passion every ten years. And from that day on not a single person died.” The villagers of Oberammergau first fulfilled their vow in 1634, and have kept it faithfully ever since, with astonishing determination. In almost 400 years only twice has the play not been performed due to external factors (general ban by the state and war) and exactly 100 years ago “The Passion” had to be postponed for 2 years as a consequence of the First World War.
So here I was, knowing about the history of the Passion Play and in 2000
I visited Oberammergau with my sons and my brother but didn’t have tickets for the performance. We were allowed into the open air theatre for the dress rehearsal though and seeing these primary school children arriving on their bikes, doing their ‘bit’ and quickly cycling back to school, left a lasting impressing on me.
Now having the opportunity as a tour guide to see the full performance made me accept the job kind of instantly and I was on the plane the next day!
It was a privilege to feel the positive vibes in the village, talking to people who were involved in the play and meeting them in their ‘normal’ roles as waiters, shop keepers, hoteliers etc. Who can say that you stayed in Judas’ house? Well, we were in the apartment opposite. So many stories of people of every generation who were giving their expertise, skills, energy and their enthusiasm to do their best to keep that promise made nearly 400 years ago.
It was all quite moving and I was touched by the performance, feeling the effect Jesus’ life had on me and people around me. Quite a few of us were coming out of the theatre with a tear in our eyes as lots of issues then seemed so current now, with Covid having claimed many lives and a lot of hardship still ongoing.
Now back in London for a break I keep thinking of some comments the director made during his introductory talk. Lots of things have changed since 1633 and religion is not what it used to be 400 years ago. “We can’t presume that everyone who comes to see the play knows about Jesus’ life!” he said “but the young generation is very keen this year to be part of it. So they want to ‘Renew The Vow’. ” And by doing so, they can discover that, if they trust God, they will know His help, presence and care is there. Just as it says in Psalm 118.6: “The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid.” And that is something I shall treasure for the rest of my life.
So if anyone is interested to start their own pilgrimage and experience the Passion Play in Oberammergau I know that there are still lots of places in July, August and September and who knows I might even be there to guide you through the village.
Maria Pechnig, June 2022