The Sistine Chapel (Europe Part 2)

During our last trip to Rome the Sistine Chapel was closed for the day – that was quite the disappointment.  But, since I had thrown a coin into the Trevi Fountain on that visit I knew I would return.  This time I was not disappointed. Michelangelo’s magnificent ceiling was more beautiful than I had imagined.  But it was his The Last Judgment painting that got to me.  As you walk into the Chapel, you pass under The Last Judgment.  The symbolism was striking.  I entered into the chapel under judgment.  I walked out in freedom because of what Christ did for me.  He took my penalty.  The One who was sinless has cloaked me in his righteousness.  Such a picture!

Photographs are not allowed to be taken in the Sistine Chapel.  The tour guides take you to the museum gardens near the chapel and explain what you will see.  There are panels with pictures of all of the art work displayed for their tutorial.  This is a picture of The Last Judgment from one of those panels.

Of course it does not do the original work justice, but in case you have not seen it before, I wanted to show you.  Especially vivid is the bottom right corner where those who were not covered by the blood of Jesus entered eternal damnation.  Of interest, the man depicted prominently is said to have criticized Michelangelo’s work.  I guess that is one way to be immortalized in art.

The other work that affects me so much that I find it difficult to stop looking at it is La Pieta in St. Peter’s Basilica.  Michelangelo was 23 when he was commissioned to do this work.

 Our guide told us that it is said that Michelangelo worked alone.  Other artists had students who often worked on projects with them, but Michelangelo did these two works of art alone.  My take on what she said is that his genius did not lend itself to working and playing well with others.  That made me think of how God has gifted people so individually for the work that he has for them.  Perhaps If Michelangelo was more of a teacher or less of a perfectionist he would not have created these masters.  I am not an art scholar by any means, but that was food for thought for me.

Where is Jesus?

The last of my father-in-law’s possessions was spread across my dining room table ready to be claimed by his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren as keepsakes and reminders of him.  This was his collection of animal figurines and carvings which he collected from around the world and which were very dear to him.  Also included was a crèche complete with Mary, Joseph and a manger in which to lay baby Jesus.  Every Christmas he would display the crèche with all of his animals surrounding it.

Somewhere along the way Jesus must have gone missing, not unlike the time when Jesus was twelve and Mary and Joseph had traveled to Jerusalem for the Feast of Passover.  On the way home, you may remember, they thought he was in the company they were traveling with and it took three days to find him.

The comparison breaks down quickly, but it does come to mind that sometimes one thinks they have Jesus and they really don’t.

IMG_2652Anyway, one of our sons chose the crèche.  The figures have wonderfully expressive faces and are stamped with Italy as their country of origin.  Jesus looked a little off to me.  He wasn’t made of the same material, but it was something about his eyes that gave him away.  We turned him over and there it was.  Jesus was made in China.  I’m guessing he was purchases in a Dollar Store and added to the scene like an understudy in a play.

This troubled me, but we figured lots of people display manger scenes without Jesus in the manger all through the Christmas season.  Then on Christmas morning He miraculously appears.  This hatched a plan to look on E-Bay to find a baby Jesus that was fitting to sit with his Italian-made parents.

IMG_2654I wasn’t comfortable throwing made-in-China baby Jesus away.  It seemed wrong somehow.  I figured we should put him some place where I could remember where he was; so just in case I didn’t find a suitable replacement, the manger would not sit empty on Christmas.  I put him in the china closet.  You know, China/china – I should remember that.

Then it occurred to me.  Bob and I are going to Italy in the spring to celebrate our fortieth wedding anniversary.  I can look for Jesus there.  That would be awesome.

So, this year if you come to my house on Christmas, please do not look too closely at Jesus in the manger.  We have hope that next year he will look a lot better.

I would encourage you to look for Jesus where he may be found this Christmas.  He is there at the mere mention of his name.  He is no longer a baby in a manger.  He is the Prince of Peace and our Savior.  Merry Christmas!

Luke 2:11-12:  “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.  This will be a sign to you:  You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”