“I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.” – Michelangelo
Michelangelo often referred to his work as releasing that which was encased in stone. He felt the purpose of any sculptor was to discover the statue already inside that stone. The act he performed was one of freeing. That freeing act was a challenging one. The physical and mental demands required from cutting the stone until the finishing were suited for an artist who had not only the artistic talent and vision but, also, the stamina and firmness of heart. To endure all in each project until perfection had been achieved. Francesco Granacci, Fra Giovanni Angelo Montorsoli and Raffaello da Montelupo studied directly under Michelangelo. While others saw his works, studied them, and learned from them that way, these artists had the opportunity to see Michelangelo’s techniques in action and hear directly from the master how and why he did what he did to create his masterpieces.
Puccini’s opera, “Turandot” included one of the most famous among all arias: “Nesum Dorma.” Puccini, unfortunately did not complete the opera himself nor did he witness its performance. For he died while in the process of composing the great work. After his death, however, the opera was completed by his students. When performed for the first time, Toscanini, the renowned conductor, stopped the orchestra at a dramatic point and turned to the audience in tears saying: “At this point the master died.” He then said, after the pause; “But his disciples continued where he left off.” And continued the performance until completion.
Christ’s mission was completed at Calvary, followed by an empty tomb. The sins of mankind were forgiven, death defeated and reconciliation with God complete. Yet, as did Michelangelo’s and Puccini’s students, we too, as Christ’s disciples had been left with an ongoing task. That of perfection in the eyes of God. “Be perfect, as your Father in Heaven is perfect;” Christ tells us. The Holy spirit gave the Apostles the courage and confidence to do just that. At Easter there were the eleven apostles and a handful of followers. At Pentecost the disciples of Christ numbered 120. The Church, the body of Christ, was growing and striving to fulfill Christ’s command to be perfect.
When teaching, I grew in understanding and appreciation of mathematics more so than as a student. For in imparting that knowledge to my students my passion for the subject and understanding of it grew toward perfection. The same is true of the Apostles then and today. We must hold fast to the message of the Gospel; for truth is always truth, regardless of the passage of time and rages of the ages.
The cross, the sculpture and the finished opera have commonality. Michelangelo freed the image in stone; Christ freed all men and women hopelessly bound to sin. Puccini inspired his students to continue his work to completion; Christ through the Holy Spirit prepared His Apostles, disciples and believers today to fulfill His command to grow His Church throughout the world. The two great artists, in emulating Christ, have impelled upon their followers a passion for dedication and excellence in the service of their crafts, with a commitment to perfection.
Christ, too, imparts a passion upon His followers. Through the Holy Spirit He so empowers these disciples that they, who truly believe, cannot resist the call to perfection or completion of the task set before them.