My son’s wedding was in La Basilica di Santa Maria in an area of Rome called Trastevere. That area is what you would think of when you think of an old Italian city. Very narrow winding cobblestone streets with little shops and very ancient doors. Outstanding restaurants everywhere. Vespas and Fiats. A great place to just go wandering around a fascinating city.
There is also one of the oldest churches in history. The Basilica of St. Mary’s foundation was laid in the year 221. Think about that. In the year 221 AD the pagan Roman emperor Elagabalus (there’s a mouthful) was ruling over the empire. The current structure is “new”: it dates from the year 1140. It is Romanesque in style with stunning mosaics all along the floor, walls, and ceiling. The mosaics in the apse (the vault behind the altar) date from the 12th and 13th centuries. When you stand there and look at this magnificent art that is 800 years old, you are lost in wonder at the skill and devotion of people long ago.
I try to think of what those ancient artisans were like. The people were building a church in which to worship, not to be entertained. This thing cost time and money, blood and sweat. Yes, people were being paid to build. But they also knew that when they started to build, they would probably not live long enough to see the end result. Maybe their children would not live long enough to see the end. Maybe even their grandchildren. They must have believed, however, that what they were doing counted for eternity. They had the long view in mind. They were not creating beauty for instant gratification.
In their minds, they were creating something magnificent for God, for Him to be pleased, and for people to use for succeeding generations for His glory.
And I think we did that day, use that building, for the glory of God.