Greetings, Columbia Theological Seminary alumni/ae and friends, grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ!
On February 22, the first Sunday of Lent 2015, my wife, Dyann, and I departed Atlanta on a 40th wedding anniversary first- ever trip to Italy. We traveled to and through such cities as Venice, Florence, and Rome. In retrospect, we both now agree that it was a good thing for us as married persons to go together into a foreign land. We journeyed with each other on a common ground of mutual vulnerability when we got outside our familiar everyday worlds. We depended on each other in order to navigate what was an unfamiliar territory for us both. During our journey, our Italian destinations were enjoyable and memorable. Our deeper level of relational intimacy remains.
We visited the Galleria Dell Academia in Florence. Among other priceless antiquities, this museum houses a number of the works of the Italian Renaissance sculptor, painter, architect, poet, and engineer Michelangelo. Perhaps the most famous of these is the fifteen foot tall sculptural masterpiece, David (ca. 1504), a figure of refined beauty carved from a piece of second grade marble. When asked about the work of the sculptor, history suggests that Michelangelo stated that the sculptor is a tool of God, not creating but simply revealing the powerful figures already contained in the marble. The sculptors only task is to chip away the excess, revealing what is already inside.
It was, however, a different piece of Michelangelos work that caught my eye, giving me pause for some Lenten/Easter theological reflection. It is one of his four so-called unfinished pieces, known as the captivi in Roman art. Originally commissioned for the tomb of Pope Julius 2 (ca.1525-1530), the unfinished describes not the completed work of the artist, but rather the figure that is yet to be fully revealed, set free from within the rough stone. The bound slave, otherwise known as Atlas, is illustrated here. As the name implies, this is the one holding up the world on his shoulders, the upward and downward forces threatening to compress. An epic battle with the forces of chaos, the figure is caught, as it were, in a sort of primordial act of freeing itself from the cage of rough stone. There is tremendous energy, the figure struggling to emerge from the marble, emblematic of the eternal struggle of humanity to free the spirit from the material trappings.
As members of the Christian faith community, we, too, have been traveling together in a foreign land of mutual vulnerability. Through some unfamiliar wilderness territory, the Lenten journey will finally lead us through Good Fridays cross on to the revelation of Easters new life in the resurrected Christ. As the crucified Jesus himself proclaimed (John 19:30), the liberating work of the Divine Sculptor is finished, a perfected action with ongoing effects. The chipping away of the excess continues, revealing what is already inside.
In this Easter Season, I am grateful to join with you and all creation waiting with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God (Rom 8:19).
Love, joy, hope, and peace to you and yours,
Randy Calvo ‘81