Romantic love is perhaps one of the most familiar and universal of human experiences while at the same time being the most distant and intangible. Karol Wojtyla in his play “The Jeweler’s Shop” presents a beautifully honest and deeply moving perspective on romantic love. We see this love play out through 3 couples who each have their own Act in the play. Here we will discuss Act One and the aspects of love that are revealed to us through it.
The first couple, who are recently engaged, are found contemplating about the life they are about to live and the journey that has brought them there. Here Wojtyla draws to our attention the wonderful interplay between the present moment and the eternal one. When Andrew proposes to Teresa that present moment is instantly united to eternity. Teresa describes it as follows:
“I answered “yes” – not at once,
But after a few minutes,
And yet in the course of those few minutes there was no need for reflection,
No need to struggle between motives.
The answer had almost been determined.
We both knew that it reached deep into the past
And advanced far into the future,
That it penetrated out existence like a weaver’s shuttle,
To catch the weft that determines a fabric’s pattern.
I remember that Andrew did not turn his eyes to me at once,
But looked ahead for quite a while, as if gazing intently
At the road before us.”
Love penetrates to the heart of man. In that moment Teresa freely chooses Andrew as her husband, yet as she describes it, “the answer had almost been determined”. It was at that point in time she came to fully realise that who she is. Is found in Andrew and Andrew also finds himself in her. Her and Andrew are united through God and his eternal being and this union reaches far into the future and right back into the past. This recognition of how God’s providence and our destiny works together with our free will shows the great strength and yet incredible freedom of love.
This story of love is not without struggle and suffering though. This love which has now revealed itself was not always so clear. Teresa recounts the tale from earlier in her life when her, Andrew and some friends went hiking in the mountains. At this time Andrew was distant from her. He was pursuing another girl and this clearly hurt her. During the trek at night they heard something calling out. The boys called out. Sending a signal out into the forest. It is then that Teresa’s mind is drawn to signals. The signals that seemed to be so lacking between her and Andrew. The beauty of the night only more clearly emphasised the pain and imbalance that she was experiencing from the unrequited love. So now after bearing that suffering for the sake of her love. She is reminded once more of those signals.
Teresa tells Andrew her thoughts and expresses to him the great suffering that she endured for his sake. Andrew describes the experience of hearing her thoughts sensitively:
“How close she passed by me then;
She almost hemmed me in with her imagination
And that discreet suffering,
Which at the time I did not want to know,
And today am willing to regard as our common good.”
Wojtyla’s focus on not only the experiences being told, but also of the shared experience of Teresa telling Andrew of her suffering, shows to us God speaking through both the original experience and also reflections on the experience. The events of the past have formed Andrew and Teresa and have brought them too this moment. Yet via different paths that are both joined by the common truth of those experiences. Andrew is completely unaware at the time of what Teresa was going through. His eyes now see the past transformed and yet he still carries with him something of the image of his own experience of the events. This interplay between the subjective experiences of each individual and the unity found in the common subject experienced shows how the eternal truth of God is deeply personal and yet also universal and eternal. Both character’s glimpse something of what God wishes to express of his love through that moment, united but each in a very personal manner. In turn they are both now united more strongly to each other in love.
Andrew expresses this so beautifully:
“I recoiled from accepting
What today is for me a most magnificent gift.
Several years later I see it clearly
That roads which should have diverged
Have brought us closer together.
Those years have been invaluable, giving us time
To get our bearings on the complicated
Map of signs and signals.
It must be so.
Today I see that my country is also her country,
And, after all, I dreamed of throwing a bridge-“
The final lines refer to a point earlier in the Act where he says he wishes to throw a bridge out between his land and hers. He wished to find one which he could love and reach by means of a secure bridge. Here he now sees that there is no need for that bridge because in the depths of his being he finds her. This reflects one of the strongest roots of Christian marriage. That two become one. The union of marriage is not just a contract or an agreement. It runs deeper. It reaches down into the essence of who we are and calls us out towards each other. This is precisely the source of its strength and its all-consuming nature.
Time moves on and now we find Andrew and Teresa standing in front of the jeweler’s shop. The conversation begins between them as Andrew is drawn to know Teresa’s thoughts. First they are discussing the almost trivial thoughts that they have about life. But through these trivial thoughts they are brought towards the deep cause of them. This leads them to decide to go into the jeweler’s shop and get their wedding rings. Andrew describes the rings that they are about to buy:
“By the same token, they are, for all time,
Like two last links in a chain,
To unite us invisibly.”
Those rings are the culmination of the chain of events that has come before and lead to this moment. It completes and unites the two lives of Andrew and Teresa. Bringing them into one. It not only shows the love that they have promised to stay true to in the future but also that love which they have lived by up and till this moment. The experiences that have formed them and brought them to this point. The acts of love formed from ordinary moments that come together to form an extraordinary bond. Andrew expresses this still further when he says:
“Here we both are, we grow out of so many strange moments,
As if from the depths of facts, ordinary and simple though they are.
Here we are together. We are secretly growing into one
because of these two rings.”
God works with us through the ordinary moments of our every day. He transfigures them making them extraordinary and sacred. Yet we do not always see how this happens. He transforms us through love and unites us not only with each other but also to himself. The interior life expresses itself publicly but yet always remains ethereal and can only be reached through love and so ultimately only through God.
Now we are shown the very real and important concerns of Teresa that their love which now is so strong could fade. That the rings they now offer to each other which carry so much weight may seem to others so simple. The Chorus delves further into this. It calls the couples to “seek the harbour for love.” It recognises that the emotions and experiences that they are given now must be ordered to form the strong foundations in which love can dwell. That ultimately what remains after all the emotions and passions of the wedding have faded is what is important. The Christian message calls us to love not for the sake of pleasure or personal reward but for the sake of love itself. That in this we will find goodness. If we desire the greatest experiences of love then we must work hard to find a place for that love within us and defend it always.
“The future depends on love.”