I’ve been trying to avoid writing about personal things here, and The Garden is such an important part of me that I’m sort of breaking that rule right now. But alas.
About ten years ago, an amazing woman named Sandra K. Kruse began playing with the idea of a musical telling the story of salvation history. Sandy and her husband Tim are beloved members of the Madison Catholic community, and Sandy is a busy mother of eleven beautiful children. Consequently, it took her a while to get all her ideas on paper. The result of this hard work was The Garden, a three-hour rock opera which tells the story of fall, redemption, love, temptation, and salvation from the time of Lucifer's heavenly rebellion through the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Last year James Carrano, a choral conducting graduate student and my former boss at St. Paul's University Catholic Center, began putting Sandy's beautiful libretto to music with some input from brothers Mike and Charles Jadin and Jason Gantzer. The result was an intense rock opera performed for the first time this past April. As a Peer Minister and Director of Theatre Arts at the time, I was privileged to participate in the show as both a cast member and member of the production team. The four-ish months of rehearsal, set construction, frantic costume sewing, and papier-mâche-ing the golden calf came to a beautiful climax for six performances that form some of my best college memories.
As wonderful as the show was, Sandy and James are both evangelists at heart and The Garden is more than music and lyrics. It's meant to convey a message, and uses the theatre medium to do so. God willing, the show will not remain a memory of a few splendid days in April, but will take on a life of its own as more colleges, theatres, and companies produce it. The long-term goal is performing the show at World Youth Day in Madrid, 2011, or Houston, 2014, but lots of things need to happen first. One of those things was the demo CD being produced right now. This CD, an eight-song sampler of The Garden's most heart-stopping numbers, is what Sandy and James can send to people interested in the show. It's a big deal. Last weekend I spent many hours with a half dozen friends in the cavernous music room singing and recording and listening as Mike coordinated things. The day might have been tedious, but I had so much fun seeing friends and reliving the show that I barely noticed.
I think what makes The Garden so special is that is focuses on the Great Story rather than just the smaller vignettes that contribute to it. As fun as it was to do Joseph... and Jesus Christ Superstar, neither story goes as deep as The Garden. Granted, JCS is wrought with Judas' inner conflicts and is still a good show, but it's not a good vs. evil saga. Joseph is even weaker, story-wise; after all, the show is essentially Joe's biography. Obviously, the guy had more than a few rough spots in his life, but every really good story needs a really good villain. There just isn't one in Joseph. Most Bible stories have the same problem. If ripped out of context and taken as just quaint tales of long ago it's nearly impossible to understand their significance. What's the deal with Issac's near-death, David's selection as king, or even Jesus' temptation? They fit together like fragments of an immensely complex puzzle, and don't do much for us standing alone. I'll leave the specifics to Jeff Cavins and Scott Hahn, but overall, the saga of salvation begins in Genesis and isn't over until Revelation.
In its own way The Garden tries to show the connectedness of big events in salvation history, such as Lucifer's rebellion, Adam and Eve's Fall, the chaos of the pre-Flood world, Abraham's Covenant, Moses's liberation, and Jesus' perfect fulfillment of the Law and Prophets and His ultimate victory over Satan. Whew! That's a lot to cover in less than three hours, especially singing and dancing! Some aspects of the Great Story are skipped or glossed over for time's sake, but the gist of the show is the overwhelming love the Trinity has for humanity and Lucifer's overwhelming hate for us. Every time humans are at a crossroads and make poor decisions, it's Lucifer who eggs them on. Sometimes his influence is obvious, such as in Eden, and other times it's more subtle, like the violence that Lamech's tribe wreaks. Regardless, The Garden makes it very obvious that evil events and tragedies are not random happenstances but casualties of a War that has been raging since before time began and will continue until Jesus finally wins at the end of time.
A musical might seem an odd format for such a message, but sometimes music does what other media can't. For instance, theologians have written about Jesus as the New Adam and Mary as the New Eve for centuries, but this theological reality is delicately conveyed through music. The music playing while Lucifer convinces Eve to eat the fruit ("Seduction") is hauntingly familiar to the song playing as he tempts Jesus in the desert ("Temptation"). The theme weaving through the music as humans are created ("The Big Bang") repeats when Gabriel visits Mary and the Incarnation brings Jesus to earth ("Emmanuel"). When Jesus sings to his followers about the coming Kingdom ("I AM II"), his song echoes strains that played as the Trinity gave the Ten Commandments to Moses ("I AM"). And on and on. Through music, The Garden, like St. Augustine, reminds us that, "God, the inspirer and author of both Testaments, wisely arranged that the New Testament be hidden in the Old and the Old be made manifest in the New."
This is crucial. As humans, our time is linear, and it's hard for us to step out of that paradigm. But God transcends time. He's outside of it. Thus, it's not unexpected that the first explicit reference to Jesus (Genesis 3:15) occurs before any mention of the multiple pre-figurations of Christ elsewhere in the Old Testament. I'd take it back further. Since humans were created in the image of God-- a Trinitarian God who is Father, Son, and Spirit-- the Son is a crucial part of the story before humans are even aware of him. Humans fell from perfect communion with God because Adam and Eve chose to defy God (note, however, that the Fall doesn't happen until *Adam* eats. Eve makes it possible; she is the vessel for the fall, but not the perpetrator herself). It is a perfect mirror, then that Mary and Jesus are the new Adam and Eve who redeem humanity. Mary doesn't do the redeeming, just like Eve didn't do the falling. Adam did the falling, so Christ did the saving. However, Mary's "Yes" in her Fiat made such redemption possible. She is the vessel in which salvation arrives. This, of course, is why Mary is given the oft-controversial title of Co-Redemptrix.
The most rocking-out-awesome song in The Garden is most certainly "War," in which Lucifer taunts Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane and the two lay the cards out about spiritual warfare. However, I think the most beautiful and theologically significant is "One Man, Twice," a duet Mary and Eve sing while Jesus is being buried. The text is lifted almost exactly from Romans 5:12-18 but Mary and Eve's lines overlap and weave together so beautifully I nearly cry each time I hear it.
One of my novena intentions is for the growth and success of The Garden in whatever way is best for God's plan. The demo CD seems to be an answer to that, and I hope that things continue to move forward. I won't be there to record tomorrow, so the tract of War will be short a soprano, but such is life. I'll do my darndest to be there (and maybe on stage?!) when we perform in Madrid. Until then, I'll try to remember Act II scene viii when Jesus sings,
"Look at all the lilies of the valley
Look at all the birds of the air
Are not you worth more than they?
But for them, look how your father cares.
The birds do not sow nor do they reap
Nor put food into barns to keep.
Yet your Father feeds them every day.
And are you not worth more than they?
Can any of you by worrying add to your life even a single hour?
Does it have that power?"