Happy New Year! I don’t know about you, but I am ready to get back to a normal schedule, or what counts as normal in the midst of a pandemic. There are still big events in the next week or so — the election tomorrow, Congressional certification of the Electoral College vote on Wednesday (which should not be news, but will be this time), the official ending of the Christmas season with Epiphany on Wednesday, and in our house, the National Football Championship next Monday.
And, of course, this is all playing out against the backdrop of the pandemic. A vaccine and a new president who is concerned about the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans give us hope that the pandemic will come to an end, but this is not the time to let down your guard. Continue to wear your masks, avoid gatherings, and stay at home as much as possible. When we are able to gather together physically later this year we want all of us to be there!
Having said that, I am now going to tell you about an art exhibit that I think will be extraordinary. It is a showing of a large sculpture that was commissioned by Pope Francis and installed in St. Peter’s Square in 2019. “Angels Unaware” is by Canadian artist Timothy Schmalz. The 3.5 ton, 120-foot long piece depicts 140 immigrants and refugees from across history, crowded into a boat, a pair of angels wings rising above them. Among the life-size refugees depicted are a Jew escaping from Nazi Germany, an African being forcibly brought to America, an Irish boy escaping the potato famine, and a Cherokee on the Trail of Tears. All of the faces are those of real people, many from photographs taken at Ellis Island.
The pope commissioned the sculpture for World Refugee Day. It is based on a verse from Hebrews: “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unaware.”
This second full-size casting of the sculpture was done for Catholic University in Washington DC, but it is now traveling around the country. It will be at our neighbors’, Holy Spirit Catholic Church, from January 7 — February 3, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. It is outside and social distancing and masks are required, so it will be safe to go see it.
I was so taken by the sculpture when I read about it in 2019 that I ordered a miniature replica of it for Joe for Christmas that year. I am thrilled to be able to see the full-size version.
Timothy Schmalz has done many religious sculptures. One that you may have read about is “Homeless Jesus,” another life-sized sculpture depicting Jesus as a homeless person sleeping on a park bench. The original sculpture is at the University of Toronto, but several other castings are at other churches. I saw it at the City of St. Jude, a Catholic Church and social welfare center in Montgomery. It is a powerful piece.
For more information about “Angels Unaware” and its showing at Holy Spirit, check the link below:
And attached is the service of Compline for this week. Join us online at 8 tonight.