clunyThis is Cluny, a medieval monastery in France.  At one point in time the abot of Cluny held power that rivaled that of Kings and Popes.  The monastery itself became one of the largest, and repudedly most beautiful in the world.  Then Cluny’s power diminished and then the French Revolution came.  During the revolution many of the buildings were dismantled.  It is said that the rocks from Cluny could have paved the roads for miles around.  

I was in Cluny almost six years ago.  It’s still beautiful, with just enough still standing to hint at the granduer which was destroyed.  What I remember though is what it’s like to walk through town–something I did in search of the local pharmacy.  (Psuedophedrine is thankfully one of those words which crosses language barriers.)   Walking through town is beautiful.  It’s one of those delightfully old towns which is still pleasant and alive.  However as I walked through town, I began to notice something.  Not all of the wall were built of one material.  In fact it was more than possible to turn the corner and see a wall which was clearly originally part of the monastery.  It makes for a tantalizing mystery–What was this wall before it held up this ceiling.  It was also a beautiful melding of the old and the new, a beautiful mixing in of the sacred.

On the one hand, this is a tragic demantling of not only history, but beauty.   The drawing we have of what Cluny once was are nothing compared to the vast possibilities we could explore if Cluny had survived the revolution.

On the other hand, I think that Cluny as it is today–standing in pieces, laid out in models under glass, and scattered through town providing structural support to so many, has much to say to the Church.

Maybe it is time to recognize that the era of sites like Cluny is passing.  To understand that, as the Church it is time to reconsider how we are to use the resources we possess and those we seek.  Maybe it is time to stop building up, literally and even figuratively, our own structures, and start  building other people’s structures.  Build their homes, their grocery stores, their roads.  Build with love and constancy and in the face of financial and future based fears.  Maybe it’s time to even do a little dismantling of our buildings.  Maybe we need to change our communities, so that we someone needs to point to a Church they are pointing to all of the ways and places the Church has been and is.  Maybe we need to start thinking about all of the ways we can mix the sacred into our lives, our homes, our communities.  Maybe Cluny has a few more lessons to share with us all.