Der Krampus leading songs. LAUSER!
The Mynabirds | Numbers Don’t Lie
baby if you wanna be right
I will let you be right
Bon Iver | Hinnom, TX
All this time, with your heart in mind
Didn’t you edit?
Stadtkirche St. Marian
It always surprises how much the concrete churches themselves can expand my imagination, help me think and pray. Perhaps it’s because I have so little occasion for it in the US.
This church in Gengenbach is just beautiful - it’s covered in paintings, but it’s not rococo or even baroque. Just praise.
The paintings on the ceiling are scenes from the New Testament surrounded by figures from the Old. Our patriarchs not only prepared the way but sustained it, and still do.
On one of the sidewalls there’s a scene of the Transfiguration. Peter has his sword in his hand already. In fact, when I look at the painting again, I see Peter is asleep, as well as John and James. But it’s Moses and Elijah next to Christ, that is clear. The painter seems to have consolidated two different scenes on the mounts - the Transfiguration and Gethsemane. I wonder why … Obviously the Transfiguration strengthens Christ for what will come not only on Golgotha, but also in Gethsemane. All three are on hills, and in some way, set apart from the world.
The lectern is breathtaking. White and covered in scenes from Christ’s life, the most striking part is the short wall up the steps. They contain the entirety of the Stations on them, from Gethsemane to the Resurrection. How wonderful, and how sobering. We must traverse these steps every time we wish to proclaim the good news.
This church has one of the larger graveyards I’ve ever been to. I love European graveyards. People still take care of their own. I think the oldest grave I saw had someone born in the late 18th century.
There were two large groups, each group having within itself almost identical headstones. One was joyful to see: SO MANY Franciscan sisters (who clearly reside in a monastery near this church). I don’t know the state of the order now, but it seems that during most of the 19th and 20th centuries they were quite populous. I saw one of the sisters in the church when I went it. She was in a full habit, praying the rosary.
The second group of nearly identical headstones took my breath away, in a horrifying sense. Rows and rows and rows of young men who died in one of the two World Wars. As Americans we tend to think of the Germans as the bad guys, but I wonder, how many these men were really Nazis? How many were drafted? I saw men—boys, really—as young as 17 there. From this village … the wars severely handicapped two generations of men. Wendell Berry’s words about World War II from Hannah Coulter come to mind here:
"Hell is a shameful place, and it is hard to speak of what you know of it. It is hard to live in Port William and yet have in mind the blasted, burnt, bloodied and muddy and stinking battlegrounds of Okinawa, hard to live in one place and imagine another. But imagination is what is needed. Want of imagination makes things unreal enough to be destroyed. By imagination I mean knowledge and love. I mean compassion. People of power kill children, the old send the young to die, because the have no imagination. They have power. Can you imagine power and imagination at the same time? Can you kill people you don’t know and have compassion for them at the same time?"
Gengenbach, seemingly like all towns in the Schwarzwald, is in a valley, and there are grape fields surrounding it, going up into the hills that surround the town. I noticed a church on top of one of the hills, so I set out to figure out how to get up there and check it out. On my way up I encountered a sign that pointed in two directions. One arrow had “Waldweg [forest way] nach Jakobskapelle”, the other, “Bequemweg [comfortable way] nach Jakobskapelle.” I chose the path through the forest.
My suspicions were confirmed once I got up to the little church: it’s one of the many paths that ushers pilgrims in the Camino de Santiago. I love that it’s the highest point in Gengenbach.
The church is small and very simple. But sometimes stark stone and a dearth of ornamentation is appropriate. On the walls around the church are paintings of the Beatitudes, rather than the usual Stations. I am grateful for these simple paintings. I don’t often see the Beatitudes depicted.
There’s one statue I very much like: I think it’s a very old St. Ann with the very young Virgin Mary in her right arm. St. Ann is pointing to heaven with her left hand. Teaching Mary.
There must be special devotions to St. Martin and St. Nicholas especially in southern Germany. I seem them in every church.
I walked along the pilgrimage paths for several hours. How nice to be (indirectly) in the company of my brethren, not to mention the beautiful colors of the grape fields in autumn.
Gengenbach in pictures.
Living in foreign country—especially one in which I don’t know the language that well—never fails to make to me realize just how much I take for granted when the situation is familiar and the language is my own. It also never fails to remind me just how much I am reliant upon the kindness of others.
Language can function as a shield, and it can protect one from one’s own vulnerabilities—or at least it can make it easier for one to hide those vulnerabilities from others. And when you don’t know the language, are never completely sure of whether or not you have a handle on the situation, it’s like that shield just evaporates. There you stand, sort of raw and exposed, a little helpless, and most definitely reliant upon the kindness (or lack thereof) of strangers.
It’s been a bit surprising to me over these last few weeks to discover that a large factor in whether or not my day goes well is my small interactions with strangers, usually involving me buying something, or asking a question of some sort, because I’m lost, and can’t figure out (1) where the hell I am, or (2) where the hell I’m supposed to be, or (3) where the hell the thing I need to buy is. Or, most likely, a combination of all three things. [The German word Orientierung comes to mind.] So I have these small interactions in my faltering, stuttering German, and the person in front of me has one of two options: (1) bear with me, and help me along, or (2) get totally frustrated and either disregard me or switch to English, which in this case, is a form of disregard. When the first happens, I feel so great: I can do this!(?) I’m OK. I’m, at least, somewhat intelligible. When the second occurs, I’m downtrodden and feel like everything is shit.
I have been reflecting on this the past couple of days. I am no stranger to rude and curt exchanges, child of the Northeast US that I am. In fact, when someone is very nice to me in a retail situation, I tend to grow suspicious (what do you want from me? - as it turns out, in the Midwest at least, nothing. They are just nice). When I encounter gross insolence, perhaps my feathers get a little ruffled - I tell the story to someone and say, “can you believe that?”, but then I move on, relatively unscathed. Why is it that these seemingly small interactions affect me so much more now that I am in a different country?
I realize that every time I interact with someone in Germany, it’s a little bit like a question: will you welcome me or not? When people get frustrated with me, and brush me off - the answer is no. And that answers my deepest fear: you don’t belong here, nor will you ever, and in fact, you won’t be able to do this.
But even those sort of mortifying moments are good. Because they do remind me how much I take for granted - that people being courteous is actually a way of welcoming you, no matter what language it’s in. That we’re all pretty vulnerable all the time, and you might try to hide those insecurities and vulnerabilities, but they’ll show themselves eventually, whether or not you’re in a foreign country. And that I even when I don’t know what people are saying, I rely on them nonetheless.
I’m a bit obsessed with this band.
Me and the Devil
Walking side by side