But now I was naturally impatient for the first act of the Play itself. Scarcely had the chorus left the stage, after its first appearance, when the air was filled with shouts of rejoicing, and down the streets of Jerusalem I saw a vast multitude of men, women, and children eagerly advancing, waving palm-branches and shouting "Hosanna!" as the Christ made his triumphal entry into the city riding upon an ass. Only a small portion of this multitude can be represented in a photograph, for if the whole stage were portrayed, the figures would be microscopic; but such a picture may at least suggest what the real scene must be. If it be thrilling to behold upon an ordinary stage (as in the play of Julius Caesar) a moving multitude of fifty actors, imagine the effect produced by five or six hundred christ. (Munkacsy) men, women, and children, all clad in Oriental costumes, singing and shouting together in the vivid sunlight and under the open sky. One fancies that he is witnessing an actual procession in the Holy City. The face of the Christ himself who has made this triumphal entry is well worthy of study. Throughout the drama one sees upon that countenance many different expressions, but they are all full of interest. One of the most striking is that which his face wears when he enters the Temple and looks upon the desecration of His Father's house. His features express indignation, but indignation mingled with grief. In the whole course of the Passion Play there is perhaps nothing that puts the delicate appreciation of Maier more to the test than the scene in the Temple with the money-changers. Think of the opportunity for ranting and extravagance when he overturns the tables of those who sell doves and drives the traders forth with a whip of cords! An inappropriate gesture or an unduly violent movement would here be revolting. But Maier is equal to the test. Advancing slowly, and with an indescribable mien of sadness and majesty, he pushes aside the tables, not in hasty anger, but rather as though their presence were pollution; and we are so absorbed by his look and action that we hardly notice when they really fall. Perhaps we should not do so, were it not that real doves, thus freed from their cotes, fly over the walls of the auditorium into the adjoining town.
Joseph Of Arimathea.
The Entry Into Jerusalem.
A Multitude Upon The Stage.
Christ Taking Leave Of His Mother. (Plockhorst).
But a still more difficult task is that which Maier encounters in the scene of the Last Supper. The grouping here of Master and disciples closely resembles Leonardo da Vinci's well-known painting. In fact, it reproduces that picture in life with all its Oriental coloring. The scene is one of great beauty and impressiveness, especially when, the dispute having arisen among the disciples as to which shall be chief, the Master rises and with inimitable dignity and reproachful love, slowly passes from one to another, to set them the example of humility by washing their feet.
The intensity of his feelings at this time is shown by the remark that Maier afterward made to one of us: "You cannot imagine how I come to love those men at the Last Supper while I am washing their feet."
During the distribution of the bread and wine the silence of the immense audience seemed almost painful in its intensity, the climax being reached when the announcement was made: "Verily I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me.
In The Temple.
In the consternation which followed, even Judas himself, confused and fearful, exclaimed with the others, "Lord, is it I?" and Maier answered him sadly, yet not without some sternness in his voice: "Judas, that thou doest, do quickly."
The Last Supper. ( Da Vinci).