In the Middle Ages, a form of liturgical drama called the Mystery Play became quite popular among Christians. Originally just a dramatic enactment of certain stories from the Gospels for important feast days, Mystery Plays eventually developed into their own dramas that illustrated a moral point. Particular plays would be performed in the same location on the same feast day every year. Reaching their height in the 15th century, most Mystery Plays died out early in the modern age. The few that still survive are usually Passion Plays, such as the famous one at Oberammergau in Bavaria, Germany.
For six centuries, however, the town of Elche in Spain has celebrated a Mystery Play in honor of the Assumption of Mary. The play has two acts; the first is performed on August 14, the vigil of the Feast of the Assumption; the second, on August 15, the feast day itself. The play, as described by UNESCO, is "a sacred musical drama of the death, assumption and crowning of the Virgin." According to a news report on TypicallySpanish.com, "It is performed by a cast of local people, all men or boys, and all of them amateurs, with a centuries-old text written in the Valencia language, with just one psalm and a few of the verses in Latin. The music employs Mediaeval, Renaissance and Baroque melodies, with a choir of children to represent the voices of the Virgin Mary and the angels."
Today, many evangelical churches in the United States employ a form of liturgical drama in their services, but the texts are newly written, "relevant" to modern life, often presented in lieu of worship, and usually performed only a few times. The tradition of Mystery Plays, however, shows that liturgical drama can have a place in the life of a Christian community--not as a substitute for worship, but as a way of expressing timeless truths and drawing successive generations together.
(Page from the manuscript of the Mystery Play of Elche, which celebrates the Assumption of Mary. Public Domain / Image Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)