Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Conquest of Ego and Fear in The Jeweler's Shop

The Ego and Human Love
by Ellen Rice
Catholic Dossier, July/August 1996
The subscribers to the Polish Catholic monthly Znak may have noticed "The Jeweler's Shop" in the December 1960 issue, but after an edifying read, perhaps they put it away, because no one had heard of the author Andrzej Jawien. . . .

Perhaps you have heard of "The Jeweler's Shop" and perhaps you have even read it. It is subtitled "A Meditation on the Sacrament of Matrimony, Passing on Occasion into a Drama." For the unfamiliar, its author is our own Holy Father, Pope John Paul II. The play reveals the integrated understanding behind his teachings on Matrimony. . . .

I marvel at Wojtyla's incisive portrayal of love and marriage. I myself am single but I can attest that the play enlightens my own experiences. Only by reading his play can you confirm my suspicion that he sees the whole picture. Suffice it to say that his vision of the human soul is large enough to encompass the mysteries of human love.

The focal theme of the play, foreshadowing John Paul's exhortation, "Be not afraid," is that the conquest of ego and fear is essential to the two becoming one. The setting is an unnamed place during an unnamed time. It is distinguished only as a nation at war. One easily imagines the setting as 1939 Poland, but the script is much more universal. It is the story of every fearful self damaged by Original Sin; it is the story of every miracle of grace. . . .

Act One, "The Signals," tells the story of Teresa and Andrew's courtship and wedding. . . . Andrew reflects that the attractions he had to other women were within the walls of his own ego, but he sees Teresa as his "alter-ego." He and Teresa were drawn together amid anxiety and fear which love is challenged to overcome.

The couple visits the jeweler's shop to buy wedding rings. . . . The jeweler's shop emerges as a place where past, present, and future converge. The couple only sees the now although they recognize Providence is guiding them into the future. . . .

The theme of ego continues in Act Two, "The Bridegroom," which shows the degenerate side of Holy Matrimony. Anna and Stephan are a couple that has grown apart, tormenting one another with silence and indifference. Anna, placing all the blame on Stephan, decides to return her wedding ring to the jeweler. He issues a rebuke rather than a refund. In a supernatural twist, the gold weighs nothing on his scales, because Stephan is still alive. Anna flounders in the streets; her eyes elicit several questionable proposals. A watchful stranger Adam rescues her, warning her to watch for the Bridegroom's passing. Instantly we are swept into a mystical realm, where parable meets present. As Adam points out the wise and foolish virgins, Anna indulgently wonders if the wise virgins are "really pure and noble, or is it just that they have fared better in life than I?" Ego flies from responsibility again.

The Bridegroom passes by, wearing Stephan's own face, much to Anna's chagrin. . . .

Act Three, "The Children," joins the two couples together by the love and marriage of their children. Christopher, the son of Teresa and Andrew, falls in love with Monica. Wotyla reveals Teresa's motherly worries about Monica, "a being enclosed in herself, whose true value gravitates inward so much that it simply ceases to reach other people." The ill will of her parents has indeed been visited upon her. When the self cannot give love, the rightful recipient suffers.

We later learn that Monica knows she hides in her ego, afraid to come out, giving sparingly and demanding much. Wotyla here again writes with brilliant insight into fear and the ego.

Yet all is not lost. Christopher assures Monica he loves her, with the priceless line, "One does not love a person for his `easy character'." Christopher has his own battles; he worries he does not know how to be a man because he lost his father. Again, the misfortunes of the parents are visited upon the children. Christopher is more intact than Monica; he is the victim of misfortune rather than evil.

This third marriage plays against the tapestry of the two previous dramas. The loose ends are tied up, and the play is resolved with fitting fates, but not without hope. . . . Hope exists, though every damaged soul can learn to love and share others' crosses. . . .

"The Jeweler's Shop" reveals the Pope's uncanny insights into human behavior, into the reluctance of individuals to plunge into that self-surrender called love, into the ugliness of marital relationships that become a tug of war between two egos. It is a marvel.

Read the rest here (.pdf format)..

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