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Monday, August 1, 2011

An Eschatological Romance, or The Jeweler's Shop Part IV: Its Theological Conclusion

In this post, I shall show how the scene discussed in the previous post - where the Jeweler weighs the rings - discloses the true nature of Wojtyla's play as an eschatological romance, and thereby uncovers an otherwise hidden narrative structure - the narrative of all of salvation history - demonstrating that even this play sub specie aeternitatis conveys and reveals the Word like a natural sacrament because it is centered around a narrative.

The scene takes place not just that particular moment when a piece of metal is being measured. The play is not about just the lives of its characters. Time and eternity meet in the eyes of the jeweler, and The Jeweler’s Shop is an eschatological romance. The wedding feast which is always anticipated but never mentioned is the Masque of the Seven Days; it is the ball of the winged season, the Wedding Feast of the Lamb, the feast for which Wisdom hath built herself a house.

Yet the text of play indicates that this beatific feast is already present now, though not in its consummation. It is present, of course, in sanctifying grace; but also by virtue of the elevation of matrimony to a sacrament, it is present in love. In the chorus’ song about nuptial union, wine - the Biblical symbol of the Heavenly feast - becomes a symbol of love, and of the very being of the lovers.

Wine also sparkles. Wine is a thing.
Let it live in the other man,
man - is love. Teresa and Andrew
wine, wine -
radiate mutually into each other’s lives.

The entire married life is, in fact, nothing but a symbol of the spiritual life, and by the grace of the sacrament of matrimony, the married life converges into the spiritual life and becomes a means of sanctification. Wojtyla devotes all of Act II - “The Bridegroom” - into exploring the spiritual life of a woman, Anna, in an unhappy marriage. It is not her marriage that is at the root of her unhappiness, however, but the state of her soul. Her unhappiness is ontological, not just emotional; that is, it permeates her entire being -

Bitterness is a taste of food and drink,
it is also an inner taste - a taste of the soul
when it has suffered disappointment or disillusionment.
That taste permeates everything we happen
to say, think or do; it permeates even our smile.

“It was as if Stefan [her husband] had ceased to be in me,” she later says. Her situation is analogous to one who was baptized but then lost sanctifying grace. Anna became married, yet in her marriage the two are no longer one flesh. The result is a profound loneliness and alienation. Having separated herself from him who is united to her ontologically and indissolubly, Anna has “disinherited her self”. The divorcee is no longer even single.

For Anna to be healed, she must return to the Bridegroom. The bridegroom is both her husband, in the literal sense of interpretation, but also at a deeper level the divine Bridegroom. Her unhappy marriage is not simply an event in life of one of six billion individuals; it is the eschaton of a soul. “The Bridegroom will come shortly” - yet Anna remains a foolish virgin. She waits for a perfect bridegroom to come along, while neglecting her true Bridegroom - her husband. The man in the street identified as the “bridegroom” is not actually her husband, but looks very similar, bringing Anna to the realization that she must see Christ in her husband, and even to see her husband in Christ. She sees the Bridegroom, Christ - but He reveals Himself as her husband.

Anna, a lost soul, cannot save herself or even recognize the cosmological significance of her situation without divine grace. The man who guides her back to salvation calls himself Adam or “man”. He is not the Jeweler, but seems faintly reminiscent of him; he appears out of nowhere as a “chance interlocutor”, but knows Anna’s name - and the state of her soul. He remains throughout the rest of the play serving as a spiritual guide to all the characters, yet we never find out who he really is. He performs the function of divine grace, leading the soul back to God, and opening her eyes to the meaning of the world. “The Bridegroom is coming. This is his precise hour…” By rejecting her husband, Anna rejected the divine wedding feast, the feast of Cana, in which water was turned into wine; and now she is a foolish virgin with no oil in her lamp, for “it is not with oil that the flame is fed, but with rain water” - Christ has not turned her water into wine. When she sees the Bridegroom, she can only see Stefan’s face - and she can only see it with horror and repulsion. The state of her soul at the moment is a sign or signal of the final eschaton. Anna is, in a way, all of us, and through this play, Wojtyla is asking,

“Andrew, do you believe in signals?”

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