The ceremony of marriage shows a clear union between the past and future through the present. In Act Three Karol Wojtyla shows to us the mystical power of marriage and how it unites all together. Through a focus on the connection between marriage and children he shows us how the family reveals to us elements of the Trinity and its creative spirit.
Before we delve into the details of the act. It is useful to first notice the name of the act. The third act is called “The Children” and similar to how act one, which was named “The Signals” and act Two “The Bridegroom” focused on these two themes throughout their acts. So in the third act we will see that the theme of “The Children” is important. The first two acts are united wonderfully in the final act as the two children, one from each of the first two couples, come together to marry. Here Wojtyla is showing us the beauty of the catholic perspective of marriage. Since marriage is order towards not just love but also procreation. We see that the first two marriages have lead to the creation of two new persons. Born out of the love of the first two marriages.
Wojtyla focuses upon the mystery of creation and how as humans we have been intimately connected to it through marriage and consequently procreation. In the marriages of the first two acts the two become one. The two of course being the couple who marry and the one we see not just in the unity of the parents but also in the child produced. We see here in the family a reflection of the trinity. Three persons in one. The generative aspect of the family that is shown in this act also reflects the Neoplatonic interpretation of creation coming from the generative nature of the love between the three persons of God. We see in each family the two parents bring forth the child. Although the Child also sustains and, in some sense, also generates the parents.
Christopher gives the clearest example of this since his father, Andrew, has passed away and so is most clearly absent from the family physically. Yet we see Teresa talking of this mysterious generative process that sustains the family when she talks about Christopher.
“Our union remained in that child, nothing more.
Christopher grew up,
Andrew did not die in me, did not die on any front,
He did not even have to come back, for somehow he is.”
“They could have passed by, not noticed me even-
And yet all their conversation had to be contained in me.”
Despite Andrews death we see that he lives on in Christopher. We see that in the love of Andrew and Teresa that Christopher is. But also in the love of Teresa for Christopher that Andrew is. Since Christopher never knew his father properly. It was not possible for him to sustain Andrew’s being in the family if not for the love of Teresa. Teresa in her love for Christopher makes Andrew known to Christopher. Hence Christopher is able to make Andrew manifest in himself despite not knowing him. In turn then the love between Andrew and Christopher sustains Teresa. We find the triangle of this family shows the strength and unity of the Trinity and the generative nature of the love between the persons of God. The eternal interaction of the love between persons then spreads out. We see that the excess of God’s love flows over into the family of Monica and then of course through her union with Christopher we will see another child formed from their love. Wojtyla recognizes that in the nature of the human family we see the mystery of the trinity being played out. That the great mystery of human procreation and generation draws us back into the beautiful mystery of God.
This is not the end of the story though. While we find through the family and the lineage that comes forth from it a reflection of the Trinity and the creation that flows from it. We also find the fear of original sin. Christopher voices his concern of being an absent father to Monica. He knows that his mother had to suffer with the loss of her husband and so he fears doing the same to Monica. He fears that he became a spectre of his father and thinks that by meeting Monica that he might be able to find himself anew. Monica in turn voices her fear of herself and of Christopher. She rightly recognizes that Christopher was not a spectre to his mother but instead fears that the distance between her parents has been transmitted to her.
“Your father went away and died, and yet the union remained
-you were its spokesman, the love passed to you.
My parents live like two strangers,
The union one dreams of does not exist,”
“Is human love at all
Capable of enduring through man’s whole existence?
Well, what pervades me now is the feeling of love
-but I am also pervaded by a feeling of the future,
And that is fear.”
Monica talks almost despairingly about the future. She has suffered from the distance between her parents. She fears that love will not survive the storm of time. We learn something about the nature of sin here. How it can pass from generation to generation. We see here the fear that lies in Monica and Christopher is the original sin that has been passed down. They do not trust Love. They do not trust God.
Hope is not lost though. It dwells within their hearts and it grows through their love. Monica reminds Christopher that his mother’s devotion to Andrew even after he has gone and the fact that Teresa still sees her love with Andrew manifest in Christopher is a sign that the love has survived. That Christopher should still have hope for the future since love remains.
Christopher can see the hope that remains in Monica even though he recognizes the struggle that she faces. He sees this as the ultimate calling of man. This is the battle that Christ on the cross conquers and that each of us is called to face. John Paul II later expressed this idea very succinctly as “man is in the middle between god and nothingness and he must choose”. It expresses that leap of faith that Kierkegaard describes and the need for man to recognize that he depends on God. I will quote the full words of Christopher here as they express these thoughts so powerfully.
“We have to accept the fact that love weaves itself into our fate.
If fate does not split the love, people win their victory,
But nothing else besides-and nothing above, either.
These are the limits of man.
I sometimes wake at night-and at once my consciousness
Is with you. I ask myself, If I could
Take your freezing hands, warm them with my hands
-a unity will emerge, a vision of new existence,
Which will embrace us both. Will it not die later, though?
I struggle so for hours, unable to sleep till morning,
Tempted to escape somewhere-but I can’t anymore.
We must go together from now on, Monica, we must go together,
Even though I were to go away from you as early as my father left Mother.
All that we must leave behind and make our fate from scratch.
Love is a constant challenge, thrown to us by God,
Thrown, I think, so that we should challenge fate.”
These words help Monica. While the fear of the future may remain, she now knows what she must do. She knows that it will be together in love that they will survive through the storms to come. As Christopher later says “When the wave of emotion subsides, what remains will be important.”
Teresa talks now to Andrew directly almost as if she is praying to him and she says these words.
“When they grow up under our eyes, they seem to become inaccessible,
Like impermeable soil, but they have already absorbed us.
And though outwardly they shut themselves off,
inwardly we remain in them.
And-a frightful thought-their lives somehow test
Our own creation, our own suffering
(how else can one talk of love in the past tense?).”
“Certain truths do not pass, but continually return to people.
That truth, which years ago embodied itself in our life,
Today embodies itself in them-“
“ ‘My children, nothing has ceased to be, man must return
to the place from which his existence grows’-
and how strongly he desires it to grow through love.”
Teresa recognizes that although as children grow and become independent, they may seem less accessible to their parents. In reality they have become far more closely united to their parents. In childhood they are dependent upon their parents for everything and so must open up their concerns and needs to their parents in order to have them satisfied. In older age children begin to search themselves for the things they need but ultimately it is the same Truth that they are led to. They come to see that they depend on the same covenant between God and man that was preserved through Israel, was fulfilled in Christ and now they must pass on the message of the New and Eternal covenant found in the Gospel. This recognition of the Tradition which is passed from generation to generation and reflects the eternal truth of God to each new generation. The old made new and fresh in every generation as they come to God. “Certain truths do not pass, but continually return to people.”
Christopher and Monica go to the Jeweler’s shop just like their parents did to get their rings. They are completely engrossed in their love for each other. Teresa however is worried since they detect nothing of the gravity of the Jeweler who all those years ago fitted the rings for Andrew and Teresa and touched their hearts with his words. She worries about whether the two children are noticing the eternal objective truth that she saw all those years ago in those moments. What will last once these moments pass. She also notices that Monica’s love has grown over the years despite her parents who were absent in spirit. At least this is how Monica sees it but Teresa knows that really Monica’s love has grown “out of that base which they had left in her. Monica was not ashamed of that rift, which of itself was healing in their souls, and still had its echo in her.”
Monica recounts how she longs to be Christopher’s. She wishes to break away from her parents. To be free from all associations of them. To no longer see her father in Christopher. She wishes to be Christopher’s but “there is only one thing constantly in my way-that I am myself.” Christopher reflects on the strange situation that he must win over Monica for herself. He also reflects upon her parents whom do not like him yet will of course be a part of his future. At this moment he notices that perhaps Monica has not realized that she does not need to break from her parents but to recognize the true depths of them from which she was born. “people have their depths, not only the masks on their faces.” This line brings us back to the 2nd act and to the importance of the spiritual life. We see in the 2nd act that Monica’s mother through her encounter with the bridegroom is drawn into the depths of love. That despite the great rift between Anna and Stefan there is something more going on. The masks on peoples faces obscure the depths of the person. We so often only stop at the faces we see and never realise that true depth but it is there that we find God. For it is in the depth of the human person that we find the image of God.
“When the day of our wedding comes,
You will emerge from between them-
Once they both led a little girl by the hands,
And earlier still you were a baby
And your father came back from work
And asked your mother-Anna-
Whether you had gained weight, Monica, and whether your appetite was good,
And was happy for every ounce of your little body,
Was happy at your sleep, then at your chatter
-and in the process became a child himself.
All that cannot pass
Without leaving a trace.”
Christopher still believes that love lies in the hearts of Anna and Stefan and that those moments of love that were shared in the past show this. He wonders how Man can live without being touched by love. Those ordinary moments penetrated deeper than any other because of love. It is the child that drew each parent together and encouraged in Stefan a childlike simplicity which allowed him to see clearly that love and to rest in it.
We find that Adam, who helped lead Anna in act two to the bridegroom, was a dear friend of Andrews and that he has helped Teresa with looking after Christopher. Therefore, he is taking the role of Andrew at the wedding. Teresa still worries about the future for the young couple; Here as they all stand in the street by the Jeweler’s shop during the wedding procession. She knows that it was in the Jeweler’s shop that she came to learn that love was stronger than fear and in this moment, she wonders if the mystery of love has been fully realised in the hearts of the couple.
As they stand Anna is now standing by Adam. She recounts the tale which we were told in Act 2. Reminding Adam of how he brought her to see the face of Bridegroom and how his face was that of Stefan’s. How horrifying a thing that was and even now she finds it bizzare and astounding. She talks that how at that moment her old girlish love for Stefan dried up. She could no longer look at love in such a childish way and as such she could no longer enjoy those pleasures of her childish love for Stefan. She began to examine her conscience and to recognize her wrongdoing. Day by day she changed her actions and through small acts of charity she opened up herself to Stefan. He no longer became a burden to her and while she could not say that she lived in him and him in her. She could now stop drifting apart from him. They were able to join to each other once again through their children. This allowed her to now understand why the Bridegroom had to have Stefan’s face. Although in doing this she says she has become one of the foolish virgins. In the process she has used up nearly every fibre of her soul.
Here Anna has told us of the experience of the Christian life. That first moment of awakening that she experienced all those years ago. From that conversion she then went towards repentance. She examined her life and began to learn to love again. To truly love. Not for personal gain but for the sake of Love itself. She now understands why Stefan was the face of the Bridegroom and she has seen the good that has come from that. She has seen a peace grow within her that has allowed her to bare the struggles of her marriage. Her journey is not over yet though. Like so many Christians she feels tired and that she has failed. Despite all she has given there is still far to go and she fears she has foolishly given too much already. Tolkien similarly portrays this struggle to us in the Lord of the Rings. Frodo who has been tasked with carrying the ring to Mordor late in his journey begins to fade in energy and fears he can go no further. Sam though shows Frodo that he is far stronger than he thinks and reminds them why they are fighting. “There is some good in this world, Mr Frodo, and it’s worth fighting for.”
Adam recognizes this and sees Anna has come so far but she must go a little further. That she must recognize that she must live for Love and that from Love will come life. Adam’s final speech explains this and shows how Adam has drawn his strength by delving into the depth of human experience and found God there.
“That evening I saw Anna again. The memory of her encounter with the Bridegroom was still vivid to her. Anna had entered the road of complementary love. She had to complement, giving and taking in different proportions than before. The turning point occurred that night many years ago. At that time everything threatened destruction. A new love could begin only through a meeting with the Bridegroom. What Anna felt of it at first was only the suffering. In the course of time a gradual calm came. And something new that was growing, was still intangible, and, above all, did not “taste” of love. One day they may learn to relish the taste of that something new … At any rate, Anna is closer to it than Stefan.
The cause lies in the past. The error resides simply there. The thing is that love carries people away like an absolute, although it lacks absolute dimensions. But acting under an illusion, they do not try to connect that love with the Love that has such a dimension. They do not even feel the need, blinded as they are not so much by the force of their emotion as by lack of humility. They lack humility toward what love must be in its true essence. The more aware they are of it, the smaller the danger. Otherwise the danger is great: love will not stand the pressure of reality.
Ah, how sorry I was for Anna that night many years ago, how sorry I was for Stefan. They already had three children, who were beginning to grow up (Monica felt everything most strongly). I was terribly sorry for them-much more even than for Andrew, when he was taking leave of me on the way to his outpost; he said then, “I shan’t come back.” It remained for me to take that news to the widow and orphan. I tried to take the place of father for Christopher, since I had not been able to take Andrew’s place in dying.
Sometimes human existence seems too short for love. At other times it is, however, the other way around: human love seems too short in relation to existence-or rather, too trivial. At any rate, every person has at his disposal an existence and a Love. The problem is: How to build a sensible structure from it?
But this structure must never be inward-looking. It must be open in such a way that on the one hand it embraces other people, while on the other, it always reflects the absolute Existence and Love; it must always, in some way, reflect them.
That, too, is the ultimate sense of your lives:
The final line shows how each of the couples have expressed something of God as he is the absolute Existence and Love. That each couple has participated in God’s expression of love. While all 3 have expressed this love in different ways they each have come to experience and express something of the eternal and divine. And now it is the time for Monica and Christopher to do the same.
Each couple has expressed something of this absolute Existence and Love and they have done so must successfully when they have humbly searched for it. Love carries people away like an absolute through its objective and powerful nature but at the same time it cannot be constrained and restricted. It is still a mystery and as such it has not absolute dimensions. The humility lies in each of the couples realizing the Love that each of their specific loves connects to. The Love that transcends all individual loves and as such lies unbound. The objective Love which each couple is the subject of in their experience of it. If they make the mistake of saying that the absolute Love is just the specific love they experience then the will suffocate it and fail to recognize its unity. This idea was expressed in the earlier Acts and now we see how it is through the life giving freedom of the absolute Love that these two couples have come to be united.
Teresa now sees that she no longer needs to fear the future of the children nor worry that they have seen nothing extraordinary in the Jeweler’s shop. She is now aware that “Monica and Christopher again reflect in some way the absolute Existence and Love.” She sees something of God’s love now which is made manifest in their love. Although she cannot full explain how since, “How?, This is the question one cannot ask to its conclusion.” Since Love is a mystery and so while we may be able to grasp at elements of their connection to the divine Love. We cannot constrain it completely to the point of a final conclusion. Instead we must always delve further into that mystery uncovering a deeper understanding as we go.
“Ah, the jeweler has locked up his shop. And the two young people have both gone away.
Do they know at least what they reflect? Should one not follow them?
But, after all, they have their own thoughts…
They will come back here, they will certainly come back.
They have simply gone to ponder for a while:
To create something, to reflect the absolute Existence and Love,
Must be the most wonderful of all!
But one lives in ignorance of it.”
The image of the shop closing and the children having gone shows that while the children may not have experienced the divine love in the same way as Andrew and Teresa did once. They will come back one day just as the shop will open again the next day. Teresa is able to see that they are grasping at the same love and consequently the same God. The may go through many different paths but they will come to the same Truth and as such one day Christopher and Monica will return to this place and so be brought by God to see it as Andrew and Teresa once did. For now they will be reflecting something else of the absolute Existence and Love and how wonderful that is. They are expressing something of the Love of God that Andrew and Teresa never did. They are coming to know the eternal God through their new marriage and yet are still connected to that same eternal Truth.
Despite this, there remains one member of the three couples who has yet to recognize the absolute Existence and Love. Stefan has yet to understand what the absolute Existence and Love is. He speaks for the first and only time in the play to tell us how while he does not understand what Anna has been saying to Andrew he does realize through the witness to God that Monica has shown in leaving her parents to marry Christopher. That Monica desires to reflect something of this Existence and Love and that in some way he has been responsible for Monica’s struggle to do this.
Stefan realizes that for the first time now in a long time that he must open himself to his wife Anna. He goes over to her and places his hand on her shoulder and says.
“What a pity that for so many years we have not felt ourselves to be a couple of children.
Anna, Anna, how much we have lost because of that!”
Stefan sees that in his pride he has failed to recognize those truths that he now sees. Although he only sees them dimly right now. It seems that, perhaps, now he might have been touched by the Holy Spirit and so recognizes the need to humbly return to God and in so doing open himself to his wife once again.
It is here that the play finishes. Wojtyla ends the play at this moment of hope for the future. We do not know what will happen next but we see the Love that has run throughout the story and how God has weaved his plan through the free choices of each character. As such we can look to the future with hope that they might all come to know God more deeply and unite themselves in his trinitarian love.
For all those who have joined us through this 3 part series exploring each of the acts of John Paul II’s The Jeweler’s Shop. Thank You and may God Bless all that you do.
DEDICATION: To all those on their journey through the vocation of Marriage. May they come to know the triune God and draw strength from his Love.