Of all the wonders in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, a small, laser-printed sign caught me by surprise.
A week ago today Court and I gazed up at the ceiling in the Sistine Chapel and walked around St. Peter’s. (The gift of a weekend in Rome came from an anonymous source who wanted us to do something fun before the baby arrives.) Awe, Wonder, Majestic – all these words could describe St. Peter’s. Not one part of the interior suffers neglect or lack of adornment. I have heard the critique of “gaudy – over-the-top – a waste of resources.” I make no attempt to defend the church, yet the word that kept coming to mind was worship.
Anyway, of all the sculptures, mosaics, paintings, and other things by famous craftspeople, one thing has stuck with me this past week – a small, computer printout (albeit on cream-colored Vatican stationery) in four languages set out by the tomb of St. Peter: “To whom else shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” – John 6:68, St. Peter talking to Jesus.
We hear and read news stories talking about the difficulties in the world. We know people effected by the economic downturn (I’m sure all of us do), and the prayer concern of many (in churches here and elsewhere) is: “What are we going to do now?”
“To whom else can we go? You have the words of eternal life.” These words echoed as I looked up at Michelangelo’s frescoes of creation and became drawn into the way he captured God’s action of separating the moon and sun and bringing forth life.
“To whom else can we go? You have the words of eternal life.” These words echoed as I heard the words of Ash Wednesday: “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
These words came to mind as I rode the bus the other day. Maybe they can give a glimpse of what I have failed to articulate so far:
Remember, we are dust,
To whom else can we go, you have the words of eternal life,
You are THE word of eternal life,
You have come down among us to give us life,
You are the breath of life,
Without your breath of life we are merely dust,
And even in this life we know that to dust we shall return,
Yet the mystery proclaims that you shall come again
once again enlivening us forever, never to return to dust again. amen.