Excerpt from John Paul II's Poetic Meditations

Longest Part of “Roman Triptych”

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ROME, MARCH 7, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Here is Part II of John Paul II’s “Roman Triptych,” the poetic “Meditations” that appear signed for the first time without a pseudonym.

Part I, “The Stream,” is a contemplative meditation on Creation and nature, the forests and waters, and the need to go “against the current” to be able to find God, the source.

Part III, “A Hill in the Land of Moria,” is a contemplation from the “hill in the Region of Moria,” in the land of Abraham, of the sacrifice of the son, and of the faith of the Father of Believers.

Part II, the longest, which follows, includes “Meditations on the Book of Genesis at the Threshold of the Sistine Chapel.”

ZENIT publishes this poem with the permission of the Vatican Press (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, lev@publish.va), which holds the rights of publication in the various languages.

* * *



1. The First Beholder.

In him we live and move and have our being,
says Paul at the Areopagus in Athens —
Who is He?
He is like an ineffable space which embraces all.
He, the Creator, embraces everything, summoning to existence from nothing,
not only from the beginning, but always.
Everything endures continually becoming.
In the beginning was the Word, and through Him all things were made.
The mystery of the beginning is born together with the Word and
is revealed through the Word.

The Word — eternal vision and utterance.
He, who was creating, saw saw that it was good,
his seeing different from ours.
He the first Beholder
saw, finding in everything some trace of his Being, his own fullness.
He saw: “Omnia nuda et aperta sunt ante oculos Eius”
(Everything is disclosed and revealed before his eyes)
Naked, transparent,
true, good and beautiful

He saw in terms so different from ours.
Eternal vision and eternal utterance:
In the beginning was the Word, and through Him all things were made,
all in which we live and move and have our being
The Word, the marvellous eternal Word
as an invisible threshold
of all that has come into being, exists or will exist.
As if the Word were the threshold.
The threshold of the Word, containing the invisible form of everything,
divine and eternal
beyond this threshold everything begins to happen!

I stand at the entrance to the Sistine
Perhaps all this could be said more simply
in the language of the Book of Genesis
But the Book awaits the image. And rightly so. It was waiting
for its Michelangelo.

The One who created saw saw that it was good.
He saw, and so the Book awaited the fruit of vision.
O all you who see, come
I am calling you, all beholders in every age.
I am calling you, Michelangelo!
There is in the Vatican a chapel that awaits the harvest of your vision!
The vision awaited the image.
From when the Word became flesh, the vision is waiting.
We are standing at the threshold of the Book.

It is the Book of the origins Genesis.
Here, in this chapel, Michelangelo penned it,
not with words, but with the richness
of piled-up colours.

We enter in order to read it again,
going from wonder to wonder.

So then, it is here we look and recognize
the Beginning which emerged out of nothingness,
obedient to the creative Word.
Here it speaks from these walls.
But still more powerfully the End speaks.
Yes, the Judgment is even more outspoken:
the Judgment, the Final one.
This is the path that all must follow,
every one of us.

2. Image and Likeness

God created man in his image,
male and female he created them
and God saw that it was very good.
Naked they were and did not feel shame.

Was it possible?
Do not ask those who are contemporary, but ask Michelangelo
(and perhaps the contemporaries as well!?).
Ask the Sistine.
How much is said here, on these walls!

The beginning is invisible. Everything here points to it.
All this abundant visibility, released by human genius.
And the End too is invisible,
though here, traveller, your eyes are caught
by the vision of the Last Judgment.
How make the invisible visible,
how penetrate beyond the bounds of good and evil?
The Beginning and the End, invisible, pierce us from these walls.


In Him we live and move and have our being.
Is He only the space of the existence of those who exist?

He is the Creator.
Making all and sustaining it in existence, he holds everything.
He makes by likeness.

When the apostle Paul preaches at the Areopagus,
his words reflect the whole tradition of the Covenant.
Each day ended there with the words:
And God saw that it was good.

He saw and found a trace of his Essence
He found his own splendour in everything visible.
The primordial Word is as it were the threshold
beyond which we live and move and have our being.

Man (I)

Why is it said only about this one day:
God looked at everything that he had made and found it very good?
Is this not denied by history?
Even our own twentieth century! And not only the twentieth!
But still, no century can hide the truth
of the image and likeness.


With this truth he enclosed himself in the Vatican
and left there when he left behind the Sistine Chapel.

God created man in his image;
in the divine image he created him;
male and female he created them.
And though they both were naked
they felt no shame in front of each other!
And the Creator saw that it was very good.
Does He not see everything in absolute truth?
Omnia nuda et aperta ante oculos Eius.


They too, on the threshold of history,
see themselves in all their truth:
both were naked …
So they too became sharers of that gaze
which the Creator extended over them.
Do they not want to share that gaze?
Do they not want to recover that gaze?
Do they not want to be to each other true and transparent
as they are to Him?
If they do, they sing a hymn of thanks,
a Magnificat in their inmost hearts,
and it is then that they feel in the depths of their being
that In Him we live and move and have our being
yes, in Him!
It is He who enables them to share in the beauty
which He had breathed into them!
It is He who opens their eyes.

Time ago, leaving the Vatican, Michelangelo left
a painting, the key of which is image and likeness.
With this key, the invisible becomes visible.
A presacrament.

3. Presacrament

Who is He? The Ineffable One. Self-being Being.
The One. The Creator of all.
At the same time, Communion of Persons.
In this Communion, a mutual exchange of the fullness
of truth, goodness and beauty.
Yet, above all Ineffable.
And still, He expressed Himself.
Creating man in His image and likeness, he spoke.
In the Sistine painting the Creator has a human appearance.
The Almighty Ancient One a Man, similar to Adam being created.
And they?

Male and female he created them.
God graciously gave them a gift.
They received in themselves in a human way the mutual self-giving
which is in Him.
Both naked …
they felt no shame, as long as the gift lasted
Shame will come together with sin,
but even then the elation will remain. They live conscious of the gift,
though they do not know its name.
But they live it, they are pure
Casta placent superis; pura cum veste venite, et monibus puns sumite fontis acquam

(The heavens are pleased with what is pure; come with clean robes and clean hands, drink water from the spring.)

For eight
years I read these words every day
entering the gate of Wadowice gymnasium.

Presacrament existence alone the visible sign of primordial Love.

And when they become one body
that marvellous union
beyond which fatherhood and motherhood are revealed.
Then they touch the fountain of life that is in them.
They reach to the Beginning.
Adam knew his wife
and she conceived and gave birth.
They know they have crossed the threshold
of the greatest responsibility!

Fulfillment Apocalypsis

The End is as invisible as the Beginning.
The universe emerged from the Word, and returns to the Word.
Right at the heart of the Sistine Chapel, the artist shows this invisible End
in the visible drama of the Judgment
And this invisible End became visible as the highpoint of clarity:
omnia nuda et aperta ante oculos Eius.
The words recorded by Matthew, here become the painter s vision:
Come, you who are blessed.., depart from me, you accursed …
And so the generations pass
naked they come into the world and naked they return to the earth
from which they were formed.
From dust you came, and to dust you shall return;
all that had shape into shapelessness.

What was alive is now dead;
all that was beautiful is now the ugliness of devastation.
And yet I do not altogether die, what is indestructible in me remains!

4. Judgment

In the Sistine the artist painted the Judgment.
The Judgement dominates the whole interior.
Here, the invisible End becomes poignant visibility.
This End is also the summit of transparency
such is the path of all generations.

Non omnis moriar (Not all of me will die.)
What is imperishable in me
now stands face to face with Him Who Is!
This is what fills the central wall of the Sistine profusion of colour.

Do you remember, Adam? At the beginning he asked you where are you?
And you replied: I hid myself from You because I was naked.
Who told you that you were naked?
The woman whom you put here with me gave me the fruit …

All those who populate the central wall of the Sistine painting
bear in themselves the heritage of that reply of yours!
Of that question and that response!
Such is the End of your path.


It is here, at the feet of this marvellous Sistine profusion of colour
that the Cardinals gather
a community responsible for the legacy of the keys of the Kingdom.
They come right here.
And once more Michelangelo wraps them in his vision.
In Him we live and move and have our being.

Who is He?

Look, here the creating hand of the Almighty Ancient One,
turned towards Adam …
In the beginning God created …
He, the all-seeing One …

The Sistine painting will then speak with the Word of the Lord:
Tu est Petrus (You are Peter) as Simon, the son of Jonah, heard.
To you I will give the keys of the Kingdom.
Those to whom the care of the legacy of the keys has been entrusted
gather here, allowing themselves to be enfolded by the Sistine s colours,
by the vision left to us by Michelangelo
so it was in August, and then in October,
of the memorable year of the two Conclaves,
and so it will be again, when the need arises after my death.
Michelangelo’s vision must then speak to them.
Conclave: a joint concern for the legacy of the keys of the Kingdom.

They will find themselves between the Beginning and the End,
between the Day of Creation and the Day of Judgment.
It is given to man once to die and after that the judgment!

A final transparency and light.
The clarity of the events
the clarity of consciences
It is necessary that during the Conclave, Michelangelo teach them
Do not forget: Omnia nuda et aperta sunt ante oculos Eius.
You who are in all, show the way!
He will teach you …

[Copyright, Libreria Editrice Vaticana]

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