LECTOR SI MONUMENTUM REQUIRIS CIRCUMSPICE
Reader, if you seek his monument – look around you.
- Inscription on the plain stone tomb of Sir Christopher Wren (d. 1723)
“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:35
You may not know Christopher Wren, but if you’ve been to London you’ve seen his work. He was regarded by no less than Newton and Pascal. Educated at Oxford with a penchant for physics, anatomy, astronomy, geometry and of course math. But his real talent was architecture. His works include some of London’s most notable cathedrals and monuments. In fact, he is credited with over 50 of them in all. His masterpiece is St. Paul’s Cathedral, seen above and completed in 1710. He is known as the “Architect of London.”
On a plaque at his pedestrian grave at St Paul’s, his oldest son had these words inscribed:
Underneath lies buried Christopher Wren, the builder of this church and city; who lived beyond the age of ninety years, not for himself, but for the public good. If you seek his memorial, look about you.
I first heard those words at a Presidential Campaign speech in 1992. That candidate, observing the “art” of that day expressed dismay (in 1992!). He contrasted that to the works of Sir Wren and observed of America, “if you want to see what comes from moral decay, look around you.”
Those words haunt me almost every day.
It’s easy to live in Northern Colorado – associate with great people, be involved in community, work hard for a righteous cause and sacrifice that which remains for family and friends – and respond to the above admonition, “I look around me and I see beauty!” And that may indeed be true.
But that’s not all.
What do people see when they “look about you”? What will be our “memorial?”
High rates of divorce. Increasing rates of children born out of wedlock. Millions of abortions. Substance abuse. Porn addiction. Poverty. Illness. Treachery. Despair.
What will our legacy be when generations far removed are asked?
Perhaps that is far too great an imposition to place on any one person. Then let’s ask ourselves this: how does change happen? Or as they ask in Texas, how do you eat an elephant?
One bite at a time.
I can’t possibly change the world, but I can get to know people around me and have an impact on their life. I can’t eliminate homelessness, but I can volunteer at a shelter. I don’t even understand the root cause of poverty, but I can help those in need.
I can either rail against unwanted pregnancies, or I can support organizations like Lutherans for Life who help women facing crisis pregnancies.
In other words, I can’t boil the ocean, but I can dedicate some time to make a cup of tea for a worthy cause.
So be a catalyst for good. Let the world say of us, when they “look around” much later from now, that our memorial was one built from love.