In the process of unpacking boxes after our move, I have been running into things I had forgotten I had. One is a rather blurry photograph of a sculpture by Enrico Manfrini in the Vatican Museum. I do remember the sculpture clearly, and I remember being so taken by it that I returned to the museum to gaze at it again.
It portrays Saul, the future Paul, at the moment described in the book of Acts:
“While I was on my way and approaching Damascus, about noon a great light from heaven suddenly shone about me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ I answered, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ Then he said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth whom you are persecuting.’” (Acts 22:6-8)
Persecuting Jesus? How can you persecute someone who is dead? Saul has only been trying to wipe out a dangerous and heretical sect. And why would this Jesus come to a person who has no use for him?
So here is Saul, wrapped in Light, dazzled, blinded by this Mystery which is too much for him.
Within a fraction of a second he will land in the dirt — but not yet. For this life-changing instant he seems suspended in the Mystery. Once so sure of himself and of what to believe, now his world is upside down, and it will never go back to what it was. He doesn’t know which way is up, which way is the solid ground, where to put his feet.
But this Mystery — this Christ, this Love — has not only knocked Saul off his feet. As of now and forever, this is all he will ever want in life or in death.
Yet whatever gains I had,
these I have come to regard as loss
because of Christ.
More than that, I regard everything as loss
because of the surpassing value
of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.