Last year, I had the awesome opportunity to take a trip to Italy with a few great friends. The inspiration to buy the plane tickets and commit to the trip came over a really great glass of wine. Gifts like wine and really good food are often inspirations for some of the best ideas…and this was definitely a great idea.
So, being the good Catholics that we were, upon arrival in Roma we basically bee-lined straight for the “mother of all churches”…also known as St. Peter’s Basilica. There she is in the background:
For those of you who have never been to Rome, or to any country in Europe for that matter, there is art literally everywhere. In many cities, there is a church on every street corner with a usually a saint (or several) buried inside or a famous work of art gracing the high altar or side altars of the church. For you ECHO-ers out there, or for anyone familiar with the Theology of the Body, this famous piece resides in that building behind us.
Like some of you, I got to see this in person! How awesome is that?! Yes, ladies and gentlemen…this famous piece called “The Creation of Adam” is part of a larger work by Michelangelo on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel that portrays all of salvation history. Sit with the image for a minute…yes, one whole minute. You can do it…
What do you notice? Maybe you notice Adam’s limp hand…moments before God breathes life into him. Maybe you notice the lengths at which God is reaching out to Adam, longing to bring him life? Maybe you notice the brain-like shape behind God, representing all of creation that is still in his mind that is yet to be created? Maybe you’re thinking about the fact that you are in there somewhere at the same time God created our first parents? Perhaps you even notice Eve in the crux of God’s arm? She is in God’s mind before she is created, a gift that God is waiting to give to the world at the right moment…just like you and I.
This one piece of art speaks volumes! However, I have to confess, seeing it in person was extremely underwhelming. Some of you may be scandalized by my statement, but it is the truth. I was underwhelmed. It was only later when I got to what I consider the most beautiful place in the world (Assisi) that I began to understand why…
When I arrived to the silence and solitude of Assisi, I couldn’t help but be overwhelmed by a peace that is born of being slow. I was literally forced to be slow…you cannot move quickly in Assisi. Its almost like there is this invisible force that will not allow you to pass by the present moment.
We all live in a culture that is dominated by the idea that for something to be worth my time, it must be instantly gratifying. It must capture me, it must move me, it must hold my attention right now…and if it doesn’t, then I must get rid of it or pass it by. We are so inundated by fake images, fake news, fake lives, and clickbait article titles that when we are faced with the real thing, we are positively underwhelmed. I had seen the image of the “Creation of Adam” countless times on the internet and several good renditions in person, and I had this idea in my mind of what it would finally be like when I was face-to-face with the real thing, but the feeling just wasn’t there. In Rome, I saw the ruins, visited the famous Coliseum, and even saw St. Peter’s bones with my own eyes and yet I couldn’t help wondering if it was all just artificial…
Friends, what I realized is that my senses have been altered. Yes, my sense of sight has been damaged by my sin and by so much of “the fake” that I allow to enter my mind and heart every day. The Good News of the Gospel is that Christ came to redeem all of me, including my ability to see. So, how do we allow God to recalibrate our sense of sight? Here is what I discovered:
So, I invite you to take another minute to gaze upon “The Creation of Adam” again… Pay attention to what you notice, and take the time to bring it to prayer.
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