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Monday, August 1, 2011

The Jeweler's Shop, Part II - The Stage and the Incarnate Logos

In this post, I shall continue the examination begun in the previous post by looking at how the notion of space is transfigured from everyday experience in John Paul II's The Jeweler's Shop, in order to move our attention away from it and prepare us for experiencing without any obstacles the pure perception of the state of love.  However, in keeping with the play's context after the historical event of the Incarnation, I shall show how the stage as a sacred space takes on the function of the Logos, the condition which makes the revelation of the Word possible.

Like time, physical location also takes on an aspect of eternity within the play. There is in reality only one place in the play - the jeweler’s shop. Just as kairos is time invested with meaning, so there is such a thing as place invested with meaning, and it is these place and time which are invested with meaning which are the archetypes of which our linear “time” and “place” are reflections.

Sacred space is used in a triple manner in the play. On the one hand, the stage itself is a type of or analogy to sacred space - it is where, through an act of communion between actor and audience, the [W]ord is revealed. The sacred space itself is the silence which gives birth to the [W]ord; it is in this silence, and only through this silence, that the [W]ord can be received. In this way, and only in this way, the sacred space takes on a feminine character; giving birth both to the Word and the world of the play; the stage itself becomes a type of the Church, the Bride of Christ, and thus of Mary, Mother of God, and of the divine Sophia of Proverbs 8 and 9.

The stage is also, by virtue of its typological relationship to the Sophia, capable of becoming a sacred space in another sense, namely that it is a type of the Mass. This is obvious in one sense, in that the Mass is preeminently centered around the Word; it is also true in another, however, which Karol Wojtyla of all men was most fitted to express. The Jeweler’s Shop is a play about love. All poetry is love; in other words, the phenomenon of primal poetry (in Friedrich von Schlegel’s terminology) or pure poetry separated from all words or sensible images is the same experience as human love; both resemble sanctifying grace in a natural manner, because they are echoes (akin to Lewis’ Sehnsucht, Wordsworth’s “intimations of immortality”, and Plato’s anamnesis) of that act of divine grace which was our creation. It is not unreasonable to see that, given the inherent rootedness of poetry itself in love, that when poetry (such as The Jeweler’s Shop) is consciously meant to depict love, and therefore has both its origin and final end in love (or in that Love which is God), it becomes a form of communion with love, and using the created logos as its sacramental matter, is an echo of the “Feast of Love” in which the Logos Incarnate is adored on the altar.

There is also a sacred space within the context of the plot of The Jeweler’s Shop, and this place is the shop itself. The shop is, as stated before, the only place in the play. Being a true place, it is invested deeply with meaning and not just physical location. It is in the shop that the mysteries of the world are revealed; these mysteries are revealed by probing the depths of man, the center and meaning of the cosmos. It is in the jeweler’s shop that the rings, the ultimate symbol of unity, love, and God, are fashioned. As Andrew recalls, “The rings in the window appealed to us with a strange force. Now they are just artifacts of precious metal, but it will be so only until that moment when I put one of them on Teresa’s finger, and she puts the other on mine. From then on they will mark our fate... They are, for all time, like two last links in a chain, to unite us invisibly.” It is in the jeweler’s shop that time, the reality which is ultimately our being (Da-sein) and our love, is determined: “that was our “now”: the meeting of the past with the future… We are secretly growing into one because of these two rings.”

A second symbol of love and destiny related to the jeweler’s shop is the shop window. The window in the jeweler’s shop is a potent symbol for divine Providence, for it “has turned into a mirror of our future - it reflects its shape… it was not an ordinary flat mirror, but a lens absorbing its object. We were not only reflected but absorbed. I had an impression of being seen and recognized by someone hiding inside the shop window.” Other windows reflect the humdrum life on the streets, but anyone looking into the window on the Jeweler’s shop is contemplating his own destiny. For through this window is the mysterious Jeweler, who forges the rings that make man’s future.

It is easy, though scarcely tempting, to stop at the window; that is, to make a deity out of Providence or History or Destiny or “the Absolute” or some other impersonal and per se non-existent abstraction. Being a Catholic, and coming from the tradition of Cyprian Norwid rather than Schelling and Hegel, Wojtyla does not make this silly error. “The wedding rings did not stay in the window,” Andrew says. It is the Jeweler himself, not the window, that gives the soliloquy on the meaning of man’s existence which forms the heart of the play, and who shall be the subject of the next post.

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