Firenze, One

Oh how it looks just like the pictures!

Now I think when I walk past Brunelleschi’s Dome every day
and night—the Asian tourists with pink polka-dotted umbrellas, the wads of phlegm under my feet, the Libyan selling things, the human rabbits of all ethnicities jumping around asking for lighters, the 2013 yellow crane with an arm taller than the tall cathedral, the dog poop in the street, the Americans with their bulging money pouches under their flashy shirts, the Germans with their black dresses (black scarves (black boots)), the lingerie stores (translation of one chain: ‘Very Intimate’), the man who grabbed his crotch and laughed, the takeaway coffees and wine and beer and everything—of the failure of man’s greatest achievements and his most pious pieties. The golden cross of Jesus on the top of the Dome could be mistaken for this failure.

But held in place of this failure is the presence of the eternal victory of Jesus. God happily witnesses the ubiquity of religious symbols that now form the composite of what is the church’s largely disinherited value.

Let that value be forgotten, I say. God does not dwell in temples made by human hands—tourists do. The unspoken spirit of this cathedral is the Lord’s testimony to man’s rejection of salvation in favor of cream horns and cheap Chinese leatherwork [purchased en masse for crowded markets]. The knowledge of God is ubiquitous—so is the knowledge that man always fails at reverting Jesus into temples, money, intellectual aspirants. Jesus cannot be reduced or reused, Jesus cannot be made one portion or subsumed under a reasoned and imagined vision for humanity’s highest heights. Jesus tears down the highest heights and what heights we offer up to him he has no need of; he lets our motivations be forgotten with time, our buildings and our greatest ambitions {IN HISS HOLY NAME} drown under the cacophony of Mister Pizza, Intimissimi, and people looking at the deceased’s lasting impressions on this world muttering to themselves, not, “What a God!” but instead, “I didn’t know they had windows back then!”

The cathedral is man’s glory, not god’s. And like man’s glory, it is surrounded by people making money from it—inside, outside, around, throughout, by means of. And it is quite a glory. It is way taller and way bigger than it is in the pictures.

There is the pagan impulse to be careful around a God, to not make a God angry, to hedge your bets. There is the religious impulse to multiply indivisible grace. And in the city Dante Alighieri fled and the Medici mafia stamped their lasting fingerprints on, Caleb Warner as the sole representative of the evangelical impulse listened to Sara Groves. I don’t think this city knows about that impulse and it still doesn’t. I had my earphones in, I felt moved, and no one who saw me even knew what was going on inside me. Am I somehow failing, the evangelical thinks? By the way,

I think God loves wine, allows men their lingerie, and doesn’t mind the smell of cigarettes.

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