A Dutch Passion

It’s still five weeks away, but in Gouda (d. of Rotterdam) preparations are underway for a re-enactment of the story of Easter. Following the example of the similar event held in Manchester, UK (video), The Passion is promised to be a multi-media spectacle centered around the 15th-century city hall and market square. In it, the story of the Passion of Jesus is told through modern pop music. The Passion is an ecumenical project, but according to Bishop Everard de Jong, who represented the bishops’ conference at a press conference on 10 March, it has a distinct Catholic flavour:

“The Protestant tradition doesn’t know imagery. It is all about the Word. This is a representation, a Catholic approach. Of course you can never express who Jesus is, who God is, in images. Perhaps we Catholics are a bit more relaxed in that regard, but saying that images can refer to God.”

In an interview with Kruispunt Radio, the bishop explained the importance of the project.

“With modern music, with the language of today, you well link to the language of Jesus Himself. Jesus spoke the language of His time, and also participated in festivities: he turned 600 litres of water in 600 litres of wine. He was also incultured. The intention of this project is to let Jesus enter the streets of Gouda and so the streets of the Netherlands, and ultimately the hearts of people.”

At the aforementioned press conference, the organisers made public the names of the people to perform to roles of Jesus and Mary. Jesus will be portrayed by singer Syb van der Ploeg (pictured below) who, at the very least, looks the part somewhat. The role of His mother, the Blessed Virgin, is performed by singer Dominique Rijpma van Hulst, better known as Do (pictured above). While Van der Ploeg has a fairly respectable career as a musician and actor under his belt, and is therefore a pretty good choice for such a project, I question the choice for Do as Mary. Her musical talents may be fine, but selecting a former Playboy model for such a  role is hardly wise. Not if you want to not only teach people about what Easter is (the Diocese of ‘s-Hertogenbosch, on their site, claims that 75% of young people between 12 and 18 have no clue), but also want to do so in a way that is consistent with the teachings and example of Christ.(which I believe is a safe conclusion to draw from statements from the organisers, who see this as a missionary project). That extends, in my opinion, to the choice of music, setting and also actors and singers you involve in such an endeavour.

But despite these reservations, I am looking forward to The Passion, which is one of the largest media projects undertaken by Catholic broadcasters in recent years.

The Passion is project of broadcast companies EO and RKK, the Protestant Church in the Netherlands, the Catholic Church, the Dutch Bible Society and the municipality of Gouda. It will be broadcast live on television, radio and Internet on Maundy Thursday, with a  repeat on Holy Saturday.