Sunday, August 23, 2015

busted in the Hermitage

 Before I left for our Baltic cruise, I promised a young internet friend that I would pray for him in a Russian church; he thanked me and asked that I touch Mary for him.I was delighted to add that to my things to do in the cold North near the Arctic circle.He became part of my journey.

These musings will not be a travelogue,I will leave places out but this is what I remember most:

-The closed convent in Rostock, Germany with a lovely courtyard and tall lush Ginko tree.Some of the old town wall encloses it's peace.There, just outside the gate, was my first, most primitive Mary.Just soft lines, simple but evocative.Feeling peace, I vowed to share her.Later, as we walked the streets towards a church, I looked up, I don't know why, and there she and her Christ were again, in an alcove high on a business establishment wall;looking down in the rain.

-Tallin, Estonia.The guide showed us some majestic square wooden houses  that were private homes when the Soviets invaded Estonia and took them over.Faded paint could not take away the character and beauty of these plain buildings. When the USSR dissolved, the houses were returned to their owners but none have the money, after 50 years, to repair them so they stand.Each with a story,each one moved me.

-In St. Petersburg, Russia, you can not drink the water.The country that was racing ours to the moon, does not have potable water in this city.I was shocked.Few shops, many apartment buildings that still have the stern, utilitarian facades. They have, however, taken great care of the Hermitage, that repository of incredible works of art.This former czar's palace gives a glimpse of the beauty and excess that caused a revolution.I know that I will never go back, but I would have loved to savor some of the art but the crowds were aggressive and the rooms stifling."Move on to keep from losing our guide" was the theme of the day.

 It was in this incredible museum that I sought to fulfill my promise to my British friend.I spotted a Mary, blue and wooden, within reach on a wall.I backtracked to her and reached up.All the weight of the Russian state descended in the form of a gnarled hand on my shoulder."No,No,No,"she cried.I never saw her anywhere, have no idea where she came from but I jumped a mile in the air and then shuffled off, badly chastened.

Conan, today I prayed for you with my hand on Mary's feet in my own church where we have a stunning Our Lady of Guadalupe statue that hangs to the right of the altar surrounded by soft burning candles.You know well the prayer that I was free to say. Thank you for giving me that opportunity.It was a special moment for me.They both were in fact.

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