This morning I was in Venice, Italy. Four hours on a speed train, and I was riding in a taxi to our hotel in Rome. We are three blocks from the Coliseum. As an American, it is hard to fathom that something was built nearly 2000 years ago. Tomorrow evening, I will post pictures from our short outing today, just around our hotel area, as well as our sight-seeing tomorrow, which will include the Vatican Museum.
I have still been processing my thoughts from our last two days of walking around Venice. The thoughts revolve around a sculpture I saw Monday, somewhere we went Tuesday, and an excursion we decided to take that we arranged for while in Rome. That’s the focus of this post.
A SCULPTURE I SAW MONDAY_Monday morning, we visited one of the very old church buildings in Venice, I believe it was St. Giovanni (they start to run together a bit). Anyway – we weren’t supposed to take pictures inside, but I couldn’t help it. I took just one, and I took it because it disturbed me so. Here it is:
What do you see? This is a funeral sculpture for a Doge (a presidential figure who was an elected leader during the years of Venice’s Republic). The guide told us, and I quote, “The family wanted to depict their wealth and power and control, so they included four Turkish slaves.” This gave new meaning for me to making “your enemies to be a footstool.” The fact is that the Turks were enemies during the time of this Doge. And supposedly he led them to a key victory over the Turks. All this to say, this leader, memorialized in this church building, their family having given of their enormous wealth to build this priceless sculpture to memorialize this famous figure. And one question kept coming to mind.
Upon whose backs and with neglect to whom has the church of the west been built?
The reputation of the Doge’s family, and in some ways, the church building where he is memorialized was built on the backs of slaves. That’s tough to talk about, isn’t it? Our Judeo-Christian heritage makes us quick to speak of the injustices of the Hebrews in Egypt, and yet these Turkish slaves are used to depict the wealth and power of this influential, religious leader. I struggled for some time with this thought and with the question above. I wonder if the world looks at the church of the west and sees anything similar? I can tell you that our pastoral team and I have been struggling through this thought, along with our own personal stewardship of what we are blessed to have and what we are blessed to give away. I will get to that later.
Before I hop to the 2nd reflection, here are some scenes from our walk on Monday…
SOMEWHERE WE WENT_On Tuesday, we toured another district of Venice. This time, we wound up our tour by walking into a part of town known as the “Ghetto.” This is the part of town where the Jews were placed to live. I am not exactly sure if it was even by choice at first. But when World War 2 was ramping up, they were certainly forced to live there. They were forced not only to live there, but also to be inside this section of town by 6pm, and they could not come out until 6am. At 6pm, gates were locked, bolted by four large bars. The Jews could not get out until the next morning. And they were even told what jobs they could have. They could sell used goods, be doctors, and loan money. There finally came a point where many of them were shipped out of the country to Nazi work camps.
I am overcome when I think of the holocaust. I cannot even imagine what moms and children and husbands and fathers and wives and friends felt as they watched the oppression and torture and murder of their fellow Jews. It is difficult to even process. And I struggled through it for a while that day. I took these pictures, some of the memorial there in the Ghetto, others of various scenes around that part of the city. You may or may not notice that the shot of the square shows much taller buildings than the other parts of Venice. They had so many folks in this defined area that they had to build higher to accommodate more.
Before I hop to my 3rd and final reflection tonight, here are some other scenes from our walk Tuesday…
AN EXCURSION ARRANGED_Clay learned that Dad and I would really like to see Assisi, which is about a 3 hour drive from Rome, and so he shifted a day around on the itinerary to arrange for it. I am quite fond of all that I have ever learned about St. Francis of Assisi. He was certainly a key figure in whose life influenced both the Renaissance and the Reformation. Thank you, Clay, for shifting that around. I can’t wait to visit there and see the art and memoirs of that Christ-like man. I downloaded Sabatier’s bio on my Kindle app on my phone to read on the train ride this morning, during down time in Rome, and on the way down to Assisi.
I said earlier there was something I would mention later. Well, the pastoral team and I have been struggling through a conversation and various thoughts for well over a year now regarding our personal stewardship what we have and generosity of all we could give. Francis has been a figure that has come to mind for me during that discussion. I hope to learn from him on this trip, and if the book is helpful, will purchase a copy for the guys, as well. We will see. Pray for us as we ask this very difficult question:
What does “on earth as it is in heaven” look like in the affluent culture of the west, specifically in our own west Orange county?
I will leave you with a few simple scenes from our transition day today. Didn’t get a good pic of the Coliseum. Will get that to you later. Hope to share some awesome pics of our 1st full day in Rome tomorrow night. More to come!!!