Legacy. No, we aren’t talking about the status of a sorority sisterhood. But rather, legacy in what you are remembered for when you leave this Earth. This has been a constant thought in my brain the last few years due to James and I have walking through the loss of our loved ones and also seeing those close to us experience this as well.
Nothing is more real when the last box is sifted through of your loved ones possessions. The first holiday rolls around and they aren’t in the room, when you pick up you phone to call them for the 500th time and you get their voicemail instead of a cheery hello.
If you want to stop reading now, I understand. It’s sad, dark, and not one person I know doesn’t squiggle in their chair while talking about these uncomfortable things.
Eliza Kate and I had a conversation while riding to swim lessons about what happens after we leave this Earth. Not about the destination but what we leave with those who knew us. I asked her what she’s learned from her great-grandmother that just recently passed away in late May. She replied with,” how to have fun, how to have a “properly” way to tea party, strawberries, and that Jesus loves me and my Nana does too.”
Now if that isn’t the goals, I don’t know what is. Spoken from the mouth of a four year old babe.
So today, we are going to use a piece of art to dive into legacy. The picture (postcard) of this sculpture sits in my office in a cheap frame that I purchased from a gift shop in Rome, Italy where the sculpture is housed. When holding the postcard, it struck a cord within me when I saw the stature and the detail reminding me of what I studied right in front of me moment before. I collect learning moments and I knew this was sculptures meaning would serve a reminder throughout my career.
“Aeneas, Anchises, and Ascanius” by Gian Lorenzo Bernini is the subject. This was Bernini’s first famous sculpture and he was so young that most scholars believe that the work mirrored so much of his father’s sculptures, that he may have received some help.
While we won’t ever know if that’s true, we do know that this piece was commissioned by Cardinal Scipione Borghese, who was known for his love for beauty and art, which is why this piece is housed in the museum named after him.
The scene that is depicted here is from Virgil’s Aenied, and shows three generations of the Aeneas family fleeing from the burning of Troy. Here, Aeneas is carrying his elderly father, Anchises. Holding on to Aeneas’ haunches is his son, Ascanius. As Aeneas is in motion, he looks down with dignity and strength. Aeneas has lineage from the gods, due to his mother. That’s why the lion’s skin is wrapped around him to show status and power. Usually when that is shown, it was in relation to Hercules or Zeus who embody strength.
Aeneas was a Trojan soldier who left Troy and ended up in Italy. In this sculpture, this shows them fleeing the scene of the sacked city and according to mythology, he eventually became the forefather of the Roman people. In Anchises hand, he is holding the ashes of his ancestors. On top of the vessel is two statues of Di Penates, who were Roman household gods, representing traditions of the forefathers. Aeneas’ son, Ascanius, is holding what is known as the “eternal flame of Rome.” This represents the future and how Aeneas left this horrible, messy situation and it ended up being one that continued a generation instead of this being the end of the story.
When I look at the sculpture as a follower of Jesus, I have not forgotten this is based off of Greek mythology. The symbolism of the story isn’t the part that caught my attention. It’s the look in the carving of Aeneas’ eyes that symbolizes strength. That strength began to stir something in me and dive further into the understanding that even in this grim and horrible situation, he grabbed those he loved and paved the way for a new life. He knew that his father wasn’t able to flee the arrowed flames but that he needed to hoist him up with his son close by as they escaped.
In knowing what I do now, I look at the framed photo and see a picture of DISCIPLESHIP. Three generations are shown tying the understanding of the “forefathers” (Anchises) to the ones in the trenches now (Aeneas), and the ones that are to come (Ascanius). In my representation, Anchises represented the men and women in Scripture who were used as objects in the core beliefs of Christianity. In those core beliefs, we must continue to carry them, in the hardship and in the joy. In Bernini’s work, you can visualize that Aeneas was moving forward (look at his feet for perspective) while carrying the previous generation with the understanding that the future generation was right behind him.
The flame that Ascanius holds represents the future. Our children, our spiritual children, those we were gifted to teach, are right behind us and we must do the hard work now. Train, equip, prepare them for the battle ahead.
As we face trials, battles, losses, joy, and blessings, may we remember the legacy that we get to be apart of. This legacy paved the way for us when we weren’t deserving and gave us a future and the promise of eternity when we choose to follow Him. When we follow Him, we G E T to train, teach and help grow men and women in finding their place in the body that uses their unique giftings and talents.
As a believer, that’s our legacy, leaving imprints of the gospel that don’t just change one person, but generations to come. I hope and pray that mine is left knowing that I carried the flame for Jesus and that people decades from now, know who He is far deeper than they knew me.
I’ll leave you with this passage I read so often. The book of Titus was impactful in my calling and obedience to ministry. I hope that this specific chapter excites you greater to know the One who carries us all through the grief, the unknown, and the joy.
But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.Holy Bible, ESV. Titus 2:1-8.
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