An integral meaning to marriage and family life
One of my favourite works of religious art is the Apse Mosaic in St Clement’s Basilica, Rome. It is simply awe-inspiring! The Church was completed in the 13th Century. Underneath it are two other Churches from earlier centuries.
The mosaic, in brief, portrays the life-giving Trinity of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit surrounding all life.
From above, we see symbols of God the Creator forming the cosmos (e.g., hand). Descending and in the centre is the crucifixion of Jesus surrounded by symbols of peace and eternity (e.g., doves). At the base of the mosaic is incredible luscious green growth emanating from living springs gushing forth from the base of the Cross of Jesus. These green vines spread all over the mosaic and surround small family groups in their everyday activities.
Visually, the intent of the artist is clear: the Trinity is the source of everything. The love and life of the Trinity nourishes all and gives hope. It is an emphatic statement about the meaning of the Trinity. It is a dynamic image of the love of the Trinity.
This medieval mosaic seems to put into artistic form the recent teaching of Pope Francis. He champions the notion of “integral ecology.” That is, all in life is interconnected and interdependent.
We have just highlighted his encyclical called “Laudato Si’” (2015), on care for our common home, in the Archdiocese. Gathered recently at Yarralumla with our indigenous elders and parish representatives, we focussed on his teaching on this topic.
His teaching is not simply about environmental ecology – although this is clearly a central theme. Pope Francis expands our care for the environment to include our care for each other in all its expressions. He calls this “integral ecology”.
I pray that this recent gathering at Yarralumla will be a point of departure for us, reflecting afresh this key notion of “integral ecology”. Walking alongside our indigenous friends, may we find this “mosaic” of life compelling. May it be a Trinitarian compass point for humbly finding practical ways for living out our interconnectedness in life.
In our times, this interconnectedness of life expressed in married and family life really needs an “integral” conversion.
It is simply not good enough to be passionate about environmental ecology and indifferent to the ecology of married and family life. Both are interconnected, as portrayed in the mosaic of St Clement, Rome.
As the life-giving source of all goodness and love, the Trinity needs to surround the very vulnerable institution of marriage and family and give it new life in our times.
We are all aware, like never before, of the vulnerabilities of family life today. Ask any family! It seems cut off from the vital support of political legislation, cultural affirmation and the assumed moral understanding of the links between love sharing and child giving.
Let us pray for and practically support a true “integral” ministry supporting marriage and family life.
This Archdiocese does much to support family life and marriage enrichment. We are grateful for this. Let us start in our own homes. Kindness and expressions of love and forgiveness are a great start. It is all part of the mosaic of life lived in the Holy Trinity.
Let us try to live an “integral” mosaic of life!