Sep 6, 2012

Ancient Rome Reminded Me I'm Far Too Happy with Mud Pies

When I visited ancient Rome, I felt the weight of glory. I didn't know it then, I wasn't sure what I was feeling, but I later figured it out.  The Weight of Glory is an address C.S. Lewis gave at Oxford in 1941 and later published in a book and much later read by me and not fully understood, because, well, it's C.S. Lewis, does anybody fully understand him?  But years later, when I found myself walking through Ancient Rome, it almost took the breath out of me.  The Apostle Paul struggled here, was put on house arrest here, was beheaded here.  That is the weight of glory.
"Our charity must be real and costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinners - no mere tolerance, or indulgence which parodies love as flippancy parodies merriment.  Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses." ~ C.S. Lewis

Walking down the cobblestones where Paul must have walked, seeing the building where he was imprisoned, breathing the air of the city he actually lived in......

It was too much.  I went back to my room and searched my Bible for every reference to Paul in Rome.  I took the subway out to the Spanish steps and read every verse I could find about Paul in Rome.  I thought about Christian life today.   What we take for granted.  How we live frantic lives of insignificance, centered on the trivial.  How I struggle to share my faith with my own children, let alone a nation that would kill me for it.  How I struggle to live out just one page of the gospel.  I mean really live it out.
I struggled to understand.
"We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”  ~ C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory
My heart felt heavy.  I walked through Ancient Rome and my heart literally felt heavy.  Could I go back in time, could I watch Paul, listen to Paul, stand by while he was beheaded?

I live and thrive off his writings which are still published today, I gain strength from him, I learn from him, he is my teacher for crying out loud, a couple thousand years later.  I walked where he walked, but do I live how he lived?  How he meant for me to live?  How he fought for me to live?  How he died for me to live.

It's been my heart's desire to go to Greece, specifically so I could walk where Paul walked.  And here I found myself in Rome, walking where he walked.  I didn't know; I wasn't prepared to be in his footsteps already.

"“At present we are on the outside of the world, the wrong side of the door. We discern the freshness and purity of morning, but they do not make us fresh and pure. We cannot mingle with the splendours we see. But all the leaves of the New Testament are rustling with the rumour that it will not always be so. Some day, God willing, we shall get in.” ~ C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

I did not visit San Paolo alle Tre Fontane, the presumed site of Paul's martyrdom under the direction of Nero.  The legend says that when Paul was decapitated, his head bounced three times and fountains miraculously sprang up at each place where it touched the ground.  I don't believe this, but I would have liked to go by this church where he most likely lost his life.  

Paul did not bring Christianity to Rome.  He arrived around 57 AD and spent a few years under house arrest before he was killed. As I walked where Paul walked, nearby I could see the place where Caesar, the man he appealed to, was also killed - burned.

I grew angry with humanity.  Isn't it stupid - all this killing?  And it's still going on.  Life is short.  Life is vain.  
Lewis' glory is not in our own well-being; rather glory is found when we value each other as God values us, when we see in others what He sees in them.  And that, my friend, is heavy.

Read about Paul's travels to Rome and imprisonment there.

My posts on Italy:
First night in Rome, Bicycle Protest at the Colliseum
Florence and the Drive from Venice
Pizza Joint in Rome
Ancient Rome
Art in Rome, a Dali Exhibit


Mom said...

Good thought provoking blog today Val and it also reminded me of a song "I walked today where Jesus walked". Now that will be in my head all day but, hey, what better could be going through my head right!!

Lois said...

Excellently written. I can see the places you describe, not just the pictures, but the words you used. Yes it's a struggle to live even one page of the gospel. But it's worth the effort to try and please our Lord who died to save us. And lives to give us life!!