June 28, 2020
A Message from Father Larry...
How the Church Has Changed the World
A man lies back against a wooden cradle, high in the apse of the ancient church of Saint Clement in Rome. Before him stands the scooped-out round of a halfdome. Most of it is bare plaster. It’s marked in rough strokes of black paint, a welter of shapes, hard to identify, except for the cross in the center, which is beginning to take form and color by his sure hand and keen eye.
“Master,” says a boy, sitting upon the scaffolding, “why is heaven made of gold, when the sky is blue?” The master takes from him a small gold tile, less than an inch square. He smiles a little but does not take his eye from the cross.
“Not this one,” he says. “A little brighter more yellow and less red.” The boy scans a floor of tiles spread out before him, one by one, according to color and brilliance – gold and red, rich green and blue, pale pink and white. They are marble, jasper, garnet, lapis, onyx, and glass, and some of the tiles are overlaid with gold leaf beaten as thin as air. He picks out one that seems to shine with its own light.
“Excellent,” says the master, fixing it in the plaster, right up against the dark wood of the cross.
“In a hundred years, son, what will happen to the gold?”
“Nothing,” says the boy.
“Gold doesn’t rust.”
“In a thousand years?”
“That’s why we use gold for heaven. It’s filled with light, and it will never pass away.”
The boy falls silent. Patience is all. His master is kind, and won’t forget to teach him the art. His own fingers will soon be pressing gold tiles into the skies that show forth the cross, while the master works the subtle colors for Jesus and Mary and John. And the master will let him work on one of the smaller figures, a branch, a leaf, perhaps one of the birds – a peacock, maybe!