Updated: Apr 18, 2021
For ten years I have been waiting for this day. The construction of the temple in Rome is finally complete and we now have the blessing of entering this holy place, the house of the Lord. For members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints – especially in Italy – this is a big thing. The temple, our most sacred sanctuary and symbol of our faith is now standing in one of the center places of Christianity.
Just like Rome itself, the temple and its adjacent Visitor Center breathes beauty och architectural richness. When going to the open house last month there was much that impressed me. But notwithstanding all the breathtaking workmanship it was a small, simple thing that took my breath away that day.
At the beginning of our interior tour of the temple, my group was led into the center hallway. As our guide showed us the beautiful grand staircase, something on the left side of the hall caught my eye. A painting. Something pulled me toward it, and I deviated from the group.
The artwork depicted Jesus in the garden of Getsemane, the place where he had begun to bear the sins of the world the night before he was crucified. Next to Jesus, I saw an angel holding the Saviour of the world, comforting him. Jesus was resting, eyes closed, in bosom of the angel.
The passage in Luke came to mind: “An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him.” Apparently, the angel must have empowered Jesus to some degree since he, after the angel’s visit, “prayed more earnestly [for us]”. (Luke 22:43-44)
Normally I am not jealous by nature. I seldom envy others the opportunities life gives them. But in this moment I had the strongest sense of envy, a feeling I initially tried to shun from my mind – because I felt ashamed of it. Who am I to even consider it? How could I ever be worthy of such an honor? But I couldn’t make the feeling go away. It harbored deep in my heart, with words that repeated over and over again.
I wish it was me. I wish it was me.
My eyes were watering. I wish I could have been there, instead of the angel, holding Jesus in his darkest hour, feeling him leaning again my breast as I held him tight. How many times in my life had he not been there for me? How many times had I not rested in his arms of love? How I wish I could have been there just to give back at least a portion of everything he had given me.
I love our temples for many reasons, but perhaps mostly because they focus on Jesus Christ and provide a forum for personal revelation. This moment was no exception. Just as powerful as my first desire was, just as powerful and clear the second impression came to my heart: But you can! You can be the one to hold Jesus.
I was reminded of two scriptural passages. King Benjamin taught his people that “when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.” (Mosiah 2:17) And the Lord himself taught: “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Italics added. Matthew 25:40)
The answer was so simple: When we help our fellow man, we help God. When we love one another we love the Lord. And yes, when we hold someone, we hold Jesus.
That day, in the Rome temple, I was truly impressed by the grandeur of this magnificent building. But I was more touched by the Spirit I experienced there, and the message it brought to my heart: that life is all about service.
I have always believed that to be true, but this day the Lord in his mercy wanted to remind me. I needed that.
Maybe we all need that?
“Never let a problem to be solved become more important than a person to be loved.” Thomas S Monson, former president of the Church.
The grand staircase in the Rome temple. Notice the painting on the left?
This is the beautiful painting by Del Parson: “An Angel Strenghtened Him”
The “Christus” and the original apostles in the Rome temple Visitor Center.
Exterior view of the Rome temple.