Thursday, April 17, 2008

Soft as a Rock

It is a week to be glad I'm not preaching, too much to do! Still I spend time with the texts and while the John 14 text has many interesting dimensions, the 1 Peter 2: 2-10 (or 1-10) brings an image to my mind. A year ago I stumbled off a plane in Milan about this time, with four other women pastors at the start of a two-week-Lily Funded trip to Italy and Greece. In Milan there was INCREDIBLE coffee (true thru-out all Italy), in Florence we met an angel at the train station, and in Rome we saw "Living Stones".

Cold hard white stone stood in every corner of the Borghese Galleria. The stone looks so cold from a distance one can imagine all the warmth being drawn away from the body if one were to lay on a slab. Yet the sculptor, Gian Lorenzo Bernini, crafts the heat of violent action into his work. Proserpina struggles desperately to get away, pushing hard again Pluto's face and creasing it. Pluto reacts with a stronger grip on his prize; digging his fingers into the flesh of her thigh. Muscles ripple in his body as he holds fast and tears stream down her face. The wind blows Proserpina's hair away from the body held tight in Pluto's grasp. All the while the three-headed dog, guardian of Hades, barks loudly underfoot. I stood before it breathless looking at LIVING STONE!

The myth of 'Pluto and Proserpina' is a welcome spring-time reminder that life is a mixed blessing. The earth mother welcomes her daughter Proserpina's return for half the year with blooms and flowers. And yet she is returning from being abducted by Pluto, god of the underworld. A reminder that death and life are part of the same cycle. The gift of Bernini's work is the same promise of 1 Peter; stones can live! Death is not final - at the end of human existence NOR during it. No darkness or earthly defeat can keep us from the life-giving God who is present in Jesus the Christ. We are "God's own people" called to "proclaim the mighty acts of the one who calls us out of darkness into divine and marvelous light." (v.9)

God calls, God breathes, stones live, and so do we.


Melody said...

Your words are so true!

I wish you had gotten a chance to see some of Bernini's religious 'Living Stones.' The Ecstasy of St. Theresa is just breath taking. Every part of the chapel from the sculpture occupying your main attention to the colored marble on the floor was carefully crafted by Bernini's hand to draw you into a physical, emotional, and spiritual connection with god.

In the way the the Borghese sculptures trick you into thinking that nymphs and gods are running through the Villa, Bernini's later work show you the visual, tangible love that God has for all of us.

Rev Nancy Fitz said...

It is the one regret of the trip. We made the choice to see things on the other side of Rome. Next trip! :-) Thank you for sharing your memory.