CANDLES OF THE LORD: AN ORIGINAL PAGEANT (1963-1975)
In the early 1960s Maurine Whipple's creative energies were at a low ebb. The "Grand Idea" of Mormonism's cooperative genius seemed to have dissipated itself, leaving her without the zeal to mobilize her energies. She had transferred them temporarily to Charley Shadel's cure for alcoholism; but after nine years of ferocious toil, the project had been shelved indefinitely. Her younger brother George, one of the failures of the Shadel "cure," was in the last stages of the alcoholism that would soon claim his life. Worried about him, plagued by frequent infections and arthritis in a hip and knee, Maurine was sufficiently curt and crusty with others that rumors circulated that she, too, had begun drinking.
At this difficult period of her life, the "Grand Idea" revived in the form of a universal Easter pageant that would celebrate the resurrection as the crown of all human endeavor. With renewed energy, she filled her little home with stacks of books and articles on the final days of Jesus' life. She reread Latter-day Saint scriptures, the Bible, and current biblical research. She renewed her interest in the Indian myths of rejuvenation, and the land started to speak to her in new ways. She roamed the countryside by car and on foot, looking for a suitable locale for staging the pageant taking shape in her mind. One possibility was a natural amphitheater in an arch indentation in a red mountain between St. George and the exit off the main highway to Hurricane. But her favorite locale was in Snow Canyon, east of the present campground. It offered ample staging area for dramatic effects, a breathtaking backdrop of orange and rust sandstone, footpaths leading "off-stage" into areas that could be screened for wings, and a slope so gentle leading up to the "stage" that seating for large audiences would not be a problem. Recalling those days of creative ferment, she said she found a new focus, that her whole life seemed shaped into a pattern of suffering and tempering that had prepared her to write this pageant.
Her first finished manuscript of the pageant was dated 23 February 1963, which she gave to St. George attorney Ellis Pickett to hold as proof of authorship. In that version, she used the account in the Book of Mormon of Christ's appearance to the people of the Americas and planned to use Native Americans representing various tribes for this scene. She also prominently featured Mary Magdalene's encounter with the resurrected Jesus at the tomb. Her "Lament of Mary Magdalene" is a moving lyric of a woman's need for love, transferred to love for Christ.
Maurine made a presentation to the St. George city council, singing the Lord's Prayer while a Native American girl signed. The St. George city government and Chamber of Commerce were interested, and planning began under their joint sponsorship. Superintendent Maurice Nuttall was to be the executive director, and committee assignments, musical and script rehearsals, casting, costuming, and designing were under way. However, the Washington County News carried a notice on 14 March 1963 that the pageant had been cancelled, stating, "The executive committee regrets that circumstances had developed which in their opinion is sufficient to cancel any further preparation for the production this year." Although the reason for the cancellation is unclear, some factors that appear to be involved were: a) a falling out between Katharine Miles Larson and Maurine Whipple over the vision of the play--Larson was concerned that the interpreation of Christ and Mary Magdalene was not appropriate or "anti-Mormon." b) Local exasperation with Maurine's frequent lateness and disorganization at planning meetings, as well as her frequent personal pleas for her help for her alcoholic brother George.
Maurine claimed to Veda Hale, her biographer, that she was devastated by the cancellation, and considered flinging herself from the top of Sugarloaf. When she went to try, she was stunned by the grandeur of the scene below her. She watched as the brilliant sun turned the red hills gold and spotlighted the temple. With chagrin amounting to shame, she wondered how she could even think of suicide after spending weeks absorbed in Christ's defeat of death. How could she fling his gift back at him? Chastened, she climbed down the hill.
Maurine evidently let the pageant languish between 1967 and 1973. Then, as the nation began preparing for its bicentennial in 1976, the federal government appropriated $40,000 for Utah, with the state government providing other funds for local celebrations. Maurine immediately saw "Candles of the Lord" as playing a significant role in St. George's celebration and apparently applied to the State Division of Fine Arts in late 1972. Her application was accepted, and in February 1973 its director, Ruth Draper, transferred $400 to Maurine "to assist with the completion of the script." Maurine made a presentation about the pageant to a five-county committee in August 1974, and the committee accepted it. The Utay State Institute of Fine Arts allocated and additional $2,500, apparently for the production.
Maurine desperately wanted the pageant to be staged in Snow Canyon's spectacular red-rock natural setting. But there was concern about the cost of acoustics in the canyon. Maurine made another presentation in early 1975, but it went poorly, and the committee unanimously recommended canceling the pageant for that year.
Maurine took some of the criticism seriously, worked on revisions, and finished the pageant to her own satisfaction. She copyrighted the results in August 1975. John Lawrence Seymour wrote the music. She made another application in Summer 1975, which was approved the Board of the Division of Fine Arts. However, again the production did not happen, probably due to the price that would be needed to prepare the stage. After Maurine's death, Carol Jensen donated a copy of "The Candles of the Lord" and permission to use it, to Tuahcan, an outdoor theater at the south end of Snow Canyon, which now owns the rights to the pageant.
In the 1975 version, Maurine included instructions for a souvenir program that features a blooming yucca (the "Candle of the Lord"), accompanied by this quotation by John Muir: "A spotless soul, a plant-saint that everyone must love and so be made the better. It puts the wildest mountaineer on his good behavior. With this plant, the whole world would seem to be rich, though none other existed."
Maurine explained how she envisioned the program:
If the programs are printed like small brochures, the list of the "donors" could be on a separate sheet and included year by year, thus giving the supporters of the pageant some permanent recognition and as time goes on and the pageant becomes better known, a kind of immortality. It is hoped that the following pages might be in a small print and included in the programs. This would save [unnecessary] explanatory narration and also give each member of the audience a permanent source of reference on the Indian and on the reasons why he and his religious ceremonies are included in an Easter pageant which commemorates the birth of Christ.
Her affection for the pageant can be seen in her multiple revisions, including the addition, at various times, of the lengthy prologue, the elaborate stage and production instructions, and instructions to the actors.
At least five versions, all with same title, exist in the BYU Special Collections. (1) numerous loose sheets of holograph notes and manuscript; (2) thirty-three-page typescript (cursive style) where narrator is the only speaking part; (3) thirty-four-page typescript, 1973, with hand-written page numbers; (4) forty-four-page typescript, copyright 1975.
CANDLES OF THE LORD: AN ORIGINAL PAGEANT
To the stranger within our gates: This is a new outdoor cathedral, and we welcome you to its specific and unique atmosphere. Here is one spot in a hectic world that automatically hushes and calms and teaches you to invite your own soul.
Since sounds are amplified outdoors, we ask your cooperation in maintaining absolute quiet. Also, since the programs explain the background of the pageant, we suggest that you read these pages before the production begins.
At the end of the performance, we invite you to attend the church of your choice. Meetings are at 10:00 a.m. in one of the Mormon wards, or the Baptist, Catholic, or Methodist churches, none more than fifteen minutes away by car.
Afterward, we invite you to return to Snow Park for your Easter picnic. Picnic tables, drinking water, and restrooms are available. This is a beautiful park. We are proud of it. To provide these facilities for your enjoyment has cost much, in both money and labor. Therefore we suggest that you please take care not to mar or deface not only the facilities but the rocks and flowers, and to leave it free from litter, so that next Easter and all the Easters to come you may enjoy the peace and tranquility of this unspoiled retreat. And may He who loves us all, regardless of creed, be with you this day. As the Navajos say, "Hojohni nashada, travel the trail of beauty, my friend."
The flowering oose or yucca (Liliaceae), native to our southwestern deserts, was known as lampara de dios or "candles of the Lord" to the early Spanish explorers.
Coinciding with the vernal equinox and thus symbolizing rebirth, the blooming oose seemed supernatural, the phosphorescent petals of its night-blooming candelabras lighting the darkness. In days gone by, the Indians celebrated the blooming with an all-night "sing"--a chant, a dance, a yeibachai--which is climaxed at dawn when the newly opened oose flowers transformed the tall stalks shooting up from the nest of swordlike leaves into "candles," thus glorifying what the night before had been a wasteland.
Rooted in antiquity, the significance of these "sings" may go even further back, since most Indian tongues have a word for Christ, literally translated "the sinless one." And the White Mountain Apaches claim to have a rock on their reservation bearing Christ's handprint, while the Hopis claim a rock bearing his footprint. Moreover, the Hopis have a tradition of a white god (their beloved Pahana), as do most North American Indian tribes, as well as the Aztecs and Mayas--a white god who will deliver them from their universal plight of poverty and neglect.
Finally, according to the belief of the white people who settled these valleys, Christ prophesied in Jerusalem that, at his resurrection, he would also appear to the inhabitants of this continent, to the ancestors of our American Indians. "And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold; . . . And they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd (John 10:16; see also 3 Nephi 16).
Consider: Why is it that man is the only animal who prays? The answer is, of course, that only man is endowed with a sense of destiny and a conviction that his existence is not accidental--in fact, that some part of him is indestructible.
The theme of this pageant is immortality.
How primitive man must have puzzled over death. What went out of the body? Was it a ghost or a spirit which animated not only humans and animals but even plants and rocks? An undying spirit? If such a spirit entered man at birth and left him at death, where did it go?
For only man possessed awareness. Therefore only man peopled his universe with gods and held himself accountable. Thus, man became a religious being; and wherever and whenever he lived, he sought divine guidance to face the riddle of existence.
Because apparently earth itself died and was reborn over and over, earliest religious rituals celebrated the seasons. He called the time of rebirth "spring." Since obviously spring was God's specific gift to man, symbolizing as it did His promise of eternal life, it was always a time of festival. In ancient Hungary, this festival began with the day when the sun danced, because it was then that spirit reentered earth. This day was called Easter, after its ruling divinity, the Teutonic goddess of dawn. With the advent of Christianity, the name of the pagan festival was transferred to the Christian festival.
This pageant honors the concept of Easter or rebirth as everyman's birthright.
The non-Christian festival is personified by the American Indian. The reason for this is two-fold: (1) Although originally the Indian owned the entire continent, of all races to make up America, his has been the most shamefully treated. (2) Whereas "civilizing" the Indian once meant obliterating his own way of life--his songs, dances, philosophy--today American is belatedly recognizing the richness of Indian cultures.1
Spring: Consider the coincidence that Christ's death and resurrection took place at the same time as earth's resurrection after the death of winter. Blind chance? Or divine timing? Might not the ancients have been right and the forever-occurring miracle of spring be indeed a parable or rebirth? Here, God seems to be reminding his errant offspring, Here is a chance for new beginnings.
This pageant is dedicated to new beginnings, to the idea that human samenesses are greater than human differences.
This is a sunrise service. When the pageant begins, the scene is dark. Directly in front of the audience is a sunken "stage," a natural sandy plain interspersed with clumps of yucca centered around a juniper or cedar tree. The yucca is in bud. Out of each clump of dark green swordlike "leaves" shoots a tall stalk (two to four feet), and the buds appear thickly the entire length of the stalk. On characteristic of the yucca, which is a strange plant, is that its flower petals shed a glow or a light--probably because the yucca is a night bloomer and the glow attracts pollinating moths and other night insects. At any rate, now the air above the stage seems to pulse and quiver with floating phosphorescent lights.
At the rear of the stage (the backdrop) rise three joined mountains or hills sloping upward to a pinnacle. These mountains "fan" or circle outward so that each side borders the stage with a wing, to be used for entrances and exits. The wings are really narrow vertical caves, screened by bushes, which might be used as dressing rooms. Beyond the wings the mountains end, and behind each end is a space for resting, plus natural bush-screened pathways to the stage. At the rear of the stage where the foot of the mountains begins is a natural gully screened by bushes and not visible to the audience. This gully is in front of the audience, beyond the yucca flowers. Here will be the orchestra pit and the conductor, if there is one. At the back of the gully and climbing halfway up the rocky incline, is a slight lava flow. Here, among the great black rocks, we will place our choir.
Thus, to begin with, the beholder is conscious of a darkness filled with floating lights backed by vari-colored mountains silhouetted against the moonlit sky. Beyond the lights (the stage proper) stretch more vegetated plain, left and right. This plain seems to stretch to infinity; there are boulders and native trees. It seems logical that the Indian tribes should arrive from beyond the plain and enter the stage by means of it, left and right.
(Spots down to where yucca is in bud. Centering the yucca is a cone-shaped juniper tree for a later "magic" fire. Second of complete silence, then the drum, or tomtom, which is invisible to the audience, now begins faintly, almost like a vibration of earth, but gradually accelerates louder and louder, insistently, unbearably. Then gradually subsides until once more it is felt rather than heard. Spots up on "narrator" rocks.)
(Spots up on the Narrator Rocks, which are in front of the lava flow. It is also possible to use two Narrator Rocks on each side of the lava, according to the wishes of the director, and whether he wishes two narrators. The narrators speak in unison.)
NARRATORS: (slowly and distinctly, so that every word is understood) The term "Easter" is significant to all peoples. Perhaps because of nature's recurring miracle of rebirth, the hope of immortality is an inborn human heritage. Anciently Easter was the name of the Teutonic goddess of dawn and her festival, when the sun was thought to dance. This day marked the beginning of spring. With the coming of Christianity, the name of the pagan festival was transferred to the Christian festival.
But pagan or Christian and by whatever name, the concept of Easter is the birthright of everyman.
To the Indians of our Southwest, Easter and its festival were symbolized by the yucca or oose. Although never called Easter, the occasion was celebrated because it was around this time of the year that the yucca bloomed, and the yucca was a sacred plant. It was sacred because its edible seeds were often the first food available in the spring, and thus it symbolized survival. And it symbolized the supernatural because, not only did it bloom at night, but its phosphorescent petals shed a light in the darkness.
Thus, to the Navajo, the Apache, the Zuni, and the Hopi and the Piute, the oose blossom stood for life triumphant, and they called it Candles of the Lord.
NARRATORS: In olden times each Indian tribe claimed its own oose region. On the evening preceding the blooming, members of the tribe traveled here. Each family gathered around its own campfire, chanting, singing, laughing, gossiping.
(rattle of buckboard wagon off stage right and sound of trotting horses)
NARRATORS: From the four-corner country comes the handsome, satin-shirted Navajo, his family bulging a buckboard wagon, team clumping through the brush. We hear laughter, snatches of song afar off, since it is probable that he has brought with him not only food and drink for the feast, but the sacred moonflower intoxicant, main-oph-weep,for the prophesying. Young sons or maybe cousins follow on their ponies. The entire family is in its best finery, including much turquoise and silver jewelry, for this is a chance to strut a little bit, to show off. The Navajo father has on his high-crowned black western hat and brightest shirt, and his wife her most vivid velveteen bodice and voluminous skirts. The children imitate the grownups. Since this event happens only once a year, friends see friends who would never meet otherwise.
("Ey-yei!" cry the young boys as they gallop up right, beyond periphery of stage. Buckboard pulls up, family piles out amid much hilarity and chatter in Navajo tongue. Children scatter like quail. Father ground-reins team, which waits resignedly. Then he hunkers on his heels, rolls a cigarette, and gossips with his male relatives. Women gather wood for campfire which they build in small, sunken hole scooped in sand. They break out ubiquitous coffeepot, lard, mutton chops, etc. Smell of coffee. Young boys horse around on ponies until, at a word from women, they tether ponies and join campfire circle. Men pass around jug of moonflower brew. Eating, much licking of fingers, coffeepot very busy, joking, banter.)
NARRATORS: Now the men of the family squat on their heels and smoke while the women gather sagebrush roots for the campfire which they build in a sunken hole scooped in sand. On goes the coffeepot, since coffee is as necessary to a Navajo as water; next the frying pan for the mutton chops, which cook while the women knead the dough for the fry bread. Meanwhile, the men pass around the jug of moonflower brew amid much hilarity.
(Sound of galloping horses off-stage left. Shouting, "E-e-toy!"--prolonging the syllables--in an ecstasy of arrival, an entire Apache family reins up their horses at periphery of stage until the animals paw the air.)
NARRATORS: From beyond the Grand Canyon comes the proud Apache, women and children as well as men glued to the wild desert mustang as if born in the saddle. The Apache's long unbraided hair, which he must shampoo every day, flies from beneath his turban as he displays his horsemanship and whoops it up. Soon his wife, in her many-colored but shapeless Mother Hubbard, has her fire going and is raking out the coals to roast the mescal-cactus buttons for the dessert he loves. Meanwhile the man of the family cradles his tus--his burden-basket of tulapai, the corn-and-locoweed beer brought along so that he might dream dreams and have visions later on during the ceremonies. Apaches love children; and so while he cracks pine nuts for the little boy on his lap, he himself samples the beer.
(The Apache boys feed and hobble horses, then join family around fire. Much excited gossip and teasing banter in Apache tongue.
The people who arrive next make little noise as they are walking. The Piutes, who live nearby, are poorer than the other tribes. Led by the father, this family straggles along behind him. It is obvious that he has just killed a jackrabbit, probably with a well-aimed rock. He dangles it by the hind legs, still unskinned, and as he enters beyond stage right, he motions for the women, trailing behind, to come and get it. But if the Piute father is poor, he is still spirited, and as he arrives and sees the other campfires, he calls, "A mau ya!")
NARRATORS: These are the Piutes. Since this family lives near, shank's mare is cheaper than a real mare. As they straggle into view, it is obvious that they have been walking all day. The women, trailing in the rear, carry shallow reed-woven baskets slung on their backs, and they hold such a basket, which already contains a squirrel and some berries. Now they stoop low, gathering seeds from ground plants. The man of the family calls to them in Piute to come get the jack-rabbit he has just killed. As they prepare the fire and skin the rabbit while the big-eyed children drool, he politely greets his neighbors, then returns to inspect the cooking. There is little gaiety. His people are too often hungry. Moreover, he is wary of Navajos, his traditional enemies who have stolen his women and children and sold them into slavery for centuries. But still this Piute family is here. They still have faith in the oose-gods, in the promise of a better life in the hereafter, if not the here.
(Now a strange music is heard from beyond stage left. The background is Indian drumming, yet only a master could manage the accents of this broken rhythm. Moreover, the chanting accompanying the drumming is female! The noise at the three established camps abruptly stops as all heads turn to stare at the procession driving slowly in, stage left. The women of Zuni overflow the back of a wagon; upon a single seat sit the only two men in the party--a young boy driving the team and, beside him, an older man still patiently pounding with his palms a great rectangular elaborately feathered and painted drum.
But it is the women who command attention. Climbing down from the wagon, they are the essence of dignity, and they appear completely oblivious to stares. These women are all powerfully built, not so much fat as muscular, and their facial expressions are universally stark and uncompromising--even commanding. They are all dressed in black, the shirts mid-thigh in length and bordered with several rows of bright braid. Around each ample middle is a wide bright-red sash; the sleeves are almost all of some vivid silk. Around each neck is a priceless squash-blossom turquoise necklace and sometimes several. Earring are plentiful, turquoise bracelets weight the arms, and every finger is leaden with rings. The legs are all bound thickly with white leggings. But it is the headdresses that is most astonishing. As the women walk away from the wagon, each balances ostentatiously on her head a great, beautifully painted and designed pottery jar.
Everything--people, wagon, horses, clothing--is coated with dust. These people have come a long, long way.)
NARRATORS: The Zunis are a Pueblo people. These women live in a village just over the border of northeastern Arizona in New Mexico. Zuni is a matriarchal society, and it is evident that these women, the law-givers of the tribe, have decided to combine business with religion. The Zuni silversmiths are among the best in the world; and as pottery-makers, the women themselves cannot be excelled. So now they stroll slowly among the other tribes, showing off their merchandise. They talk a little among themselves, but not much, as this is money-making business. Now and then a potential customer indicates by sign language a jar or a bit of jewelry that takes his fancy. As the Zuni women promenade from fire to fire, the other Indians resume their merrymaking. Finally the Zuni matrons settle down to their loaves of bread fresh from their own mud ovens, their prickly-pear jam, and their herb tea. And now Zuni-dialect chatter is added to the rest.
(Abruptly, cutting across the hubbub, there is the jingle of bells, beyond stage right Again heads turn. A procession of burros trots into view, each burro wearing a necklace of little silver bells. Astride each burro is a small strong-winded smiling person. These are the Hopis. And perhaps because the human he bears is content, the burro, too, seems content, although these people have ridden at least as far as the Zunis. Nevertheless, with subdued yet happy conversation, they build their own creosote-branch fire and, without wasted motion, prepare their own special feast dishes.)
NARRATORS: Of all the tribes that celebrate the oose festival, the Hopi is the most reverent. Unlike other primitive peoples whose tribal name means "human being," the Hopi call themselves hopi sch-nom or "the peaceful ones." From the orchards and irrigated fields of nine pueblos on three high rocky mesas in northeastern Arizona, these small but stout-hearted Peaceful Ones descend to the appointed valley. All Hopi dances are religious ceremonies. For a thousand years, these smiling people have believed in the fantastic idea that humans ought to be happy; and for a thousand years, they have practiced a government and a religion that have kept them so. Hospitality and kindness are the duties of a good citizen, and the worst fault in the world is to offend a neighbor. Now we see that as each member of this family tenderly waters and feeds his burro, there are several young girls with legs bound, like the Zunis, in the traditional Pueblo-style white leggings. Moreover, these maidens all proclaim their unmarried status by wearing their black hair, shining from muk-unk, the oose-soap, in the traditional "squash blossom" coiffure prescribed for centuries.2
For only tradition-minded Hopi Sch-Nom makes the effort to transport his old people to this supreme event. For if the wisest of the tribe are those whose age makes them more conversant with the will of the gods, why wouldn't their presence help invoke the gods? And while the Hopi women, scooping out the creosote-brush coals, prepare the special feast dishes of muqkwivi and the pik-ami bread, the Hopi men in their bright headbands and vests befitting the formality of the occasion, sit at the feet of the oldsters. Even more than his fellows, the Hopi is part of the past, since the bleached bones of his forefathers help compose the very earth of his ancestral mesas. As he deferentially counsels with these old ones already so close to that other world, we envy the Peaceful One his kingdom of the spirit and his gods that are with him always, not just when something goes wrong.
(Again we hear the invisible tomtom which grows louder and still louder until the nerves jump. As the drumbeat cuts across the buzz of visiting and laughter, a hush falls. People get to their feet or turn to the stage expectantly. For the ceremonies are about to begin. Spots on narrators. Drumbeat grows quieter.)
NARRATORS: Now we come to the heart of the oose festival. To the Indian, dancing is not an idle, social pastime but a solemn religious ritual to be carefully executed from generation to generation. Moreover, the dance concerns not only the performer but the spectator; for here, in dramatic form, is unfolded his hopes, fears, his yearnings for a better world. To the Indian, dancing is prayer in pageantry.
(Drumbeat rises to a climax. Spots quickly play over Indian encampments, shift to stage, back to encampments as young boys, representing each tribe, now run out from the various encampments to the stage, among the flowers. Boys are dressed in beaded and fringed aprons over shorts, with rattles at ankle, knee, up sides of legs to waist. All wear bibs strung with turquoise, all wear imitation oose blossoms in headband, and all carry such a blossom like a wand. Spectators begin the chanting, very softly at first. Spots to narrators.)
NARRATORS: Underneath the bib, the naked torsos of the young boys are plastered with a warming coat of white clay, since the function of these novices is to warm up the gods, to alert them that their presence is desired.
(Spots to stage. Now the chanting and the drumbeat accelerate, and the dancing grows faster, more spirited, more earnest. The leg and wrist rattles chime a silvery obligato as the boys beat a path among the yucca bushes, around the juniper cone in the center. The dancing is between the clog and a stomp, with the body bending forward and then backward in the suggestion of obeisance to the flowers.)
NARRATORS: Actually, to these boys, this is a rite of initiation into tribal religion, such an initiation as any young person must experience to be admitted into a church. Hence, trying to remember each move, they are very earnest, very dedicated.
(Chanting and drumbeat now rise to frenzy. Boys move out to sidelines of stage left and right, form lines each side, broken in middle, stay in place but keep time to drum.)
NARRATORS: Now is the moment for the initiation of the young girls. Their special province is the torch dance with which they remind the sun god that now is the season for his return. Now is the time for him to once again bless all things that grow.
(Spectator chanting and drumbeat stop for a moment as a more delicate tattoo takes over accompanied by a more feminine, more melodious chanting. Girls enter from wings left and right, off stage, ten girls each side, carrying tall torches in single file. Girls all have their black hair dressed in the characteristic squash-blossom style of maidenhood. They are clothed in cream-colored buckskin, fringed, beaded, but simple; beaded belt at waist; costume high-necked, long loose sleeves; ankle-length. All wear ankle-high moccasins.
Girls chant as they move toward stage and, still single file, weave pattern among oose plants. Then they again move outward, right and left, form lines at edge of stage. And now the two lines, boys and girls, braid into a single line each side stage, with boy and girl alternating. Single line thus formed now moves back among the flowers, making alternate obeisance to bless the plants, boys touching plant with his oose blossom, girl lowering her torch toward it.
Both boys and girls chant the while to the drum's tattoo. Spectators now join in with a subdued guttural hum of approval, for the youngsters have passed the test. Spectators call out words of approval in various tongues. The two lines never lose formation but form an intricate pattern as they move in opposition to each other, like two opposing circles. Now both lines of dancers move outward again, left and right, to sidelines where they keep step, still in formation. Lights up.)
NARRATORS: Now the climax of the ritual is at hand. Having been entreated, the sun god answers. He reveals his presence.
(Lights down. Spectators hold their breath; chanting dancers subside. Suddenly, without the touch of human hand, the center juniper-cone bursts into a splendid roar! and whoosh of living flame. This is the signal for the dancers on the sidelines to again move onto the stage, again braid into a single lines which circles and twists around the yellow bonfire light. Since this is the first of the gods to respond, high and higher rises drumbeat, rattle, and chanting of spectators and performers alike: Wy-ha-yah' a-a-a-HH De-ee EEya-ee-eeya! Lights up.
NARRATOR: But the sun god is only the first. The god of new life and of immortality have yet to appear, the candles yet to be lighted.
(Lights down. There is a second of complete silence. All activity stops while the dancers lift their arms in supplication. An instance of suspense. This is the moment toward which all other moments have built. Then suddenly out of the darkness on either side of the stage hurtle the living kachinas, the masked gods. And the chanting becomes a wild, triumphant yell, primitive, exultant. The two lines of boy and girl dancers rush back to circle the dying fire. Fearsome in horsehair-fringed animal masks and trappings of eagle feathers, naked bodies garish with paint and turquoise, rattle under the right knee tinkling a fevered counterpoint, the kachina gods leap into the fire with eerie cries. Now into the light, now out, they cut through the original circle of dancers: Wy-ha-yah' a-a-a-HH-De-dd EEya-ee-eeya! Lights up.)
p) NARRATORS: They are here, the living kachinas, the masked gods of the oose plants which they will bless into bloom. Although the spectators realized that these are men they know, maybe even relatives, they and the boy and girl dancers register awe. As each kachina flourishes his priest's feathered prayer stick and sacred tiponi, or gourd rattle, he faces outward from the fire, toward the Candles of the Lord. All other chanting stops, and the kachinas address the opening oose buds. Spots here as well as narrators.)
Now I walk with Talking God
With goodness and beauty in all things around me
With goodness and beauty I follow immortality;
Thus being I, I go.
(As the dancers chant, the narrator translates. Spots down. Once again all the dancers, the boy and girl dancers as well as the kachinas, weave and sway among the plants, now transfigured, now eclipsed in the juniper's orange flames, bodies cavorting grotesquely in the Indian's split-rhythms and muscle-trying multitude of steps. The ground throbs with drumbeat, rattle, the soft stamp of moccasined feet, and the night is a fury of color and movement and sound. Lights up.)
NARRATORS: Trained from childhood, the kachinas are great athletes, their specialty incredibly high and graceful leaps. Now, coaxing the buds to open, they appear to actually hover in the air above each plant.
(Lights down. Suddenly the drums beat an unbearable tattoo, like a fanfare. The kachinas stop and stand still expectantly. At a concerted moment, the maiden torch-dancers move in rhythmic pattern toward stage front where they perform a solo line figure with the torches, almost like a grand right and left. They finish with a flourish of the torches and solo chanting--high, sustained, almost falsetto. They hold the last note an unbelievable time. When they subside and glide back among the boy dancers on the sidelines, we see that the miracle has happened. The Candles of the Lord have bloomed. Each kachina is kneeling before a plant. Lights up. A universal sigh escapes the spectators. The gods have not failed them. There is nothing urgent about the chanting that now begins. It is dreamy, content, languorous.)
NARRATORS: Now the kachinas move from plant to plant, genuflecting before each, blessing each with the prayer stick, baptizing each with the sacred cornmeal. Now each masked god gathers a smoldering coal, blows smoke over the plants to represent clouds, sprinkles with his fingertips to represent rain, and finally draws a line or cornmeal to the east to represent the course of serene eternal life.
(Above to be pantomimed simultaneously with the narration. Over the whole scene is an atmosphere or relief, of profound joy, almost of benediction. Smiling faces are turned upward, toward heaven in prayer. Now faces that had been wary, fearful, turn toward old enemies with smiling offers of friendship, this once in the year.)
NARRATORS: Nothing exists save the ubiquitous gods and the privilege of offering thanks once more for winter that is gone and son that shines again, for the end of dying-time and the beginning of live-again, for food in the belly and peace in the heart. Eee yeee!
(The entire ensemble joins in the final chant: wy-ha-yah' a-a-a-HH De-ee-EEya-eeya! Tableau: As the lights go off, all are standing, and all, except the torch maidens, are holding aloft an oose stalk in full bloom. The darkness seems to pulse with myriads of bluish lights.)
(Soprano soloist in classical long white gown stands at base of pinnacle and in front of it with lights full upon her. Rest of the scene is dark. Sings "Blessed is he that cometh . . ." from Benedictus or "The Holy City" with flute obbligato.
(The action in Part 2 is all to the left of the narrators, centering on the vertical three-level sandstone cliff which borders the lava flow and ends with the pinnacle against the sky. Full spots on narrators standing at the base of the center against the lava flow in the center of the stage.)
NARRATORS (reciting with deliberation): In the Neanderthal Valley near Dusseldorf, Germany, there is an almost inaccessible underground cavern-sanctuary, limestone walls brilliantly painted with huge animal forms, scenes of the hunt, and other symbols of worship. The floor of this cavern bears the likeness of a beautiful dead girl. Her body is lovingly curled up as if in sleep and brightened with red ocher, the prized pigment symbolizing life. In her grave are lumps of ocher, jewelry, weapons, and food to further please and sustain her spirit in its new existence.3
How the girl died, we do not know. But we do know, as established by today's carbon-dating technique, that her funeral occurred about eighty thousand years ago and that although her kinsfolk may have been beetle-browed and brutish-looking, they understood tears and tenderness. The point is that even prehistoric Old-Stone-Age man had a form of religion, believed he had a soul and that it was immortal.
He also had his gods, and here was the hitch. Obviously the most powerful gods were those who controlled earthquakes, blizzards, glaciers, and lightning, who sent sickness, famine, and death. To bless the dead girl's spirit, such gods demanded immediate gifts. But to ward off permanent disaster, they demanded constant sacrifice--even human sacrifice, if times were very bad.
So the carnage of the centuries went on. Humans groped upward--and fell back. And then--and then the Creator-of-all took pity on this bumbling human he had made in his own image. And two millennia ago, at the crossroads of the ancient world where East met West and Jew met Gentile, he sent his only begotten Son to earth to become a man. And in the becoming, he gave humans four great new words: incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension. They were words designed to buy him eternal life. But men have quarreled over them ever since. For there was a key word missing--a fifth word we refused because it seemed just too humble to be significant. That word was love. Of all words, it is still the least understood. And yet it is the only word that makes sense of the others. "And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us . . ." (John 1:14).
(Lights on narrators at lava flow)
NARRATORS: The story really begins with that far-off morning when the chief priests and elders of the people bound the man Jesus and delivered him to Pontius Pilate, the governor. Then Judas, seeing this, repented himself and cast down his thirty pieces of silver in the temple and departed, and went and hanged himself.
Scene 1: Jesus before Pilate
(Lights up far to the left of the narrators. Pilate is seated upon his throne at the base of the second level. Below him stands Jesus upon the first level. Jesus is portrayed as a brilliant light with the outline of a human form behind it,4 and his voice issues out of the light. Pilate stares fixedly down at the light.)
PILATE: (voice booming like the voice of doom itself) Art thou the King of the Jews?
JESUS: (issuing from the light below Pilate, gently but with finality) Thou sayest.
(Pause. Pilate silently stares down at Jesus. From the unseen mob gathered in the darkness below Jesus, angry voices issue.)
MOB: Crucify him! Crucify him!"
PILATE (to Jesus): Do you not hear the chief priests and elders witness against you? What sayest you?
(Jesus is still silent. Pilate cranes his neck to look beyond Jesus into the darkness below, where the mob is gathered.)
PILATE (to mob): According to law, I can give you Barabbas or Jesus. Which shall it be?
MOB: Save Barabbas and destroy Jesus!
PILATE: Why? Barabbas has murdered. What evil has this Jesus done?
MOB: He says he's the son of God.
VOICE FROM MOB: What God?
(hoots of derisive laughter)
MOB: Jesus blasphemes! That's worse than murder!
(Pilate ponders but finally gives up, shrugs, and claps his hands for a servant.)
PILATE: Bring me water.
(Pilate stares down at Jesus, then beyond him to the mob murmuring with angry voices.)
PILATE: I cannot prevail against this multitude.
(Servant appears with basin, offers it with bent knee.)
PILATE: Look ye! (Looking again at the multitude.) I wash my hands of the blood of this just person. (Hands servant the basin. Servant exits. Pilate continues to gaze from the multitude to Jesus and back again, then flings out his hands in surrender. He turns his head and beckons behind his throne to guards.) Here! (as guards appear in front of throne.) Release Barabbas . . . Take Jesus. (As soldiers approach Jesus, the mob howls with glee. )
PILATE: (Addressing multitude) Take him! Scourge him! I deliver him to you to be crucified. (On an audible sigh and in almost a whisper, shaking his head:) Have done with it. (Sits with head sunk on chest, seeing no way out of the dilemma, yet aware that he is making a terrible mistake.)
(Pause. Lights out on Pilate and Jesus and up on narrators at lava flow.)
NARRATORS: Then in the common hall, the soldiers of the governor stripped Jesus, put on him a scarlet robe, a crown of plaited thorns upon his head, a reed in his right hand--and they mocked him and spat upon him, and led him away to crucify him, to a place called Golgotha, that is, place of a skull. (spoken as if the very words hurt:) And over his cross they wrote his accusation: (solemnly:) This is Jesus, King of the Jews. (Lights out)
At the Cross
(Light on pinnacle. Here, in front of the pinnacle, is the cross, which will not appear its true size because of the distance, but even more effectively, as a symbol. The cross gleams like some whitish colored wood, outlined against the shiny black basaltic rock of the pinnacle. Crimson lights like flames flare upward from the bottom of the cross. The figure upon the cross is visible.)
NARRATORS: And there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour.
JESUS (voice comes faintly from pinnacle--tinny, eery, an involuntary cry of agony and despair): My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?
NARRATORS: And the Pharisees and chief priests of the Jews wagged their heads and mocked.
VOICES OF MOB (a babel of loud, laughing, derisive voices from below pinnacle, in the region of the three levels): If you are the Son of God, save yourself! Come down from the Cross! He trusted in God--let God deliver him now!
(Hoots of derision. Lights to narrators at lava flow. The cross is still lighted.)
NARRATORS: And behold, the earth did quake, and the rocks rent, and the graves opened and yielded up their dead.
(Sound of thunder. Far off, boulders tumble down the mountainside. Sound of pebbles and debris falling long afterward. Multitude gasps--a single, awestruck, frightened voice speaks): Perhaps this was the Son of God!
(Pause. We see figures fleeing from the cross, looking over their shoulders, stumbling down the mountainside. Then the spotlight shifts to the foot of the cross, where the soldiers are casting lots for the seamless robe Mary, Jesus' mother, had woven for him. We hear faintly the voices of the men, laughing and joking and drinking. )
VOICES OF SOLDIERS: How many shekels will you bet? Shall we bet on the whole--or cut it up? Not worth much--this Jesus was naught but a beggar.
(The centurion stands apart. He is plainly apprehensive as the thunder continues to roll and the boulders tumble and collide. The world seems one vast tumult of sound. He peers at the heavens and this way and that. Late afternoon, the shadows are menacing.
SOLDIER (to the centurion--strutting, full of bravado): Why do you worry, sir? The man is dead, truly dead! And dead men tell no tales! (laughs uproariously)
CENTURION (turning to the soldier fiercely): Hush your tongue! You're drunk! (half to himself:) The world is full of fools!
(Now the spotlight moves to Jesus' friends grouped "afar off" where they have kept vigil. We see them crouched, huddled, silent, stark in attitudes of grief and fear. But despite the fear, every face is turned toward the cross.)
NARRATORS: The friends of Jesus had kept faithful watch through all the long hours since first he was nailed to the cross, but still afar off for fear of the soldiers. John the Beloved disciple was there, and Salome, the mother of John and James, and Joanna, wife of Herod's steward, and Susanna, and the three Marys--Mary, the mother of Jesus, Mary of Magdala, and Mary of Bethany, sister of Lazarus, and others who mourned him.
(Lights now move to a figure toiling upward toward the group of Jesus' friends, across the three levels of the mountainside. He pauses for breath. This is Joseph of Arimathea. He is an old man, expensively dressed, his long white beard and white hair contrasting with the dark green mantle he wears. A second figure joins him. This is Nicodemus, younger and more vigorous than Joseph, but still his face is almost as ruddy from the exertion as the orange underrobe he wears. Both of these older men wear head-turbans against the damp of the night. The lights move with the two men as they climb. Finally they reach the group beneath the pinnacle, from which the cross can be seen, and John the Beloved goes to meet them. John has the face of a poet, large-eyed, dark locks hanging to his shoulders.
JOHN (holding out his hand to give them a pull up the final steepness): Joseph! Joseph of Arimathea! And Nicodemus! (John embraces them both.) Happy I am to see you!
JOSEPH: I wanted to be here before--well, before. But ashamed as I am to tell it, I was--afraid.
NICODEMUS: I, too.
JOHN: I am telling you both. The Master would have understood your fear. After all, Nicodemus, you are a Pharisee and a ruler; and you, Joseph, you are a rich man and known as a just and honest man among your brethren, the Jews. You couldn't afford to have it known--
JOSEPH (interrupting): But he made me a disciple! (His voice quivers with regret and anguish.) And yet it was by stealth that I visited him, at night. I was too much a coward to come by day!
JOHN: But what profit if your brethren put you in prison? Or perhaps even to death?
NICODEMUS: I was a coward, too, John.
JOHN: No matter. The Master has more need of you both now--now that he is gone--to speak for him and to do his work openly.
JOSEPH: If I could only beg him to forgive me!
JOHN: Do not doubt that he knows what is in your heart, even now. (John's voice breaks with his grief.) Oh-h! He understood us so much better than we ever understood him!
NICODEMUS: Is he--is he dead, then?
JOHN: He could be. I was about the ninth hour. He cried out to God, and we think it was then he yielded up the ghost. He has not spoken since. (brokenly) Oh! How he suffered! And yet with such--such dignity. No constant crying out like the other two. And yet we could hear him groaning even down here. I was glad when he groaned no more.
JOSEPH: What of the other disciples, our brethren? James, Andrew? Did they watch with you till the end?
JOHN (shakes his head sadly): Some came at the very beginning, afar off, but were so frightened they fled quickly.
JOSEPH: Even Peter?
JOHN: Even Peter.
JOSEPH: Well, what is done is done. It is for us now to see that the body is properly buried.
JOHN (nods): And it may be done quickly so that the soldiers cannot pollute it as they threaten.
(Lights move to narrators at the lava flow)
NARRATORS: So now, because eventide comes, with storm, the Jews besought Pilate that the legs of the three crucified might be broken to hasten their death, that the bodies might be taken away so that they would not pollute the morrow, which was the Sabbath. But when the soldiers came to Jesus, they saw he was already dead. Nevertheless, to be certain, they pierced his side with a spear, and forthwith gushed out blood and water. For the scripture has said, "A bone of him shall not be broken" and again, "They shall look on him whom they pierced." And thus were the scriptures fulfilled. And seeing this, the Jews were sore afraid and fled.
(Lights move to Pilate on his throne at the base of the second level. Joseph of Arimathea is standing before the throne.)
PILATE: You say your name is Joseph? And you are from Arimathea?
JOSEPH: Yes, sir.
PILATE (obviously puzzled. He looks Joseph up and down, frowning): You are richly appareled. You look like a man with lands and houses and silver and gold. Do you have these things?
JOSEPH: Enough, sir.
PILATE: And yet you would have me give you the body of this Jesus--this--this nobody who had not a talent to his name! Why, Joseph of Arimathea? Can you tell me why?
JOSEPH: To give it decent burial, sir.
PILATE: But what was he to you? (peers at him.) Do you know that it was your people, the Jews, who put him to death?
JOSEPH: Yes, sir.
PILATE: (Insistently) Were you his friend?
JOSEPH (hesitates briefly, then speaks loud and clear) Yes, sir!
PILATE (ponders a moment): Have you a tomb prepared for this Jesus?
JOSEPH: My own new tomb where no man has lain.
PILATE (silent for a moment, plainly baffled. Finally he raises both hands and slaps his knees in a gesture of impatience): Well, I can see no harm in it. Bury him, if you must. (to himself) Strange! Passing strange!
(Joseph bows himself out, walking backwards.)
(Pilate is still upon his throne, frowning in mystification, when some of the chief priests and Pharisees enter. He sees them hesitate at the entrance to the throne room): Come in.
FIRST PRIEST: Sir, we have heard it said among the people that the friends of that deceiver plan to take his body down and bury it in one of their own tombs.
PILATE (nodding): It is so.
SECOND PRIEST: Sir, we remember the deceiver said, while he was yet alive, "After three days I will rise again!"
THIRD PRIEST (eagerly): Sir, we ask you to command that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest his disciples steal him away by night, and then say unto the people: "See? He is risen from the dead!"
PILATE (exasperated): What is this about bodies? Everybody wants his body! What can you do with a body? (Mumbles and swears under his breath, regarding the chief priests with a baleful eye. The priests retreat a little. (angrily) Do you not have a watch? See you to it! (As the chief priests, bowing, exit, Pilate calls to them) "And I also command you to seal the entrance and stamp the tomb with the imperial seal of Rome!
(Lights out on Pilate and up on both narrators and the cross. It is now evening with long, menacing shadows. Thunder still rumbles. Figures surround the cross, hoisting ladders. There are four ladders, one propped again each side of the cross-beam, and one in back and one in front. Joseph of Arimathea stands halfway up the ladder to the front-left of Jesus, holding the edge of the winding sheet in his teeth, while he braces himself against the cross-beam. On the right-rear ladder is Nicodemus, also holding the sheet. Two other men, also friends of Jesus, have mounted the other two ladders and are trying to pull the spikes from his palms.)
JOSEPH (to Nicodemus): My teeth chatter. To see so close the dried blood on his face from the thorns.
NICODEMUS: And the stripes on his back where they scourged him.
JOSEPH: This is the hardest duty of all. We loved him--how we loved him! But still the heart quakes.
JOHN (bracing himself with a foot on the rungs of the front left ladder): Joseph! (calling upward) Can you do it?
JOSEPH (sighing): Yes, as soon as the spikes are drawn. Oh! The screech they make! (Calls to the two tugging at the spikes:) Ho, there, friends. We wait on you!
FIRST MAN: These spikes through his hands are in the wood so deep-- (grunts as he pulls, leaning backward to gain leverage.) I'm afraid I'll tear the flesh! (more grunting and exclaiming:) Phew! There now, the body is free. (He calls to Joseph, still with the sheet in his teeth at the back of the cross.) You can lower him now.
(Joseph and Nicodemus wrap the body in the sheet and lower it into the arms of John, who is bracing himself against the cross to receive it. Now, John receiving the body by the shoulders, gently, but with exertion for the Christ was a strong, heavy man, lowers head and torso into the waiting arms of Mary the Mother, who sinks to the ground as they place his head and shoulders in her lap, and lay the rest of the body on the ground. Mary caresses one of Christ's hands while Mary of Magdala bathes his feet with her long hair.)
JOHN (arranging the winding sheet in a more seemly way about the body, speaks to Nicodemus who, with Joseph, is coming down the ladders): Nicodemus, did you bring the spices and the myrrh and aloes?
NICODEMUS: Yes, a hundred-weight, and fragrant resin from India. (Nicodemus hands the sack of spices to John, who glances at the sky.)
JOHN (anointing the body with the spices): The day is too far spent to tarry longer. We must finish dressing the body in the fresh linen clothes.
(Mary the Mother hands John the folded clothing as he speaks.)
JOHN: And anoint it further at the tomb.
(Lights out on the cross)
To the Tomb
(Lights up on first level. Procession enters from right and toils diagonally across mountain toward second level. Joseph and Nicodemus lead the way, each grasping a corner of the sheet which carries the body of Jesus. Joseph struggles visibly with his share of the burden. John the Beloved is just behind Joseph and Nicodemus, and his arms support the shoulders of Jesus, whom he had so worshipped. John stares straight ahead as if he can see no hope anywhere. The other two men each grasp a corner of the sheet supporting the feet. Behind the men are the women of Jerusalem: the two Marys and Salome, and Joanna, and Susanna. All have a furtive air and glance apprehensively over their shoulders. Mary the Mother walks besides John, her hand outstretched as if to cushion the beloved form in the sheet. The other women weep, but the mother is beyond tears. Her face mirrors all the sorrows of the world. As if she has gone back in time, she croons under her breath to the body in the sheet. She is oblivious to the others and to her surroundings.)
MOTHER: We are almost there. . . It is almost over.
NICODEMUS (panting a little because, even though he is in the prime of life, he finds the body heavy): Just where is the tomb, Joseph?
JOSEPH (pointing): Just there, in the brow of the hill. (Joseph must stop to catch his breath and mop his sweating face.) Come, friend, you can see it when we reach the edge of the hill.
JOHN: And is it made safe from the soldiers who would defile it?
JOSEPH: Yes. It is hewn out of the solid rock, and there is a great stone which can be rolled into the door of the sepulchre.
NICODEMUS: And we can nail strips of lath over the entrance.
JOHN: The Master would have appreciated your kindness, Joseph--your own new tomb!
JOSEPH (muttering, for he still feels a sense of guilt): Little enough to do . . . little enough.
(The men talk as they hurry along.)
JOHN: Still no sign of soldiers. But you cannot tell--I don't trust those fellows.
JOSEPH (grunts assent): Truly!
JOHN (peering at the sky): In any case, darkness comes. No time for the final burial. Let us finish dressing him in the fine linen and finish the anointing with the spices and leave him in the outer chamber until the morrow.
(The men exit stage left, leaving the women of Jerusalem. The entrance to the tomb is visible to the audience through bushes. John and his companions can be seen lowering the body over the edge of the hill. This would be difficult because of the hand- and footholds the men must feel for before the body can be shifted. The three men are finally seen carrying the body through the entrance of the tomb. The tomb looms like a black hole or cave in the hillside, bordered with shrubs.)
Mother and Magdalene
(Lights up on the women of Jerusalem. Mary the Mother starts to follow the men with the body of Jesus, then changes her mind and sinks back against the hill, but in the direction of the sepulcher. She constantly faces toward the tomb, as if straining to see what is happening to her son. Mary Magdalene,5 who thus far has walked with the other women, weeping quietly, now creeps closer to the mother. Then, as if in spite of herself, she tiptoes beyond the mother, edging ever closer to the sepulchre, hands on rocky surface of the hill, as if to push herself along. Both women exhibit an anxiety, a terrible need to be with him--even in the tomb, since this is the last place his body will ever grace. Mary Magdalene especially is obviously sick--sick with longing and despair. She trembles, her face is deathly pale, she wrings her hands, she cannot stop crying. The Magdalene, who is only seventeen, hasn't the maturity to cope with such unutterable bereavement. She had perhaps loved him differently than the others--with more of the passionate devotion a woman might feel for her betrothed or her husband. If she loved Jesus as divinity, she also loved him as a man. And now that he is gone, beyond all recalling, life is fruitless. Mary the Mother regards her with pity, compassion, and understanding. The other women start to follow the Mother and Magdalene, but Mary of Bethany quietly motions them to stay back.)
MARY OF BETHANY: They were closer to the Master than the rest of us. Let us not intrude upon them now, now while they mourn him.
(The women gaze, sad-eyed, at the other two. The Mother goes to Magdalene, puts her arms around her, comforts her.)
MOTHER: Look you, dry your tears, for we are blessed among women, for he gave us his love.
(But Magdalene can only shake her head piteously.)
MAGDALENE: Without Jesus, I do not want to live.
(She moves from the mother, turns toward the other women of Jerusalem, and throws out her arms, as if for confirmation.)
MAGDALENE: You see? Other men have lusted after me. But not Jesus. He was my friend. And when I was taken in adultery and they would have stoned me, he said to them, "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her." And then he said, "Go, and sin no more." And now I have lost my friend, and I know not why. He let them take him, even at Gethsemane. He could have stopped them.
(The mother looks at Magdalene and shakes her head.)
MOTHER: When you are old--time, time will heal.
MAGDALENE (very low): No. Nothing will--nothing.
MOTHER: Oh-h! I know how it is--
(The mother walks off by herself--it is as if she is talking to herself, voicing her troubled thoughts aloud.)
MOTHER: I keep remember now--now--those years when he was just a boy and I was raising him. (reminiscently) And now I wonder greatly, What did I do wrong? (pensively) And even more to the point, What did I do right? When the prophetess Anna said he was the Messiah, and I remembered the stable and the angel and the wise men at his birth, I rebelled in my heart. The angel told Joseph we should have a sign, and all the time he was growing up I did watch for signs . . . (A pause here, a letdown in her voice:) But after all, there was only the child playing in the shavings while his father worked at his bench, and I, his mother, praying that even yet he might grow up like any other child I could love and--and scold--and perhaps some day give me grandchildren.
MAGDALENE: But you were his mother! He talked of his kingdom? Surely he would tell you.
MOTHER (so deep within herself that she is oblivious to everything but her own stupendous memories): But then I would remember again what he was, and I would wonder within myself, Why me? Why did it happen to me? (visibly distraught) For I was poor and lowly and surely not worthy! (The Mother, withdrawn, ponders deeply. The others draw closer to listen.)
MAGDALENE (violently, out of her grief): I cannot understand it--never, never, never. Why didn't he save himself when he had saved so many others? It was witnessed--known! (Magdalene looks questioningly at Mary of Bethany, who nods.)
MARY OF BETHANY: Aye, my brother Lazarus, dead four days. I saw it happen . . . I saw Lazarus rise up with my own eyes.
MAGDALENE: Why, then? Why? (She looks at the others, one by one, and her eyes plead for answers.)
MOTHER: Oh, Mary of Magdalene, my dear, my dear, think you not I have asked myself that same question? I even asked him as I walked beside him while he sank beneath that terrible cross. I knelt and mopped the sweat and blood from his face, and I cried with all my heart, "Son! Oh my son, save yourself!" My tears fell upon him, and I could not help it. But he said only, ""Weep not for me. Have patience. You shall see!" (Mother's voice almost forsakes her. She clears her throat and ends with a long wail.) And when the spikes went in . . . Oh, the sound of the hammers! All he said was, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." He prayed for them! (pause) And almost his last words just before he died were not for himself, but for me, when he gave me into John's care. (pause. For the first time, the Mother breaks down and weeps, face in hands.) But oh! All I remember now is that he was a babe in my arms and waxed strong. (smiling) I mind me how peaceable he was. He almost never cried. I sang him a little lullaby when I rock him to sleep. (Again the Mother's thought wander back into the dear past, and she pantomimes holding a baby and crooning as she rocks it in her arms. She sings and rocks "Lullaby" to the imaginary child):
Lullaby by Mary the Mother6
Sleep gently little baby
Have nothing to fear
Sleep gently my baby
The angels are near.
Whatever the future--this
Dread I can't name--
This dread and this glory
Both surely the same!
Sleep gently, oh baby,
This much I may claim--
This much I may cherish--
This much I may claim:
Sleep gently, my baby,
Thy head on my breast
My arms safe around thee
This much am I blest.
(But the Magdalene is so sorely distracted that not even memories can comfort her. After the Mother sings the words, she continues humming the tune, and the Magdalene breaks in on the humming.)
MAGDALENE: How was is that he healed the leper and made the blind to see--but could not save himself. (anguished) Why then? Why? Why?
MOTHER (shaking her head): I cannot tell you. His whole life was a question that stops the heart. We can only have faith, as he bade us have.
(Here the mother stands to her full height and looks directly at the audience. There is evident in her face and mien a purity and a strength of character that will endure to the end. For a moment she is almost challenging. Then she remembers Magdalene and becomes the protecting friend again. She relaxes, takes the girl's hands in hers.)
MOTHER: But I almost forgot. The soldiers cast lots for the seamless robe I wove for him, but I saved something else. (She reaches into a pocket of her robe and brings out a little cart which she shows to the girl. The other women come closer to see the cart, look at one another, and murmur.) See? A little cart Joseph carved for the child before ever we left Egypt. And the child loved it so much that he needs must take it to bed with him. All these years have I saved it because he loved it. So I give you the cart, Magdalene, for a remembrance. For I, I who carried him beneath my heart, no longer need it to remember. (Mary Magdalene takes the cart and presses it to her cheek.)
MAGDALENE: All we know is that he loved us, and we crucified him.
Roman Officers and Guards at the Tomb
(Mother and Magdalene cower in fright when the soldiers enter and hurry to join the other women who exit hurriedly left, looking back terrified. The soldiers brutally shoulder John and his two companions out of the path and shove them toward the left exit. John and his friends waste no time and run off left in fright. Night has fallen. One guard with the officers carries two lanterns. In biblical times these were really torches--oil-soaked canvas stretched around a coil of wire or frame of wood with a species of oil lamp inside, or resinous stick or torch. The second guard carries a bucket with a wooden ladle. Preceded by guards carrying the lanterns and the bucket, the officers let themselves over the edge of the hill to the tomb by handholds in the rock, joking and griping because the rock is sharp. The second officer grunts as they reach the entrance to the tomb where John has already sealed the lath. The officers jerk off the lath.)
FIRST OFFICER: Silly fools! Lath won't hold a flea.
(While the guards stand by with lantern and bucket, the second officer dips the trowel into the bucket and fills the openings around the stone with mortar. Then the first officer plasters the face of the stone with the imperial seal of Rome.)
SECOND OFFICER (as he slaps the final trowelful of mortar into the opening around the stone): I think this is one dead man who cannot run away!
FIRST OFFICER (giving the seal of Rome a final slap as he presses it into place): By the gods, that should hold him!
FIRST SENTRY (to second guard): You'll take the first watch?
SECOND SENTRY: Yes, . . . if I have the lantern. (looking around at sky and bushes, shivering:) Did you ever see a sky so black? Guarding tombs is no great task--and not even hell could shake my guts--but this--
FIRST SENTRY: Hush! Did you hear something? (straining his eyes to see around)
SECOND SENTRY: Maybe a toad on the path. (takes lantern--peers uneasily around) Do you see anything?
(First sentry shakes his head to second, and as second exits left, he makes himself comfortable on a niche in
the hill. A voice out of nowhere utters his thoughts):
VOICE: Some company would be a comfort. Never has a night been so still! Still and black. Black--soft and--thick--like--like putrid flesh. Perhaps this dead king of the Jews has infected the world! Strange were the trial and execution. Something about him as he suffered. Almost--almost he seemed braver than other men, criminal or not. Could we have angered the gods? It seems the world holds its breath tonight--awaiting--
(In spite of himself, the sentry leaps up from his bed against the hill and runs to the great stone, feels its surface, and stamps away, storming.)
FIRST SENTRY: Dolt! Fool! What did you think to find?
VOICE: Something is happening just the same.
FIRST SENTRY (slaps his own head): Shut up, in there! That stone cannot move!
(First sentry screams aloud. Second sentry reenters left, runs to companion, and holds lantern up to his face.)
SECOND SENTRY: What? What ails you?
FIRST SENTRY (shivers): Nothing . . . a bad dream . . . Here--it's my watch. (As he takes the lantern, he indicates the niche in the hillside:) Bed of soft dirt there. (He turns to exit left to make his rounds, and suddenly he starts, screams again, and drops the lantern. Shaking with terror, he points his spear at the great stone in the mouth of the sepulchre.) The stone is moving!
(The second sentry grabs the lantern before it can go out and looks where the spear is pointing.)
SECOND SENTRY (staring): By all the gods!
(He springs to the stone and strikes it with his sword, but the great disk continues to move in its groove. Shaking, he strikes it again and again, but the great disk rolls slowly off to one side.)
FIRST SENTRY (seeing the disk roll aside): You knew it . . . Ah-h-h!
(He drops his spear and falls senseless to the ground. Second sentry, too, drops his sword, tries to run, stumbles, and falls to the ground as if dead. Although the night is still dark and dawn not yet come, suddenly an eerie, somehow glorious light appears to radiate out from the tomb, encompassing the whole garden. Both sentries are still unconscious. Lights slowly dim, sentries still on ground, but scene bathed in that radiance which builds and builds until the lights go out.)7
Mary Magdalene at the Tomb
(It is barely dawn. Shadows still lurk. Mary enters from stage left and heads toward the tomb at far right, approaching hesitantly, almost cautiously, as if wary of disturbing a beloved slumberer. As she tiptoes along, her disembodied voice utters her thought aloud--perhaps in the air above her head:)
VOICE: People would think me mad to come here--here of all places!--this early. The sun isn't yet risen! But--but myrrh and more spices will be needful for the final burial. And in any case, how could I stay away? This is the last place on earth to have known him. It has been three days and two nights now since he--since they--since it happened. And in all that time, I have not slept. Of all who kept watch at the cross, I was the last to leave--and then only because the soldiers made me. Surely it is meet that I be the last to visit him now, to visit his sepulcher--to say farewell . . .
(Mary walks slowly along as the voice speaks but reacts constantly to the words, with distraught gestures, pressing her temples as if her head aches, lifting her arms and letting them fall futilely. It is as if she is trying to run away from herself, trying to escape her inescapable thoughts.)
MARY (talking aloud to herself): Oh, Jesus--my dear Lord--how much I owe you! Such happiness you gave me! (She lifts up her face, and for a second it is radiant with remembering.) Remember that day at the oak grove, Magdalene? Jesus had gone up the mountain to pray, leaving Peter and John on watch, and when I happened along, they did not know me! But I, having been accustomed to talk to men . . . (She breaks off, checks herself, and then continues:) And I said right to their faces, "Know you not the Magdalene, Peter, John? And how they stared! I laughed at them--I couldn't help it. (Suddenly Mary stops in her tracks, throws back her head, and laughs aloud at the memory--a peal of irrepressible, carefree, girlish amusement. Then the weight of the present sorrow takes over again.)
VOICE OF HER THOUGHTS: It wasn't that my features were any different, or my hair, or my clothing--but I, I was different! The love of Jesus had transformed the Magdalene that men knew into a girl no longer puffed up by their admiration--a girl who yearned only to be worthy of his love.
MARY (aloud): No wonder they didn't know me! I laughed--but then I wept, for I remembered. I was still brazen. And when Peter and John comforted me, I said to them, "Think not Jesus condemned me; I condemned myself."
VOICE: But how could they understand? After all, Magdalene, other men loved you for themselves. Jesus loved you for yourself; not for what men saw, but for what you really are inside!
MARY (an outcry of despair): But now, now? Will I ever see you again, my Lord? My friend? My only friend? Mary creeps on, wiping away her tears. Then, out of her memories and her present distress, she sings. It is as if she makes up the song as she goes along, the whole incredible experience of her friendship with Jesus becoming rhyme and melody:)
Mary of Magdala
Verse (to be recited):
I knew not that I was lost
Until that I was found
Until that I was freed
I knew not that I was bound.
I loved him, oh I loved him as divinity
I believed in the Father's plan--
But in my heart though it be blasphemy
I loved him, Oh, I loved him as a man!
I knew not I knew not joy
Until my Savior taught me
I knew not I knew not love
Until his love he brought me.
I knew not my heart knew sin
Until my own sins were forgiven;
I knew not my heart knew hell
Until he showed me heaven.
(Mary is still idly humming the melody as she approaches the steps leading downward to the bomb. These are cut in the rock and are bordered by shrubs. Bushes partially conceal the mouth of the tomb. The audience sees only the steps and bushes of the approach. Almost stealthily Mary creeps down the steps, brushing aside the shrubs. Then she reaches the two final concealing shrubs, one on each side of the opening, which she thrusts aside with both hands. She stares a second--and screams, then draws back.)
MARY: The guards are gone! The stone is gone from the opening!
(She takes another hesitant step forward, peering inside the opening--then she screams again.) The sepulchre is empty! (Her voice is bereft--but, although she is fearful of this place of the dead, she had truly loved Jesus, and this place was the last to have known him. Perhaps his presence still lingers. So, with her hand over her mouth, her eyes wide with terror, and her whole body quaking, she puts her other hand against the wall of the cave for support, takes still another step--and her voice speaks her thoughts as she disappears from sight.)
VOICE: Perhaps Peter and John have already placed his body in the inner chamber--without telling us? Could that be? (Her teeth chatter in fear.) I was just--see--OH! (We can hear her voice, freighted with terror and bewilderment and grief, echo in the rocky chamber.)
MARY (shocked into crying aloud): His body is gone! Here are the grave clothes and the face napkin--folded so carefully. Where are you, Jesus, my friend? Where have they taken you? (Her face in her hands, shaking with sobs, she stumbles backward out of the tomb, ducking under the opening. Then she remembers the spices, reaches for them in a pocket of her robe, and tosses them away. Bitterly:) What good are spices now? Without his body? They might at least have left us that-- (The tossing action forces her to take her hands from her face. And it is then that she sees a being9 in white standing in her path, guarding the door. Mary gasps and backs away in panic.)
ANGEL: Woman, why weepest thou?
MARY (remembering afresh her bereavement): Because they have taken away my lord, and I know not where they have laid him.
ANGEL: Why seek ye the living among the dead? Know ye not that he is risen?
VOICE OF MARY'S THOUGHTS: What does he mean? Risen where?
MARY (turning to the angel): My lord is gone, isn't he? Just--just gone? (The last word is a prolonged wail. She turns away from the being and, sobbing, hands again covering her face, she stumbles through the bushes and starts up the stairs. Suddenly a shadow falls across her path. She hesitates, crying into her hands.)
VOICE OF HER THOUGHTS: Of course, the gardener--I forgot the gardener.
MARY (her eyes brimming, cast downward): Oh, sir, be not hasty with your anger, though I do trespass--I am leaving now. I only came--I came-- (Her voice breaks, and she can say no more.)
VOICE OF HER THOUGHTS: I cannot--cannot live with knowing--knowing where he is--without some little sign--
VOICE OF JESUS: Mary!
(Mary looks up at this one word, stares fixedly for a moment, blinks, even rubs her eyes as if to clear her betraying vision. And then, as the full import of what she beholds finally registers, she fairly explodes with unbelievable relief, incredulity, and unrestrained joy.)
MARY: Rabboni! Master!
(In an ecstacy she falls at his feet, crying and laughing. Her arms move as if to encircle the brilliant space, behind which he is revealed in outline, as if to caress his feet, and Jesus checks her.)
JESUS: Mary! Touch me not, for I am not yet ascended to my Father.
(She looks up worshipfully, incoherent with happiness.)
y, MARY: It is my Lord! He is alive!
JESUS: Mary . . . Mary! (His voice is gentle, smiling, understanding, loving.) Mary.
(As Jesus speaks, there is a smile in his voice as he regards the girl's abandoned delight. The audience now comes to perceive why he had appeared to her first of all, because her grief simply could not be reconciled. Her unselfish love was so overwhelming and her need so great that he had to answer it. Pause. When next Jesus speaks, his voice holds a command. The cross on the pinnacle, which has been shrouded with gloom all this time is suddenly outlined against the sky, ablaze with lights.)
JESUS: Mary, go yonder and tell Mary the Mother and the others that you have seen me--and that they shall also see me. And, Mary, go into Jerusalem and tell my disciples that I go before them into Galilee, unto the appointed mountain. There shall they see me, even as I have said. (The voice now assumes unearthly timbre, and the hills ring.) For Mary, I am the resurrection, and the life: He that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.
(Mary jumps to her feet, clasps her hands, regards him a moment longer. Suddenly his words sink into her heart, and her face glows as she realizes that this is a message for her alone; for she herself had believed--had believed that "though he were dead, yet shall he live." She gazes at him a second longer--acceptance of this blessing suffusing her features as if a light had been turned on behind her eyes. It is as if she must so impress the vision of Jesus on her retina that throughout the rest of her days, when he shall indeed by risen out of her sight forever, she can still summon this vision of him at will.)
(She hugs herself and, throwing wide her arms, dances an irrepressible step of sheer gaiety. And Oh! Oh! Oh-ing, she turns and skips along the path toward the left exit. Once more she turns to gaze back at him, her whole attitude eloquent with unutterable thankfulness, and then she flees to do his bidding on the wings of the morning--when the women of Jerusalem enter from stage left.)
MARY: He is risen! (She sings to them, running forward to embrace them one after another.) Oh! He is risen! I have seen my lord!
(The women stare at her a moment, then take to their heels and flee along the path to the right where he awaits them in the distance. Lights down.)
Setting for Scene 11
(Lights up on third level)
Although Christ was only thirty when he died, he usually chose as disciples men older than he. These eleven men are grouped in characteristic manner according to their age, affinity for one another, relationship, or individual personality. Some are sitting on rocks, some hunkered down upon the ground, some walk about, stare off into space, flip pebbles, scribble in the sand with a twig or a rock, converse with low tones.
Peter is crouched upon a rock some distance from the others and completely oblivious of them. His head is bowed in his hands. Peter is known among his associates as Simon, son of Jonas, but called Cephas by Jesus (Cephas meaning "rock" in Hebrew, while in Greek, the word for "rock" is Peter). Peter is usually depicted as in his early forties or late thirties with full, bushy, light-brown beard and mustache and receding hairline which gives his forehead great prominence. His eyes are normally kindly, and his expression amiable. Peter is an extrovert who likes people. He is impetuous, lusty, prone to exaggeration, a little vain and self-important, fond of dramatizing himself. But underneath these surface traits is the rocklike quality which Jesus sensed. Peter's denial of Christ was not premeditated, like the betrayal of Judas Iscariot. Threatened with arrest and execution, Peter surrendered to the instinct of self-preservation--he simply lost his nerve, like a recruit under fire. But like the recruit so tested who never again loses his courage, Peter's bitter repentance washed out the weakness and the build so that after Christ's forgiveness, he became all "rock." Peter is a difficult character to portray, but only by showing his fear and wavering, followed by his grief and ultimate granitic resolution, can the transformation of the others be indicated.
Andrew, Peter's older brother, has stationed himself nearby, and he, too, sits upon a rock (or the rocky bank of a hill), chin cupped in hands. He leans forward, his body assuming an attitude of protection and concern. He keeps his eyes upon Peter. Andrew has been a sort of "yes" man to the more dominant Peter all of his life, but now he is the authoritative one. In fact, he frowns in some bewilderment as he stares at his brother, apparently astonished that Peter, that lusty extrovert, should be so utterly crushed. (Peter and Andrew were fishermen from Bethsaida, a lakeside town on the Sea of Galilee.) The main group of the disciples is huddled together in the center of the level or the stage.
James the Greater stands out among these men--a natural leader. In fact, as the scene opens, he is standing erect, scanning the landscape, bushy, brown-haired, full-bearded, a figure of unconscious virility and fearlessness. James is called "the Greater" to distinguish him from the other disciple, James, called "the Lesser" for the same reason. James and his young brother, John (christened John the Beloved by Christ) are usually found together. James is a big man, a man of passion and intensity, quick-moving, quick-thinking. Sometimes it seems that the aggressive James vies with Peter for leadership, and sometimes Jesus reproves him for his forwardness.
John the Beloved, his brother, is a boy in his early twenties, clean shaven, curling, brown, shoulder-length hair, expression gentle, tender, spiritual--the face of a poet. Yet John is not weak. Underneath he is the most courageous of all, for he alone stayed at the cross until the end. James is noticeably protective of young John.
Jude is a still younger brother of James and John. In fact, Jude is the youngest of all the disciples--too young to grow a beard. He also is dark-haired and dark-eyed. But although Jude is young, he still has great independence and resolution of spirit. Jude is a loner, more contemplative than his brothers. He likes to be by himself.
These three, James, John, and Jude, are fishermen from Capernaum where their father, Zebedee, owns a sizeable fleet of boats. James and John are close friends of Peter and Andrew, with whom they have often gone fishing and had other good times.
Philip, still another fisherman from Bethsaida, is even-tempered, down-to-earth, the exact opposite of Peter and the Sons of Thunder.
Nathanael (sometimes called Bartholomew) is Philip's closest friend. He, too, is a fisherman from Cana. Earnest, sincere, somewhat humorless, he had been awaiting the coming Messiah like most Jews, when Philip converted him to the teachings of Jesus. These two stick close together. Not only are Philip and Nathanael much older than James and John, Peter and Andrew (who were the first to be chosen by Christ and who form the inner core of the disciples), but they feel somewhat timid in their company--for one reason, they are ordinary looking while the other four are handsome and striking.
Philip is nondescript with long gray beard and scanty gray hair, while Nathanael is totally bald and even clean-shaven. Besides, Philip is quiet and thoughtful (totally unlike impatient, impetuous Peter and his friend and crony, James), and Nathanael is so guileless that he seems forever on the verge of prayer. Thus Philip and Nathanael are usually together and a little apart from the others who are all from strange towns and neighborhoods, boyhood companions, always referring to strange people and events. There they sit by themselves, Philip and Nathanael, not talking, relaxed and patient, content to wait--as the elderly must often do.
Matthew (or Levi) is another loner; but unlike Jude, who really prefers his own company, Matthew stays by himself because he really is a social outcast, and even here among his brethren, he is unsure of his welcome. Looked down upon by the Jews, Matthew has been a collector of customs or taxes at Capernaum (goods entering or leaving the city were levied with duties). His expression even now is somewhat sad, cynical, and resigned. He expects nothing from life but unhappiness. Unprepossessing in appearance, Matthew is middle-aged, gray, and bushy-bearded--and perpetually astonished that he should be here in this company at all! In fact, it is habitual for him to peer from one disciple to another in bewilderment (without knowing he is doing so), since he can't quite believe even yet that Jesus actually chose him.
Thomas called Didymus (or twin) is the "Doubting Thomas" of the disciples. Although he, too, was a fisherman, he is incongruous among them--a different kettle of fish altogether. Thomas is certainly the eldest of them all (pate completely bald, face almost obscured with heavy, thick silvery-white hair), and proud of it, since his age and appearance also denote that he is the scholar of the group--a fact he never lets anyone forget. Thus, Thomas is forever breaking in on conversations to set his brethren straight, forever parading his own learning. Thomas never takes anything on faith. Since he is so skilled with scrolls and scriptures, he challenges every truth until it is proven. As a result, he spends his time with them now, moving alertly from group to group, like a schoolmaster watching that his students don't cheat at an exam. In stature, Thomas is a small man. All his life he has been forced to look up to other men. That is why he is so self-important now. It is the only way he can compensate for his size and his consequent inferiority complex.
James the Lesser, the tenth disciple, is the son of Alphaeus, and he isn't really less--in fact, he is more. Young and vigorous and zealous, he is a man of great physical and spiritual power. As the scene opens, he comes striding in from the lower levels where he has been scouting the terrain. James the Lesser is much alone but not really friendless. Humble (and content to be humble), he nevertheless hangs around on the fringe of the inner circle (Peter and Andrew, James and John) because they are, after all, his contemporaries. But it is evident that he will never butt in unless definitely invited.
Simon the Canaanite was also the father of Judas Iscariot. This would have been enough to ostracize him. But he is also elderly and even senile, living in the past. Before he met Jesus, he had belonged to the zealots, voluntary ecclesiastical police who took it upon themselves to see that the laws were not broken. Thus, wherever he goes, he carries scrolls of sacred and scriptural writings so that in a free moment, he may continue to improve his soul. So now, shunned by the others, he sits by himself, nose buried in the scrolls, either too absorbed in the words or, more probably, too absorbed in his own terrible grief to be aware of his surroundings. Only occasionally do James the Greater, Philip, or Andrew cast in his direction a compassionate glance or a regretful shake of the head.
The Disciples Await at an Appointed Mountain
(Setting: Lights up on the third level. These eleven men are grouped around and upon the third level.10 It is early morning.)
NARRATORS: Only a few days before, these eleven men had seen Jesus arrested. They had watched him crucified ("afar off" though they were). They knew he was dead and buried. Yet now they awaited his appearance. For when he sat with them for the last time, upon the Mount of Olives near Jerusalem, he had prophesied that at the coming Feast of the Passover, one of them should betray him--and indeed, Judas Iscariot had already hanged himself. But there had been a second part to the prophecy, when Jesus had foretold not only his death but his resurrection, and had assured then: "For behold! I say unto you that I shall rise again: and go before you into Galilee, unto an appointed mountain. . . . There shall ye see me!"
But these are very human men. And their hearts are heavy. For an awesome uneasiness grips them. If they are afraid that he won't come, they are even more afraid that he will. They whittle, or toss pebbles, or loiter from place to place. Never before in the history of the world have men undertaken a mission like this. Never before have human beings actually awaited the coming back to life or another, like themselves, from the dead. True, they had followed and believed in Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah foretold by the prophets--that king who should reign over Israel after four hundred years of bondage to Rome. But now some of them doubted. And all of them sorrowed and communed and questioned together.
(Lights down on the narrators. As the lights go up on the disciples, they are sitting or crouched on the mountainside. Thomas is prowling about as usual. James the Lesser, carrying a slingshot, climbs up from the lower levels, approaching third level at far left. James the Greater raises his head at the unusual flurry or rocks and pebbles, see the other James, and calls a greeting.
JAMES THE GREATER: Hail, James the Lesser, namesake! What did you slay with your slingshot early in the morning?
(Shyly, James the Lesser ducks his head and then, obviously happy at being noticed by the inner core of the disciple group, grins all over at the gentle amusement in the other's voice and especially at the comradely affection of the title, "Namesake." James and John look at each other and chuckle.)
JOHN (gently): "James the Lesser" does not mean you are less than James the Greater. It's merely to distinguish you from my brother, friend.
(Reaching the brothers, "Namesake" throw himself down beside them and grins shyly. He actually blushes beneath his tan.)
JAMES THE GREATER: He reddens!
(The rest of the disciples react to this little byplay, obviously enjoying "Namesake's" discomfiture, happy at anything that relieves their terrible tension.) No hare down there? (Rubs his stomach, still kidding Namesake.) I hunger! (Looks around at the others.) Maybe none of you have broken bread today!
JOHN: I hunger also. (The others nod and murmur in agreement, but Namesake shakes his head.)
NAMESAKE: Naught but a squirrel did I spy--and then my aim was off.
(Suddenly James the Great moves convulsively and slaps John's ankle, protruding from beneath his robe. John looks up at his brother in consternation and rubs his ankle.)
JAMES THE GREATER (pantomiming a great dramatic "to-do" over the incident): A red ant, a great beast entered your sandal!
JOHN (reasonably): But why kill it? Couldn't you have lifted it off?
JAMES (throwing back his head and laughing): That's my brother, John! No wonder the Master christened you "The Beloved!" So solicitous of all that lives--even an ant.
(John looks somewhat mystified at this, as he often is at James' judgments of him. To John, this is an ordinary, right thing to do. Silence settles down once more upon the disciples, and their faces again grow grave and sad and apprehensive. Then Peter lifts his head from his hands, sighs heavily, rises to his feet, turns his back on his brethren, and moves slowly, like a burdened grandfather to the far right, where he stares off into the distance. Peter and his brother, Andrew, have been sitting together, beyond John and James, to the right. Now Andrew's eyes follow Peter's every move.)
JAMES THE GREATER: Andrew, what ails your brother, Peter? Not a word has he spoke all morning--not even a greeting.
ANDREW (shaking his head worriedly and frowning): Peter weeps too much.
JAMES: But why?
ANDREW: Do you forget the Master's prophecy at the passover, James? That one of us should deny him thrice? And it was Peter who swore, "Lord, I will lay down my life for Thee!" And the Master spoke: "Simon Peter, I tell thee thou shalt deny me three times before the cock crows!"
JAMES: But after his arrest, the rest of us fled. Only Peter and my brother, John, went with Jesus to the high priest's palace.
ANDREW (nods): That is true. But James, you do not know what happened. While the Master appeared before the Sanhedrin Court, Peter waited outside in the courtyard. And when the officers made a fire of coals and Peter also warmed his hands, they said to him, "Art thou not with this prisoner, Jesus Christ?" And Peter wagged his head and said, "No! I know him not!" And when John spoke to the maid-servant that kept the door and brought Peter in, the damsel said, "Art thou not also one of this man's disciples? Peter again swore, "I am not!" And then when a soldier said, "Surely your speech betrays you," Peter swore with an oath, "No!"
JAMES: Yes, so I have heard.
ANDREW: But James, it was just then that the cock crowed. And so Peter remembered and wept.
JAMES (throws up his hands in impatience at such wallowing in grief): But the Master would have forgiven him!
ANDREW: Aye. But . . . it is himself that Peter cannot forgive.
JAMES: Oh that Peter. Not even a mule has such bullheadedness. Maybe he likes to weep.
ANDREW (in wry agreement): Yes, James--it is possible you speak some truth.
(But Andrew truly loves his brother, Peter, and he knows that there has possibly been a bit of envy on James's part because the Master did favor Peter, so now, feeling somewhat disloyal, he turns to James again.)
ANDREW: You do not understand Peter, James. But I understand him, and so did the Master. This Peter you see here now is not the real Peter--he was weak. Yet he is not weak--you will see.
(Andrew breaks off, at a loss for words, and he lifts his shoulders and spreads his hands in a gesture of futility. His eyes are eloquent with affection when he glances at Peter. Somewhat ashamed of himself because of his outburst against Peter, James walks over to Peter, who still stands on the edge of the hill looking in the distance. Peter's hands are clenched in helpless frustration.)
JAMES (clapping Peter on the shoulder): Peter, old friend! Come and join your brethren. You brood too much alone.
(Peter does not answer but turns on James a countenance so ravished with anguish that James involuntarily draws back.)
PETER (in a voice hoarse with unendurable suffering): Do you not understand that there are times when a man needs to be alone? To face up to his own soul?
JAMES (after a moment): Forgive me.
(James goes back to his seat beside John, and Andrew turns to James and shakes his head in a gesture of mute understanding and powerlessness in the face of Peter's ordeal, self-induced or not. Peter returns to his former place beside Andrew and sits, still bowed with grief and overwhelming regret. A silence again falls upon the disciples.)
PHILIP (rousing himself from his own sad memories): How long have we tarried here?
THOMAS (getting importantly to his feet and speaking with authority): Long enough, Philip. (turning to James the Greater:) James, are you certain this is the right place? The "appointed mountain"? Perhaps we are in error even in this, since the Master has not appeared.
JAMES (impatiently): Do you know of another mountain in Galilee?
THOMAS: Nonetheless, I don't like it. (speaking sharply:) What do we have here? A dead man. And we wait for him to join us! Madness, I say. Madness!
JOHN: You blaspheme, Thomas.
THOMAS: How can you know, John? Here is an ordinary man like ourselves. He lived--he died. Why should he come back to life when other dead men stay dead?
(A murmur of protest from the others)
JOHN: Not an ordinary man, Thomas. True, he lived--and he died. But the in-between? The in-between was not ordinary! You forget Lazarus!
THOMAS: Pooh! Maybe Lazarus was never really dead.
JAMES THE Lesser (forgetting his shyness in his indignation): Thomas! You should not insult the Son of God!
THOMAS: How do you know he was the Son of God? Cast your eyes around the group of us here. What do you see? Poor and humble fisherman--even a tax collector! Would not the Son of God have the power to choose the rich men of the world? The learned--those with lands and houses--and fine vestments and servants? Ask yourself, Would the Son of God choose us?
JOHN: You forget what the Master taught us, Thomas. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Remember how he washed our feet and taught us, Whosoever would be chief among you, let him be your servant.
ANDREW: What worries me is his body. Did you not say his body was gone, John?
JOHN: Yes. The Magdalene was at the sepulchre first. She saw the graveclothes but not the body.
JAMES THE GREATER: That little harum-scarum!
JOHN (reprovingly): Not a harum-scarum now, James! Not since she has known Jesus. Have you seen her lately? You would not know her.
ANDREW (not to be deflected): How would he come to us, brethren? Without a body! Would he come as a spirit or a ghost?
THOMAS: I say he won't come at all. I say we all go home. The dead do not come back!
JAMES (in an agony of indecision): John, what do you think? You, whom he called his beloved?
JOHN (shakes his head. Of them all, John had believed. His faith had withstood even the cross. But now he, too, speaks with faltering tongue): I know now . . . but still-- (John looks from one to another, assessing them:) Do none of you remember what the Master taught us? "Ye have not chosen me--but I have chosen you!" And then, "Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends! And "If ye keep my commandments, ye are my friends!" What does his body matter? Maybe he will come in a spiritual body. But I say he will keep his promise to us, his friends. He will come! (John's testimony rouses most of the others, who look up with renewed hope. Only Thomas shakes his head.)
NATHANAEL (the guileless one--eagerly): Remember that time we walked with him beside Galilee? And we asked him to tell us plainly what his mission was? And he said, "For I am come that ye might have life, and have it more abundantly." He came to bring us life, not death. (Looks around the group:) Do you see? He will have to come!
THOMAS (shrugs): He also called you the "guileless" one who believes anything.
JAMES (slowly, convincing himself): It's true, Nathanael, he told us, "Ye shall not see me--for a little while." And then, "A little while and ye shall see me, because I go to the Father." How long is a "little while"?
JOHN: Perhaps we did not understand him, James. (Then, because his spirit is troubled, and as a kind of whistling in the dark, John begins to sing a hymn and reaches out for his brother, James, to join. The others try to sing also but gradually falter. John sings the hymn to the end.) What about you, Simon called Peter? Where is your voice?
(Andrew looks at John and shakes his head in despair over Peter. John goes to Peter and leans Peter's head on his breast for comfort. Peter looks up at John.)
PETER: Jesus loved you.
JOHN: But he made you the leader of us all.
PETER (stricken): I--I am no longer worthy. James, you shall be our leader.
JAMES (shaking his head): No, no, Peter. I could not fit the sandals.
JOHN (reproachfully): Peter, you forget his love--his forgiveness.
PETER (wild-staring eyes): No, the sin is too great! I will not accept forgiveness.
JAMES (a little amused--chidingly): Oh Peter, Peter, your tongue runs away with you.
PETER (rather enjoying his grief, even as he suffers): When he needed me on Gethsemane, I slept. And he said, "Could you not watch with me one hour?" Now I would give my life for him--but it's too late, too late . . .
THOMAS (gets to his feet and adjusts his clothing, ready to depart): Well, it was a great dream while it lasted. Never have men so dreamed. Roman rule no longer--but the rule of love. (The rest murmur passionate agreement with this--"Yes, a great dream. You speak the truth, Thomas. He has left us with the memory, in any case. They reminisce together.) Remember how he walked on the water and helped Peter when he sank?
PETER: Yes, I remember! It was at Galilee he told us, "I will make you fishers of men." And I was the first he summoned. But now--if the salt hath lost its savor, wherewith shall it be salted?
JAMES (laughs a little sadly): You are not that salty, Peter!
(Peter reacts indignantly, then again buries his face in his hands.)
MATTHEW: I, too, have reason to remember. He even sat at meat with me in my house--me, the despised publican, the tax collector.
THOMAS (sighs): Well, it is over. All over and done with. As you say, we have had a dream. It will not be easy to go back to the world. (He looks from one to another.) Will we never meet again? James? John? What do you plan?
JAMES (starting out of a reverie): Plan? Go back to the nets and the sails, of course. (laughs) What else? John and Jude and I, back with our father, Zebedee, to help him with his boats.
THOMAS: James the Lesser? What about you?
NAMESAKE: Alphaeus, my father, is a deputy. You know what that means. Jesus preached turn the other cheek, but--
JOHN (smiles at Namesake): Truly.
MATTHEW (shrugs): I? Oh, I go back to Capernaum, to collecting customs again. It is all I know. But to go back to a life of being hated, back to the real world? (Shakes his head.)
THOMAS: And you, Philip, the guileless one? You and Nathanael?
PHILIP (also shrugs): Back to Bethsaida, where he found me. These hands must work, work, to forget.
NATHANAEL: I go with Philip. For it was he who first told me of the Master.
THOMAS: And you, Simon the Canaanite? What will you do?
SIMON (looks up blankly from his scrolls, rubs his brow, frowns, struggles to remember where he is): Oh? Eh? It does not matter about me, for I am old. Perhaps back to the society of the Zealots, from which he called me. Sit in the sun and dream of the Master . . . If only he could have lived!
(The others react to this, nodding and sighing regretfully, looking with new respect at Simon.)
PETER (startled, looks up): What? What can I do without the Master? I tell you, Thomas, I shall spend the rest of my life on my knees. (Peter breaks off to glance at Andrew.) Perhaps Andrew will go back to the nets, like John. Perhaps they will fish together, as we were wont to do. But I, I shall pray. (Peter is very melodramatic here, throwing his arms heavenward.)
ANDREW (smiling a little): What good will that do? Praying won't earn any shekels! (The others react with amused indulgence at Peter's histrionics.)
THOMAS: Well, I still say we go home. It's idle to tarry longer. (Looks over at Jude, silently sitting and observing.) But I almost forgot you, Jude, brother of James and John. You are only a boy. Will you, too, go back to the nets?
JUDE (getting to his feet, surprising them all with his resolute determination): Young I may be, but I stay. My brothers please themselves. But I stay. For he will come!
JOHN (goes to Jude and stands beside him): Amen to that!
THOMAS (scoffing): Such faith! I could not believe in his coming unless I felt the spear-thrust in his side and the nail prints in his hands and feet. But come, the rest of you . . . back to the world of an eye-for-an-eye, where men do not dream of heaven!
(Thomas shakes his robe free of dust and prepares to leave, glancing at the others, still undecided. He is stopped in mid-stride by a "Hail!" from the foot of the mountain.)
MARY MAGDALENE: Hail!
(All of them get to their feet. Thomas walks to the edge and peers over. Mary Magdalene is climbing up from below, calling and waving. The disciples go to meet her.)
MARY (gasping for breath): I have seen Jesus! He is risen!
THOMAS (shaking his head in pity): Poor child. Events have unhinged your reason.
MARY (insisting): But he commanded me to tell you, his disciples!
(The disciples stir and murmur at Mary's words. From below song drifts up. First one voice, then another sings the verses of the hymn, "He Is Risen," like tossing agreement and joy over their shoulders. John, seeing that Mary the Mother and the other women follow the Magdalene, goes to meet them.)
MARY THE MOTHER (embracing John): Mary speaks truth. He is risen!
(In contrast to the gloom of the men, the women are shining with such joy that even Thomas seems to waver. Then he smiles pityingly at the almost hysterical women and turns to the disciples crowding behind him.)
THOMAS: Superstition . . . the night . . . and waiting by the sepulchre. The imaginings of foolish women.
(Suddenly a voice speaks out of nowhere, a beloved voice, almost transfigured.)
VOICE: Behold! (A light brighter than the midday sun comes into the midst of the disciples, and in the midst of the light was Jesus. For having loved his own, he loved them unto the end.) Peace be unto you! (The disciples react according to their natures, but as realization dawns, their faces reflect the light, as if catching fire from the midday sun. At first Thomas's face is a mixture of incredulity, abasement, and shamefacedness, and then the humility gives way to shocked wonder, and then he surrenders to joy.) Thomas, reach hither thy hand and thrust it into my side; behold the nail-holes in my palms; and be not faithless but believing!
THOMAS (goes and feels for the holes, falling upon his knees and reaching out as if to embrace the light.) My Lord and my God.
VOICE: Blessed are they who have not seen, yet have believed. John? Jude?
(John comes forward and falls upon his knees, as do James and Jude. The others are all kneeling in the background, except Peter who alone has not moved from the edge of the mountain. Peter simply stares, his eyes full of anguished entreaty. He still cannot believe he is forgiven.)
Peter! Peter! (more insistent)
(This time Peter comes, falls upon his knees before the light, but looks downward in remorse and abasement.)
Peter, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?
PETER Yes, Lord. (Comprehension slowly dawns. Peter raises his face.)
VOICE: Feed my sheep.
(Now Peter stares into the light with unutterable relief and worship. Tears of joy flood his cheeks. He lets them come, as if only thus can he acknowledge the Master's forgiveness.)
VOICE: Remember, Peter, what sorrow earns. Except a grain of corn fall into the ground and die, it cannot bring forth fruit.
(By now the women of Jerusalem have reached the third level and are kneeling on the mountain's edge. The disciples are all kneeling before the light.)
VOICE (summoning them all): The Mother! The Magdalene! (pointing) And James, the son of Zebedee, and John, the brother of James. I shall name thee Boanerges, which is, the Sons of Thunder; and I say unto you, Sons of Thunder, go forth in my name. And also Thomas and Jude and Andrew and Philip and Nathanael, and James, the son of Alphaeus, and Matthew and Simon the Canaanite. In my Father's house are many mansions. I go to prepare a way for you!
THOMAS: Lord, how can we know the way?
VOICE: I am the way! (All stare, perplexed, trying to understand.) I say to all of you, Whom do men say that I, the Son of man, am?
(There is a murmuring among the disciples. One or two find voices, but are indistinct and faltering) Men say thou art John the Baptist or Elias or Jeremiah.
VOICE: But whom say ye that I am?
(Silence. Disciples look away, undecided.)
PETER (suddenly rises to his full height and reveals the true faith and forcefulness of his character; his voice rings with the granitic assurance which never again leaves him): Lord, thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God.
VOICE: Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto you, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church. . . . And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven.
(Pause. Faces transfigured, gaze upward. The light leans down as if in benediction.)
A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid; For behold! This is my work and my glory, to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. . . . Go ye therefore and teach all nations whatsoever I have commanded you. (An indrawn breath. A silence. Voice speaks with passionate conviction.) For lo! I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.
(Lights out. third level. Light on narrators, full.)
NARRATORS: And after twenty centuries, that message is with us still. Even today, during this Easter season, the Lord speaks to us out of his handiwork. Not all our inhumanity to each other can keep him from lighting his candles in the waste places of the earth. And as surely as the divine miracle of rebirth reenacts itself, we, too, may hear him say, "For lo! I am with you always, even unto the end of the world."
(Slight pause. Then the narrators sing one word from the "Hallelujah Chorus.")
(This is the cue for the chorus (or choir) hidden among the lava rocks to rise and sing the "Hallelujah Chorus" just as the sun explodes over the pinnacle, hitting the gold costumes.)
(By now the disciples and women of Jerusalem are grouped upon the three levels. The Indians are grouped along the hillside to the right of the lava rocks, thus all forming a tableau. It would be natural for the Indian families, children and adults, to be grouped casually together, and these grouped each with their own people, thus distinguishing each from the other--Zuni from Apache, etc.--to clarify them for the audience and make for greater integrity among themselves. At the end of the "Hallelujah Chorus," several Indian girls, up to ten, on scattered rocks above the chorus enact the "Lord's Prayer" in Indian sign-language while the chorus with bowed heads softly sings the words to LeRoy Robertson's music. (Perhaps the cast could join in.)
At the end, entire cast raises arms to the heavens and joins in the AMEN, AMEN, AMEN . . . (Since this canyon echoes three to four times, the AMEN could be chords, arranged to multiple and multiply among the hills.)
Note to Producer
This can also be a sunset program or pageant. There is a moment after sunset when the world is dark--and then a second moment (very fleeting) when the afterglow crimsons the hills until they burn. In this latter moment, two riders on horseback could ride out along the ridge at the top of the site where the mountains fan out (there's a road), salute each other in the center of the group where the fan joins, and then gallop back out of sight. One rider could be in his army uniform carrying a flag; the other in full Indian apparel, including feathered headdress, carrying a tribal flag [originally lance]. Flag and [lance/flag] could touch, while the other arm makes the peace sign, hand up, palm out. This simple action, accompanied by unseen drum, might open the play.
1Maurine here added some "scientific evidence" for a revised view of the Indians: "It is not generally understood that the American Indian belongs to the oldest known race of homo sapience (thinking man) on earth: older than the Egyptians, Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Japanese, Chinese, Welsh, Irish, Mongolian, white, Negro, or the Los Ten Tribes of Israel. Blood-group studies of living Indians record the purest type-A groups in the world, the purest O groups, and the purest B group--in fact, science conjectures that the Indian may have inhabited the Americas `before the primordial blood-stream of man became mingled'--20,000 to 30,000 years ag, according to a Zuni legend, a time so long ago that it remains `shrouded by the fogs of creation.'" She cites as references for Part 1 the American Heritage Association Magazine of History, Smithsonian Institution, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Museum of the American Indian, National Geographic Association, Alvin M. Joseph, William Brandon, and Encyclopedia Britannica.
4Maurine's staging note reads: "Since Christ is not portrayed as a character but is symbolized by a diffused brilliance (with a human figure outlined behind the light), it is hoped that the effect will be one of suggestion rather than heavy-handed realism--"The substance of things hoped for" recounted from far away and long ago.
5Maurine specifies: "Mary Magdalene had long red-gold, rippling hair, while the mother had brown hair, shoulder-length or even longer. The Magdalene is almost never still. She flits about like a butterfly above a flower in a garden. In this scene, of course, she can't be still; she is too upset, too beset with perplexity.
6The holograph score, copyright 1976 by John Laurence Seymour and Maurine Whipple, includes, with no page breaks, "Lullaby for Mary the Mother," "The Lament of Mary Magdalene," and "Hymn of the Apostles," in this version sung as a solo by John. The words by Robert Shepherd are: "Where art thou, O my God? Give ear to my supplication. For we like sheep wander alone through rocky paths amid thorns and briars. We hunger for thy word, to feed our souls. We thirst for the refreshment of thy Spirit, as a cool spring of running water. We are left alone with no shepherd to guide us. Be merciful, be merciful and remember us in our time of need. O God, hear our humble prayer, Amen, amen."
7Maurine also wrote a poem, in at least one version, for the scene of the guards at the tomb, although it violates the unity of the stage action and presents a different characterization of the soldiers. Her instructions read: "(To be read or recited, just after the voice of the sentry speaks the line: "Now what I am about to speak is truth." [This line does not appear in the 1975 version.] The disembodied voice reading the poem should be out of nowhere, like an apparition speaking--sonorous, eerie, almost inhuman--accompanied perhaps by weird and ancient music or by a musical saw:) I was a Roman soldier in my prime:/Now age is on me and the yoke of time./I saw your risen Christ, for I am he/Who reached the gall to him upon the tree;/And I am one of two who watched beside/The Sepulcher of him we crucified.//All that last night I watched with sleepless eyes;/Great stars arose and crept across the skies./The world was all too still for mortal rest,/For pitiless thoughts were busy in the breast./The night was long, so long, it seemed to last//I had grown old and a long life had passed./Far off, the hills of Moab, touched with light,/Were swimming in the hollow of the night./I saw Jerusalem all wrapped in a cloud/Stretched like a dead thing folded in a shroud.//Once in the pauses of our whispered talk/I heard a something on the garden walk. /Perhaps it was a crisp leaf lightly stirred--/Perhaps the sleep twitter of a bird./Then suddenly an angel burning white//Came down with earthquake in the breaking light,/And rolled the great stone from the sepulcher./And lo, the dead had risen with the day:/The Man of Mystery had gone his way.//Years have I wandered, carrying my shame;/Now let the tooth of time eat out my name/For we, who all the wonder might have told,/Kept silence, for our mouths were stopt with gold.
8Maurine's stage instructions: "The verses should be recitative, spoken rather than sung, but the refrain should be melodic and legato, even pianissimo, sweet-flowing and reminiscent, in the way a grief-stricken woman might sing to herself and thus find consolation in recounting her memories. Not until the final phrase of the refrain, "I loved him as a man!", does the singing reach a crescendo as Mary faces the bitter truth and cries aloud in unbearable anguish."
10A hand-drawn sketch shows the position of the eleven apostles as the scene begins, but it differs from the grouping suggested by the "setting" notes. They are clustered, left to right, Peter talking to Andrew, James, John and Thaddeus, Thomas a little separated from James II and Matthew who expostulate with him, Philip and Nathanael, and, alone at the far right, Simon.