Testimony in Stone


My husband and I recently had the opportunity to go on a trip to Rome. In one word, amazing! The people were friendly, the food was delicious, and the sites were unbelievable. It seemed as if every picturesque cobblestone alley opened into a piazza with an elaborately carved fountain and around every corner was yet another magnificent basilica. Ancient pillars of marble dotted the city like chocolate chips in a cookie, and anything less than five hundred years old was considered contemporary.


                Among all of the wonders we took in during our week long trip, one stood out to me above the rest. It was The Pieta, a sculpture by Michelangelo which sits in St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican. Carved from Carrara marble, the sculpture depicts Mary, the mother of Jesus, holding the body of her son following his crucifixion. As with all of the other marble sculptures we saw during our trip, the detail on this piece of art was unbelievable. Mary’s robes draped as if made from actual cloth. The bodies showed muscles and bones which could come straight from an anatomy lesson. The hands were so detailed that a palm reader could probably point out a “life line” on them. I was awed that such detail could be carved into stone. However it was not that which made this particular sculpture stand out—those same things could be said of the myriad of marble sculptures we saw. Rather it was the emotion of this one which touched me.
                I admit I am a postmenopausal woman, but I am on hormone replacement so I don’t cry that easily. However, as I stood looking at this sculpture, tears came to my eyes. The tenderness of the scene—a mother holding the lifeless body of her adult son—touched the mother’s heart in me. Yet there was more to it than that. What spoke to me most deeply was the expression on Mary’s face. It was one of sorrow, but not of extreme grief. There was a bit of resignation in it, the expression of a woman who loves her son but who understands he was born to die. Gazing at this, I was overcome with a deep sense of reverence for the sacredness of the moment portrayed. It captured both the humanity and divinity of the event.
                According to the gospel of Luke, when Jesus made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem a week before his death, the people spread their clothes in his path and shouted praises to him. A Pharisee who was in the throng urged Jesus to rebuke the people and tell them to stop. Jesus replied, “I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out,” (Luke 19:40) meaning if the people stopped their praises, the very stones would begin to testify. Standing in St. Peter’s Basilica in front of The Pieta, I saw that, under the hands of Michelangelo, the stone did just that.

Comments

  1. You have two poems that were published in the New Era years ago that touched my life and have influenced me. "You're crazy, they shouted to aim for the stars..." is the first one. I memorized it in high school and have kept leaping for the stars, even if it means that my feet only leave the ground.
    The other was "Pieces of Eternity". As the years pass, I, too, see "bits and pieces of eternity... settling quietly all around me."
    Thank you for sharing your writing and allowing it to be an influence for good in the world.

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    1. Thank you for sharing that with me, Amy. It is so nice to hear that something I've written has meant something to someone else.

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