God and Man in The Poetry of Karol Wojtyła – John Paul II – chapter V


Plays constitute a unique phenomenon in the literary output of Karol Wojtyla. He wrote them not only as a poet and playwright, but above all as an actor of the Rhapsodic Theatre who contributed to the development of this form of dramatic form.
In the sphere of poetry, the Pope from Cracow had a predecessor in the person of pope Pius II – Eneas Sylvius Piccolomini (1405-1464), who before his election to the Holy See, was a historian, humanist and court poet laureate at the court of emperor Frederick III. He won fame as the author of love poems, of Boccacio type novels, such as Euralio and Lucretia as well as of a Latin comedy Chrysis written before the year 1444, that is before he became a priest.

Unlike his predecessor at the Holy See, Rev. Karol Wojtyla wrote six plays in the course of 25 years. The first three: Dawid /David/ (1939 – the script of this play went missing; we know about it from Wojtyla’s letters to Mieczysław Kotlarczyk ), Hiob /Job/ (1940), Jeremiasz /Jeremiah/ (1940), and Brat naszego boga /Our God’s Brother/ – whose first version was written in 1944, were created during World War II, when their author was still a student attending clandestine lectures at the Department of Polish literature of the Jagiellonian University, a worker at the “Solvay” quarry and at the same time, an actor of the Rhapsodic Theatre. The second version of Brat naszego boga (1950) /Our God’s Brother/, Przed sklepem jubilera (1960) /Before a Jeweler’s Shop/, Promieniowanie ojcostwa (1964) /Emanation of Fatherhood/, were written by Karol Wojtyla when the latter had already been a priest, bishop and archbishop of Cracow. Yet Wojtyla’s plays were not meant by their Author to be staged as theatre performances, but constituted the Author’s specific form of expression on important contemporary issues. It was only at a later period that they were staged as theatre plays.

1. A Search After Form

Karol Wojtyla’s theatre productions emerged in the rich artistic milieu of his native
Wadowice in the twenty-year period between the two world wars. Young Karol’s participation in theatre life began very early in his life for already in his childhood. When visiting his brother Edmund who after contracting scarlet fever was staying at a hospital in Biała, Karol staged short theatre plays for the patients. As a pupil of the Maciej Wadowita High School, in the years 1934-1938, he took part in numerous theatre performances acquiring experience as an actor and theatre director. Together with his Polish teacher, Kazimierz Foryś, he staged Juliusz Słowacki’s Balladyna, a play in which he also played a lead role. On the stage of the school theatre, he appeared as: Hemon in Sophocles’ Antigone, as narrator in the Apocalypse of St. John, as prince Henry in Zygmunt Krasinski’s Nie-Boska komedia /Un-Divine Comedy/, as Kordian in J. Słowacki’s Kordian and as Sułkowski in Stefan Żeromski’s play under the same title. He also played in a number of comedies, appearing, among others, in Aleksander Fredro’s Damy i huzary /Ladies and Hussars/, Śluby panieńskie /Maidens’ Vows/. He recited extensive fragments of text on Stanisław Wyspiański’s historical drama Król Zygmunt August /King Sigismund Augustus/ and in Karol Hubert Rostworowski’s play entitled Judasz z Kariotu /Judas of Cariot/.
After moving to Cracow, where he began his studies in the department of Polish literature at the Jagiellonian University in 1938, Karol Wojtyla wrote poetry and took part in the activity of the theatre group called “Studio 39”. In 1939, he prepared a performance of Marian Niżyński’s Księżycowy rycerz /Lunar Knight/, in which he played the part of Turoń /Christmas mummer/.
During World War II, Karol Wojtyla worked at the Solvay quarry and continued his clandestine studies at the Jagiellonian University. In December 1939 he wrote a play entitled Dawid /David/ whose topic was partly biblical but which content also referred to the history of Poland; the text of the play has not survived until the present. He wrote about this play in his letter of the 28 December 1939 addressed to Mieczysław Kotlarczyk. In the spring of 1940, he wrote two plays: Hiob /Job/ and Jeremiasz /Jeremiah/. During the war years, Karol Wojtyla cooperated very closely with Juliusz Osterwa, the founder and director of the Reduta Theatre. He participated in the preparation of a new translation of Greek plays – knowing Greek well, he translated Sophocles’ King Oedipus.
Together with Mieczysław Kotlarczyk and Tadeusz Kudliński, on the 22 August 1941, Karol Wojtyla set up a clandestine Rhapsodic Theatre. The following actors took part in the performances staged in the theatre: Mieczysław Kotlarczyk, Karol Wojtyla, Krystyna Dębowska, Danuta Michałowska and Halina Królikiewicz; with the latter one, Karol Wojtyla played in the school theatre in Wadowice .
During this period, Karol Wojtyla remained under a strong influence of Mieczysław Kotlarczyk who created the theatre of the word, resigning from the use of the curtain and stage sets, simplifying movement as well as theatre effects. The war and external difficulties were propitious toward these kinds of experiments. Kotlarczyk laid great emphasis on the word and its richness, organizing space in such a way as to underscore the role of the actors and their mutual relations. In this way, he established a link with mediaeval drama in which an important role was played by ritual.
Karol Wojtyla became involved in the activity of the Rhapsodic Theatre putting up plays which had the character of long narrative poems. He also used this principle in his own first plays: Hiob /Job/ and Jeremiasz /Jeremiah/. After the war, in an article entitled The Drama of the Word and Gesture , he admitted that the word is a key element in dramatic art. He was involved in all theatre plays which were staged in the years 1941-1944. Among them, there were J. Słowacki’s Król Duch /King Spirit/ and Beniowski; Jan Kasprowicz’s poetic cycles and Hymns; S. Wyspiański’s Godzina /The Hour/, Wesele /The Wedding/ (excerpts) and Akropolis /Acropolis/, Cyprian Kamil Norwid’s Fortepian Chopina /Chopin’s Piano/; Adam Mickiewicz’s Pan Tadeusz /Mr Tadeusz/. He had a deep fascination for the theatre of the Romantic period as well as for the theatre of the era of Young Poland. An important role in the shaping of his vision of the theatre was played by Stanisław Wyspiański and his play Akropolis /Acropolis/.
In the year 1944, Karol Wojtyla concluded his cooperation with the Rhapsodic Theatre and entered a religious seminary. Yet he did not cease being interested in the theatre. In the years 1944-1950, he wrote a play entitled Brat naszego boga /Our God’s Brother/ which reveals the internal process of maturing of Adam the artist who later becomes a monk known as Albert. This type of internal theatre was used by Karol Wojtyla in his subsequent plays: Przed sklepem jubilera (1960) /Before a Jeweler’s Shop/ and Promieniowanie ojcostwa (1964) /The Emanation of Fatherhood/.
Rev. Karol Wojtyla did not cease being interested in the theatre also during the period of his studies in Rome. Together with his colleagues from the Belgian College, he rehearsed and prepared for staging a play by Adam Bunsch devoted to Brother Albert Chmielowski, entitled Przyszedł na świat Święty /A Saint Came to This World/. Similarly, after his return from Rome, together with the young people from the Niegowić parish near Cracow, he made his appearance in a play by Zofia Kossak Szczucka entitled Gość oczekiwany /Expected Guest/. He subsequently made use of his actor’s experience in the course of his work with academic youth in the parish of St. Florian in Cracow, where, among others, he prepared for a Palm Sunday a play on the Lord’s Passion, written out into roles.
Karol Wojtyla expressed his views on the Rhapsodic Theatre, among others, in articles published in the Catholic weeklies “Tygodnik Powszechny” and “Znak”. In the year 1952, he published an article devoted to the theatre of the word – O teatrze słowa /On the Theatre of the Word/ , in which he emphasized that an actor is a bard who is does not limit himself to reciting his lines, but who poses a problem and presents it to the spectators. In 1958, he published yet another article entitled Rapsody tysiąclecia /Rhapsods of the Millenium/ , in which he remarked that the theatre of the word protects the actor against excessive individualism which may destroy the actor’s personality; moreover, it teaches him respect for the script. It requires self-discipline and a special respect for the word. From the above articles, one can draw the conclusion that the Author of the plays was at the same time a theoretician of the Rhapsodic Theatre, which is defined as the “theatre of the word” or as “internal theatre” that is close to Christian meditation.
The very concept of the rhapsodic theatre is derived from a Greek literary genre which being a fragment of a larger epic work, was characterized by the use of a heroic epic song. In Greek, the word rhapsoidia – meaning recitation, bard’s song, the song of a professional reciter (Greek: rhapsoidos) or singer, is derived from the verb rhaptein – meaning to “stitch”, “weave”, or “spin a tale” . Karol Wojtyla took advantage of the potential of the rhapsodic theatre in order to explore more deeply the most fundamental relation that exists between man and the Creator, between the Creator and the creation.
He also resorted to the tradition of mystery plays which developed in the Middle Ages and which shed light on the mystery of the Incarnation and on man’s Redemption. The aim of this theatre was to include man in the Mystery of Redemption.
Karol Wojtyla expressed his views on man’s plight and on his relation to his neighbor in the light of this classical-Christian tradition. He examined the fundamental conditionings of man who looms to one in these writings as a creature who has been created in the image and likeness of God (c.f. Gn 1:27). He meditated on the phenomenon of the original sin which exerted an indelible mark on man’s situation and on his relation toward the Creator. He raised the issue of suffering and death, of fatherhood, parenthood, of love and marriage. He also showed the presence of God in history who revealed himself in Jesus Christ and who is present in another human being through love. Man (from Latin creatura) created by God the Creator (Lat. Creator) has received a double gift. At the beginning – in the act of creation, he was endowed with freedom, the ability to reason, to give life and to love. Subsequently, he was endowed with the dignity of a God’s child – thanks to the work of Redemption which was effected through Jesus Christ. For Karol Wojtyla, man is a creature who has been redeemed (Lat. Homo redemptus) thanks to Christ’s sacrifice of the cross.
Karol Wojtyla continued to reflect on the theatre and its mission in his subsequent articles: Dziady i dwudziestolecie /Forefathers’ Eve and the Twenty Year Period Between the Two World Wars/ , Przedmowa /Foreword/ to Mieczysław Kotlarczyk’s book Sztuka żywego słowa /The Art of the Living Word/ . Wojtyla’s aim in his poetic plays was to shed light on the internal problems of his protagonists. He developed parallel thematic motifs associated with these protagonists and analyzed their internal problems. He adopted the principles of the rhapsodic poetic in order to shed light on ethical issues often resorting to the method of poetic and moralizing lecture. The dramatic form played a subservient role – the relatively uncomplicated plot was to reveal the interior of the protagonists.

2. Difficult Questions Regarding Suffering – “Job”

Shortly before Easter 1940, Karol Wojtyla wrote a play entitled Hiob. Drama ze Starego Testamentu. /Job. A Play Based on an Old Testament Story/ ; he mentioned this fact in a letter addressed to his friend Mieczysław Kotlarczyk. The author defined this work as a “linear play, following the Greek pattern, but Christian in spirit” and devoted to the problem of suffering. The play was the effect of Karol Wojtyla’s meditations on the Old Testament Book of Job, the Book of Psalms, the Book of Wisdom and the Book of the Prophets. In his next letter addressed to Kotlarczyk, Wojtyla remarked that the main reason why he had written the play was his fascination with the figure of Job whom God had afflicted with suffering. Yet, into the Old Testament story of Job, young Karol Wojtyla introduced the motif of Christ’s passion, so as to show the positive character of suffering that can be perceived only through the perspective of salvation effected on the cross.
Hiob /Job/ was written in the form of rhymed or else loose eight or nine-syllable verses, which are characteristic of the poems written during the Young Poland period. The structure of the play, modeled on the works of Stanisław Wyspiański, recalls the tradition of the Greek tragedy. To the biblical characters – Elihu, Job, Job’s Wife, Eliphaz of Teman, Bildad of Shuah, Zophar of Naamath, the Author added the choirs as well as four other protagonists: the Servant, the Shepherd, Shepherd’s Hand, Groom and Prologos-Epilogos, who appear in the play only as voices which speak about misfortunes. The Author also defined the time of action, establishing three separate time-slots: past – the “action takes place in the Old Testament – before the coming of Christ”; the present – “the action takes place in the present days of the Job era – of Poland and the world”; and future – “the action takes place at the time of expectation, of begging for judgment, and longing for Christ’s testament, amid Poland’s and the world’s suffering” (Hiob /Job/, p. 179). The Author laid special emphasis on the internal drama of Job who experienced suffering in his innocence. He also emphasized more strongly than in the Biblical original, the sufferings of the Job’s wife who experienced the ordeal in faith.
The play begins with the speech of Prologos who presents Job and his life situation. The Author very skillfully sums up the biblical story adding his own interpretation of Job’s situation. Right at the very beginning, the Author introduces an event from the Gospel of St. John – the coming down of an angel to the pool at Bethzatha and the healing of the man who was the first to enter the water (Jn 5:2-4). In this way, the Author signalizes that the action of the play takes place on two levels: the Old Testament one, represented by the figure of Job and the New Testament one, on which one can distinguish among others, beggars, the lame, and the lepers – the “Jobs” of all times: “- My people – look – / and listen the Lord’s Word – / you, who are trampled upon, / you who are whipped, / you who are tormented – you / Jobs – Jobs” (Hiob /Job/, p. 182). Prologos addresses all “Jobs” who suffer unjustly; he addresses all “people” who experience suffering, to take a look at Job who helps us to understand the sense of suffering. In this way, the Author introduces the third level of the play, namely the sufferings of the entire Polish nation, experiencing the misery of the war.
Right at the beginning of the play, Prologos introduces the Tempter who asks God to put Job to a test: “Give me Job – Give me Job – / as he praises You and says that You like him,/ and says that oxen go in yokes in their thousands” (Hiob /Job/, p. 183). In Job’s preliminary speech, Karol Wojtyla remains faithful to the Book of Job, quoting nearly word for word the speech of the main protagonist (Jb 3). Yet in time, he abandons the biblical text though he tries to retain the spirit of the Old Testament story. On the stage there appear Choreutas – members of the choir who praise the virtues of Job, underscoring his goodness towards the poor. The Choir adds that God always blessed Job for his magnanimity. At this point Job appears on the stage inviting all of his guests to the feast. The atmosphere of hospitality and friendship is spoilt by the Shepherd who brings the ominous news that the Sabaens swept down on Job’s herds and carried them off. The Choreutas repeat this news creating an atmosphere of tragedy. After the Shepherd, it is the Shepherd’s Hand who enters the stage, followed by the Groom and the Servant who in turn announce the successive calamities that have befallen Job. Each of these heralds is followed by the Chorentas who interpret the events. Whereas in each and every situation Job adores God.
Having accepted the calamities, Job enters into a long conversation with God repeating with humbleness that he wishes to fulfill God’s will to the end: “Kill me – Kill me – O Yahweh – / Yours is the Power / and the thunder is Yours — / And what is man?” (Hiob /Job/, p. 204). Job’s friends then enter the stage trying to explain the causes of these calamities. The Author splits up the long dialogues of the biblical protagonists – Eliphaz of Teman, Bildad of Shuah and Zophar of Naamath – into parts, substituting them with short exchanges which sum up their conclusions. Friends appeal to Job to humble himself before God and to accept the penance; yet Job emphasizes his innocence and begs God to understand his situation: “I am just – Yahweh. Please do, / what I am begging You for, lend me light / for my ailing soul afflicted with pain. – / I do not wish to argue with You – / all I want is pity and compassion…” (Hiob /Job/, p. 220). Job understands that God sends suffering to man and he sees the value of suffering. He also rejects the imprecations of his wife.
In a conversation with Elihu, Job asks for an explanation of the sense of suffering. In a moment of inspiration, Elihu sees the just Servant of Yahweh – the harbinger of the Son of God – who explains the sense of suffering: “Here I can see Him – the crowd presses on / – Why did you take off His bright robe? / – Why did you humiliate Him – Eternal Father? / You send us the Messiah, / You send us the One who will judge. – / Where are they leading Him?–/ Like a lamb, / like a lamb to a sacrifice” (Hiob /Job/, p. 234). The Author of the play interprets the sufferings of Job and identifies the Servant of Yahweh from the Book of Isaiah (c.f. Is 52: 13-53, 12) with Christ who is being led, clad in purple, to His Passion. It is to Him that he grants the right to judge centuries.
In Karol Wojtyla’s play, God never appears in person while his words from the biblical story are uttered by Elihu (c.f. Jb 39-41). This protagonist is present from the very beginning of the action and is a witness to all discussions involving Job and his friends. It is him to admonishes the protagonists, it is him who praises God and His justice and who prepares the appearance of the Son of Man on the stage. In accordance with the Holy Scripture, his task is to prepare the way for the Lord. Elihu does not comfort Job, but in a vision, he heralds the sufferings of the Servant of Yahweh – of the future Messiah.
A sacrificial stake which underscores the dramatic effect of the ongoing events is lit on the stage. Elihu and Job see the suffering Servant of Yahweh climbing up the mountain to the Olive Garden. Elihu is able to hear His words: “- You lead me to the olive garden, / full a trees, a spring of trees has blossomed. – / I look over there: under the trees / some people are sleeping – who are they? – / …Remove the cup of bitterness – Father, / O, remove this Cup – of Pain – ” (Hiob /Job/, p. 238). The participants of the scene of the Lord Jesus’ prayer on the Mount of Olives – Elihu, Job and the Chorus – repeat like an echo: “Remove the cup of pain – Father, …But let Your Will – Father – / and not my Will be done” (Hiob /Job/, p. 239). Thanks to Christ, the Old Testament heroes take part in the drama of accepting the will of the father and at the same time, they begin to understand the sense of suffering. In the course of a long conversation, Elihu and Job look at suffering in the light of Christ’s prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. On the horizon, there appears the cross which is the culmination of the human plight. Job worships God for having granted him understanding of the sense of suffering.
In the epilogue, the Author stands once again by the pool of Bethzatha and turns to all those who suffer, bidding them to look at Christ in whom the ultimate sense of suffering has been revealed: “You who have been afflicted, / You who have been oppressed/ fearing that your shoulders won’t bear the burden/ and will ultimately give in to the pressure” (Hiob /Job/, p. 243). All those who suffer like Job and those who do not understand the sense of their suffering, should look at the pool and turn to Christ, as in Him the suffering takes on a new sense. The suffering of Christ introduces man into a “New Order”. At the same time, God rewards his servants, the way He did with Job, presenting him anew with his blessing. In the end, wishing to revive hope in Christ who built his reality “from sacrifice, passion and suffering”, the Author turns to everybody saying “My people – listen to me”.
The play Hiob /Job/ is not only a reflection on the sense of suffering discovered in Christ. It is also meant to bring comfort to the suffering people who asked where God was during the war. Thanks to Christ, the innocent Servant Yahweh, suffering becomes a way of liberation and salvation: “—and He sent His Son / and God’s Son founded / His New Order/ on sacrifice, passion and suffering./ Here is suffering that consolidates – / here is suffering that transforms, / here is suffering that creates a New Order in one’s heart” (Hiob /Job/, p. 244). The play strikes one with the depth of reflection of a young, twenty-year old Author, who looked for an understanding of his own suffering and at the same time for a hope for the future in the Word of God. He passed from the plane of Job’s suffering to that of Christ, so as to turn to his contemporaries with the word of comfort and encouragement.
According to Karol Wojtyla, suffering was not intended by God, but was permitted by Him as a consequence of man’s free will. Even if it is an evil that destroys man, it may become a means that transforms man and allows him to participate in the glory of Jesus, thanks to unity with Christ and His sacrifice of the cross. Thus God is present in suffering. He does not abandon man in his loneliness, but gives him His Only Son. Faith allows us to accept suffering with Christ and to partake in the work of Salvation.

3. Man’s Suffering – Jeremiah

In the course of the first year of the war, Karol Wojtyla returned to the theme of Nazi occupation and the suffering of the nation yet again; he pointed out to it in the title of yet another of his plays: “Jeremiasz. Drama narodowe w trzech działach” /Jeremiah. A National Drama in Three Acts/ . The play was completed shortly before Easter 1940 and appeared in print only in 1979. The title of the play suggests that one is dealing with a biblical story associated with the prophecy of Jeremiah, yet in the invocation to the play the Author defines the context of the action: “Here is the bulwark – our glory” (Jeremiasz /Jeremiah/, p. 246). The term “bulwark of Christiandom” was referred to Poland which effectively opposed the Turkish onslaught posing a threat to the whole of Europe ever since the 15th century. The Poles fought against the Turks under the leadership of the Jagiellon and the Vasa dynasties. The united armies of Europe, under the leadership of the Polish king John III Sobieski defeated the Turks at the battle of Vienna (A.D. 1683) and in this way removed the threat of the invasion of Islam from Europe.
The action of the play takes place on two historical planes, defined by the characters appearing on the stage: prophet Jeremiah, Rev. Piotr Skarga, Queen Anna Jagiellonka, king Sigismund III Vasa, Chancellor Jan Zamojski. The first act enfolds in the “hallway of the Lord’s Temple” which may signify the Jerusalem temple and the “holy place of the saints” where the Ark of the Covenant, guarded by two immense angels, was to be found. Prophet Jeremiah stops in front of the Lord’s Ark in order to pray for the chosen people who are in danger.
The second act is defined by the presence of Father Peter – Rev. Piotr Skarga Pawęski (1536-1612), a court preacher who also warned his countrymen about the approaching danger. The place of action is the Wawel cathedral, where Rev. Skarga delivered his sermons. The angels which fulfill the function of a choir, pass on to him the Divine inspiration which enables him to instruct his contemporaries: “I. Your lips have been entrusted with a mission – you are the conscience. / II. Shake them, even if it calls for quite a shock” (Jeremiasz /Jeremiah/, p. 249). They summon him to become a Jeremiah for his contemporaries and to point out their faults to them. In the background there appear figures whose shadows are reflected on the floor. In the dialogue with Angels, Father Piotr expresses regret that the conscience of his listeners is hard and impenitent and no word is able to soften it. He prostrates himself before the cross and implores God to grant him strength of the Holy Spirit, so that he would be able to fulfill his mission of a prophet – to summon people to conversion and a change of heart. At this point, he is transferred in time and becomes a participant of the visions, in which the “protagonists of Jeremiah’s prophecies” participate: the king of Judah Jehoiakim and the princes of Jerusalem – scribe Elisama, Gamariah, Eleata, Dalaiah, Zedekiah and priest Fassur (c.f. Jr 1: 1-9, 27, 1 and subs.).
In the play Jeremiasz /Jeremiah/, the time of action is varied: thus prophet Jeremiah’s life is set in Israel’s ancient past and is superimposed on the times in which Rev. Piotr Skarga lived. The Author of the play introduces the audience into events which had taken place during the rule of king Jehoiakim, son of Josiah, king of Judah, up until the deportation of Israelites to Babylon, that is around the year 605 B.C. In those hard times, God had given prophet Jeremiah a difficult task to perform: namely God obliged him to warn the Israelis of the danger that threatened them: “Stand in the hallway of the Lord’s temple in Jerusalem, / stand in the hallway of God’s Temple – / stand before king Jehoiakim, / and say this Word and speak:” (Jeremiasz /Jeremiah/, p. 252). In the face of the approaching danger, the prophet summoned people to convert, to renounce theft, to give up the sin of adultery and murder, and above all, he warned them against making offerings to pagan gods. He reminded them of the misfortunes of the past centuries which befell the chosen people, due to their weaknesses. Yet the king and his courtiers did not listen to the prophet. On the contrary, they accused him of having offended the king and the entire nation.
The Author of the play takes advantage of the comparison which was employed by prophet Jeremiah to describe where the misfortunes that befell Israel had come from (c.f. Jr 18:1-12). God is like a potter who gives shape to the vessel he is making on his wheel. When he sees that the vessel comes out wrong, he destroys it so as to create a new and better shape. God acts in a similar way with his people: “You are like wet clay / in the hands of a potter – in His hands. / Can He not destroy you / and crush the shape which He had created, / and enclose His Truth in another” (Jeremiasz /Jeremiah/, p. 259). Yet vessels are imperfect and they tend to crack. The imperfections symbolize sin and the misfortunes that follow it. Therefore Israel should convert, while there is still time; but king Jehoiakim decided to burn the holy book and to cast the prophet into jail. In the story of Israel, one can hear the echoes of contemporary times: of war and bombings.
In the dramatic scene in which Jeremiah talks to the king, Jeremiah points to the rope around his neck – a symbol of bondage which awaits the nation for its unfaithfulness toward God. At the same time, the prophet delivers a speech which is full of warnings and threats: “If you do not convert, / O Jerusalem! Jerusalem! / It will come amid smoke and fire! / Amid smoke the enemy will come! – I can just picture it!” (Jeremiasz /Jeremiah/, p. 263). The scene with Jeremiah ends with a vision of defeat and the action of the play moves onto the second plane which was pointed out to already at the beginning of the play; here it is Father Piotr – Rev. Piotr Skarga that is in the center of events.
The transition from the scene with Jeremiah to the scene with kneeling Father Piotr, emphasizes the direct link between the two protagonists. Similarly as the Old Testament prophet, Father Piotr prays to God imploring Him to avert the defeat that threatens Poland. He utters his successive “alas”, as he is able to clearly see the misfortunes that threaten his motherland, the destruction and the sufferings of innocent people. While asking God for the reason why He had inflicted this suffering on his people, he admits that he would like to be a propitiatory offering for the nation: “Why did You leave me with Jeremiah / with my people in Jerusalem – ? / why did You cause disgrace-?/ Do You no longer accept burnt offerings?! – / I am the burnt offering –” (Jeremiasz /Jeremiah/, p. 265).
In the second act, the action of the play, moves to the church, in which Father Piotr stands at the pulpit and delivers a sermon to the nobility gathered in the church. Among his listeners, one finds the Polish king Sigismund III Vasa and queen Anna Jagiellonka as well as the noblemen: chancellor Jan Zamoyski, Polish primate Stanislas Karnkowski, papal nuncio Germanicus Malaspina, Cracow voivode Mikolaj Zebrzydowski, the grand Crown hetman Stanislaw Żółkiewski and others. In a prophetic vision, Father Piotr points out to the misrule, theft and other vile acts due to which the vessel of his Motherland is sinking: “Thievish hearts! Everyone pleases himself, / whereas for Her – the Mother, they have nothing. – / Thievish hearts! When the ship is sinking, / everyone gathers and hoards his belongings – / and the water is slowly pouring into the ship, / until the ship can no longer bear it and breaks down” (Jeremiasz /Jeremiah/, p. 268). The priests summons the people to rid themselves of their self-interest and look to the common good. At the same time, he argues that those who are responsible for the common good should fear God and look after His people.
In his speech, which is reminiscent of the homilies delivered in the Polish Seym, Father Piotr, the hero of Karol Wojtyla’s play, invokes love for one’s homeland, which is a mother. In the end, his sermon turns into an imploring prayer to God, beseeching Him to take pity on his people. The Polish Jeremiah descends from the pulpit and becomes immersed in deep prayer. At this point, he is approached by Hetman – the character modeled on the grand Crown hetman Stanisław Żółkiewski (1547-1620) – who brings to him two swords and asks the priest to consecrate them. He confesses his sins to the priest, admits to his weakness and asks the priest to strengthen him for the mission that is awaiting him. In view of the danger that confronts his Motherland, the Hetman declares his readiness to do battle. He emphasizes with courage that in order to defend one’s Motherland, one first has to overcome one’s weaknesses and rid oneself of one’s faults: “One has to strike a blow against oneself and avenge/ all those sins and devious ways / so as to mark out through them the way / that leads into Magnificence and Brightness” (Jeremiasz /Jeremiah/, p. 278). He sees the great weaknesses that have affected the soul of the nation and that is why, in his opinion, all human effort should be based on truth and love. Hetman is determined to defend his Motherland and to renew the spirit of the nation.
In the next scene, we see Brother Andrew who brings two palms for Father Piotr and for the Hetman – as it is Easter Sunday. Father Piotr interprets his presence as a sign from heaven. He asks Brother Andrew to open the book and read a fragment of the prophecy: “-And they will tear my body apart, / they will defile it, trample upon it and desecrate it; / – But the Lord will consecrate me among the nations, / He will wrench my body away and the Angel will defend me” (Jeremiasz /Jeremiah/, p. 288-289). In the spirit of the oracle, Father Piotr foresees the fall of the Motherland and its subsequent rebirth “on the third day”. Rev. Piotr and the Hetman receive palms – a symbol of martyrdom, from Brother Andrew.
Act III takes place in the same church, in the year of the defeat of the Polish army at Cecora, in the battle fought against the Turks and Tartars. In the presence of king Sigismund III Vasa, the monks sing the mournful “Jeremiah Lamentations”. The singing is interrupted by the entry of Knight-Herald who brings the news of the defeat of hetman Żółkiewski at Cecora: “I report here with grave news – / I hasten here from the bloody fields of Wolosza, …Listen, O Noble King! / Listen, you monks seated in the pews! / I hasten here from the bloody fields of Cecora – /” (Jeremiasz /Jeremiah/, p. 296). After sending away the envoy, the monks once again resume the singing of lamentations, summoning prophet Jeremiah to come and release the power from the dirge. At this point, Rev. Piotr appears on the stage and sings a song which praises the valor of hetman Żółkiewski and laments the death of his knights: “I, a man who can cast a glance into centuries of misery and unhappiness–/How come you have been slain? O friend, and brave brother?!” (Jeremiasz /Jeremiah/, p. 298).
The monks sing a third dirge in which they reproach the nation asking people why no one believed the words of the prophet and why no one prepared themselves for the defense of their own country. Yet in the midst of the defeat, there appears a glimmer of hope – an “aurora” which heralds the future victory. A ghost of Hetman , clothed in a silvery armor enters the stage, heralding victory. The hetman was defeated as his troops disintegrated internally, like the rest the Motherland. The hetman recalls his past glory and the magnificent victories; particularly the time when he was able to quash Zebrzydowski’s rebellion and conquer Moscow. In spite of the defeat, his efforts are not wasted. Father Piotr encourages his audience to keep the law of God, as the latter one protects man against all misery and helps one survive at the time of turmoil: “He who protects the law, protects life. / The nation cannot abandon the Law, / so as not to lose life with this torch. / – For this torch is burning as an offering” (Jeremiasz /Jeremiah/, p. 309). A sacrifice made by the nation purifies the hearts and ennobles people; it makes them just before God and before other people.
The spirit of Hetman stands before God with the awareness of a well-fulfilled mission and summons the nation, through the inscription on its grave, to avenge the Motherland. When the sound of the Archangel’s trumpet summons him to God’s judgment, Father Piotr calls for revenge for Poland’s disgrace. In this summons one can hear the echo of Poland’s situation following its defeat in September 1939. Yet the song of lamentation following the defeat, carries within it a strong note of optimism, as it summons the nation to a change of mood. In this possibility of change, one finds concealed a deep optimism which the Author of the play wants to share with the reader.

4. Discovering the Face of Christ in the Poor – “Our God’s Brother”

In Karol Wojtyla’s poetic and dramatic biography, Brother Albert Chmielowski occupies a special place. He is a character who undoubtedly had helped the young poet and student of Polish literature, and at the same time quarry worker during the German occupation, as well as actor in the Rhapsodic Theatre, to make the fundamental decision to enter the religious seminary. In the attitude of the “Brother of the Poor”, young Karol found confirmation for his decision to give up art, in favor of saving the wounded face of the man who has been afflicted with sin.
Adam Chmielowski was born on the 20 August 1845 in Igołomia near Cracow in the Russian dominated sector of Poland. He lost his parents early in life and was raised by his father’s sister, Petronela Chmielowska. As a son of a tsarist official (his father worked in the Customs House), he attended the Cadet School in Petersburg. Subsequently, he attended an Agricultural College in Puławy. In 1863, he took part in the January Uprising. He lost his leg in the battle of Bełchów. Following the fall of the insurrection, he studied painting in Ghent, Paris and Munich. He worked as an impressionist painter in Warsaw and Cracow. In the year 1880, he entered the Jesuit Order in Stara Wieś. After experiencing a serious crisis in his life, in the year 1887 he set up a Congregation of Albertine Brothers and Sisters, Servants of the Poor. He died on the 25 December 1916. With the radicalism of his views and the readiness to sacrifice his artistic talent for the cause of the poorest, Adam Chmielowski had always fascinated whole generations of Poles.
Karol Wojtyla met Brother Albert still before the war in his native Wadowice. He was fascinated by the views of this poor brother who lived with the poor, and helped them to restore their human dignity. During the German occupation, Karol Wojtyla began to write a play which was devoted to the Father of the Poor.
In the year 1944, Karol Wojtyla presented the first version of “Our God’s Brother” to Rev. Józef Matlak, the parish priest in the church of St. Stanislas Kostka in Dębniki in Cracow, asking him for a preliminary evaluation. At that time, the young Karol still worked in the “Solvay” quarry and was involved in the work of the Rhapsodic Theatre. At the same time, he already took up theological studies in the underground religious seminary, preparing for priesthood. The play devoted to St. Albert Chmielowski was written four years after the completion of Jeremiasz /Jeremiah/ (1940). He worked on the play until the year 1950 when he finally completed it; the play appeared in print for the first time in the volume “Poems and Plays” which was published in 1979 . The first version of 1944 clearly bears the features of the rhapsodic theatre: the characters do not have their own names; the dialogs are very raw and there is no plot. In the introduction to the final version of the play, written after his return from Rome between the years 1948-1950, Rev. Karol Wojtyla declared that his play constitutes “an attempt to penetrate into man’s interior” in order to try and reach what is inaccessible on the outside. For he was convinced that at the heart of humanity, there lies an “ahistorical” element and this was precisely what he wanted to shed light on in his play, without paying too much attention to detail.
In Act I, the action of the play takes place in an artist’s studio, which is referred to here as the “workshop of destinies”; it is here that Adam, the main protagonist, engages in long debates on the sense of art and life with his friends – Maks, Stanislas, Mrs Helena and Lucjan. “Maks” represents Maksymilian Gierymski (1846-1874), an eminent Polish impressionist painter, whom Chmielowski had met already during his studies in the Agricultural Institute in Puławy. After the fall of the January Uprising, Gierymski studied in Munich, where together with his brother Aleksander, they created a whole milieu of Polish artists. It was there, in Munich that Gierymski became friends with Adam Chmielowski. Maksymilian became very successful as an artist. His works were exhibited in London, Berlin and Vienna.
The protagonist named Lucjan in Our God’s Brother represents the real-life character of Lucjan Siemieński (1807-1877), a poet, novelist and literary critic. The latter was a participant of the November uprising (1830-1831) and was imprisoned by the Russians in the years 1837-1838. Subsequently, he settled in Cracow where he was employed as a journalist and professor of literature at the Jagiellonian University. It was largely thanks to his efforts that Adam Chmielowski obtained a scholarship to study painting in Munich. Siemieński often invited the young artist to his country estate in Zarzecze.
The character of Mrs Helena in Wojtyla’s play is modeled on the real-life character of Helena Modrzdejewska (1840-1909), an eminent Polish actress, whom Adam Chmielowski had befriended. Chmielowski’s letters to the actress, in which he explains his reasons for joining the Jesuit Order, have been preserved until the present day. Besides Helena, in Wojtyla’s play there also appears Mrs Helena’s husband – a character based on the real-life figure of Karol Bodzen Chłapowski (1840-1914), a journalist who also took part in the January Uprising. In 1868, Chłapowski married Helena Modrzejewska and in 1876 the two of them left for the United States. After his wife’s death, Chłapowski returned to Poland and published her diaries here.
Side by side historical protagonists, in Act I there also appear characters that have a more general significance – Theologian, the “Elderly Lady”; the latter express views that are of importance for the Author of the play. In Act I, there also appears the figure of a Stranger who engages in a dialogue with Adam. In the Stranger, one can recognize the features of Lenin, whom Brother Albert may have met between the year 1912 and 1914, when the latter had stayed in Cracow and Poronin.
In Act II, the Author transfers us to the “underworld of wrath”, that is to the city warming house for the poor. The heroes of this scene are the nameless inmates of the warming house, where Adam came to stay. He came to the homeless to share with them his food and clothes, yet he met with aggression and reproach; among others, he was blamed for trying to appease his conscience with his good deeds. Adam engages in a dialogue with his shadow, with his own “self” which he refers to as “the other one”.
Act III takes place in the city warming house which has been converted by Brother Albert into a shelter. Side by side Brother Albert, there appear other brothers whose names are: Sebastain, Antoni, Szczepan and Hubert; the real-life counterpart of the latter one is Karol Hubert Rostworowski (1877-1938), a playwright and poet. Similarly to other artist-friends, such as Jacek Malczewski and Adolf Nowaczyński, Rostworowski asked Chmielowski to make it possible for him to join the Congregation of Brother Albert.
In Karol Wojtyla’s play Brat naszego Boga /Our God’s Brother/, it is Adam who constitutes the main character of the story ; it is him who confronts an inner struggle in an attempt to make a choice between the life of an artist and the vocation to serve others. The social injustice which he came into contact with in the city warming house in the Cracow Kazimierz, becomes a big issue for him. At first, he convinces his friends: Maks, Stanislas, Mrs Helena, Lucjan and Jerzy that his decision to abandon art in favor of helping others, was fully justifiable. Adam engages in an inner struggle, oscillating between art by means of which he tried to express the beauty of the spiritual world, and the desire to reach out to the mystery of God through the poor. Adam’s inner drama was very well expressed by Maks who emphasized that the idea of sacrificing oneself to the poor has overcome him entirely: “It is beyond all doubt that he ceased being himself; he ceased to belong to his art. He paints stealthily and as it were by accident. Sometimes, after five minutes, he casts away his brush and looks thoughtlessly at the Vistula. He is clearly internally agitated”(Brat naszego Boga /Our God’s Brother/, p. 323). Adam experienced an inner crisis which led him to a radical choice – namely it made him abandon art and start sharing his life with the poor.
The painting Ecce Homo which was painted by Adam, constitutes the focal point of Act I. The figure of Christ presented on this painting sheds light on the inner struggle which is experienced by the artist. Having got to know the misery of the people who live in the warming houses, Adam cannot find peace within his heart. He wonders what he should do after having seen such terrible humiliation of man. His friends convince him that he has a right to start a family and realize his artistic talents. Maks represents the view that man is responsible for himself and has a duty to realize his talent, as it is only in this way that he can enrich the society: “The individual creates himself and joins the society as an individual. Its task is above all individual. The responsibility is also individual. The society depends on whether the individual is capable of taking up this task, mission and responsibility on his shoulders or else whether he renounces it” (Brat naszego Boga /Our God’s Brother/, p. 328-329). Yet such an opinion did not satisfy Adam. After coming into contact with the misery of the warming houses, he decided to take up charity work.
Yet before he came to live with the poor, he struggled with himself for a long time, debating within his soul what is more important: whether his artistic talent and the possibility of revealing to the world the beauty which is contained in art, or rather whether it is more worth while to sacrifice one’s abilities in order to save human souls. An important moment in the process of making the decision concerning whether or not he should live with the poor, was Adam’s conversation with the Stranger; the latter represented the view that was critical of Christian philanthropy.
The Stranger openly criticizes the capitalist system which, according to him, leads to man’s exploitation and at the same time, rejects Christian charity accusing it of stalling social progress. He wished to take advantage of the workers’ communal wrath in order to transform the whole world and build a new social order, based on the principles of communism: “Yes, Mr Adam. The masses are niggled by an immense and unfathomed anger. For the time being, this anger is still hanging on the creaking spans supporting the existing order, but this will not last for very long. It cannot last. Such is my view, the fruit of long and tiresome listening to what others have to say. As I have already told you, this is my daily bread. I know the port docks, the corridors of mines and the vast factory halls” (Brat naszego Boga /Our God’s Brother/, p. 336). The Stranger is familiar with the workings of social wrath and knows how to use it to his benefit. He ridicules Adam – the artist who wants to rescue the individual. According to him, it is nothing else but “a waste of one’s vital energy”. For the Stranger, the only proper way of solving social problems is a radical change of social structure – a revolution.
In Act II Adam goes down to the warming house bringing with him the virtue of Christian mercy. At first, the poor openly rebel against him and treat him like one more philanthropist who with a little alms would like to pacify his own conscience. They even throw him out of the warming house: “Hey, you! Listen, you patron of benefactors; get hold of all your stuff and get out of here!” (Brat naszego Boga /Our God’s Brother/, p. 343). They do not accept his gifts and in this way they lead to Adam’s profound remorse of conscience.
Adam conducts an internal dialogue with himself, with his own alter ego, asking himself what is the sense of conducting charitable activity if it is not accepted by the poor. On the one hand, his old “ego” prompts Adam not to resign from art and to “finish the paintings which he had begun”. On the other hand, he clearly hears as if Christ spoke to him from the canvass which he is currently painting. Christ is present deep within his soul, within his heart. Adam asks Him how he should act: “But tell me – can you demand this of man? Can you demand this of me? How am I to cease being who I am? (Brat naszego Boga /Our God’s Brother/, p. 349).
Adam’s internal dialogue with himself and with Christ, gives way to a confession of sins. Adam blames himself that he is only able to love in theory, whereas in fact he is incapable of taking the decision to follow Christ. He can clearly hear His words uttered in the Garden of Gethsemane: “Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass me by”. After long hesitation, Adam nevertheless decides to go back to the warming house. He distributes clothes and food and is finally accepted by the beggars.
However, Adam’s family continue to fight for him. He is visited by his sister Marynia and his uncle Joseph. They both try to convince him that he does not have to give up his painting and “fraternize with the beggars”. Yet in spite of everything Adam dons a Cistercian habit and becomes an alms collector for the poor. In the street, he bumps into his old friends: Maks, Lucjan and George. He confesses to them that it was Christ from his painting Ecce Homo who caused such remorse of conscience in him that he decided to move in with the beggars.
The Stranger pays a visit to the warming house, yet again and tries to take control of the beggars’ wrath. He warns them against the “apostles of mercy” and tries to convince them that a revolution is the only solution. Yet the Stranger is not able to identify himself completely with the situation of the poor and he proves incapable of living with them. Adam proves to him that wrath cannot liberate man. It is only mercy that can lift man onto a higher level of good.
In Act III, Adam is already a Senior Brother around whom there gather other brothers: Sebastian, Szczepan (Steven) Anthony and Hubert. The latter one is still searching. He would like to remain with the other brothers, yet it is difficult for him to make the decision to stay. He asks himself the question what does the ability to resign from oneself and to sacrifice oneself for others really consist in. In the end, Hubert is unable to give up his literary pursuits and that is why he decides to return to his former occupation. As regards the Senior Brother, he is convinced that he has chosen a greater freedom.
The structure of Brat naszego Boga /Our God’s Brother/ has the character of an internal theatre, in which the action takes place in the spiritual space of the main protagonist. The latter conducts an internal dialogue with himself and with Christ, whom he discovers while painting the picture Ecce Homo. The dialogues which Adam engages in with the Stranger are reminiscent of Zygmunt Krasiński’s Nie-Boska komedia /Un-Divine Comedy/, in which the author reflected on the issue of the revolution, as a way of solving social problems. The protagonists of Karol Wojtyla’s play are sometimes reminiscent of the characters of masks from Stanisław Wyspiański’s Wyzwolenie /Liberation/; they express various doubts and opinions of the Author himself. An important role in the interpretation of the play is played by stage directions; the latter ones underscore that the action which we are witnessing has a timeless character. It is a drama of a man-artist who discovers through art the closeness of God who is present in another human being. Therefore he has to make a choice and decide whether he ought to realize himself or serve others.
The social problem of poverty and of people deprived of the means of sustenance is superimposed on Adam’s personal drama. The author of the play clearly does not agree with the communist or socialist way of solving this problem through a revolution. He points out to the Christian way which consists in sharing one’s plight with the poor and in lifting them onto a higher level of life. In Brat naszego Boga /Our God’s Brother/, the Author sheds light on his personal decision to give up writing poetry and plays in favor of choosing the state of priesthood. By presenting such a personal topic, the Author does not avoid social issues, but rather looks for a solution to the problem by pointing out to the virtue of Christian mercy.
Among the poor, Brother Albert discovered the “image and likeness” of Christ which every man always carries within his soul. Karol Wojtyla returns once again to the anthropological conception, in accordance with which man was created by God and carries His image within himself. Thus, he does not have to look far and wide for his Creator, but he can look into his interior or into the interior of another human being. Becoming immersed in oneself leads to a wonderful discovery. Brother Albert discovers God not only in himself, but also in other men, including those who are humiliated and deprived of human dignity. This conclusion bids him abandon painting and take up the task of renewing the image of Christ in the poor.
While painting the picture of Christ wearing a crown of thorns, Adam took the model from the man in the street. It was precisely in this man that he discovered Christ’s features. In a conversation with Christ – Ecce Homo – he discovered an extraordinary depth of his humanity: “You are continually more profound than my vision. And continually more distant. I cannot make You out by means of my eyes…Could it be that what I see with my eyes and what I am able to perceive with my own soul, is no longer in accord with what You see” (Brat naszego Boga /Our God’s Brother, p. 348). Adam’s inner dialogue helps him find out who he is and what his life’s tasks are. He no longer has any doubts that he must follow Christ whose image every man carries within himself.

5. Marital Love – “Jeweler’s Shop”

The play Przed sklepem jubilera. Medytacja o sakramencie małżeństwa przechodząca chwilami w dramat /Jeweler’s Shop. A Meditation on the Sacrament of Marriage At Times Verging on Drama/ was published in the twelfth issue of the „Znak” monthly in the year 1960, under the pen name Andrzej Jawień . Rev. Karol Wojtyla returned to writing plays after an over ten-year break following the completion of Brat naszego Boga /Our God’s Brother/ (1950). The play’s subtitle points out to its specific character harking back to the tradition of the theatre of the word, where the plot is of lesser significance than the word itself. The Author himself drew attention to this fact in a letter to his friend Mieczysław Kotlarczyk, in which he asked him to read the play and express his opinion about its style.
The play is the fruit of Rev. Karol Wojtyla’s many years of reflection on the issue of marriage and family; the views presented by Karol Wojtyla in the play are confronted with the experiences of the students participating in Wojtyla’s prayer group which the latter had conducted in the church of St. Florian in Cracow. The students and later his friends, had on many occasions asked their patron to discuss the issue of marriage – as they themselves through accepting the sacrament of marriage and setting up their own families, had to face the problems associated with love, the building of marital unity and of passing on life.
Przed sklepem jubilera /The Jeweler’s Shop/ is an innovative play. It was written as a collection of loose scenes, in which the heroes deliver monologues, and appear not to pay attention to each other. Yet the views expressed by the actors are closely associated with each other revealing the drama of moral attitudes. The play is a poetic drama, in which we are able to detect certain prose fragments contained in the views expressed by the protagonists and in the letters that are read aloud. Apart from the protagonists who engage in a dialogue with each other, sometimes indirectly, on two occasions, on the stage there appears a Chorus which is an echo of a Greek tragedy. In the first case, the Chorus is a witness at a wedding ceremony and subsequently a participant at a wedding reception. It comments on the events and reflects on the issue of the union of persons in marriage and the dangers that threaten the marriage union. In the second case, the Chorus takes up the topic of preparation to marriage by discussing the evangelical motif of stupid maidens who failed to prepare themselves for the arrival of the Bridegroom. The Chorus utters short verses and repeats certain thoughts which are meant to be remembered by the viewer.
The views expressed by the protagonists of the play have the character of long rhymed statements which remind one of a philosophical or a moral treatise. The dialogues tend to focus on the issue of engagement and marriage. Yet underneath this surface, one finds concealed the theme of man’s nature. The play can be divided into three parts which present the history of three marriages that are united in space, as if outside time.
In Act I, the heroes – Teresa and Andrew – become engaged and subsequently get married. Act II presents the marriage of Stephen and Anna which is undergoing a serious crisis. Anna who has been deeply hurt by Stephen’s indifference, tries to make contact with other men. She goes to the jeweler’s shop to sell her wedding-ring. The goldsmith puts the ring on the scales and concludes that one wedding-ring does not weigh much, yet it acquires more value when it is sold together with the other one. In Act III, the children of the two couples from the first and second Act fall in love with each other and subsequently get married. Yet their marriage is not an easy one. Monica, the daughter of Anna and Stephen has a difficult character. Following his father’s death in the war, Christopher, the son of Teresa and Andrew, remained under a big influence of Adam, his father’s friend. Adam manages to dissuade Anna from becoming involved in a love affair with the mysterious stranger. Towards the end, Adam turns to all the protagonists, including Andrew, as time does not appear to play any role in the action of the play. Adam expresses the protagonists’ thoughts and desires.
In the play Przed sklepem jubilera /Jeweler’s Shop/, Adam represents the views expressed by the Author. He is not married and has no family of his own and that is why, he looks at problems, as it were, from the outside and has an opportunity to analyze the issues of man’s love and marriage more deeply and insightfully. In Act I, we hear the echoes of the trips to the mountains, organized by Rev. Karol Wojtyla for a group of students from the university chaplaincy at the church of St. Florian in Cracow, whom Rev. Karol Wojtyla had looked after. The participants of these trips referred to their spiritual manager as their “Uncle”, so as not to arouse suspicions among the outsiders. Whereas as their counselor, “spokesmen” and “judge”, Karol Wojtyla acted as their spiritual manager.
In some strange way, Adam, the hero of the play Jeweler’s Shop, enters into the lives of the married couples and becomes, as it were a “mirror” in which they can perceive their own problems. To the wife from the third Act, he shows the wise maidens who waited their Beloved as well as the stupid maidens, who had lost their chance to meet their Beloved, due to their own fault. In accordance with the etymology of the word, the name Adam – denotes someone who is “taken from the earth”, a “man” – and it has a universal significance. When citing his words, Theresa reveals the sense of his life: “I” am here so as to determine man’s further plight for him, as his earlier life had also begun in me” (Przed sklepem jubilera /Jeweler’s Shop/, p. 441). Adam helps the protagonists of the play to interpret the sense of their life, love and marriage.
The character who is very important and at the same time very mysterious in Karol Wojtyla’s play The Jeweler’s Shop is the jeweler himself, although he never actually appears in person on the stage. It is only the other characters who describe his conduct and quote his words. By passing moral judgments, the jeweler embodies God’s Providence. He does not so much sell the wedding rings, but issues them and at a certain point in the play, he refuses to take them back. He is the voice of God that reminds people of their marital duties. He may also be referred to as an internal voice or the voice of conscience that reminds the protagonists about the obligation to do good and to avoid evil. The jeweler sees the hidden intentions of the heroes and expresses their aspirations and weaknesses. He touches on the mystery of man’s who was created for love but who nevertheless commits errors.
Przed sklepem jubilera /The Jeweler’s Shop/ is a play about man’s love; it focuses on the contrast between what is on the outside and what is inside the human heart. In Act II Adam gives voice to this truth: “This is just what compels me to think about human love. There is no other matter embedded more strongly in the surface of human life, and there is no matter more unknown and more mysterious. The divergence between what lies on the surface and the mystery of love constitutes precisely the source of the drama. It is one of the greatest dramas of human existence” (Przed sklepem jubilera /The Jeweler’s Shop/, p. 421). On the one hand, it is sensual, hedonistic love which enraptures one with a great strength of passion, and on the other, it is profound love which encompasses everything and finds its fulfillment in God: “Love is not an adventure. It has the taste of the whole of man. It carries man’s entire weight; the weight of his plight. It cannot be experienced as a single moment. The whole of man’s eternity passes through it. That is why, it can be found in God’s dimensions, as only He is eternal” (Przed sklepem jubilera /Jeweler’s Shop/, p. 423).
In the conversation with Anna, Adam tries to convince her that in the dramas of everyday life, in the raptures of love and in life’s disappointments, the Beloved is always present: “Ah Anna, how am I to prove to you that on the other side of all those loves which fill our lives – there is Love! The Bridegroom is coming down this street and walks every street! How am I to prove to you that you are the bride? One would now have to pierce a layer of your soul, as one pierces the layer of brushwood and soil when one is looking for a source of water in the green of a wood” (Przed sklepem jubilera /Jeweler’s Shop/, p. 426). Marital love is a reflection of God’s love which was most fully expressed in the suffering and death on the cross and in the Resurrection of Christ.
Love is a continual challenge, out of which a hope is born that man will ultimately hear the call of love of another man as well as the call of the highest love – namely the love of God.

6. Sharing One’s Life – Promieniowanie ojcostwa /The Emanation of Fatherhood/

Archbishop Karol Wojtyla’s subsequent play, entitled Promieniowanie ojcostwa (Misterium) /The Emanation of Fatherhood – A Mystery/, remains well within his interests in the topic of marital love, family and fatherhood. The play was written in the year 1964, but appeared in print only in 1979 in the “Znak” monthly . In May 1964, archbishop Karol Wojtyla published a monologue entitled Rozważania o ojcostwie /Meditation on Fatherhood/ under a pen name A. J. (Andrzej Jawień); the monologue constituted a summing up of the problems which he presented in the play. The Emanation of Fatherhood constitutes the culmination of Karol Wojtyla’s activity in the sphere of the theatre of the interior. The play’s subtitle “Mystery” pointsout to the fact that the content of the drama has both a dramatic and a theological character; in the Christian tradition, mystery plays served to express theological truths. They were not limited exclusively to current affairs, but took up universal issues relating to Christian life.
Promieniowanie ojcostwa /The Emanation of Fatherhood/ constitutes a continuation of the problems presented in the play Przed sklepem jubilera /Jeweler’s Shop/ . It undertakes the issues of man’s existence: loneliness, fatherhood, motherhood, the problem of opening oneself up to others. As regards its form, the play focuses even more on man’s interior, due to which the external action disappears almost entirely. Similarly as was the case with The Jeweler’s Shop, the play’s main protagonists – Adam and Monica – are not real-life characters, but models of man and woman. They express the drama of man who overcomes his loneliness and opens himself up to marriage, and through it to fatherhood and motherhood.
In Promieniowanie ojcostwa /The Emanation of Fatherhood/ there also appears a Chorus which introduces into the mystery an element of movement, and at the same time highlights the drama of the word . As is always the case in Wojtyla’s rhapsodic theatre, the word plays an extremely important role here. It is an important means of expression of the philosophical-theological truths relating to the plight of man. In the drama, the Author tries to maintain the equilibrium between word and movement. Movement completes and supplements the content, similarly as do the sets and stage directions. The footnotes contained in the play are to underscore the close unity that exists between the inner drama of the protagonists and the action which takes place on the stage.
The relatively modest though clearly indicated stage setting is to assist the spectator in moving freely in time and space. By pointing out to the realism of the situations, it at the same time emphasizes their universal character. The room introduces the spectator into the reality of the home, whereas the stream along which Adam and Monica walk, leads us to the beginnings of man’s existence, endowing the scene with a timeless character. The same stream and the stroll to its source appear in The Roman Triptych.
The citation from the First Letter of St. John the Apostle ( 1 Jn 5) treating about the testimony of the Father, the Word and the Holy Spirit and placed at the beginning of the play, reminds us that we are participants of a mystery which is enacted between heaven and earth, between the Creator and the creation. Adam, the name of the first man which is at the same time the name of the hero of the play Przed sklepem jubilera /The Jeweler’s Shop/, points out to the fact that the Author introduces us into the reality which has a general human character and which concerns every individual. At the beginning of the first part, the hero of the play openly declares that he is a model of every man: “All of this is associated with the name Adam which I bear. It is a name through which I must come into contact with every man; at the same time, through this very name, what every man contributes to the common good, may become ordinary, or it may even become devalued. I have a difficult name indeed” (Promieniowanie ojcostwa /Emanation of Fathethood/, p. 447). Adam lives in alienation, as if outside his own self and at the same time, he is able to reach out to the very depth of his own personality. In him, every man is able to discover something of himself. What all people share is the journey “towards death”. This journey is the consequence of sin.
In this universal experience of opening oneself up to death – as all people have to die – Adam discovers the experience of loneliness. Similarly as death, loneliness too is the consequence of sin. Adam’s sin led to his closing himself off in spite of the fact that he lives among people: “And if he became lonely so as to infect others with loneliness?” (Promieniowanie ojcostwa /Emanation of Fatherhood/, p. 449). Like Adam, every man passes this experience of sin, death and loneliness to others.
Yet in seclusion, Adam discovers within himself the experience of fatherhood which he had been endowed with so as to open himself up to others. In his fatherhood, he is similar to the only Father, who himself is lonely and alone. However, Adam was not able to cope with the task which God had confronted him with, as it proved to be too great a burden for him. So he got rid of the responsibility “casting off the responsibility like a burden”. The moment of Adam’s sin is a point when he rejects God’s offer. He got rid of the mystery of “the emanation of fatherhood” and entered the road of selfish loneliness which does not want to share one’s good with anyone.
Yet Adam preserved the awareness that the gift of life which he had received from God, is not his property. He knew that he was only capable of passing on life: “How can I use this word when I know that everything is Yours? Although it is not You who literally gives life in the case of every human birth, the one who actually gives life – is already Yours. I myself am more Yours than “my own” (Promieniowanie ojcostwa /Emanation of Fatherhood), p. 450). In the act of passing on life, Adam gains an awareness that life does not belong to him, but always leads him to God who is the beginning of all life. However, there remains a feeling of loneliness associated with the first sin born out of the fear of God. What remains is also the inflated “I” which is selfishness combined with the desire to possess everything, oblivious to God who is the Giver of life.
Adam comes to this conclusion as a representative of all people and he does so in the presence of others who are present on the stage. He carries within himself the idea of fatherhood which occupies a place between the great mystery of the Father – God who is the beginning of all life, and the reality of the destroyed fatherhood in the first man.
However, in spite of such a pitiful experience of fatherhood, placed somewhere between the ideal and humiliation resulting from the sin of selfishness, God nevertheless implements His plan which restores dignity to human fatherhood: “You enter what I call loneliness, and you destroy the resistance which I put in your way. Could one say that you barge in?” (Promieniowanie ojcostwa /Emanation of Fatherhood/, 451). God enters into a man affected by sin through a “gap” which is deeper than his loneliness. He shapes man continually through love which finds its most faithful reflection in the human soul. A man who is affected even by the gravest of sins is always able to love. Love is the sign of God’s presence in the human soul.
God finds His way to man’s heart through a child – son or daughter – and He overcomes his loneliness. The love for the child makes man similar to God: “You want me to love. You find a way to me through the child, through a tiny daughter or son – and my resistance wanes” (Promieniowanie ojcostwa /Emanation of Fatherhood/, p. 451). God releases in man the ability to love and restores in him the image of God. He acts in such a powerful way that man forgets about the One who is present in him through the image and likeness, concentrating on the visible object of love. By loving a child, he identifies himself with him entirely, treating it as his property. At moments such as this, it is once again his selfishness that comes to the surface.
At this point a Woman in whom a New Life was conceived – Mary who became Mother through giving birth to Christ, enters man’s loneliness. At this point in Adam’s monologue, the Author of the play introduces a Woman onto the stage, around whom people congregate. The Woman announces the birth of a Son who takes upon himself the risk of love.
Love is a gift from God. Every man carries it within himself. Yet it constitutes a continual risk as a man who has sinned may take advantage of it in the wrong way. He may share himself out of love, but he may also take control of another person, out of selfish love, taking away this person’s freedom. The Son of the Father, Jesus Christ, undertook the hardship of restoring love and of revealing its true face, out of love for man: “Your Son takes upon himself the whole risk of love” (Promieniowanie ojcostwa /Emanation of Fatherhood/, p. 452). Out of love for the Father and for another man, Jesus, undertook the risk of love, subjecting himself to total “vacuum” that is to self-annihilation.
Adam did not accept the suffering; he did not want to be a son, relying more on his own “self”: “I did not want to accept the suffering which is created by the risk of love. I thought that I would not be able to cope with it. I was too focused on myself – at moments such as this love is most difficult” (Promieniowanie ojcostwa /Emanation of Fatherhood/, p. 452). In Adam, the loneliness proved to be the tragic dimension of man’s plight, whereas in Christ this loneliness was overcome by suffering out of love for the Father and for the whole of the humankind.
Today people walk along the road marked out by Christ overcoming loneliness. Yet there are still a lot of Adams who are afraid to take the risk and that is why the drama of loneliness is continually taking place. Adam departs in an unknown direction and the Chorus which at this point enters the stage asks rhetorically: “Where has the exiled father gone? Where has the punishing father come from?” (Promieniowanie ojcostwa /Emanation of Fatherhood/, p. 453). Yet the father comes back in his children giving man a chance to reverse his plight.
On the stage there appears a Woman – Mother, who is a sign of hope, offering a solution to the hopeless situation of sin, loneliness and suffering. She knows the mysteries of human existence through her motherhood, which is always associated with suffering. However her motherhood also constitutes an expression of fatherhood, as without a father it would be impossible to conceive a child: “Yet motherhood constitutes an expression of fatherhood. It must always come back to the father, so as to take from him all that it expresses. This is what the emanation of fatherhood consists in” (Promieniowanie ojcostwa /Emanation of Fatherhood/, p. 454). The child looks to the father, the beloved one, thanks to whom the woman enters her motherhood.
Man discovers the truth about the “emanation of fatherhood” in all of nature. In Karol Wojtyla’s play, the Mother reminds the people who constitute the background to the long monologues of the main protagonists of this truth. Yet Adam behaves as if he did not hear about the “emanation of fatherhood”. He is more focused on the thought that man is not only born, but that he also dies. He is more concerned about the problem of death. Yet the awareness of the child wrings him out of the sphere of sin and loneliness.
Part II of the play Emanation of Fatherhood is entitled the Experience of a Child. On the stage, there appears a child – Monica. She is mentioned for the first time by Adam who sees her photograph in a family album. He describes the appearance of the little child whom the mother is holding in her arms: a round face and shiny eyes. Afterwards, the girl appears on the photo with the dog named Arpad. Adam describes the appearance of the dog: “a touching muzzle”, tail and paw. It seems as if Adam is surveying the pictures using a slide projector: the child with a goat, with the hens in the yard. There are many pictures, but the father is not to be seen in any of them, as he was the one who was taking them. Adam interprets this fact most profoundly: “The father is not to be seen in this whole album and he will never find his way to it, but is he not like a sun which will secretly warm your body” (Promieniowanie ojcostwa /Emanation of Fatherhood/, p. 456). The father is like a sun, sometimes invisible, but it nevertheless warms the earth making it grow.
Adam remembers his child’s eyes; he remembers its smile, the lessons at school and doing homework together. The accumulation of detail making up the “phenomenological” description of the child and of the world around which is associated with it, allows Adam to experience “fatherhood” more deeply, to experience the deep external and internal bond with his child.
Subsequently, Monica enters the stage and talks about her own experience of her father. The beginnings dissolve in the early memories of a little child which does not really remember its early childhood. The first experiences concern her cot, her plush teddy bear and the hens in the yard. The father looms to her as someone who is constantly absent. Monica picked flowers for him and took them to his room. She sent him letters with dried flowers. She sensed his presence on the photos which he took of her. She was convinced that her father kept thinking about her and carried her memory within his heart. Her experience of the father had the character of a longing after an unknown person: “The history of my father begins within me with an absence, / in which he had to be present, although I did not experience him at all. / Forming a perfect bond with my mother, I did not know that one day this presence will explode, / as it fills me completely with its roots as if it was a second p a r a l l e l t r u n k” (Promieniowanie ojcostwa /Emanation of Fatherhood/, p. 458). She knew the father only from what her mother had told her about him. For Monica, the father and mother are like two trunks of the same tree, which are closely entwined with each other.
Yet the love for the father grew within the child’s heart; the more absent the father was, the stronger the love his daughter had experienced. Monica created the image of her father which was an expression of her longing for him. She discovered his inner world.
The experience of the father and the experience of the child merged into one during a walk through the woods when a danger – a viper suddenly stood in the way of the child. A thought instantly originated in Adam that he must protect the child: “The whole consciousness pulsates with this single content “viper” – this content adheres to it from outside. / And at the same time, there emerges a second thought which adheres to it from the inside. / “The Child” (Promieniowanie ojcostwa /Emanation of Fatherhood/, p. 462). In Monica, the viper aroused at first an attack of panic, but the thought that her father was beside her, pacified her. The father became present in her through the feeling of safety – she ceased being afraid. In the conversation that ensues Adam makes Monica realize that she has the only Father who gives life to all people. He only fills the frame of fatherhood which is contained in the Father. To Adam’s fatherhood, Monica responds with love – with the gift of herself.
Adam and Monica walk together along the stream through the woods. They follow the stream to its source. Monica immerses her feet in the stream and suddenly experiences the mystery of life: “All of a sudden, life reenters all my body cells./ Oh, when I am born of this forest stream, / I ask: be like water to me!” (Promieniowanie ojcostwa /Emanation of Fatherhood/, p. 464). The water is a symbol of life here and at the same time, it symbolizes Monica’s rebirth. It makes her realize that she has a father who was present within her from her early childhood through the ideal image which remained within her. The walk along the forest stream makes Adam and Monica realize that through the water, they are able to touch in a mysterious way the very Source “from which everything began” (Promieniowanie ojcostwa /Emanation of Fatherhood/, p. 466). It is the only such fatherhood of God which endows all people with life.
The experience of fatherhood emerges in Adam’s consciousness yet again when he realizes anew that Monica is his child. This experience is associated with love which unites people in a mutual gift. It comprises various emotions: attachment, the sense of security, presence, a gift of oneself. Love is what unites the father with the child: “For love does not leave the freedom of desire to the one who loves and to the one who is loved – / and at the same time, love constitutes a liberation from freedom, for freedom would be destructive to itself” (Promieniowanie ojcostwa /Emanation of Fatherhood/, p. 469). Such love cannot be possessive and it cannot limit one in any way. Fatherly love which is conscious of its origin and at the same time, is ready to give, must be free.
In the experience of fatherhood, there are also difficult moments when the inner bond as it were recedes into the background and what remains is only the formal bond. There arise misunderstandings and grievances. The father has the impression that his child is far away from him: “…there are such moments and such sleepless nights, / during which I struggle with the sense that you are created outside of me, that / I do not give birth to you…” (Promieniowanie ojcostwa /Emanation of Fatherhood/, p. 473). Sometimes, the sense of alienation also accompanied Monica, causing her great pain. The inner dynamic of misunderstanding and the influx of love helps one to mature to fatherhood.
Part III of Karol Wojtyla’s play is entitled “Mother” and it poses the problem of fatherhood from the perspective of the woman – wife. A mother complements fatherhood through motherhood in which thanks to love, the human loneliness is finally overcome. A mother is aware that man is divided between love and loneliness: love opens one to another human being, whereas loneliness closes one within himself. A mother’s mission is special both towards the husband-father and towards the children: “When I give birth to children – they are also his children, not only mine – through this I give back to him at least a shadow of fatherhood, with which he parts right at the very beginning, though he is unable to part with it completely” (Promieniowanie ojcostwa /Emanation of Fatherhood/, p. 476). The mother in Karol Wojtyla’s play, is a model of all mothers. She reminds one of the hardship of motherhood: of the pain of childbirth, of the hardship of educating and caring for her child throughout its lifetime.
Through motherhood – giving birth to a child, a mother discovers anew the father who is continually dying by ridding himself of his selfishness and loneliness. Fatherhood consists in being the Bridegroom who gives himself, like Christ on the cross – He dies so that other could live: “When a child is born, you are born in it anew – and I rejoice at this birth. But at the same time – Adam, Adam – I w i s h y o u to d i e i n it. I desire your death – and with this desire I touch upon the very beginning of life” (Promieniowanie ojcostwa /Emanation of Fatherhood/, p. 479). The Mother – Mary is the model of every mother in whom the love for the Bridegroom, Jesus Christ perseveres.
The fatherhood and motherhood complement each other. Their source is God – the giver of life who shared this gift with man and made him father and mother. Biological fatherhood constitutes only a part of the concept of the “emanation of fatherhood”. Spiritual fatherhood is man’s decision to come out of the loneliness of death and open up to love, and through it to a new life.
The play Promieniowanie ojcostwa /Emanation of Fatherhood/ constitutes an attempt to understand God’s mystery and brings closer to us the idea of God who created man and in spite of his sin, he did not abandon him in his loneliness, but sent his Son, Jesus Christ who redeemed him. In this way, the Triune God met man, for whom He is the Father, halfway; and thanks to the Holy Spirit who allows one to discover the presence of God in the world and in the history of salvation, He continues to do so. A witness of the presence of God the Father in the world and of the continual “emanation of fatherhood” – the sharing of love – is God’s Mother. It is her who carries within herself the mystery of God’s Son who reveals the fatherhood of God and His love for man.
Karol Wojtyla’s play Promieniowanie ojcostwa /Emanation of Fatherhood/ is inscribed in the tradition of mystery theatre which touches on the secret of God’s presence in the world and of His continual bending over man and his plight.

In spite of certain variations in both form and content, the plays of Karol Wojtyla which were written over a long period between the years 1939-1964, all belong to the category of the theatre of the word, in which action or plot do not appear to play a significant role. The spectator’s attention is focused on the protagonists’ interior. In the course of the play, the characters shed light on the general human problems, such as e.g. the issue of life and death, the problem of suffering, joy and sorrow, love and marriage as well as inter-personal relations; they make references to God and to themselves. They also refer to certain biblical motifs (e.g. description of the act of creation in the Book of Genesis, the story of Job and Jeremiah), in order to touch upon problems that are of interest to every individual. Even if they take up issues associated with c o n t e m p o r a r y l i f e, for instance when presenting the life story of Brother Albert Chmielowski, they always raise issues that are important for every individual human being, such as social justice, inter-personal solidarity, man’s mission in society, the place of art in life. By taking advantage of the tradition of the mediaeval mystery play, as well as of the rhapsodic theatre, Wojtyla’s plays constitute an attempt to reveal man’s interior: his mental and emotional sphere as well as of the rich world of the spirit. The author presents his own vision of the plight of man, as a creature created by God which in spite of its loneliness caused by sin, is nevertheless capable of opening up to his Creator and his fellow human beings.
Rev. Karol Wojtyla rediscovers the value and the great potential contained in the theatre of the word and at the same time, he reveals the need for a religious theatre which would raise issues that are associated with human life – namely man’s relation to God and other men, as experienced in the context of faith.


The poems and plays of Karol Wojtyla – John Paul II, which aroused a great interest of the readers, particularly after their author had been promoted to the Holy See, complement the spiritual image of the pope from the distant land. They reveal his inner maturing and his conscious choice of Christ as his only Lord and Master. They are a sincere testimony of the spiritual journey of John Paul II from his native Wadowice to Rome, his spiritual fascinations, interests and dreams. They reveal a man who is extremely sensitive to beauty and to the world of the spirit; they also show a man who touched on the mystery of God concealed in the world and in the human soul.
Ever since his early youth, karol Wojtyla had been interested in the word which he regarded as a means of expressing the reality of the spirit. His masters were the great Romantic poets: Adam Mickiewicz, Juliusz Słowacki and Zygmunt Krasiński as well as the poets who continued the Romantic tradition: Cyprian Kamil Norwid and Stanisław Wyspiański, for whom the word was the key to the spiritual world. In accordance with this tradition, the poet was regarded as an “intermediary”, a “priest” who was the go-between the reality of the material world and the world which was concealed behind the sensual shapes.
In his soul, Karol Wojtyla clearly discovered a Slavic element which was naturally open to the world of nature. The motif of the Slavic bard appears already in his juvenile poems, contained in the collection Renesansowy psałterz /Renaissance Psalter/. Immersed in the Slavic motifs, the Poet at the same time assumes the role of David who sings hymns in praise of God. From the delight in nature, there emerges adoration for the Creator and for the works which He had filled the world with.
The Slavic bard who sings praises of the beauty of the surrounding world, and is sensitive to every detail of the landscape, quickly notices that in it there is also the cross – the mystery of God who became man and who sacrificed His life for the salvation of all people. Karol Wojtyla discovers the extraordinary nature of the experience of a Slav who intuitively opens up to the Messiah (Pieśń poranna /Morning Song/). The Slavic Piast unites with Christ, embraces His cross and in its light interprets his own plight. He is immersed in the classical Greek and Roman tradition, but it does not captivate him. That is why, he understands himself so much better and deeper in the context of the cross of Christ and it is with Him that he associated his plight.
Young Karol Wojtyla boldly enters into himself and there he discovers the inner plains of the spirit which not only give him an opportunity to experience absolute freedom, but also constitute a chance to encounter the fathomless mystery of God (Wybrzeża pełne ciszy /Shores of Silence/). The poet is not afraid of this reality and he does not flee from it. Discovering within himself the presence of God-the Creator he at the same time finds in Him his Brother-Redeemer, God incarnate, Jesus Christ. The encounter with Christ in the Holy Land confirms the possibility of experiencing within oneself the presence of God, and of experiencing God’s presence amid the everyday chores and obligations. Bishop and cardinal Karol Wojtyla looks boldly into the future building his life upon Christ who had left his traces on the earth and who remained present in the Eucharist. The encounter with Christ on the earth opens the poet even more to the encounter with Him in eternity. The Roman Triptych confirms the truth that by encountering his Master in this life, the Pope-Poet was prepared to the encounter with Him in eternity. What is more, he awaited this encounter with the curiosity of a small child who wishes to get to know the mystery to the very end.
The theme of searching for God and of experiencing His presence which is clearly to be detected in Karol Wojtyla’s poetry, is also taken up in his plays. The latter reveal people who live in concrete life situations and who experience all kinds of hardships and suffering (Hiob /Job/, Jeremiasz /Jeremiah/). Their humanity, which finds its full explanation in the mystery of Christ’s suffering, in His Cross and Resurrection, is realized in these extreme situations. The author of the plays takes up the problem of poverty and of man’s disinheritance (Brat naszego Boga /Our God’s Brother/) pointing out to a Christian way of solving such issues. He inquires about the mystery of married life (Przed sklepem jubilera /Jeweler’s Shop/) and shows how to be a father by entering into the mystery of the only Father – the Giver of all life.
The poems and plays of Karol Wojtyla – John Paul II not only constitute the key to the understanding of the Pope from a far, distant country, but they also help one to understand oneself, one’s own plight and personal relation to God, the Creator and Redeemer.

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