A Prayer from Venice
Venice has ninety churches.
I saw a few of them recently.
They speak of the scope of time… how things endure and how things crumble, fade, decay, rot and die.
I’ve been in many Italian cities and towns as I traveled with dance companies in my earlier “lifetime.” I even lived here for a time – starting a dance company in Naples and working at an orphanage in Portici sponsored in part by the General Board of Global Ministries. That was years ago… but only a blip in time compared to the evidence of centuries you see around you as you walk along the labyrinthine streets of this Italian city where I sit writing this today.
But to speak metaphorically of the way you wind around these car-less streets and canals is another story…
There are ninty churches in Venice.
Yesterday I went to a Roman Catholic Mass (well, that’s almost all there is, save on English Anglican church) at the church of St. George – San Giorgio Maggiore – that sits floating along acroos the water from the rest of Venice. I went there because they were having a Gregorian Mass and I wanted to hear the lofty, ringing Gregorian tones of this chants, hopefully sung from the spectacular choir stalls behind its grand altar…
…The “cantor’s” voice was lovely, with a gentle appropriately slow vibrato that was practiced for this reverberant stone space. But the choir stalls were empty, the monks having died out and crumbled along with the adjoining monastery.
But again, I’ll resist the temptation to ponder another metaphor to return to what I really want to tell you.
My prayer yesterday morning that turned fervent – the kind of repetitive petitions I am wont to do when something passionate stirs within me – was a prayer to the patron saint, George, whose claim to fame was that he supposedly slayed dragons. His statue sat looking down over us as we timidly sang refrains and mumbled Amens.
“Slay the dragons of this church, George!”
Slay the dragons of fear that make us believe we cannot cross ecumenical lines –
Ones we have created and think erroneously that we cannot change.
Slay the dragons of this church, George…
The dragons of hatred that have driven conquests and
Slay the dragon of greed that creates ambivalence,
denies poverty’s existence,
holds us immobile and feigns ignorance and impotence to do anything about hunger and greed.
Slay the dragons of the church that keep
And help us endure…. In
And unity in and through
Jesus who knew unity in his very body.