The photo above is the unfinished nave of Siena Cathedral; the Duomo. It is one of the most spectacular Gothic Cathedrals in Italy. The ordinary citizens of Siena helped to cart the black and white stone used in its construction from quarries on the outskirts of the city. In 1339 the citizens decided to build a new nave to the south with the aim of making it the biggest church in Christendom. Alas it was not to be because plague killed off most of the population. Today its a carpark, but the initial stages of the nave were under construction.
The Cathedral is perched high above Siena dwarfing the houses and buildings below it. That it was never finished holds an important lesson for us Christians. We’re all members of an unfinished Church. As God’s people we will never be quite perfect, at least not on this side of heaven. Ours will always be an incomplete church, striving towards perfection, but continually falling short like the incomplete nave of the Duomo. So often our cherished plans come to nothing, and in the end we die leaving so much unfinished. We are perpetually unfinished, and we all sense there is so much more to do, to learn, to accomplish and to become.
Spiritually we are always beginners, never arriving, continually failing and having to start over again. That great unfinished nave of Siena Cathedral symbolizes our incomplete lives that come to an end with so much left undone, unexplored and lacking. There’s a wonderful verse in St Paul’s Letter to the Philippians.
“For us our homeland is in heaven , and from heaven comes the saviour we are waiiing for, the Lord Jesus Christ, and he will transfigure these wretched bodies of ours into compies of his glorious body. He will do that by the same power with which he can subdue the whole universe.” (Phil 3:20&21.)