Beginning in the End 

I visited the catacombs today just outside of the Roman metropolis. I expected it to be creepy and a morbid part of me was excited to see some skeletons and shrouds. 

However, what I ended up finding: rows upon rows of empty tombs (the bodies in the areas open to tourists have been relocated) and frescos depicting the hope of eternal life and resurrection in Christ. It was as if, through these empty tombs, I was glimpsing a preview of a future freedom from death, which, in a place built to hold dead bodies, seemed ironic. So, as usual, I wrote some poetry to help me process this idea and truly experience through expression what I saw today. 

Please read and consider the following; though free verse, I wrote with both intentionality and emotion. 

“Beginning in the End”

Dark and cold and lonely,

Left in the grave- untimely. 

Memories dancing before eyes

Blinded to the present,

Blurred in remembrance. 

Had she ever seen at all?

Not many years:

Ten and seven

Yet few images felt recent, felt real. 

But now, though, was surely real;

This cold and dark and lonely. 

Shivering spine on harsh-hewn stone;

Shroud too thin a shawl,

The damp came next, trickled down

Baptism, immersing all. 

By this her soul was stirred

In that dark and cold and lonely. 

Something moved divinely 

And a prayer fell up from under. 

A prayer said at bedtimes past,

And sweeter now in this last. 

The words lifted her, warmed her. 

Their promise burned within her heart…

Her stilled heart. 

No longer beating with blood but hope. 

Then died the cold and dark and lonely

As she fell asleep, finally.

Yet sight renewed in bursting light

All-consuming, ever-bright.

A shock of air she’d felt before…

Not many years ago. 

Yet this was something far, far more.

No cold nor dark nor lonely

But glorious radiance only;

For a Christian tomb proves but a womb, 

And death as life’s true dawning. 

To the Hermitage of St. Francis

img_1144I’ve been abroad in Rome for the past ten days, but today I was- to the relief of my introversion- able to escape to the countryside of Assisi. There, I hiked to the Hermitage of St. Francis and every step of the way thought, “This is the most beautiful sight…wait, no. THIS is!” It was truly stunning and I was in awe of the Creator the entire pilgrimage.

Upon reaching the top, it was clear to me why St. Francis would choose to worship privately up there rather than only down below. Sure, I have toured some majestic and elaborate basilicas/churches over the past week or so, but none of them had the same awe-inspiring, spiritually-renewing effect on me that this hermitage and its miraculous view of nature did.

So, here is a little poem I composed on the march back down in accordance with this idea:

“No gold to have but sun will do,
And snow shall marble be.
The rocks shall serve as stair-step pew;
For columns we have trees.

The air is chill from wind- not dark
And tombs can flowers grow.
Above the sky’s a painted arc
From which His blessings flow.

This boundless house is Nature’s church
For worship, wonder, prayer.
Climb to that good and peaceful perch
To praise the Savior there.”
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