Monday, March 26, 2007

God Is All

From a cafe terrace atop the mountain overlooking the charmingly quaint oldtown section of Salzburg we gazed down upon the narrow winding streets and the gigantic cathedral structures with their adjoining courtyards. This was most definitely not a picture of this day and age. I was momentarily transported in time.

As I looked I could see where Mozart was born. A glance across the river brought my eyes to the place where his family moved to a few years later when he was yet a young child. I imagined him running up and down the familiar streets, buying bread for mama, laughing with friends and siblings upon release from Sunday morning duties, listening to the cathedral bells. This would most certainly have been a curious, energetic, uninhibited, daring young man. Anyone who plays a recital for the Empress of Habsburg at the age of six and, upon finishing his pieces, runs to her lap and lavishes her with kisses, must be all of those things.

And here I was, walking the same streets, totally enamored with Salzburg. Yet I knew that Mozart left this town and his home never to return. His father begged him to come back, promising him security as a musician/composer in the court where he himself was employed. Mozart refused; Salzburg held no charm. He wanted more - more opportunity, more money, more fame, better musicians, better theaters. He wanted Vienna.

He gained some popularity there. His tunes were hummed everywhere. But he died a pauper. Security, money, and perfect opportunity had eluded him. His incredible talent was not enough. Sin and all its trappings overtook his life. Whether in Salzburg or Vienna, life without His Lordship just didn't work.

The fortress which housed our mountaintop cafe had revealed more layers of history. We spent the entire morning touring this wonderful citadel and the stories were more than I could contain. I saw enormous Medieval bedchambers - the kind I see whenever I watch a Medieval epic depicting royalty and their tragic lives. The huge rustic beams and cavernous rooms provided the perfect backdrop for the large heavy tapestries which hung on the walls. Real-life torture instruments were on display in a stone hall. These things really existed; pain, injury, and even death were actually administered through these very same tools which now stood before me. Wow.

And once again, a glimpse at another place and time drove home the point: life without His Lordship just didn't work.

On to the opulence of the Schonbrunn Palace in beautiful Vienna. I love beautiful things and I loved Schonbrunn Palace. Here we saw a glistening Cinderella-like ballroom, the long flight of steps by which she escaped at night, the expansive courtyard where her carriage was greeted by uniformed escorts, candelabras bigger and golder than possibly imagined - everything a young girl's imagination conjures when playing princess, and then some. But as we toured the rooms the hallways were lonely. Stories which accompanied the regal portraits were rarely pleasant. Oh, they had wealth and power and a destiny (rarely a pleasant one, not their God-given one) but they had depression and loneliness and sin and bondage as well. Here they were, having obtained that for which most of the world clamors, and yet there was blatant unhappiness. This was not a singular story but was a story borne out in every generation. Alcohol, misery, anger, murder and suicide were all represented here. Oh, how they needed Him. How they needed Truth. Life didn't work any better, even for royalty, without His Lordship.

We toured the Hofburg Imperial Palace and saw such over-the-top extravagance that even I was undone. Suddenly I understood Peasant Revolts. Americans have never seen this kind of opulence. We have not experienced hundreds of years of one dynasty and all the wealth they accumulate. It was amazing, to be sure.

Supper at the Sacher Cafe was such a delight. Here one partakes of Viennese hospitality and cuisine at its best. We all loved it. Edouard Sacher moved his father's bakery to this convenient location - the corner next to the Vienna State Opera House - and it has been a booming success ever since, hosting the after hour crowds, dignitaries (in the adjoining Hotel Sacher), and every tourist who wants to sample the world famous Sacher Torte (and that would be most every tourist in Vienna.)

On our way home we opted to skip the Autobahn and take a more back road route through the Austrian Alps. Breathtaking, to say the least. Small towns (always with a church spire marking the village center) and quaint farms dotted the landscape while colossal mountains hemmed them in at every turn. They were giants! I literally felt as though our car was a mere ant crawling at their feet. I have never felt so small. And God holds them, even them, in His hand.

In Munich, Germany we viewed Renaissance and Baroque art by such greats as Peter Paul Rubens, Rembrandt, and Botticelli. Amazing talent. Yet there were often traces, at times bold, at times subtle, of human depravity, belying the brokenness of man apart from God.

The Nazi Concentration Camp at Dachau was unforgettable.

This trip was a wonderful sampling of history through the years. I stood in a church built in the 11th century (according to our guide - the linked site says it is older), ate in a restaurant housed in a courtyard referred to by Charlemagne in his journals, walked the halls of royalty, breathed air in the same room where Mozart played for the Empress at the age of six. I saw where people laughed and danced, grimaced with agony, reposed in dreams or suffered in sickness, and ate in splendor. As I examined just a bit of human history firsthand, it became clear that in every place, in every time, people have suffered without the truth of the Word. It is always relevant. He is always the answer.

We say we will learn from the past; we haven't. What was suffered in the 11th century is repeated in the 12th and 13th and is still suffered today. It may look more modern, but it is the same. Historians will conjecture as to the reasons why such things happen. They will find excuses, determine that if "this situation had been handled differently, this wouldn't have happened." Poppycock. No matter what changes could have been made, save one, the arrogant Catholic authorities would have been hungry for more power, Mozart would have died with unfulfilled longing, and Empress Sissi would have been dissatisfied with life. One change was needed - that need was salvation.

He alone is timeless and His truth endures forever. I am so thankful. And I am so sobered.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow. Dar, I hope you are keeping in print the words you have put down here. What memories! But more than that, what a heavenly-minded filter you have processed them through.

6:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Johnny__M says:

Great words! I can close my eyes and just about imagine myself being there! Thanks!

6:59 PM  
Blogger thisrequiresthought said...

what a history lesson to read your timely words. and what a gift you have for putting it all into perspective!

10:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Darlene, You really are a great writer... elVacĂ­o (Joe Boyle)

9:33 PM  
Blogger Kathleen Moulton said...

That had to be an incredible experience.

4:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ahhhh, I loved visiting all of these places this summer during my trip to Austria!! Such fun to see that you enjoyed this trip! History is so fascinating. And to be more fully understand God's control over every part of His creation is the most valuable part of foreign travel!

4:48 PM  

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