Gianlorenzo Bernini is perhaps the only person who could rival Michelangelo as a sculptor. He lived after him from 1598-1680. As a youngster he spent all his time at the Vatican from early morning to late at night making sketches of ancient Roman and Greek statues. By the age of 17 he was carving statues that were their equal. A few years later at the age of just 25 he was put in charge of the fabric and buildings of St Peter’s. In the years to follow he was to re-design St Peter’s square with the colonnade and façade that we see today.
The canopy above the main altar in bronze in St Peter is his. Many of the squares and fountains around Rome were his. Many of the statues and medallions in St Peter’s were done by him.
He was also a town planner, straightening roads, re-directing waterways, designing palaces and bridges which still stand and are used today.
Gianlorenzo Bernini is without doubt of the great genius of the ages. He had an eye which was able to see something in stone that no other could see and a skill to bring it about. He had an eye to see in a wide-open space a building, a staircase, a road, channels of water, a square that no other could see. He had an eye that could transform something old into something new.
There was in him something unique, different and stand alone. He was able to see things that many of us just could not be able to see.
In the prophets of the Old Testament they too see things that we cannot see. Isaiah sees today a person coming with spirit of wisdom and understanding, counsel and strength. He sees him as a figure who will judge justly and bring justice to the nations. His time will be different so much so that there will be peace and the nations will come to him.
What the prophet is seeing is the coming of Messiah. A person who was indeed imbued with wisdom and understanding, counsel and strength. At his coming the whole countryside was indeed turned out. And as the prophet Isaiah saw, he would teach people to change their ways and act justly.
We hear also that John is a prophet too has a prophet’s eye. He too, as it turns out, can see things that others cannot. He sees a person who will baptise with fire and the Holy Spirit. A person higher than him, whom he is not able even to carry his sandals.
Like Bernini, Isaiah and John the Baptist see things that we cannot see. Peoples, times, situations that we cannot imagine. Where we see an empty space they see something else, where our sight is limited their sight is far reaching. They are not held back, they dream dreams, they see visions in the night.
There is something extraordinary when we think of people like Bernini who looks at a piece of marble and releases the figure that is held captive within it. There is something amazing when we think of the artist who looks at a blank piece of canvas and can see a beautiful picture. It is amazing that a musician can take a piece of paper and write on it music that can touch the human heart of generations of people he will never know. It is incredible that the poet or writer can write words that inspire, entertain, amuse.
It falls to some people to see things which no one else sees. There are some who are touched with a unique gift that few of us possess.
The people in the scriptures, these great prophets, see what no eye has saw, hear that which no ear has heard. They see into the mind of God and in a word, the word of God share it with us. They see God’s plan, his mind, his heart, his will, his desire for his people.
We perhaps don’t think it, but the spirit of the prophet is alive in the church. Where we don’t see anything others see clearly. Where people only see war, others see opportunities for peace. Where people only know conflict, they see ways to forgive and be reconciled. Where people only see hunger, they see ways of feeding people. Where people only see hatred, they see ways to love. Where people don’t see a way out of a situation, they see roads and paths to go. Where people see problems they see solutions. Where people see only the answers of the past, they see inventions and solutions for the future.
Those with that far seeing eye are with us, they are in our midst. God’s spirit like a flame runs through the stubble and cannot be quenched. It is a creative spirit, a visionary spirit, an insightful spirit, a transformative spirit – a spirit that sees things that appear not to be there but are there in the mind and heart of those who see and perceive them.
John the Baptist sees on the far distant horizon a figure that no one else can see. We have come to know that figure as Jesus of Nazareth, born of Mary in the town of Bethlehem.