There is a lady of the old guard that looks over the port of Marseille, France. Built high a-top a fortress, it’s been hollowed ground since the dark ages; This was a church, built-in the Neo-Byzantine style, complete with copper gilded gold leafing and colorful mosaics; The locals refer to her as, la bonne mère (“the good mother”); We call her, Notre Dame de la Guard. This morning, my thoughts drew me to a photo I had taken there, inside the Basilica a couple years ago. What stood out to me the most, was the beautiful colored limestone exterior and the wooden ships inside the chapel. Yes, ships, that s right. Marseille is an ancient sea port adjacent to the Bay of Lion.
Now I’ve always had a love affair with ships, especially old sea fairing ships. So, when I saw these beautiful models hanging in the chapel I was quite surprised. For I have traveled across the ocean several times, having the great opportunity to visit a substantial number of cathedrals, and never have I seen such a display of artistic ingenuity that so captured the heartbeat of a city. The story goes that ancient sailors and fishermen would walk up to the Basilica after coming home from the sea to thank The Lord for their safe return.
The ship is a great symbol. It represents our coming in, and our going out; Our days spent beneath the sun in calm waters, and others in stormy sea’s; Peaceful moorings and tempest-tossed nights, when we get our sails bent out of shape. The great vessel on the sea is always in motion, moving toward a new port, a new experience. Sometimes in uncharted waters, the craft can lose its way in the starless night; But always moving, sometimes carried in the arms of the wind, and sometimes waiting for it to blow.
There is nothing like visiting an ancient port city, that has been around since before the 4th century BC, to arouse your sensibilities and awaken a feeling of awe and wonder for the past.
When I gaze up into the Nave, I am reminded that many of these old cathedrals were built before there were forklifts and machines to set large heavy stones on high; I marvel at the paintings and mosaics set within the cupolas, that appear to be hundreds of feet high above my head. It is a testament to what man can accomplish on earth. I am reminded that the Bible also addresses this fact: “With God all things are possible,’ Matthew 19:26. It’s noteworthy, in my opinion, that most of the magnificent representations of architecture and art from the “old world” are primarily found in Cathedrals and Churches.
There are stories in the Old Testament even about how God hand-picked artisans and workers, which he endowed with special skills and talents, in order to build the Temple. God is the giver of all things. These men had the sense to use their gifts to glorify God. What are the gifts that God has given you and me? How can use our talents and skills for His Kingdom?
I believe that the things that we give out of our love, will last; Perhaps, they will last even longer than the stones and statues of the great Cathedrals; The mighty buildings that adorn the sky and keep guard over the ancient cities.