The Jeweler’s Shop: Meditation on the Sacrament of Matrimony Passing on Occasion into Drama is a story of different marriages intertwined into each other. It is a story with immense depth and so an attempt to unravel its meaning is in order. Throughout the play, Karol Wytyla demonstrates the interplay between divine providence and free will through the lives of the characters.
As the other reader will note, this interplay is at once marvelling to the intellect and mysterious. And so in the first scene, we encounter Andrew and Teresa on the brink of their marriage, in the next scene we encounter Anna and Stefan whose marriage has suffered a breakdown, and lastly, the children Christopher (son of Andrew and Teresa) and Monica (daughter of Anna and Stefan) who set out on their new journey.
Through Andrew and Teresa we experience the reality of the commitment to married life. Andrew proposed to Teresa, ‘Do you want to be my life’s companion.’ He said this, for a moment, looking ahead as if to signify, in Teresa’s words, ‘that in front of them was a road whose end could not be seen.’ Indeed, Andrew understood that he was making a life-long commitment and he had that clearly in mind when he proposed to Teresa. Everything, all the events in the past, led up to that and everything around them, as it were, signified that. It was as though he had not entirely arranged for it, and yet to a certain degree he had a role to play. Against this background, they developed a whole new perspective which weaved into every aspect of their present day lives.
Should marital love be based on feeling?
Thereafter, quite by contrast, we meet Anna and Stefan. Karol Wojtyla introduces us to Anna at the edge of an abyss in her life. Her marriage with Stefan is about to crumble and she can hardly summon up any energy to carry on, so much so that she would wish to sell her ring. Luckily Adam intervenes. Anna for a long time believed that love was a matter of the senses and of a climate that unites and makes two people walk in the sphere of their feeling. She believed this was the whole truth about love. Yet Adam contests that life, and therefore love has its consistency and logic, which is why it must remain with truth.
What we feel is not necessarily the truth. Love is, he says, a synthesis of two people’s existence which converges, as it were, at a certain point, and makes them into one. This extends the dimensions of love because man is a totality. Anna had for a long time based her love on feeling and so while she thought she had exhausted her love with Stefan, she became like the foolish virgins whose oil had burned out. We cannot base love on feeling.
Lastly, we encounter Christopher and Monica. Christopher and Monica are both, in a manner of speaking, conditioned by their past. Christopher lost his father, Andrew, at quite an early age and Monica was a child in a marriage that was on the brink of a complete breakdown. They go into marriage bearing wounds sustained in their past. Indeed, all our actions, all events are not entirely isolated; they have effects that extend to future generations. Monica is uncertain as to her ability to sustain a life-long commitment bearing wounds and dispositions engendered as she grew up. Christopher, on the other hand, grew up without a father.
The question, in the end, is what to do about it? Christopher and Monica are not entirely conditioned by their past. They go into marriage with all their dispositions, characteristics and defects with a considerable measure of trust in divine providence. Hence Christopher observed that ‘love is a constant challenge, thrown to us by God, thrown, I think, so that we should challenge fate.’ In these situations, we see that one has to move forward even with the uncertainty of the future.
Review by Allan Wang’ang’a.