The late Swiss theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar, whom I mentioned yesterday, often spoke of the “theo-drama.” This is the drama written and directed by God and involving every creature in the cosmos. On the grand stage that is the created universe, we are invited to “act,” to find and play our role in God’s theater.
The problem is that the vast majority of us live in the “ego-drama.” We think we are the directors, writers, and above all, stars of our own dramas. We’re convinced the cosmos provides a pleasing backdrop to our own performance. Other people function as either our supporting players or our villains, against whom we shine all the brighter.
The ego-drama is on display in a wonderful scene in Robert Bolt’s A Man For All Seasons. Richard Rich, a promising and ambitious young man, petitions the saintly Thomas More for a position among the glitterati at the court of Henry VIII. But disappointingly for Rich, More offers him a position, not as a courtier, but as a simple teacher.
The young man is crestfallen, and More tries to cheer him up: “You’d be a good teacher.” But Rich fires back: “And if I were, who would know it?” The patient More explains: “Yourself, your friends, your pupils, God–pretty good public, that!”
What More assumes is the profoundly spiritual truth that the only audience worth playing for is the divine audience, and the only drama worth acting in–even in the smallest role–is God’s.
Rich wants a starring role, but More reminds him that it profits him nothing to play even the biggest part in the ego-drama if he misses his role in the theo-drama. The key is finding the role that God has designed for you, even if it looks like a bit part. And when you find that pearl of great price, you must sell everything else and buy it.
“The only audience worth playing for is the divine audience, and the only drama worth acting in–even in the smallest role–is God’s.”
– Father Robert Barron