Travelling has the capacity to take you out of yourself. You see the world and your place in it with fresh eyes. Always a good thing, as most of us have the capacity to over-inflate our individual role within it.
I am currently experiencing nearly five weeks of travel throughout Europe with my husband. We have never travelled so extensively in one trip before. Everything is so old, and has so much visible history.
In the midst of every single town or city is a place of worship. In the case of our destinations – cathedrals, basilicas and churches – all magnificent, all capturing an era when Christianity (either Roman or Protestant) was central to village life.
For us, one stood apart. It left us reflecting on its architect, and asking ‘what was his understanding of God in designing such an extraordinary place of worship?’.
I speak of Antoni Gaudi, the architect of La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona’s unfinished basilica, a building whose cranes and scaffolds have dominated the skyline for many years.
Its interior, designed by Gaudi nearly a century ago but only recently completed by a new generation of architects, builders and artisans, is breathtakingly beautiful. It takes you to a place of worship and awe, drawing you into contemplation and prayer despite the distraction of hundreds of other visitors also gazing upward. The light, the soaring ceiling, the magnificent hues of stained glass, the aura of the space, fill the senses. Worship of the Almighty seems the logical and necessary response.
How is this possible? It is a place of unerring beauty. Gaudi, who died as a result of an accident in 1926, saw this building as his life’s work.
He also knew it would not be completed in his lifetime. But as God was a God of infinity, it did not matter. Gaudi knew this significant task would be taken up by subsequent generations and he was willing to surrender his creative control. Gaudi left comprehensive models, drawings and instructions, he mentored and collaborated.
He was a man of deep faith. He knew that he was just a part of a bigger picture.
Christians no longer dominate the centre. The Church does not carry the power it held in the past – for both good and evil – thankfully. However, like Gaudi, we too know that we worship a God of eternity. As we struggle with a changing world: a spotlight on the Church; debates about same-gender marriage; a declining membership; and so much other uncertainty; we do not need to be discouraged or confused.
God calls each of us into his world and his mission. He has a deep understanding of the much bigger picture. Be encouraged and keep your eyes on Jesus Christ (Hebrews 12:2).We do our part. We also pave the way for others to follow. Every person is precious.