Pietro Cavallini, mosaic 1296-1300, Santa Maria in Trastevere, Rome
IT MAY be wonderful, but it is wrong. Now you can put money in a slot and flood the mystery with light. In church we do step into glory, but by candlelight it was never this easy. Once, coming here, we would have just picked out Christ enthroned, and then, perhaps, counted the sheep. In church, we are indeed Christ’s people, and Christ’s disciples. The rest we would only take in slowly.
There are figures who insist that this is Rome: Pope Innocent, on the left, holding a model of the church he has built; Peter, on Christ’s right. Then there are prophets and evangelists, and the seven lamp-stands of the apocalypse. In church, we gather here and now, but the view is endless: we can see our past and our future.
Notice the tender detail of Christ’s embrace; his hand rests on Mary’s shoulder. In church we are a community of love. It is not our love, of course — this community is filled with the love of God. You can see his hand above Christ and, above that, a dark line: the constant outpouring of the Spirit that strengthens and sustains.
Dean of Bristol