Badia Fiorentina – It begins here
Have you ever had a “change of direction moment”? I’ll describe one for you. You think your life is clipping along perfectly, that you are doing everything right, that you are in control. It’s a feeling of, “Hey, I got this!” and then things shift. For some it is a major life event, for some it is witnessing or living through tragedy, for others it’s a family event.
For me it was walking into the Badia Fiorentina.
During the recent global situation, I took to walking in the morning, at first light, watching a day come alive while stepping through the streets of my city, Florence. My morning walks would take me through the ancient city and almost daily across the Ponte Vecchio, often in complete silence and through lonely streets, seemingly resting after years of millions upon millions of visitors trampling upon her hand cut stones. Yes, every chip you see in a stone on a Florentine street is still cut with a hammer and chisel to give it a look and also to make it a little less slippery.
I often pause on the Ponte to gaze onto the Arno river and to feel the direction of the wind, to see or notice what pattern the wind draws across the surface of the water, Occasionally a very early riser at the rowing club beneath the famous Uffizi gallery would be opening up the doors to prepare for a morning scull.
I choose different routes every day and try to be home by around seven when the rest of the world is waking up.
Let me get to that moment I was speaking about earlier.
I was on the way back home and took a back route past the Galileo museum, down via dei Leoni (the way of the lions, so named because this is where one could see where the wealthy once stored their prized lions in cages). Then I continued behind the Piazza Signoria to Piazza San Firenze which houses the old courthouse and jail. This route is about 150 meters, but it goes to show you how Florence is a city built on a human scale, with building after building housing some interesting story.
As I passed the Bargello Museum (the building that was the jailhouse in other times) across the street I noticed a large set of double doors, open and inviting and something called my attention to them. It’s a few steps up toward the church and I immediately found an incredible modern bronze sculpture depicting a man in a cloak, sleeping on a bench with an inscription reading, “I was naked and you clothed me.”, mt 25:36
The feet of the statue are exposed and, getting closer, I found they displayed the stigmata, the wounds, the marks where the nails had been through Christ’s feet.
I had not noticed at first but It was Jesus.
I don’t mean Jesus in the way, I may have realized, “oh this statue represents Jesus”, I mean it in a way that in that moment, Jesus revealed himself to me and I can only say this looking back on it.
In that moment, I was touched by this image of poverty and the striking idea of being able to see Jesus in everyone and everything. Then I heard it, the sound of singing and as I walked through toward another set of doors and entered the church. I had been here before, years ago, but now it was different. The sound of morning Lauds was filling my heart and my eyes with tears at the same time. In some way I felt like I was home.
The feeling was one of complete love.