Sunday, October 17, 2010

Piazza San Marco, Venezia, by Canaletto;
he was born on this date, 1697;
he painted this when he was 37 years old

Brian’s Reflection: Monday, October 18, 2010

It’s a Byzantine structure ….. tinkered with over the centuries of course! In 828, Venetian merchants stole the “relics of St. Mark the Evangelist” (who of course did not exist as a person; and that says a lot about the complex nature of religion) in Alexandria. They were lodged in a temporary building in the Doge’s palace – a wonderful place I loved exploring. It is said the Venetians hid the relics in a barrel under layers of pork to get them past Muslim guards. The escapade is depicted in the 13th-century mosaic above the door farthest left of the front entrance of the Basilica; as always, I carry my birding binoculars when travelling – I got a good view!

The original St. Mark's church was replaced by a new one on the present site in 832. The new church was burned in a rebellion in 976, rebuilt in 978, finally to form the basis of the present basilica in 1063. It was consecrated 916 years ago ….. imagine! It’s a horrible mish-mash today, things stick on and, the final insult, the exterior badly trashed (according to irate Venetians) in order to suit the Doge, who wanted it to look more like his palace.

I went to the Sacred Liturgy there one Sunday, in the Autumn. I was one of about 10 worshippers – old ladies and I. (Tourists aren’t allowed in; I got in because, knowing that, I wore a new cassock I had had made by the nuns in Florence, and a BIG cross. I think they thought I was an American bishop). The Roman liturgy, presided at by some bishop, was sloppy and lifeless and perfunctory – except for the old ladies, who were transparent with peace and a quiet ancient joy, and the bishop, who had to have been 90 and, though he seemed to be performing a rote thing, had a slow “aura of sanctity”. The whole Liturgy was in a kind of whisper. I loved it.

I watched the whole 6 hours yesterday of “God in America”. The last 2 hours, from 1945 to the present, which mentioned the recent proposed burning of the Qu’ran by some alleged American Christians, was utterly horrifying. Billy Graham – sucking up to power and making Christianity a weapon against “Communism”. The whole thing made me sick.

San Marco, Venice, may be equally irrelevant to the Gospel as Billy Graham and his ilk. But I am glad that I sensed that morning an ancient flame of the message of the Gospel. The Gospel reading was Jesus saying “Love one another as I have loved you.”


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