Thursday, July 31, 2014

Jesus Groundhog Day at Sagrada Familia

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things were made through Him, and without Him, nothing was made.  In Him was life, and the life was the light of men."  -John 1: 1-4

The Sagrada Familia Cathedral in Barecelona, when completed, will have three separate facades.  The westward facing Passion, (most unlike Gaudi's style) southward facing Glory, (uncertain date of completion) and the eastern facing Nativity (which is most like Gaudi's particular style, pictured above).  George Orwell said, "The Sagrada Familia is the most hideous building in the world."  But when I see the unfinished work, I can't help but reminisce about the beauty of the Nativity and the strange telling of Christ's life through two vignettes:  His Childbirth and Death.
"Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David.  The virgin's name was Mary.  And having come in, the angel said to her, 'Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women.'"  -Luke 1: 26-28

Through paintings and statues and most of western art over the last two-thousand years, Jesus is seen as either a baby laying in the arms of his mother or hanging dead upon a cross.
"But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart."  -Luke 2: 19

This is a huge challenge for most people in their faith, we are shown Christ in infancy and then he reappears some thirty years later ready to be tested in the desert, perform miracles, minister to crowds, teach disciples, and be resurrected.
"When the angels had gone away from them into heaven,  the shepherds said to one another, 'Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass.'"  -Luke 2: 15

But what happened in between?  What was Jesus like as a young boy?  Mischievous?  Good humored?  What about as a teenager?  Sullen?  Withdrawn?  Romantic?  Where is this human side to him?  How is the growth of the boy not seen in context to the man?
"And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger."  -Luke 2: 7

In essence, it is like one long Groundhog's Day where we relive his birth which leads to his death which in return symbolizes his birth, and there is great mystery and wonder and salvation in this, of course... but why were we not allowed to know and see more?
"Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.  For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord."  -Luke 2: 10-11

Perhaps that's the real test... to meditate and slowly, patiently, find meaning.
"Then being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way."  -Matthew 2: 12

Staring at this unfinished cathedral... waiting years for it to be completed, painted, glistening, for it to come alive... is a reminder of the need for meditation and calm in one's own life.
"And when he was 12 years old, they went up to Jerusalem according to the custom of the feast.  When they had finished the days, as they returned, the Boy Jesus lingered behind in Jerusalem."  -Luke 2: 42-43

I'm no saint.  I'm as flawed and foolish  and prone to mistakes as anyone, but standing in the crowds outside the Sagrada Familia, jostled and shoved, pushed aside by the screaming and barking army of Chinese tourists pouring off the tour bus with their tripods and scowled at by the Korean girls because I'm standing in the way of their selfie and herded into a ticket line by the Spanish hawkers with megaphones warning me of pickpockets and thieves... I can't help but feel closer to what this monstrous and gaudy building represents.  I hope it is never finished.  I hope I visit here thirty years later and it's still the same:  A complete test of faith.

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