I just returned with a study tour of Tuscan Pulpits (especially the four thirteenth century pulpits by Nicola and Giovanni Pisano) sponsored by Rohn and Assosciates Design. Here's a homily I preached last Sunday at the conclusion of the week. The picture was taken in the pulpit in Braga in the northern part of Tuscany.
Nicola Pisano had a five year old boy and had just turned thirty when he received the commission for his first pulpit in the Pisa Baptistry. It took him five years.
Then came the second pulpit in Siena. He was fifty-two when the Pistoia commission came by, but he passed it off to his twenty-seven year old son. Nicola's last great commission was the fountain in Perugia where he died at the age of fifty-nine. When Giovanni was fifty, he returned to Pisa where he built the final Pisano Pulpit in the Duomo, just a few hundred feet from where he had watched his father build the first one as a little boy.
Greatness and acclaim followed by the weakness and constraint of age followed Nicola as he watched Giovanni increase just as he decreased.
And so it goes, as we pass through seasons of vigor and ambition, accomplishment and acclaim we participate in that joy which will be ours completely if we but steer the straight path and remain faithful to he who will bring us the joy of our youth.
But then there come the seasons further on, of wisdom and insight, but also of weakness and constraint, when the chisel grows heavy and the eyes grow dim, as God offers us a joy deeper still, the perfect joy found in his passion and perfected in his cross.
You can see it in the crucifixion of that first Pisano pulpit. Mary knows it, despite her complete collapse into the arms of her companions, the Jews know it, despite the look of utter confusion on their faces and even Longinus knows it as he strikes out to pierce the side of the Lamb slain for his sins.
And we upon whom Christ gazes down know it, the weaknesses, the hardships and the constraints which are our participation in his saving death.
For be it pulpit or parish, Pisano or Rohn, Chianti or Chappaqua, when we are weak we are strong in him.