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The Passion Play
by [?]


I.

Where falls the shadow of the Kofel cross
Athwart the Alpine snows, the rose of faith
Is blooming still in consecrated hearts,
And holy men another cross have hewn
Whereon the symboled Christ again shall die
To cleanse the world of sin. Within the vale
Where flows the Ammer like a trail of tears
Upon the Holy Mother’s face, I see
The men and women, faithful to their vows,
Breathing the passion of Gethsemane.
I see the Saviour in Jerusalem;
I see the godless traders scourged; I see
Their wares strewn on the temple floor, their doves
Set free to wander on the roving winds;
I see Iscariot kiss the Nazarene;
I see the hate of Herod, and I hear
The multitude half-sob, half-wail, “The Cross!”
Then up the Way of Tears to Golgotha,
Crowned with the thorn, and then, last bitter scene,
The mortal death of God’s immortal Son.

II.

The eagle wheels around the Kofel crags;
The chamois leaps the tumbling glacier stream;
The sunbeams dance upon the glistening snows
Like pixies, and the wooded mountain slopes
Thrill with the notes of songbirds; hymns of joy
Break from the forests and the smiling plains,
And where the Ammer winds its silvery way,
The wild swan ever follows like a prayer.
Who of God’s creatures, then, has lost his way?
‘Tis not the chamois, eagle or the swan;
‘Tis not the mountain torrent, or the birds
That twitter all day long within the wood;
‘Tis not the Ammer flowing to the sea.
Who of God’s creatures, then, has lost his way?
Let us go in the Coliseum where
The fresh-hewn cross is lifted to the sky;
Let us gaze on the reverential throng
That marks Christ’s passion in a silent awe,
And think a moment on the world of Man–
Man, made in God’s own image, yet the one
Of all God’s creatures who has lost his way.

III.

When, on the brooding darkness of the void
Wherein the world swung like a tiny star,
Death hovered with his sable wings outspread,
And Hell yawned far below, God gave to man
His promise of redemption through the blood
That dripped from pierced hands high on Calvary–
The mortal death of God’s immortal Son.
The centuries have crumbled into dust;
Cities have risen on the shores of Time,
Then passed away like footprints in the sand;
Empires have vanished, kings have laid them down
In silence, but the word of Him remains
Who cried in agony upon the tree:
“Forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Once more the fresh-hewn cross lifts to the sky
In consecrated Oberammergau;
Once more I see the Christ in humble guise
Teaching the multitudes, and hear his voice
In supplication and in parable
Proclaim his mission to a sinful world.
Ah, could the world but gaze upon that Christ
With heart attuned unto the symboled love
That makes his face a radiant miracle!
The world hath need of thy great lesson now;
The money-changers throng the Temple gates;
The kiss of Judas burns from lips to brow;
The hate of Herod rankles in the hearts
Of scorners, and the poisoned crown of thorns
Which Greed has woven for humanity,
Bites like the chaplet that the Saviour wore
The day that He was crowned and crucified.
Methinks I see around the shining cross
Phantoms that shudder when the name of Christ
Is whispered by the multitude; I see
Grim Avarice with shriveled fingers clutch
A golden bauble; shrinking by his side,
Oppression stands and hugs a clanking chain,
While deeper in the gloom, with eyes aglow
And matted hair still dripping red with gore,
Sits War, her trembling hand enclasped within
The spectral hand of Death. O Christus, thou
To whom it has been given once again
To symbolize the passion of the cross,
Approach thy task with heart inspired by love,
And when the Saviour’s words fall from thy lips,
Be thine the Saviour’s exaltation when
He told the dying thief upon the cross
That he should be with Him in Paradise.