Kneeling in the Sistine Chapel

Rather unexpectedly I’ve found myself kneeling in the Sistine Chapel this evening…

click the image before reading this

I haven’t been on StumbleUpon for some time, but after getting an email from them earlier this evening, it gave me a few recommendation pages, this virtual Sistine Chapel being one of them.

I’ve always been hesitant to step into the Vatican. I find it hard to understand Roman Catholicism, and the idea of stepping into a house filled with so much gold and expensive decor makes me feel ill. I am in a sense an Anglo-Catholic, although perhaps not enough so to have that label. I like high church, I like the altar and the vestments etc. I like to have gifts for God and have a special place where people come together in a house to worship and give thanks. But the Vatican is not simple church worship, it is filled to the brim with, I would say, excessive riches.

Perhaps I am wrong, I have not been there. Perhaps rather than the Vatican coming down and using its money to help the poor, there is enough that all people can do outside religious houses of dedication to bring people together in equality with a roof and full stomachs.

The idea of the Vatican has always made me wince. Yet I’ve always admired Michelangelo for his part.

Michelangelo was originally commissioned to paint the 12 Apostles against a starry sky, but lobbied for a different and more complex scheme, representing creation, the Downfall of Man and the Promise of Salvation through the prophets and Genealogy of Christ.

The composition eventually contained over 300 figures and had at its center nine episodes from the Book of Genesis, divided into three groups: God’s Creation of the Earth; God’s Creation of Humankind and their fall from God’s grace; and lastly, the state of Humanity as represented by Noah and his family. On the pendentives supporting the ceiling are painted twelve men and women who prophesied the coming of the Jesus. They are seven prophets of Israel and five Sibyls, prophetic women of the Classical world.

– Wikipedia extract

As I “stumbled” into the Sistine Chapel this evening, I at first did not realise that it was the Sistine Chapel, having seen few images previous to this. Yet instantly, as the singing began and I saw the cross, as I saw Christ there on a simple table while idiots around him bickered and fought, I found myself pushing back the chair from my desk and kneeling on the floor, looking at this simple table and praying.

After some moments I looked at the walls, and then looking up I realised where I was. The simple table with the waiting Christ had caught my attention. But looking up to the heavens as we do when we pray, I saw Michelangelo’s prayer and was glad of this blessing.

Rather than just “the twelve apostles”, we instead have many disciples, the human journey and phases of life, with God waiting with outstretched hand to hold and bless creation. If only we respond. The far more complex picture presented on the roof reflects a real sense of life’s complexity, and tells me God’s eyes and God’s hand reaches to all places, and now lightly on my head, as I kneel once again this evening in the Sistine Chapel…

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One Response to Kneeling in the Sistine Chapel

  1. Simon Marsh says:

    Wow Rachael, this is a stunning and moving post! Thank you for it, for your honesty and openness. The (Roman Catholic, of course) Gerard Hughes speaks well of a God of Surprises, eh? How grateful I am, though, for the honesty with which you set out your reactions to things, and your willingness always to be open to the possibility of changed or developed opinions. These are excellent qualities in a Christian disciple, or a would-be priest 🙂

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