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Thursday, April 14, 2005

The Roman Triptych - Pope John Paul II

II. Meditations on the Book of Genesis at the Threshold of the Sistine Chapel

1. The first beholder

"In him we live and move and have our being", says Paul at the Areopagus in Athens—

Who is He?
He is like an ineffable space which embraces all.
He, the Creator,
embraces everything, summoning to
existence from nothing, not only from
the beginning, but always.

Everything endures continually becoming—
"In the beginning was the Word, and through Him all things were made".
The mystery of the beginning is born together with the Word and is revealed through the Word.

The Word—eternal vision and utterance.
He, who was creating, saw—"saw that it was good",
his seeing different from ours.
He—the first Beholder—
saw, finding in everything some trace
of his Being, his own fullness—
He saw: Omnia nuda et aperta sunt ante oculos Eius
Naked, transparent,
true, good and beautiful—

He saw in terms so different from ours.
Eternal vision and eternal utterance:
"In the beginning was the Word, and through Him all things were made",
all in which we live and move and have our being—
The Word, the marvellous eternal Word, as an invisible threshold
of all that has come into being, exists or will exist. As if the Word were the threshold.

The threshold of the Word, containing the invisible form of everything, divine and eternal —beyond this threshold everything begins to happen!

I stand at the entrance to the Sistine—
Perhaps all this could be said more simply
in the language of the "Book of Genesis".

But the Book awaits the image—
And rightly so. It was waiting for its Michelangelo.
The One who created "saw"—saw that "it was good".
"He saw", and so the Book awaited the fruit of "vision".
O all you who see, come—
I am calling you, all "beholders" in every age.
I am calling you, Michelangelo!

There is in the Vatican a chapel that awaits the harvest of your vision!
The vision awaited the image.
From when the Word became flesh, the vision is waiting.

We are standing at the threshold of the Book.

It is the Book of the origins—Genesis.
Here, in this chapel, Michelangelo penned it,
not with words, but with the richness
of piled-up colours.

We enter in order to read it again,
going from wonder to wonder.
So then, it is here—we look and recognize
the Beginning which emerged out of nothingness,
obedient to the creative Word.
Here it speaks from these walls.
But still more powerfully the End speaks.
Yes, the judgment is even more outspoken:
the judgment, the Final one.
This is the path that all must follow—
every one of us.

2. Image and likeness

"God created man in his image,
male and female he created them
and God saw that it was very good.
Naked they were and did not feel shame".

Was it possible?
Do not ask those who are contemporary, but ask Michelangelo
(and perhaps the contemporaries as well!?).
Ask the Sistine.
How much is said here, on these walls!

The beginning is invisible. Everything here points to it.
All this abundant visibility, released by human genius.
And the End too is invisible,
though here, traveller, your eyes are caught
by the vision of the Last Judgment.
How make the invisible visible,
how penetrate beyond the bounds of good and evil?

The Beginning and the End, invisible, pierce us from these walls.

4. Judgment

In the Sistine the artist painted the Judgment.
The Judgment dominates the whole interior.
Here, the invisible End becomes poignant visibility.
This End is also the summit of transparency—such is the path of all generations.

Non omnis moriar.
What is imperishable in me
now stands face to face with Him Who Is!
This is what fills the central wall of the Sistine profusion of colour.

Do you remember, Adam? At the beginning he asked you "where are you?".
And you replied: "I hid myself from You because I was naked".
"Who told you that you were naked?"….
"The woman whom you put here with me" gave me the fruit....

All those who populate the central wall of the Sistine painting
bear in themselves the heritage of that reply of yours!
Of that question and that response!
Such is the End of your path.

Epilogue

It is here, at the feet of this marvellous Sistine profusion of colour that the Cardinals gather—
a community responsible for the legacy of the keys of the Kingdom.

They come right here.
And once more Michelangelo wraps them in his vision.
"In Him we live and move and have our being

Who is He?
Look, here the creating hand of the Almighty Ancient One, turned towards Adam....
In the beginning God created....
He, the all-seeing One....

The Sistine painting will then speak with the Word of the Lord:
Tu es Petrus—as Simon, the son of Jonah, heard.
"To you I will give the keys of the Kingdom".
Those to whom the care of the legacy of the keys has been entrusted
gather here, allowing themselves to be enfolded by the Sistine's colours,
by the vision left to us by Michelangelo—
so it was in August, and then in October of the memorable year of the two Conclaves,
and so it will be again, when the need arises
after my death.
Michelangelo's vision must then speak to them.

"Con-clave": a joint concern for the legacy of the keys of the Kingdom.
They will find themselves between the Beginning and the End,
between the Day of Creation and the Day of Judgment.
It is given to man once to die and after that the judgment!

A final clarity and light.
The clarity of the events—
The clarity of consciences—
It is necessary that during the Conclave, Michelangelo teach them—
Do not forget: Omnia nuda et aperta sunt ante oculos Eius.
You who see all—point to him!
He will point him out....