Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
Being confined to our homes creates new challenges. Know that each of you continues to be in my thoughts and prayers each day. If you are at all like me, we are missing each other greatly. A regular schedule and the easy opportunity to be together suddenly takes on an entirely new level of importance.
If nothing else comes of this experience, I hope we will never again take being together for granted. Friendship, the gift of togetherness, the need to see and interact and to hug or shake the hand of another human being … we are learning more each day about how valuable these priceless gifts are. For now, that you are loved, missed and cared for. And know that I long to be with you again in person very soon!
In the meantime, we can remind ourselves of people in other eras facing confusion and lacking clarity. Here is one.
Out of Nothing, Venice!
Their world was crashing in around them. The beauty and sophistication, the art and architecture of the formally Roman area of northern Italy was being crushed, stolen, burned. They ran from the chaos to the only place of refuge they could find: a series of marshy islands just off the coast of Italy in the upper reaches of the Adriatic Sea.
The historian John Julius Norwich once asked: “Who in their senses would build more than a fishing hut on the malarial, malodorous shoals of mud and sandbanks of the Venetian lagoon?” And his own answer to the question: “Those who had no choice.”
Their plight resulted from the catastrophe of barbarian invasions initiated by Attila the Hun in the middle of the fifth century A.D. These invasions were soon followed by Goths in the sixth century. Fleeing as refugees, they carried with them only the bare essentials and hoped merely for survival.
Today, Venice is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. It is the best preserved large city in all of Europe, and with no motor traffic, one hundred and fifty canals, four hundred bridges, one hundred and eighteen islands, palaces that border the Grand Canal, musicians on almost every corner, and gondolas that serve as taxis. Venice is a place of particular magic.
The mud, sand, peat, and clay of the islands required particularly solid foundations of oak pilings driven deep into the subsoil. The pilings came from trees as far away as the Alps in the north and Croatia across the Adriatic to the east.
Working from the outside in, concentric circles of pilings were driven through the unstable lagoon floor to the bedrock of compacted clay. The number and thickness of the pilings depended on the weight of the building: La Salute church, for instance, is supported by over a million pilings.
How a defeated people saw beyond mere survival remains mysterious. Yet to travel among the alleys and canals of remarkable Venice, is to be aware of a miraculous transformation. Somehow in the aftermath of losing everything, refugees had faith of Hebrews 11:1 to claim “the substance of things hoped for and evidence of things not seen.”And with that faith, they created a meandering urban garden of architectural beauty for the world to enjoy.
PRAYER FOR THIS DAY:
Lord, inspire us to do the same. Allow us to take whatever has come our way, and know that we are not alone. Give us clarity for our confusion; inspire in us a faith superior to our current unsettledness. And during this day of reflection, allow our lives to envision beyond; and through your grace, create in us the strength to finally emerge as the masterpieces you envision, evocative of the resiliency and lasting beauty that is Venice. Amen.
Out of Nothing, Venice!is an excerpt from my book, Approaching the Presence: A Year for Living Faithfully.
Insight City Guide: Venice, from the Discovery Channel, p. 15.
Insight City Guide: Venice, p. 18.