A View from Italy

Dear Church, 

I am halfway through my visit to Italy and while I am learning a lot and having a great time,  I am also missing all of you.  I wish you could walk through this world with me and we could share our UU perspectives on the art and history.  

My heart moved mightily upon seeing Michelangelo’s Pieta in person. 

We had been visiting Vatican City, learning about the development of the Christian church in a “pagan” context. Given my personal theology, I was frustrated by the generalized disregard for everything non-Christian and I was uncomfortably aware of patriarchy and its effects. 

Trying to stay open to new learning, I stood in St. Peter’s Basilica in front of the Pieta and become once more centered in my most Unitarian self.

Here the artist has transformed stone into grief, pain into beauty. 

At the moment captured, Mary has retrieved her son’s dead and broken body. His limbs draped across her lap drawn down to the earth from which we are formed and to which we will all return. 

The beauty of her face holds all the grief of a mother’s loss. 

This is a Unitarian sculpture. It is human and raw and real. Jesus is in death as we all will be and Mary is as heartbroken as many  of us have been and will be.

This is embodiment.  This is love. This is life lived and lost. And it is beautiful, sacred,  holy and whole.  

It is miracle enough to invite us into community where we, too, love and grieve. 

In sympathy and power, beauty calls us to be with those who suffer, regardless of who or where they are, for our lot and our fate is common.  

Sometimes people ask me how our tradition can come from Christianity;  should we still claim this tap root? 

The story of faith moves like a nourishing river. Each religion plants a tree at some bend in the bank. This story of a man who taught and lived an ethic of love, this story of a mom who loved mightily, this very human, very ordinary and miraculous story seems a good place from which to grow. 

This history and theology are ours by the facts of time and the flow of ideas,  but they are also ours in call towards care for each other and building the beloved community.  The fact of death does not end us , but invites us into deeper living.  Grief does not isolate us, but connects us in common care.

Or, perhaps, the Pieta is just a rock made pretty by chipping away bits and pieces. That could be enough.

And I look forward  to a time when we can travel together and share perspectives on the faith that sustains us, the life that inspires. 

With Love and Blessings,
Rev. Mitra

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